The Environmental Spectator

Governors (Two) Bark Back

Western govs Otter know better than let themselves be controlled by global warmist fanatics.

By 7.20.09

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Well, they didn't take that very well.

The chairman (Democrat Gov. of Montana Brian Schweitzer) and vice chairman (Republican Gov. of Idaho Butch Otter) of the Western Governors Association responded sharply (PDF) to a National Taxpayers Union inquiry about WGA's management and funding of the Western Climate Initiative, which the rest of the WGA board members -- the governors of the other 17 Western states -- either unknowingly or are too embarrassed to acknowledge they support.

WCI is a serious hush-hush deal among these state executives. While they proudly and in detail (as shown in annual reports and on WGA's website) explain activities such as the Western Regional Air Partnership, the Western Interstate Energy Board, and the Western States Water Council, WCI comparatively is a big secret. There is barely a mention of WCI by name.

How can WGA have an entire page about climate change on its site and not even mention WCI? Why is the pride exhibited by the WestGovs for WRAP, WIEB, and WSWC -- all in the spirit of its mission statement ("to collectively express their positions on matters of shared interest, and together advocate a Western agenda") -- missing with WCI? Are the governors not all on board, or do they just not want the public to know about it?

That's one of the many important questions NTU asked, because it's not clear all the governors voted to support WCI -- at least openly. Meanwhile some members -- Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, for one -- have allowed WGA to advance a policy (cap-and-tax emissions reduction) they seem to loathe while criticizing it in other forums. Regardless of whether WGA member states funded WCI with taxpayer dollars, as NTU has asked in requesting full disclosure of the project's accounting, for the governors to allow WGA staff to run WCI contradicts their mission to act in unanimity on issues of common agreement and importance.

But instead of a response that addressed the concerns of a respected taxpayer advocate, WGA slapped together a whitewash retort. The letter, almost certainly composed by WCI project manager Patrick Cummins (a WGA staffer whose name pops up as the author in the Microsoft Word version of the letter), ignores the majority of NTU's challenges and instead adamantly declares that outside funding covered WCI expenditures, not state dues.

Whether or not taxpayer funds ended up covering WCI-related costs is one issue. Only a full, transparent audit will disclose not only incoming and outgoing dollars, but also whether or not WGA staffers like Cummins and executive director Pam Inmann saw their work time totally consumed with WCI; what their contract (WCI is alleged to have "contracted" with WGA for its employees' services) stipulations were; and whether or not any WGA employees personally benefited from the arrangement.

It's not surprising that Cummins would be so testy about NTU's inquiry. He's a global warming alarmist pushing hard for a cap-and-tax agreement among the Western states, as reported by online publication Facilitiesnet:

"What the states are really doing is taking leadership and trying to find out what works in different regions….

"I think people realize that some of the cap-and-trade approaches that are out there work not only for the electricity market but for other sectors," says Cummins. "With the kind of cuts we need to make, everybody needs to be in the program. We're not going to get the reductions we need by focusing on a single sector."

So it follows that Cummins would show up as a contributor to the last two global warming fear-mongering presidential candidates in 2004 and 2008, with $200 to Democrat John Kerry, and $208 to President Obama (Cummins's wife also gave three donations totaling $130 to Obama). Cummins also supported ($300) a Democrat candidate for the La Plata County (Colo.) Commission, Joelle Riddle, who until her election was education director for the local Planned Parenthood chapter. Her calling now, in addition to those serving constituents, is to speak on the global warming alarmist circuit. Anyone who has studied climate change hysteria knows that greenhouse gas reduction and population control go together.

But Cummins' presence and influence is only symptomatic of a larger problem: that the once moderate, measured WGA has been overtaken by a leftist staff carrying out the work of environmental extremist nonprofits and foundations. WCI, for example, is the product of the five Western governors (California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Arizona former Gov. Janet Napolitano, Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski, and Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire) who initiated it. It was since joined by Montana's Schweitzer and Utah's Republican Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., a climate alarmist like the GOP's Schwarzenegger.

WCI, as with nearly half the states, has been developed with the help of the Center for Climate Strategies, a group that advances the anti-fossil fuel agenda by "helping" states create greenhouse gas reduction policy. The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, a multi-million dollar alarmism advocate, finances much of CCS's work. Other activist groups like the Energy Foundation, World Resources Institute, and the Pew Center on Global Climate Change were also involved.

Beyond WCI, it's clear environmental extremists possess a large measure of control over WGA. A glimpse at its annual reports and Web site reveal significant backing from eco-left leaners such as the Doris Duke Foundation, the Nature Conservancy, the Energy Foundation, the (Ted) Turner Foundation, the Southwest Partnership for Carbon Sequestration, and the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation. A few oil companies like British Petroleum, ConocoPhillips and Chevron have chipped in also.

But WGA's report page almost exclusively lists studies that could have been found on any anti-capitalist, environoiac organization's website, with titles such as "Developing Alternative Transportation Fuels," "Wildlife Corridors," "Deploying Near-zero Technologies for Coal: A Path Forward," "Clean Energy, a Strong Economy and a Healthy Environment -- A Progress Report 2005-2007," and "Conserving the Greater Sage Grouse." It's clear the environmentalists have disproportionate control of WGA.

Given the past history of Montana's Schweitzer, WGA's chairman, and Idaho's Otter, the vice chairman, it's not surprising that Cummins easily got them to sign the aggressive response letter to NTU. Schweitzer's emphasis on environmental issues is well established, and not long ago Otter revealed his flawed thinking on global warming:

"No matter what theory you accept or what evidence you recognize, the public reality is that our climate is getting warmer," Otter said [in October 2007]. "We ignore reality at our own peril.… We must think of adapting to a changing climate in ways the public and marketplace can accept."

The climate has been cooling for a decade now, but that's beside the point. WCI is in fact a project supported by only a handful of Western governors, and many find it objectionable in that it -- as well as most other WGA projects -- pushes an agenda that locks up their vast natural gas and oil resources for exploration and extraction, and therefore inhibits economic development and prosperity for their citizens.

It's understandable that many WGA members might view the organization as a necessary irritant that they must pay homage to once a year or so. But now it's become an extension of the environmental extremism movement, and they need to fully audit its books, identify where the agenda has gone off track, and rein it in.

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About the Author

Paul Chesser publishes CarolinaPlottHound.com, a news aggregator for North Carolina, and is a contributor of articles, research and investigative reports for both national and state-level free-market think tanks.