The Environmental Protection Agency is holding a public hearing today in Washington DC on the first-ever rules to limit carbon pollution from new power plants. It's a popular rule, and EPA has already heard a lot about it: over a million comments supporting the rule were delivered to EPA last week.
But this is DC, so not everyone is thrilled. Scott Segal, a lobbyist at Bracewell & Giuliani, will be testifying on behalf of coal interests at the EPA hearing. When lobbying against clean air rules like the carbon pollution standard or mercury air toxics standard, Segal likes to use the title of director of the "Electric Reliability Coordinating Council" (ERCC); I suppose it sounds better than coal lobbyist. But what exactly is the ERCC? When he wrote a letter requesting a meeting about the carbon pollution rule with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Segal claimed that "ERCC is a group of power-generating companies." But OMB meeting records reveal that the only lobbyist that joined ERCC for that meeting was Arch Coal's Vice President of Government Affairs, Tom Altmeyer.
Arch Coal, of course, is not a power-generating company, but rather the second largest coal mining company in the US, and one increasingly focused on exporting US coal to foreign markets. Burning coal is a major source of carbon pollution, so it's no surprise that Arch is lobbying against rules that will help move us away from their dangerous product. But what about utility companies like Duke Energy, a known member company of ERCC? Does it secretly support ERCC's misleading attacks on clean air rules that will protect their ratepayers from mercury and carbon pollution, while encouraging investment in cleaner sources of electricity?
This is not the first time, after all, that ERCC's lobbying appears out of step with its member companies' public positions. Last year Greenpeace sent Duke CEO Jim Rogers a letter asking if Duke was a member of ERCC, and whether the company supported the ERCC's efforts to delay and weaken the mercury rule. In response, a spokesman for the company told the Charlotte Business Journal that Duke is a member of ERCC, “But, as with many organizations we are affiliated with, we don’t agree with them on every issue.”
Segal has avoided revealing the full list of ERCC member companies. When challenged in a debate by John Walke of NRDC to disclose ERCC's full list of member companies, Segal declined after naming just four companies: Southern Company, Duke Energy, Progress Energy, and EFH (Energy Future Holdings, which owns Luminant) - but made no mention of Arch Coal. Indeed, Segal and other lobbyists at Bracewell & Giuliani like Jeff Holmstead have used ERCC for more than a decade to obscure which coal mining companies and utilities are behind their efforts to weaken and delay clean air rules.
A New York Times article about the creation of ERCC in 2001 describes it as "a consortium of power companies that is so new that its spokesman could not name the 8 to 10 companies he said have joined so far." Right.. well, now that it has been over a decade, we'll see if Segal is able to recall - and willing to reveal - which companies are behind his efforts to weaken and delay clean air protections that will save thousands of American lives. In the meantime, public officials and reporters would be wise to question whose interests Scott Segal and Jeff Holmstead represent.