June 5, 2014

Leader of Attack on Obama Global Warming Plan? Rudy Giuliani’s Firm


After the attacks of September 11, 2001, New York’s Rudolph Giuliani became “America’s Mayor,” mobilizing his city and standing as a defiant foe of the forces of terrorism. Then, after the devastating force in the New York area of superstorm Sandy, Giuliani, campaigning in 2012 for Mitt Romney, again presented himself as a protector of the people, charging that President Obama’s reaction to Sandy was “disgraceful.”

But when it comes to curbing forces that could lead to more violent storms like Sandy, Giuliani is decidedly not on the side of protecting people. Because there is an overwhelming scientific consensus that the burning of fossil fuels is rapidly causing climate change, and that climate change leads to extreme weather events. And Giuliani’s own law firm is now at the forefront of efforts by the coal industry to block President Obama’s groundbreaking effort to regulate the burning of fossil fuels, specifically carbon emissions from power plants.

In 2005, Giuliani expanded his already extensive business activities by joining the 60-year-old Bracewell law firm, now called Bracewell & Giuliani. The firm has nearly 500 lawyers spread across ten offices, including New York, Washington DC, Dallas, London, and Dubai.

Bracewell & Giuliani are particularly active as lobbyists and litigators on behalf of fossil fuel industries — oil, gas, and coal.

The day before the Obama Administration issued its new rule for power plants, Scott Segal, a Washington lawyer with Bracewell & Giuliani, was already denouncing the rule in the New York Times. “Clearly,” Segal said, “it is designed to materially damage the ability of conventional energy sources to provide reliable and affordable power, which in turn can inflict serious damage on everything from household budgets to industrial jobs.” Segal, who represents Arch Coal, Southern Company, and others in the coal and power industries, has been lobbying to oppose the rule. He told the Times that he would sue to block its implementation.

One of Segal’s partners in the DC office of the Giuliani firm, Jeff Holmstead, previewed for the Wall Street Journal last week what arguments the coal industry will make in the lawsuit.

Holmstead is a classic revolving door lobbyist, having parlayed a job as an associate White House counsel under President George H.W. Bush, where he worked on environmental regulations, into a job as an environment practice lawyer-lobbyist at the powerhouse firm Latham & Watkins. There he represented the Alliance for Constructive Air Policy, a group backed by coal-fired power companies that opposed air pollution rules. He also became an adjunct scholar at Citizens for the Environment, a spinoff of the Koch brothers’ Citizens for a Sound Economy.

Holmstead returned to government under George W. Bush, heading the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Air and Radiation from 2001-2004.  While he was at EPA, according to his law firm bio, Holmstead was “the architect of several of the agency’s most important initiatives, including … the Mercury Rule for power plants.” It’s bold of Holmstead to claim credit for this set of rules, because the Washington Post reported in 2004 that they contained language identical to that in “two memos sent to federal officials by a law firm representing the utility industry.” The name of the firm? Latham & Watkins, Holmstead’s previous employer: “A side-by-side comparison of one of the three proposed rules and the memorandums prepared by Latham & Watkins — one of Washington’s premier corporate environmental law firms — shows that at least a dozen paragraphs were lifted, sometimes verbatim, from the industry suggestions.” Holmstead’s explanation to the Post for adopting so much language from his old firm: “It came to us through the interagency process.”

In 2003, Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and James Jeffords (I-VT) wrote to Holmstead asking him to respond to evidence that, in 2002, he gave false testimony to Senate committees about the EPA’s assessment of how new regulations revisions would affect ongoing lawsuits against utilities for violating the Clean Air Act.

Holmstead followed his time at EPA by joining Bracewell & Giuliani, where he has lobbied for Southern Company, Duke Energy, Arch Coal, and others in the coal and power industries. Today, I attended a panel discussion held by the group Resources for the Future, at which Holmstead attacked the new Obama rule.

These are Giuliani’s men on the ground seeking to block measures that could slow global warming.  But what of Giuliani himself?

As a candidate for president of the United States in 2008, Giuliani was asked by CBS News about climate change.  He responded, “There is global warming. Human beings are contributing to it.” Then he gave his solution: coal. “I think the best answer to it is energy independence. We’ve got more coal reserves in the us than they have oil reserves in Saudi Arabia. If we find a way to deal with it and use it so it doesn’t hurt the environment, we’re going to find ourselves not contributing to global warming and also being more energy independent.” Giuliani then discussed other sources of energy.  But he wasn’t candid about the fact that thus far there has been no success in cost-effectively making coal “cleaner” so it doesn’t hurt the environment. And he didn’t mention that his firm represented the coal industry and other energy companies. 

As the Ukraine crisis unfolded in March, Giuliani again criticized President Obama as ineffective, contrasting him with Russian president Vladimir Putin, of whom he said, “That’s what you call a leader.”  But if he wants to be a true leader, then Giuliani needs to call off his law firm from blocking efforts to curb the very real and very dangerous threat of global warming.

Mayor Giuliani’s office said he was not available to respond today and was headed out of town for two weeks.

This article also appears on Huffington Post.