On July 7, 2009, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will conduct a hearing to review proposals to build a clean energy economy and reduce global warming pollution. The first panel will feature cabinet officials, and the second panel includes business and environmental leaders, and a mayor. Perhaps the most prominent of all the witnesses will be Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS).
Barbour is no run-of-the-mill state official. He just became head of the Republican Governors Association, replacing disgraced Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC). Before he was elected in 2003, Barbour was one of was one of Washington’s most well-connected and powerful lobbyists, notorious for influence peddling for tobacco and big energy companies. He also served as Chairman of the Republican National Committee from 1993–1997.
Barbour has long been an advocate for big polluting companies, and has reaped political and financial benefits from these efforts. His record makes him an obvious choice to speak in opposition to clean energy policies:
BARBOUR AWASH IN BIG OIL, BIG ENERGY CASH
Barbour has long been at the intersection of special interest lobbying, elections, and campaign cash. He represents cash and carry politics at its worst.
• The oil & gas and utility industries were major contributor to his Mississippi gubernatorial campaigns, providing over $1.8 million in campaign cash. [National Institute on Money in State Politics, Accessed 7/2/09]
• According to the Center for Responsive Politics, coal companies and electric utilities lavished over half a million dollars on Barbour’s firm during his last two years as CEO and chairman, in 1998 and 1999. After taking time off to work on advisory committees for the presidential campaign of George B. Bush, Barbour returned to the firm in 2001. With the addition of new clients, including from the oil & gas industry, the firm made over a million dollars a year in dirty energy profits by the time he left again for his 2003 gubernatorial run, with $2.24 million in total for 2001–2002. [Center for Responsive Politics, accessed 7/2/09]
BARBOUR’S POLITICAL AND INDUSTRY TIES HAVE HAULED IN MILLIONS OF DOLLARS FOR THE REPUBLICAN PARTY
• Under his RNC leadership during the 1994 and 1996 election cycles, the oil and gas industry donated $30 million in contributions to Republicans, while providing only $12 million to Democrats — or nearly 3–1. Electric utilities donated nearly $10 million, and coal companies donated over $1.5 million, for a grand total of $42.0 million dollars. [Center for Responsive Politics, accessed 7/2/09, 7/2/09, 7/2/09]
• Barbour hosted a Southern Company party for lobbyists at the 2008 Republican National Convention. Southern was the top spending special interest that attempted to influence the debate over House the American Clean Energy and Security Act. With a force totaling 63 lobbyists, Southern was nearly twice as high as any other company. Its coal fired power plants emit 172 million tons of carbon dioxide annually. [Politico, 8/12/08; Center for Public Integrity, 7/1/09; IPS News, 11/16/07]
BARBOUR IS A LONG STANDING OPPONENT OF CLEAN ENERGY AND HEALTH SAFEGUARDS
• Back at his lobbying firm in early 2001, Barbour was hired “to help apply pressure in all the right places.” He convinced President Bush to break his campaign promise to reduce global warming pollution from power plants. Barbour’s memo “Bush-Cheney Energy Policy & CO2” belittled global warming as a “radical fringe issue,” and called the regulation of carbon dioxide pollution “eco-extremism.” He urged the President Bush to avoid making decisions informed by science, which would “trump good energy policy, which the country has lacked for eight years.” [NYT Magazine, 7/22/01; GeorgeWBush.com, 9/29/00; NRDC, 2008 (p. 17–18)]
• Barbour opposes clean energy jobs and global warming pollution reduction proposals even though they would create jobs, cut oil use, and reduce pollution. [Washington Times, 4/22/09]
BARBOUR LOBBIED TO WEAKEN CLEAN AIR ACT SAFEGUARDS
Barbour urged the evisceration of the “new source review” program of the Clean Air Act that prevents refurbished old coal fired power plants from evading stricter pollution limits.
• The Dallas Morning News reported that “Within weeks of taking office, Vice President Dick Cheney heard from Haley Barbour — a former Republican Party chairman and utility company lobbyist and now the governor of Mississippi — who urged the administration to reverse the Clinton administration…Southern [Company] and several other utilities faced federal lawsuits filed in 1999 by the Clinton administration, accusing the companies of failing to install expensive pollution-control devices when modifying their generating plants.” [Dallas Morning News, 8/30/04]
• The Bush administration pursued this agenda, only to be blocked by the U.S. Court of Appeals. It found that “Only in a Humpty Dumpty world” would the Administration’s changes be allowed. [US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit Opinions, 3/17/06]
The new head of the RGA is an apt choice to testify in opposition of pollution reductions. He has made his livelihood from representing big utilities and big oil’s interests. He continues to do so as Governor of Mississippi. Barbour has no proposals of his own to address global warming, even though unchecked pollution will mean more devastating hurricanes like Katrina that flattened his state in 2005. Like many other conservatives, he would pursue the reckless path of inaction on the greatest threat ever known to the planet.