The liberal advocacy group, Americans United For Change, is out with a new report highlighting the financial ties between Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, and other Republican attorneys general, and the oil, gas and utilities industries as they fight to block enforcement of the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan.
According to calculations by FollowTheMoney,org, the report says Bondi collected $26,350 from the energy industries in the 2010 and 2014 election cycles. A closer look by the Herald/Times however, shows the figure is much higher - at least $75,000 just for the 2014 cycle. (The figure could potentially be hundreds of thousands more if donations to shadowy pass-through groups were required to be disclosed.)
Bondi joined with 23 other states, including a handful run by Democratic governors, and last year filed a lawsuit against the EPA to block the implementation of a rule by Environmental Protection Agency. The August rule revised the Clean Power Plan to impose the first-ever carbon limits on power plants. It required a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. power plants by 32 percent by 2030, based on 2005 levels, and is aggressively opposed by the oil, gas and utility industries.
Bondi and others argued that the EPA rule lays out an "unrealistic" timeframe to cut carbon emissions by 2030 and would "require the use of costly and unproven technologies." (Here are the goals for Florida, according to the EPA.)
The U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay on the implementation of the plan in February but the lawsuit continues. Meanwhile, a recent poll by Bloomberg Philanthropies -- run by the former New York mayor who supports the EPA rule -- found that 73 percent of Florida voters support the Clean Power Plan.
Now, Americans for Change claims that the legal officers who were opposing the rule were doing it not to help their constituents, but to advance the agendas of the utility, oil and gas industry.
"Republican attorneys general are doing the bidding of their polluter donor friends rather than working on the people of their state,'' said Brad Woodhouse, president of Americans for Change in a media call on Thursday. The group says Republican AGs collectively received $4.7 million from opponents of the Clean Power Plan. "If you ask me, that's pretty damning."
Update June 8: The information provided by Americans United for Change did not list which companies they consider opponents of the Clean Power Plan. A 2015 blog by the National Resources Defense Council indicated that some of the constructive comments to the Environmental Protection Agency about the rule were from power companies such as the parent of Florida Power & Light, NextEra Energy which showed they are "constructively engaged regarding the EPA's Clean Power Plan proposal."
"NextEra "supports the Clean Power Plan as a reasonable and balanced approach to reducing CO2 emissions from the electric generating sector that is consistent with the CAA and EPA's implementing regulations,'' the blog quotes NextEra as saying.
NextEra, which as one of the nation's largest wind and solar energy providers, sees business opportunities in the Clean Power Plan and actually filed a motion to intervene in the case in support of the EPA rule. "NextEra has and will continue to develop significant renewable power generation facilities that will be directly impacted by the outcome of the Final Rule,'' the NextERa motion stated.
"NextEra is deeply concerned about the impact that a negative ruling on the EPA Clean Power Plan could have on the company....If petitioners were to prevail in the case the benefits to NextEra likely to follow from the Clean Power Plan will be reduced or eliminated."
Does that mean NextEra does not support Bondi's attempt to block the rule? The Herald/Times asked NextEra spokesman Rob Gould: Is NextEra opposed to Bondi's opposition to the Clean Power Plan and the timeline for compliance with the emission reductions?
His answer: "We really have nothing to offer."
Some of the organizations NextEra and FPL are large contributors to have been actively working to defeat the Clean Power Plan. In Jan. 2016, the U.S. Chamber's Litigation Center joined other business groups and filed a lawsuit similar to the one filed by the states to stay the Clean Power Plan. The lawsuit came six months after FPL President Eric Silagy was elected a member of the U.S Chamber Board of Directors.
Gould said that the company is committed to expanding renewable energy options. "As the largest generator of wind and solar power in the world, NextEra Energy has long supported efforts to encourage investment in affordable clean energy."
Some of the company's investments, however, have gone to people and organizations who don't agree that the Clean Power Plan is a means to the clean energy goal.
In 2014, FPL was a contributor to Bondi's political committee, Justice for All, giving her $50,000 from Florida Power & Light.
According to OpenSecrets.org, the 527 RSLC gave Bondi a whopping $550,000 in 2014. Its contributors collected $7.7 million from energy, oil, gas and utility companies, including $1 million from Koch Industries, $408,000 from Duke Energy, and $193,000 from NextEra Energy -- the parent company of FPL.
Another giant contributor to Bondi in her re-election bid was the Republican Attorneys General Association. RAGA gave her $100,000, which almost matches the amount NextEra gave RAGA - $102,470. She became chair of the group just weeks after her re-election.
Bondi said last October that the lawsuit against the Clean Power Plan is not a partisan push and includes several Democrat-led states.
"None of this is political," she told reporters after a Cabinet meeting. "This is about protecting consumers and power bills."
Meanawhile, other states -- including those led by Republican governors -- are moving ahead with their own limits on carbon emissions, said Bill Holland, state policy director for the League of Conservation Voters.
For example, Oregon, California and Vermont have committed to having 50 percent of their energy from clean power sources by 2030 and Maryland's Republican Gov. Lawrence Hogan recently signed legislation to commit that state to reduce its carbon emissions by 30 percent.
"All across the country, states are taking action but a number of attorneys general are blocking progress,'' Holland told reporters on a media call. "States that choose to not move forward will be left behind."