GOP plots polluter strategy with energy lobbyists

Dick Cheney must be rolling over in his new bunker. He apparently is the only one who didn't get an invitation to the party for polluters hosted on the Hill by Congressional Republicans. That's OK, I guess, since Senate and House Republicans stand ready to pick up where Cheney's secret energy task force left off.

POLITICO broke the news that top staffers of Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), the new chair of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, and Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), ranking member of the Senate Environment & Public Works Comittee, met behind closed doors with the energy industry earlier this week "to lay the groundwork for a sweeping Republican-led effort to undercut Obama's climate agenda." Reportedly their plan is to enlist "unwavering support from a host of industries for an all-out push to block federal and state climate rules" in addition to rolling back EPA's new clean air standards. 

"The feedback we got was 'hey, great, go for it guys,'" one Republican aide told POLITICO. "And we pretty strongly told them we do need your help to get this done. And when we walked away from the meeting the feeling was we got that."

Although the meeting was secret, the energy lobbyists in the room are believed to be shilling for the American Petroleum Institute, National Mining Association, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, among other corporate interests.

Calling in the polluters to convert their wish list into an industry-friendly legislative agenda is straight out of the Bush-Cheney playbook. 

I recall the spring of 2002, when a federal judge ordered the U.S. Department of Energy to released to NRDC roughly 13,500 pages relating to previously secret proceedings of the Bush administration's energy task force. The president had formed this task force in early 2001 to develop a national energy policy, with Vice President Cheney at the helm.

Even though the government heavily censored the documents before supplying them to NRDC, they revealed that Bush administration officials sought extensive advice from utility companies and the oil, gas, coal and nuclear energy industries, and incorporated their recommendations, often word for word, into the energy plan. This plan provided the manual for the regulatory rollbacks that followed, which I tracked as the head of our Bush Record project.

Now we see history repeating itself. The foxes are being called back in -- this time to dismantle the henhouse rather than guard it. 

I know from experience that secret meetings with energy lobbyists spell bad news for public health and natural resources. Fortunately, I also know that the American people don't like it when politicians put polluter profits before public interest.