Senate Energy Democrats Hire Former Industry Lobbyist to Lead Staff

A contradiction is unfolding inside the party as it pushes for a Green New Deal, writes Steve Horn.

By Steve Horn 
The Real News Network

The U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources has hired a former fracking lobbyist to lead its minority staff.

As first reported by the publication GreenwireSarah Venuto Perez formerly served as lead federal lobbyist for America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA), as well as the natural gas electricity companies Centerpoint Energy and Entergy. ANGA, until merging into the American Petroleum Institute in 2015, was the lead federal lobbying organization promoting hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for natural gas in shale basins across the U.S.

The U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources is under the Democratic minority leadership of U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), a coal and natural gas state legislator who has long served as a vocal supporter of the fossil fuel industry. Most recently, Venuto Perez had worked as chief legal counsel and senior policy adviser for Manchin.

A contradiction is unfolding among Democrats: Venuto Perez’s hire comes as Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives, spearheaded by U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have pushed the concept of a Green New Deal and creation of a Select Committee on the Climate Crisis.

Peregrine, an Energy Department supercomputer capable of 1 million billion calculations per second at National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo. (Department of Energy)

Peregrine, an Energy Department supercomputer capable of 1 million billion calculations per second at National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo. (Department of Energy)

Ocasio-Cortez recently told Bloomberg that the House will soon begin the official process of drafting a resolution to have an official written record of what “climate and clean energy policies they would support to combat climate change,” reported Bloomberg.

She said the resolution is still being drafted. “But we’re looking to essentially just define the scope of the Green New Deal” with the resolution.”

Track Record

Prior to her roughly seven years working as a lobbyist in Washington, D.C., Venuto Perez worked as assistant council for the Office for General Counsel for the Hillary Clinton for President campaign during Clinton’s first run for the presidency, according to her LinkedIn profile. Venuto Perez also gave a $2,900 donation to Clinton during her follow-up 2016 run for president while working as a lobbyist for ANGA, according to U.S. Federal Elections Commission data.

While working for ANGA, Venuto Perez also accepted $75 biweekly payroll deductions during the 2016 campaign cycle which went to the lobbying organization’s political action committee (PAC). ANGA donated $66,688 to candidates during that cycle, according to OpenSecrets.org, with Hillary Clinton receiving the most money out of any federal candidate from the organization.

Federal campaign finance disclosure form for ANGA’s PAC in 2015. (U.S. Federal Elections Commission)

Federal campaign finance disclosure form for ANGA’s PAC in 2015. (U.S. Federal Elections Commission)

Venuto Perez—formerly Venuto—is married to another fossil fuel industry lobbyist named Nelson Perez, who works as lead federal lobbyist for the London-based electricity generation company National Grid. Throughout her career as a lobbyist, Venuto Perez has frequently lobbied against clean air rules, clean water protections and climate regulations.

For example, while working for ANGA, federal lobbying disclosure forms show that she advocated against methane emissions regulations (methane is a greenhouse gas more potent as a heat-trapping greenhouse gas than carbon during its 20 years in the atmosphere). At ANGA, she also lobbied for bills which would expedite the permitting process to ship liquefied natural gas to the export market, fast-tracking which may push aside considerations under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

At ANGA, she also worked on NEPA reform itself, legislation and a regulatory landscape which undergirds it that has long stood in the way of industry desires to expedite the permitting process for its proposed projects. The Trump administration and congressional Republicans have made a push in recent months, as well, to stave off NEPA.

During her lobbyist tenure, Venuto Perez further advocated on behalf of the SCRUB (Searching for and Cutting Regulations that are Unnecessarily Burdensome) Act. That bill would nix one federal regulation for every federal regulation created, legislation pushed hard both in the U.S. and Canada by the climate change denial network funded by David and Charles Koch.

While at Centerpoint, Venuto Perez lobbied, too, for the Free Industry Act, which would have made greenhouse gases not subject to Clean Air Act. Also at Centerpoint, she pushed for the Ensuring Affordable Energy Act, which would have prohibited funding for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to implement greenhouse gas regulations. Further, she lobbied for S.15, a 2011 bill to halt regulation of carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. until China, India, and Russia implement similar reductions.

And those are just some of the dozens of bills she supported while working for Centerpoint.

Third quarter federal lobbying disclosure form for Centerpoint Energy. (Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives)

Third quarter federal lobbying disclosure form for Centerpoint Energy. (Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives)

Manchin Under Fire

Even before Manchin hired Venuto Perez, his appointment came under fire by climate activists.

Manchin speaks at July 19, 2017 Third Way breakfast in Washington, D.C. (Third Way Think Tank | Flickr)

Manchin speaks at July 19, 2017 Third Way breakfast in Washington, D.C. (Third Way Think Tank | Flickr)

“Anyone but Manchin,” Lukas Ross, senior policy analyst at the climate advocacy group Friends of the Earth, told Politico at the time. “I’d rather pick someone from the phone book.”

In recent months, Manchin has helped to spearhead an effort to create a multinational petrochemical hub in West Virginia. Boosted by over $83 billion in capital from China, the hub would intake gas obtained from fracking in the Marcellus and Utica Shale basins and morph the Ohio River valley region into a petrochemical refining corridor rivaling that situated along the Gulf of Mexico in Texas and Louisiana on the Houston Ship Channel.

Manchin made his mark as one of few Democrats to oppose to President Obama’s Climate Action Plan’s aims to regulate coal-fired power plants’ greenhouse gas emissions. On the day Obama announced the plan, Manchin denounced it as a “war on coal” in a press release published by his office.

“The regulations the President wants to force on coal are not feasible. And if it’s not feasible, it’s not reasonable,” said Manchin at the time. “It’s clear now that the President has declared a war on coal.”

Manchin also came out against a cap-and-trade plan put forth early on in the Obama Administration. In a well-known 2010 Manchin campaign ad, the Senator literally shot the cap-and-trade legislative proposal with a rifle.

The fifth most senior member of the Committee, Manchin assumed the helm because the other four more senior members received appointments to head up other committees. Those include U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) (Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee), U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) (Budget Committee) and U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) (Finance Committee) and U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) (Agriculture Committee).

Politico noted in November that Democratic Party-aligned advocates were noticeably quiet about the appointment of Manchin, compared to its noisier activism around pushing the concept of the Green New Deal to the fore.

“We’re not shy about bringing the full spectrum of Democratic actions, including protests, to Capitol Hill, but right now our priority is building power and building a vision on climate change,” Julian NoiseCat, U.S. policy analyst for 350.org, told Politico. “We see that primarily in the House at this current moment in time.”

Any Green New Deal passed by the House, where Democrats sit in the majority, would also need to pass through both the U.S. Senate and receive President Donald Trump’s signature of approval to become law. Given much of the Green New Deal deals with energy issues, some parts of that package will ikely have to go through the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources as well.

“The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee should play a key role in order for a Green New Deal legislative package to get to the President,” Tyson Slocum, Director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program, told The Real News Network. “Of course, Senate Majority Leader McConnell threw such precedent out the window to rush through Trump’s corporate tax cut without such Committee involvement, but regardless the Energy and Natural Resources Committee should play a prominent role.”

Undermining Climate Commitments

Manchin’s office did not respond to repeated requests for comment for this story. Neither did any of the other Democrats contacted for this story, including the offices of U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Sanders sits as a fellow member of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Fellow Committee Democrats U.S. Sen. Cantwell, U.S. Sen. Stabenow and U.S. Sen. Wyden also did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Robert Galbraith, Senior Research Analyst for the Public Accountability Initiative — a non-profit group which tracks the influence elite networks have on public policy debates and outcomes — decried the hire

“Hiring a revolving door fossil fuel lobbyist to direct their staff on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee completely undermines Democratic party leaders’ stated commitment to addressing climate change,” Galbraith told The Real News Network. “Political leaders cannot credibly claim to take climate change seriously while taking money from fossil fuel companies and executives and putting fossil fuel lobbyists in positions to influence climate policy.”

And those are just some of the dozens of bills she supported while working for Centerpoint.

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05.Baltimore Mayor Signs Charter Amendment Banning Water Privatization

Steve Horn is a reporter and producer with the Real News Network’s Climate Crisis Bureau.

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19 comments for “Senate Energy Democrats Hire Former Industry Lobbyist to Lead Staff

  1. January 27, 2019 at 4:25 am

    The entire purpose of the Green movement is to enrich the financiers and slaughter Deplorables. This is also the purpose of the Republican Party and the Democrat Party. No contradictions at all.

  2. Tom Kath
    January 25, 2019 at 8:22 pm

    I am amazed that so many even relatively intelligent people cannot make the connection that there is far more money to be made out of “climate change” than there is out of questioning it. Just think who pays for this more expensive “nice clean” energy?

    They started by calling it “Global Warming”, and when that didn’t sound alarming enough they called it “Climate Change” – The planet is now getting hotter, colder, wetter, and dryer, all at once! Your smartphone PROVES it. When you are a bit cold and wet, it will show you someone who is a bit hot and dry, and this seems unprecedented. – Wake up! Throw your phone away and step outside!

    • Skip Scott
      January 26, 2019 at 8:53 am

      Good idea. And while you’re outside, take a hike up to Alaska, and then on up to the arctic. Stop by Greenland and talk to the folks there. And I bet all those satellite photos are fake too. If your too lazy to walk, you can always take a cruise ship through the Northwest passage as of 2016.

      https://e360.yale.edu/features/cargo_shipping_in_the_arctic_declining_sea_ice

      • Tom Kath
        January 26, 2019 at 8:41 pm

        Yes, I saw those satellite photos Nigel Farage showed! Nobody even tried to suggest they were fake.
        As for the people “up there”, I would suggest that policy, politics, and climate would all be IMPROVED by almost any change.

    • samuel weaver
      February 2, 2019 at 11:32 am

      Subsidize it… like they do banks, energy companies, Pharma and other satanic entities that are bankrupting the planet.

  3. Brian
    January 25, 2019 at 7:50 pm

    Everyday it’s something new, corruption left and right, dear god when is it going to stop?

  4. KiwiAntz
    January 25, 2019 at 5:43 pm

    What do you expect, when you have a Neoliberalism running the show,practiced by both Parties? Whether its Democratic or Republican, both Parties are in it, for the POWER & DOLLARS! They both couldn’t give a stuff about the ordinary people they claim to represent? America has a privatised Corporate Government privatised Healthcare, privatised MIC, privatised Foreign Policy etc etc? People of America, did you not receive the memo?? The Govt shutdown is a classic example of the lengths these depraved , corrupt US Politicians on both sides, will go to, too throw their Citizens under the bus to serve their own agendas? Thousands of Federal workers denied paychecks for 35 days & for WHAT? These Politicians don’t give a damn because it doesn’t personally affect them in a financial sense, they still get paid during the shutdowns & because all of them receive millions of dollars in bribes & kickbacks from Corporate donors, they never have to suffer the effects of their actions, only the Fed worjers who like the other 80% of the American population, live week to week, paycheck too paycheck? This 80% of the American people are the “precarious precariate”, kept purposely in a state of perpetual unease & uncertainty to garner their compliance, uniformity & obedience to the Elites & their agenda? No wonder people are disgusted by their Political, Corporate Sustem & Politicians! Time to don the “yellow vests” Americans & take to the streets & protest & demand change from your Leaders, like your French brothers are doing to fight for their dignity, human rights & more fairness & equality?

  5. dean 1000
    January 25, 2019 at 5:38 pm

    Looks like this deal has been in the works since the democrats voted to allow the export of oil and gas a few years ago. What else is coming. If this is an export deal will it need new military spending to protect cargo going to China.

    Have to agree w/Jill. This is who the democrats are.

  6. January 25, 2019 at 4:36 pm

    The fight is on over conversion to Green Energy, and a Green New Deal! The money power will not relent, and they could doom ecosystems and civilization to runaway heating of the air and oceans. And all for nothing, as people will look back 50 years from now – because the oil and coal reserves were destined to run out anyway, and force a conversion anyway.

    A solution is to concede now part way to the money power, and pay all the fossil-fuel owners (both in the U.S. and the rest of the world) 20% on their holdings and infrastructure – on their expected return on investment – for closing permanently their oil (and gas and coal fields). Since they would probably never agree (nor would their bankers) to an offer of 20 cents on the dollar, the peoples’ governments must force them to close through legislation (the ‘stick’) and through an additional incentive: a 20% tax credit for investing in clean, green energy (the ‘carrot’). The owners must sacrifice and feel the pain, too. So the people, by going into national debt to the tune of 20% for closing fields and keeping fossil fuels in the ground, and another 20% for encouraging re-investing in the right energy sources, can save the planet from the predators. That is a much better use for ‘money printing’ and trillions in debt than financing wars for oil. It can work – takes about 30 years, I think. Call it “VISION 20-20” for a saved planet. We can start implementing it in 2020, too.

    David Hamilton, Civil Engineer
    (for more on this see – “My Message to Davos Elites: Act As If Our House Is on Fire. Because It Is.” by Greta Thunberg, at Common Dreams, comment section)

    • cjonsson1
      January 25, 2019 at 9:53 pm

      Thank you David Hamilton you have given us a constructive response.

      • David Hamilton
        January 26, 2019 at 12:47 am

        Thank you

    • Mulga Mumblebrain
      January 26, 2019 at 2:20 am

      There will be NO humans beings to look back on anything in fifty years. The ecological Holocaust is far too advanced and too widespread to be averted.

  7. SPENCER
    January 25, 2019 at 3:46 pm

    Our CORPORATE Govt in action—

  8. Al Pinto
    January 25, 2019 at 3:23 pm

    Lobbyists becoming high level government officials is not necessarily a bad thing. Take for example Tom Wheeler, former Chairman of the FCC. In his previous life, he had been a lobbyist for the cable and wireless industry:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Wheeler

    At the time of his appointment, the cable and wireless industry were celebrating and by the end, they could hardly wait for his term to end. There had been numerous lawsuits against the FCC by the very same industries.

    While Tom Wheeler probably had been man exception, instead of the rule, ripping a new appoint based on previous association maybe a bit premature…

    • Eddie
      January 27, 2019 at 10:18 am

      True that there is the occasional apostate who (perhaps suffering pangs of conscience) tries to right some of the wrongs he/she originally promoted and instituted, but that’s always a low-probability event, and it downplays the original intent of the people who made the current appointment —- they were EXPECTING that individual to play a ‘corporate-friendly’ role based on his/her history, they WANTED a fox to guard the hen-house.

      As Damon Runyon colorfully said, “The race may not always be to the swift nor the victory to the strong, but that’s how you bet.”

  9. Jill
    January 25, 2019 at 2:27 pm

    This is only a contradiction if you believe what is said as opposed to what is done in the Democratic party. You must first believe that Democrats are serious about alternative energy. They aren’t. Believing in what the female Obama, AOC, says is like believing Obama himself. Obama was a president who had the US in 7 wars, protected the bankers, mass surveilled our population, deported more people than Trump, allowed torturers to go free while maintaining torture center black sites around the world and took it upon himself to kill people on his own say so. These kills included a 16 and 17 year old boy.

    This is all true, but if you ask Democrats, Obama was a saint! There is a real disconnect between what Democrats believe about their “leaders” and what their leaders actually do. This disconnect must be broken in favor of reality. “Leaders” must be held to account for their real, lived actions.

    Just as Trump who is supposedly a non interventionist populist put GS in charge of his economic policy and John Bolton in charge of his international policy, Democrats putting an oil and gas guy in charge of their Green New Deal isn’t an accident. This is who they are.

    • Miranda M Keefe
      January 25, 2019 at 3:09 pm

      AOC had nothing to do with this hire. Fossil Fuel Toady Manchin did.

      • Antonio Costa
        January 25, 2019 at 4:32 pm

        Manchin is a senator, not in the house where this lobbyist was brought in.

        AOC has virtually no power which is why she gets coverage in the MSM. This lobbyst hire is an intended slap in the face to AOC’s version of a Dem. GND.

        Where is AOC on the US coup in Venezuela or the watering down of the gold standard Medicare for All fought at the grass roots for years?

        The AOC GND will be like Obama’s health care reform, a costly mess, huge profits for corporate capitalism. Obama had the pharma/insurance lobby write ACA. That’s how corporate Dems support their paymaster.

        You don’t beat the system by joining it. We need a replacement not a “new deal”.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain
      January 26, 2019 at 2:22 am

      The ENTIRE morally insane US political Establishment is owned, body and dead soul, by the oiligarchs. They have NO interest in human survival beyond their own life-spans. The destruction of humanity looks more and more certain and deliberate.

Comments are closed.