Friday, July 27, 2007

Getting hotter

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency says he will investigate a threatening letter sent by the leader of an EPA-member group, vowing to “destroy” the career of a climate skeptic.

During a Capitol Hill hearing yesterday, Sen. James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican and ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, confronted EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson about the strongly-worded letter written July 13 by Michael T. Eckhart, president of the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) that was sent to Marlo Lewis, senior fellow of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI).

“It is my intention to destroy your career as a liar,” Mr. Eckhart wrote. “If you produce one more editorial against climate change, I will launch a campaign against your professional integrity. I will call you a liar and charlatan to the Harvard community of which you and I are members. I will call you out as a man who has been bought by Corporate America. Go ahead, guy. Take me on.”

CEI does not dispute climate change, however it differs with certain environmental groups, including ACORE, on the causes. After Mr. Inhofe read Mr. Eckhart’s comments, which were first reported by Inside the Beltway two weeks ago, the EPA chief promised to probe the matter.

“Statements like this are of concern to me. I am a believer in cooperation and collaboration across all sectors,” Mr. Johnson assured. “This is an area I will look into for the record.”

When Mr. Johnson confirmed that EPA is a member of ACORE, Mr. Inhofe asked if “it is appropriate to be a part of an organization that is headed up by a person who makes this statement.”

Late yesterday, Mr. Inhofe announced he will send letters to the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, and EPA, urging them to “reconsider their membership of ACORE.”

Based in Washington, ACORE’s mission is to increase the use of renewable energy. Its 400-plus “paying” organizational members come from government, financial institutions, trade associations, academia, and other professional services.

Besides ACORE, Mr. Eckhart is co-chairman of the World Council for Renewable Energy and a member of the Clinton Global Initiative. Previously, he was CEO of United Power Systems; vice president of the venture capital firm Arete Ventures; a General Electric manager; and a principal of Booz Allen Hamilton’s energy practice.

In a written response sent to Inside the Beltway last week, Mr. Eckhart apologized to “all the public who were offended” by his choice of words. He said he intended his letter to be a “private communication” in the context of “personal combat and jousting.”

However, this column earlier this week published another letter Mr. Eckhart sent in September to CEI President Fred Smith, saying “my children will have a lesser life because you are being paid by oil companies to spread a false story.”

He said he would give CEI, which advocates “sound science,” 90 days to reverse its “position” on global warming, “or I will take every action I can think of to shut you down,” including filing complaints with the Internal Revenue Service “on the basis that CEI is really a lobbyist for the energy industry.”

Here’s to Hyde

Here’s wishing a speedy recovery to former Republican Rep. Henry J. Hyde, who had successful triple-bypass heart surgery over the weekend in Illinois.

Meanwhile, the House Foreign Affairs Committee room in the U.S. Capitol was to have been named this week for the former International Relations Committee chairman, but the ceremony is postponed until the 83-year-old Mr. Hyde recovers.

A longtime House Judiciary Committee chairman who oversaw the impeachment proceedings against President Clinton, Mr. Hyde chose not to run for re-election in 2006.

Surprising Vivian

Members of the Fourth Estate converged on the Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City on Wednesday evening to wish a very surprised Vivian A. Deuschl congratulations on her 20 years with Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co., where she is the longtime corporate vice president of public relations.

What many admiring reporters who work with her don’t realize, is that Mrs. Deuschl was once an editor for the China Post in Taipei, Taiwan. She was also special assistant to the undersecretary of Commerce for Travel and Tourism, and served as a White House press aide under former President Gerald R. Ford.

She once allowed this columnist to accompany her into former President Bill Clinton‘s plush bedroom suite high atop the Portman Ritz-Carlton in Shanghai shortly before the president arrived from Beijing. There, she personally decorated the surroundings with a few of Mr. Clinton’s favorite furnishings, including a framed portrait of “Buddy,” the president’s Labrador retriever, who was left back at the White House. (There is no truth to the rumor that this columnist short-sheeted Mr. Clinton’s bedsheets.)

Among those toasting Mrs. Deuschl was The Washington Post’s Gary Lee, who ironically had just reported that the Ritz-Carlton “nudged” ahead of both JW Marriott and Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts as the “favorite luxury hotel of guests,” according to a survey by J.D. Power and Associates.

Other well-wishers included NBC producer Susan LaSalla; former Washingtonian food and wine executive editor Thomas Head; USA Today’s Ron Schoolmeester; Ritz-Carlton president and COO Simon Cooper; and former news anchor-turned-Marriott International executive vice president of global communications, Kathleen Matthews.

John McCaslin can be reached at 202/636-3284 or

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