Let's face it - being 'green' is the new cool. But sometimes an ulterior, industry-driven motive lurks behind the 'green halo' that we trust in so-called environmental organizations. This blog is dedicated to keeping individuals and organizations who claim to be for clean, renewable energy accountable.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Cozy Relations b/t NRDC and PG&E and Sempra and Edison and and and...

Jeez, day one on the blog and there is already so much to write about. Someone emailed me an article from Greenwire discussing the NRDC – PG&E connection. Cavanagh apparently ‘bristled’ at the accusation that they had ever taken money from the Big Utilities (subscription required).

And the coziness charge? "It's absurd," Cavanagh said. "NRDC is fiercely independent from the utility industry and often sues it."

I believe that in any campaign you can expect proponents of their position to express themselves in strong terms. Let’s explore this phrase – “fiercely independent’ and see if it holds up.

I started a little color-coded chart below. This is just some of the groups and a partial list of their board memberships – I’ll add to it in the coming days. But just from looking at the three ‘environmental’ groups below, you see a clear pattern – their board memberships are composed of – you guessed it – former and current executives of the Big Utilities and the ‘environmental’ groups that are coming out against Prop. 7. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this yet but the No on Prop. 7 campaign is funded 100% by the Big Utilities - $22.5 million so far. True story.

CA Foundation on the Environment and the Economy
Board of Directors
· NRDC, Sheryl Carter - Vice Chairman
· Southern California Edison, CEO, Alan Fohrer
· Environmental Defense, Thomas Graff
· Union of Concerned Scientists, Amy Lynd Luers
· PG & E Sr. Vice President, Nancy McFadden
Contributions Received from Utilities
· PG & E - $40,000 (2006)

Alliance to Save Energy
Board of Directors
· NRDC President, Frances Beinecke – ASE BOD
· Southern California Edison, John Fielder
Contributions Received from Utilities
· PG & E - $80,000 (2005 – 2006)

Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies
Board of Directors
· GE Generation VP of Legislative and Regulatory Affairs (former); MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co. (former), Jonathan M. Weisgall – CEERT Board President.
· Sempra/SDG&E (former); Calpine (former); Edison Mission Energy (former), Deborah Reyes, CEERT Board Member.
· Enron (former), Robert T. Boyd, CEERT Board Member.
· NRDC, Ralph Cavanagh, Board Member.
· FPL Energy, Diane Fellman, Board Member
· Environmental Defense, Karen Douglas, Board Member

Board memberships aside, let’s get back to Ralph Cavanagh and this claim of “fiercely independent." So, clearly we see that the environmental groups are governed by Big Utility executives and NRDC (which apparently has its hands in everything.) What has Ralph Cavanagh done to distance himself from the Big Utilities over the years?

Remember that little energy crisis CA experienced back in 2001? You recall - rolling black outs, price gouging by the utilities, a governor that got recalled over the whole thing? Ring any bells? I thought so. The NRDC, and Ralph Cavanagh, are overwhelmingly credited with stewarding the Big Utilities deregulation bill through the CA State Legislature. AB 1890, signed into law to deregulate the electric utilities, was largely written by John Bryson, president of California Southern Edison. John Bryson and Cavanagh are friends going back to their Yale days. Bryson, incidentally, was one of the initial founders of NRDC.

Well, CA environmentalists and consumers fought back, gathering a whopping 700,000 signatures to put Proposition 9 on the ballot in 1998, which would restore regulation of the utilities on the ballot. Obviously, and not at all unlike what is happening now with Proposition 7, the Big Utilities immediately went like gang busters on the offensive, infusing $40 million into a No on Prop 9 campaign. The environmentalists only had $1 million. After a barrage of scare tactics by the Big Utilities, threatening rate payers with out of control rate increases, Prop 9 lost badly.

And who was there to help the Big Utilities create a broad coalition of environmentalists and both the Democratic and Republican parties to oppose Prop 9? Indeed, the NRDC and Environmental Defense. But even BEFORE it got to Prop 9, who helped pass the disastrous deregulation bill AB 1890? Yup, NRDC’s own Ralph Cavanagh.

From a June, 2001 article called California's Engineered Energy Crisis and the Potential of Public Power:

There were some incentives for conservation and renewables written into AB1890, largely sponsored by the Natural Resources Defense Council, whose chief San Francisco-based energy advocate, Ralph Cavanagh, energetically supported the bill. But the provisions proved marginal at best.

Meanwhile, Cavanagh, with support from the Energy Foundation, supported the utilities at every turn, including acting as a key leader opposing the 1998 grassroots referendum aimed at repealing AB1890.

Cavanagh's role in helping to pass AB1890 and then defending it from repeal has earned him widespread outrage and contempt from the state's green/consumer groups. He still opposes legislation that would take mandated efficiency measures away from utility control and give it to municipalities.

The California experience, warns the state's green/consumer coalition, should stand as a warning to energy activists against accepting the marginal green provisions being tacked onto the Bush/Cheney energy plan.

Those “green provisions” being marginal did not stop Ralph Cavanagh from patting himself on the back. AB 1890 also allowed rate payers to be charged $28 billion. Later, Cavanagh said “I don’t have any regrets.” (SF Bay Guardian 2/14/01).

In fact, Cavanagh continued to be a cheerleader for PG &E. In 2002, the NRDC nominated PG&E, Southern California Edison, and Sempra for the Champion of Energy Efficiency award. “NRDC thanks and congratulates all who helped these companies contribute so much to the most successful statewide conservation campaign ever conducted.” – Cavanagh (PR newswire 9/23/02).

Fiercely independent, Ralph? Forgive me if I’m just not convinced. In fact, I’d say Ralph Cavanagh is a seasoned expert in organizing on behalf of the Big Utilities.

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