The Obama administration, top climate change crusaders and governors from across the country have engaged in a highly coordinated effort to publicly sell the president’s green agenda and put private pressure on opponents, according to newly released emails and other records obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests.
The striking report from the Energy and Environment Legal Institute’s Christopher Horner — who first revealed Lisa P. Jackson’s use of private email accounts and aliases while at the helm of the Environmental Protection Agency — sheds new light on the level of cooperation among top White House officials, billionaire and climate change activist Tom Steyer, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear and other backers of Mr. Obama’s global warming regulations, including restrictions on carbon pollution from power plants.
The documents show frequent communication and meetings among Democratic officials at the state and federal levels and, among other environmental groups, representatives of NextGen Climate, a leading climate change advocacy group led by Mr. Steyer.
The emails show Rohan Patel, a special assistant to the president and the White House deputy director of intergovernmental affairs, as a liaison between the administration and state officials and a key figure in developing the broader plan to sell Mr. Obama’s climate proposals.
The report was released last week, just days before Mr. Obama traveled to Alaska to promote his environmental agenda. The president will remain in Alaska through Wednesday. He delivered a speech Monday evening on the threats posed by climate change.
Specifically, the report lays out in detail how environmental activists and public officials coordinated on how best to drum up support for Mr. Obama’s climate agenda.
The strategy centered on, among other things, Democratic governors’ offices enlisting utility companies to put pressure on Republican governors who are vehemently opposed to Mr. Obama’s environmental regulations.
“The emails cite one tactic seemingly lifted from an episode of ‘House of Cards’: Democratic governors will ‘creatively engage’ electric utilities under their jurisdiction to bring Republican governors on board, instead of using green groups to pressure Republicans,” the report reads in part.
Democratic governors — including Mr. McAuliffe, Mr. Beshear and former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber — would privately pressure utilities whose jurisdictions crossed state lines into Republican-controlled states.
At the same time, leading environmental groups would work with the White House and state Democratic leaders to roll out a comprehensive public relations strategy and otherwise generate support for Mr. Obama’s climate initiatives.
Mr. Patel referred all questions to the White House press office, which did not respond to a request for comment. NextGen also did not respond to a request for comment.
Critics say the lengthy report is more proof that the Democratic Party and the environmental movement essentially function as one entity with a shared goal of forcing fossil fuels out of the U.S. energy mix. They also point out that significant taxpayer money apparently is being used to promote Mr. Obama’s climate goals.
“The extent of it is pretty impressive — the idea that you could get a bunch of grown people from all varying perspectives pointing in the same direction is an impressive testament to the uniformity of thought among Democrats,” said Michael McKenna, a Republican strategist and president of the lobbying firm MWR Strategies. “It’s pretty hard confirmation of something we already knew … that the modern-day Democratic Party is handmaiden to the environmentalists.”
The emails also reveal a “core group” of officials in governors’ offices across the country who would take part in “weekly governors energy and climate commitment conversation.”
The group includes Mr. Beshear, the Kentucky governor whose state is one of the nation’s largest coal producers. Publicly, he remains opposed to the EPA’s carbon emissions regulations and other pieces of Mr. Obama’s agenda.
“Throughout his time in office, Gov. Beshear has remained steadfast in his support for Kentucky’s important coal and manufacturing industries, and the affordable energy and good jobs they provide the commonwealth and the nation. That’s why he has strongly opposed federal regulations for Kentucky that are disastrous, both for our declining coal economy and for our very important manufacturing economy,” said Terry Sebastian, Mr. Beshear’s spokesman.
The office of Mr. McAuliffe, who also appears to have been a member of the core group and who benefited from Mr. Steyer’s financial support during his 2013 election campaign, did not respond to requests for comment.
The report says some questions about the true depth of the coordination remain unanswered because of stonewalling from governors’ offices.
“Further questions arise about why so many public officials are devoting so much of their time to working with ‘major environmental donors,’ and otherwise, on a scheme they recognize the voters would reject,” the study reads in part. “Similarly, how much taxpayer money is being dedicated to this campaign and what level of private underwriting is advancing the use of public offices this way. Ultimately, the questions are who is paying for, and who is benefiting from, all of this. The answer to the latter certainly isn’t the American people.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Obama continues his laserlike focus on climate change. The president vowed to make global warming a centerpiece of his second-term agenda, and his EPA over the past several years has rolled out a host of regulations limiting emissions from automobiles, power plants, airplanes, oil-and-gas drilling sites and even garbage dumps.
“The point is that climate change is no longer some far off problem. It is happening here. It is happening now,” Mr. Obama said Monday night at a climate-change conference in Anchorage.
“Climate change is already disrupting our agriculture and ecosystems, our water and food supplies, our energy, our infrastructure, human health, human safety, now, today. And climate change is a trend that affects all trends — economic trends, security trends. Everything will be impacted and it becomes more dramatic with each passing year. Already it’s changing the way Alaskans live … We know that human activity is changing the climate. That is beyond dispute. Everything else is politics, if people are denying the facts of climate change,” he said.