Recently, the Checks and Balances Project attended an event looking at the future of energy policy, now that the election is behind us. Energy and the Presidency: The Shift From Campaigning to Policymaking, sponsored by Politico, featured a number of fossil fuel industry pundits: Jack Gerard, CEO of the American Petroleum Institute; Karen Harbert of the U.S Chamber of Commerce; and Jeffrey Holmstead, a partner with Bracewell and Giuliani and former assistant administrator at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Air and Radiation.
When we took a closer look, we noticed that Holmstead's description did not disclose his true ties to the fossil fuel industry. So we took the opportunity to ask Holmstead directly about the omission.
We also analyzed the 50 most recent mainstream news stories mentioning Holmstead and found that his ties to the coal industry were disclosed only 36 percent of the time.
Here's some background that the general public generally doesn't hear about Holmstead:
Prior to joining the EPA, he was a lobbyist at Latham & Watkins working on behalf of some of the largest polluters in the country including a coal utility front group.
As an assistant administrator at EPA under George W. Bush, Holmstead dismantled strong technology-based mercury standards moving forward under the Clean Air Act and proposed the "Clear Skies Initiative," which would have allowed "three times as much mercury as the Clean Air Act."
His actions helped derail and delay regulations for eight years that would have provided more stringent regulation of mercury emissions. It took the agency years to get stronger regulations back on track.
On Dec. 16, 2011, the EPA finalized the first standards to reduce pollution from mercury and other toxic air pollutants from coal plants that will go into effect in 2016. The EPA estimates that the standards could save 11,000 lives each year. Tens of thousands of lives could have already been saved had those regulations been put in place in 2008, as originally proposed.
After leaving the EPA, he joined Bracewell and Giuliani, a law firm that took in $13.79 million from coal companies and utilities such as Duke Energy and Arch Coal between 2007 and 2012.
In 2010, Holmstead again worked to stop the Clean Air Act, partnering with Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) in an attempt to legislate weaker pollution standards.
So why is a lobbyist who defends coal companies and undermined clean air standards while at the EPA speaking on energy without being disclosed as a coal lobbyist?
Stay tuned for our upcoming report on how fossil fuel pundits' true ties are not being disclosed by major media outlets across the country.