On Friday, Rudy Giuliani made a surprise announcement that he was pulling out of consideration for a cabinet post in the Trump administration. His decision marks a major bullet dodged for anyone concerned about the environment and climate change.
For the better part of a month, Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, had been one of the contenders for the position of Trump’s secretary of state. His appointment would have meant that a figure who had enriched himself by greasing the wheels for numerous fossil fuel companies would have been in charge of approving cross-border pipelines and other fossil fuel infrastructure, as well as advancing the administration’s energy and climate policy on the world stage.
“The Nation’s Most Aggressive Lobbyist for Coal-fired Power Plants”
Looking at Giuliani’s post-mayoral career is like taking a guided tour through a who’s who of major polluters. Giuliani joined Houston, Texas-based law firm Bracewell & Patterson in 2005, expanding the firm’s New York office. The firm, which soon changed its name to Bracewell & Giuliani, already had a significant reputation as the firm of choice for major energy companies by the time Giuliani came aboard.
In 2007, the New York Times called the firm “perhaps the nation’s most aggressive lobbyist for coal-fired power plants, heavy emitters of air pollutants and carbon dioxide,” arguing it was “central to rolling back environmental regulations in the Bush years,” including provisions of the Clean Air Act.
“Bracewell & Giuliani was probably the most premier energy lobbying firm in the 2000s,” says Tyson Slocum, director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program.
One of Bracewell & Giuliani’s biggest legal clients was Chevron/Texaco, a multinational energy company that, according to Forbes, is the 28th biggest public company in the world and the Untied States’ second biggest oil and gas producer, worth $192 billion. Chevron was responsible for one of the worst cases of pollution in history, dumping more than 18 billion gallons of oil and toxic waste in the Ecuadorian Amazon — 30 times larger than the infamous 1989 Exxon Valdez spill.
Its other clients included Shell Oil, which has its own disreputable history of pollution in the non-Western world. Among other things, Bracewell & Giuliani helped Shell acquire 618,000 acres of the Permian Basin in 2012 from the Chesapeake Energy Corporation—itself a major client, and one that gave the firm hundreds of thousands of dollars for lobbying work from 2011-2015.
Other fossil fuel clients included Saudi Arabia’s oil ministry (despite Giuliani’s emphatic rejection of a $10 million donation from a Saudi prince after the September 11 attacks), Citgo (Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, which spent more than $5 million since 2014 lobbying against U.S. sanctions), and Pacific Gas & Electric, California’s largest utility, which most recently was found guilty of violating safety regulations prior to a pipeline explosion that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes. Bracewell represented the company in the case.
The list goes on.
Bracewell & Giuliani lobbied for 11 years for Southern Company, an implacable enemy of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan and once ranked “the United States’ most irresponsible utility.” It lobbied for gas and coal power plant operator Dynegy, one of the country’s worst air polluters, for seven years. GenOn Energy, which has racked up thousands of violations of federal and state water laws over the years, retained the firm as lobbyists for the same amount of time.
The ERCC was one of Bracewell & Giuliani’s oldest and most lucrative clients, paying out more than $1 million a year to the firm since 2008, dwarfing every other client listed. Its director, Scott Segal, is a partner at Bracewell & Giuliani. Jeff Holmstead, who in 2010 was referred to by the ERCC as its counsel, is also a partner at the firm (though as this transcript of his Senate testimony shows, he hasn’t always disclosed this connection).
And some of its member companies—Duke Energy, Salt River Project, and Southern Company—were also clients of Bracewell & Giuliani.
“Honorary Texas Oil Lawyer”
This is just a small sampling of the dozens of companies from the fossil fuel sector that the firm did work for while Giuliani’s name was on the door. Some—like Duke Energy and Air Liquide—were also major recipients of federal contracts.
“I think it would be very difficult to untangle himself from all of the conflicts of interest his clients would pose,” if he would have taken a position in the Trump administration, Slocum told DeSmog.
It’s not clear what the exact scope of Giulini’s own personal involvement with many of these companies was. Giuliani himself never registered as a lobbyist, and he’s not listed as an attorney in legal cases involving the companies.
Nonetheless, Giuliani’s presence was a big selling point for companies that signed up with Bracewell & Giuliani. In 2006, Newsday reported that Giuliani personally sat down with Shell executives, part of his role of “solidifying existing relationships” with the firm.
Slocum says whether or not Giuliani was directly involved with some of these companies is beside the point.
“It would be one thing if you had some minor role,” he says. “It’s another when one of the world’s largest lobbying groups renames itself after you.”
It’s evident Giuliani’s work with the firm led the fossil fuel sector to warm to him. When Giuliani was ready to launch his presidential bid in 2007, Time magazine dubbed him an “honorary Texas oil lawyer.”
By October of that year, he had raised more than half a million dollars from the oil and gas industry, more than the next two top recipients combined. Of that total, $14,000 came from oil refiner Valero Energy, one of Bracewell & Giuliani’s clients.
Campaigning for Coal (and Oil and Gas)
In turn, Giuliani often spoke up for his clients’ interests on the campaign trail and beyond, offering a glimpse into the kind of energy policy he might have pushed had he joined the Trump administration.
Over 2007 and 2008, Giuliani indicated he would open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling and said the United States would be “better off if we could rely somewhat more on our coal reserves” in order to achieve energy independence, and supported coal-to-fuel synthesis, believing it could be “a very valuable contributor” to said independence.
In 2014, he called on Obama to fast-track applications to export natural gas as part of a foreign policy response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
In September last year, he argued the natural gas industry was “not being supported by the national government in the way that it should be,” complained that many people were “irrationally afraid” of fracking, and urged the industry to launch “a national effort to explain how relatively safe this process was.”
A number of environmental groups contacted by DeSmog when Giualini was still in the running expressed concern about his potential appointment.
Dani Heffernan, U.S. Communication Coordinator at 350.org, called Trump’s consideration of Giuliani for secretary of state “par for the disastrous course the President-elect is setting,” and said his loyalty to the industry posed “a threat to international action against climate change and, ultimately, a livable future.”
League of Conservation Voters Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Tiernan Sittenfield called Giuliani’s ties to the oil and gas industry “a major red flag,” and said that if he were nominated, it “would be another deeply disturbing move by President-elect Trump.”
There were other conflicts of interest associated with Giuliani’s years of work in the fossil fuel sector.
For instance, Giuliani’s consulting firm, Giuliani Partners, once held Shell and TransCanada as clients. TransCanada has two State Department permits currently pending, including for the Keystone XL Pipeline, which President Obama rejected last year after years of bitter grassroots opposition to the project.
As secretary of state, Giuliani would have had the power to reverse this, putting him in the position of potentially approving his previous client’s application — a fact Sittenfield specifically cited when expressing his disapproval.
None of the groups originally contacted by DeSmog have responded to requests for comment on Giuliani’s decision to bow out. Given their positions, it’s safe to say they’re not unhappy.
However, given the rest of Trump’s environmentally unfriendly appointments, including EPA chief Scott Pruitt — and that Trump has said he “can see an important place for [Giuliani] in the administration at a later date” — it’s certainly not time for those who care about the climate to break out the champagne.
Main image: Rudy Giuliani speaking at an immigration policy speech hosted by Donald Trump in Phoenix, Arizona. Credit: Gage Skidmore, CC BY–SA 3.0