Notes From Meeting at Rockefeller Mansion Shed Light on Climate Politics
Newly obtained public records — including handwritten notes, a “Black Swan” event in the freedom of information world — open a window onto conversations between high-ranking government officials and environmentalist activists.
These notes and emails reflect often amusing candor, in which a prurient interest is understandable. What is most important, however, is the distinction between the officials’ public stances and their private confessions, among friends, about the shared “climate change” policy agenda.
The transparency group Energy Policy Advocates obtained these records chronicling a two-day, July 2019 meeting hosted by the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation (RBF) at the Rockefeller mansion at Pocantico, NY.
Host and RBF President Michael Northrop emailed one state official that the Rockefellers’ air conditioning encourages long sleeves in July. There is some irony here given the agenda of making energy less abundant and more expensive.
The event was titled “Accelerating State Action on Climate Change.” It brought together twenty senior political appointees from fifteen states, from Hawaii, the West Coast, across the southwest and mountain states, then from Maine down through Maryland.
Participating staff held titles including governor’s Chief of Staff, Senior Policy Advisor and Cabinet Secretary, and Chair, Director, Commissioner, and Secretary of regulatory agencies.
RBF flew them in, passing the costs through the Georgetown Climate Center — a Georgetown Law School vehicle that runs climate campaigns for donors and which, for purposes of taxes and other legal matters, is simply the non-profit Georgetown University.
Also participating were two environmentalist activist groups that RBF finances. An official from billionaire Tom Steyer’s Energy Foundation helpfully typed up and circulated her notes.
The handwritten notes, taken by Carla Frisch of RBF-beneficiary and meeting sherpa Rocky Mountain Institute, are particularly clarifying.
The Chief Policy Advisor to New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, is credited with joining Massachusetts’ Secretary of Energy & Environmental Affairs in complaining that “enviros want moratorium on fossil infrastructure,” but this causes problems with labor, because the coach in reality is “gas + jobs vs. no jobs + climate” (agenda).
Proponents of the “Green New Deal” and otherwise the “climate” agenda must explain away this confession of net economic pain and job loss (which “substantial job losses,” related records show, they also privately admit to).
The tension is further exposed in New Mexico’s Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Minerals, & Natural Resources Department, diagnosing the “problem,” which is the state’s booming oil & gas production.
Per the notes, Sarah Cottrell Propst bemoans the “problem is oil production in Permian [is] 1.5b/month in commerce, 400% ↑ in production.” That seems to be a rather odd position for an Energy Secretary to take, privately or not.
The notes indicate that former Obama Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz is not being helpful, saying mildly favorable things about natural gas: “Ernie Moniz saying gas is a bridge fuel.”
Meaning, gas as a replacement for coal while renewable energy continues its struggle to become reliable and economic. Climate activist politicians attempt this straddle with some regularity. But it simply is not acceptable to many environmentalists.
Ms. Frisch’s notes attribute the diagnosis of how this apostasy came about to California Air Resources Board Chair, and former Obama EPA official, Mary Nichols: “Moniz has not been well-managed.”
One state official from the Mountain West voiced the obvious concern among his team “to be careful about keeping” members of his political party in office.
That is not always easy given friends like theirs. According to New Mexico’s Propst, the climate activist officials’ green group NGO allies — called NGOs, for non-governmental organizations — are “having [a] hard time pivoting from enemy approach to friend approach.”
Steyer’s delegate’s typed notes characterize the sentiment slightly differently: “NGOS have a hard time pivoting from enemy admin to friendly admin.”
Emails between RBF and one of its partners in advocacy, the Center for a New Energy Economy at Colorado State University, reveal concern that these public records would find their way to the American public.
For example, RBF’s Northrop raised the prospect of mailing the notes instead of email, having been tipped off to one of Energy Policy Advocates’ records requests by the same New Mexico Energy Secretary.
Another correspondent gently suggested to Northrop that “Snail mail is probably subject to open records too, no?” Yes. Yes, it is.
The notes contain much more information offering a window into this movement’s actual beliefs and intentions, and assertions of political and legal realities. These will be released in the near future. The public should know when their government officials’ private statements contradict what they tell the public.
Chris Horner is a board member of the public interest law firm Government Accountability & Oversight, P.C., which represents Energy Policy Advocates in open records matters.