Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA)

Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA)

Background

The Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA) is an energy industry PR and government affairs organization founded1Geoff Dembicki. “How Big Oil and Canada Thwarted US Carbon Standards,” The Tyee, December 15, 2011. Archived November 2, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/RPVQw by Republican lobbyist Michael Whatley2Whatley, Michael D,” OpenSecrets.org. Accessed November 2, 2018. of HBW Resources, a leading proponent of the Keystone XL Pipeline3Guest Opinion: Keystone XL is economically, environmentally sound,” Lincoln Journal Star, May 16, 2017. and the Canadian tar sands industry.4Michael Whatley. “Why Oil Sands Crude is Still Good for the United States,” Townhall, November 12, 2011. Archived November 2, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/EG7Ef

CEA‘s member groups include petroleum giants BP, ExxonMobil, Shell, and Chevron, among many others. It has received “operational support” from the American Natural Gas Association, and additional funding from the American Petroleum Institute. The CEA engages in targeted media messaging and government lobbying to advance pro-industry agenda items such as offshore drilling, deregulation, and refineries expansion.5Members,” Consumer Energy Alliance. Archived November 2, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/SdBMj

The Center for Public Integrity (CIP) reported the group was founded in 2006, with a formative board consisting of executives from Shell and Hess Corporation, as well as a number of other industries. Jim Martin, Chairman of the 60 Plus Association, was also a board member.6Nicholas Kusnetz. “Governors and oil industry work hand in hand in offshore drilling group,” The Center for Public Integrity, November 24, 2014. Archived November 2, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/GhHRs

According their website, CEA is the leading consumer advocate in support of affordable, reliable energy for working families, seniors, and small businesses across the country.”7About Consumer Energy Alliance,” Consumer Energy Alliance. Archived November 2, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/6SKp4

In 2011, FOIA requests8Geoff Dembicki. “How Big Oil and Canada Thwarted US Carbon Standards,” The Tyee, December 15, 2011. Archived November 2, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/RPVQw and investigative reporting by Salon.com confirmed the CEA is an industry front group established to influence public perception and government regulation in favor of extractive energy industries.9Geoff Dembicki. “Big Oil and Canada thwarted U.S. carbon standards,” Salon, December 15, 2011. Archived May 31, 2012. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/4Xj7y

CEA has faced multiple accusations (2014, 2016, and most recently in 2018) of submitting fake comments in support of legislation that would benefit utility companies, often at the cost of higher energy prices for consumers.

Pro-Industry Stance

In documents filed with the IRS, the CEA describes their primary exempt purpose as a non-profit organization as “Education of the General Public,” and have listed their stated mission is “to expand the dialogue between the energy and consuming sectors.”10About CEA,” Consumer Energy Alliance. Archived September 18, 2009. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/2thwO

As part of its purpose and mission, the CEA has engaged in media campaigns critical of proposed Low Carbon Fuel Standards. In 2011 tax filings the CEA listed as an accomplishment under its exempt purposes “specific outreach/education efforts to improve public understanding and negative economic impacts associated with currently proposed LCFS programs.”11About CEA,” Consumer Energy Alliance. Archived September 18, 2009. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/2thwO

Energy4Us

Energy4US.org describes itself as a “coalition of consumers, businesses and workers united in the belief that energy empowers us, allows us choices and improves our quality of life.” The group includes members such American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers and has focused on fighting against the renewable fuel standard among other regulations on the fossil fuel industry.12Homepage, Energy4Us.org. Archived November 5, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/RByPc

According to the Internet Archive, as of 2015 the Consumer Energy Alliance’s former website SecureOurFuels.org redirected to Energy4US.org (Secureourfuels.org is now owned by an industrial supply company).

Internet Archive Redirect

The first and second blog posts at the Energy4US website reaffirm that Energy4US.org grew from CEA‘s SecureOurFuels campaign.13WELCOME TO SECURE OUR FUELS,” Energy4US. Archived November 5, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/ytNDF 14NEW CAMPAIGN SEEKS TO EDUCATE PUBLIC ON NEGATIVE IMPACTS OF A NATIONWIDE LOW CARBONFUEL STANDARD (LCFS),” Energy4US. Archived November 5, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/nrJn1

Before SecureOurFuels (SOF) began redirecting to the Energy4US website in 2015, contact information at the SOF website listed names of CEA staff members Casey O’Shea, Michael Whatley and David Holt. Michael Whatley and David Holt are two of the three founders and partners listed at HBW Resources.15Contact,” SecureOurFuels.org. December 26, 2009. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/kNM4p

The Energy4Us.org website features CEA vice president Michael Whatley’s work on low carbon fuel standards repeatedly.16CEA VICE PRESIDENT MICHAEL WHATLEY: AN LCFS IS THE WRONG CHOICE FOR NORTHEAST/MID-ATLANTIC CONSUMERS,” Energy4US. Archived November 5, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/8nuTe Referring to Whatley as a “leading low-carbon fuel expert,” the website also features Whatley’s talking points on its “Gettin’ the facts out” page.17GETTIN’ THEFACTS OUT,” Energy4US, Archived November 5, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/uz7b9

American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) Ties

The Center for Media and Democracy’s PR Watch reported that CEA‘s Michael Whatley regularly attended ALEC meetings. In August 2013, he attended their International Relations Task Force meeting with a briefing on the KXL pipeline. CEA has repeatedly attended ALEC events, often to present on issues related to the Keystone pipeline.18Oil Industry Conjures Illusion of Public Support for KXL Using ALEC Politicians,” PR Watch, March 12, 2014.

CEA was also a sponsor of an “ALEC Academy” in Alberta focused on the tar sands, according to documents obtained by CMD.19Nick Surgey. “ALEC Tours Tar Sands, Works with Industry Groups to Block Low-Carbon Fuel Standards,” PR Watch, June 17, 2013.

CEA, HBW Resources, and Outer Continental Shelf Governors Coalition

In 2015, Facing South published the results of an 18-month investigation, and outlined the “unusual relationship” between the the Outer Continental Shelf Governors Coalition, a group founded in 2011 to expand offshore drilling following the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, HBW Resources and its “sister group,” the Consumer Energy Alliance.20Sue Sturgis. “DRIVE TO DRILL: Energy lobbyists behind governors’ crusade for Atlantic oil,” April 30, 2015. Archived November 2, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/dC6Ky

Staff for CEA and HBW Resources has largely overlapped, with a few exceptions. Littlesis has outlined some of the connections between the two groups.21Nicholas Kusnetz. “Governors and oil industry work hand in hand in offshore drilling group,” The Center for Public Integrity, November 24, 2014. Archived November 2, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/GhHRs 22Derek Seidman. “Oil & Gas Industry-Backed Astroturf Firm Cherry Picks Poll Results on Support for Pipelines in Northeast,” Littlesis, August 8, 2017.

HBW Resources has been listed as an Independent Contractor according to CEA‘s expenses in 2016, as shown in IRS filings. The Energy and Policy Institute reported CEA funnelled $9.1 million, or 43%, of revenue to HBW Resources. From 2010 to 2016, HBW received a total of $7,717,053 from CEA according to tax forms.23Consumer Energy Alliance,” Energy and Policy Institute. Accessed November 2, 2018.

Stance on Climate Change

July 3, 2013

Michael Whatley described President Obama’s climate change plan as “troubling”:24Michael Whatley. “Whatley: President’s Climate Plan Worries Industry, Consumers,” Consumer Energy Alliance, July 3, 2013. Archived November 4, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/O6i9X

“What’s so troubling about these potential EPA regulations? For electricity consumers, the rules will undoubtedly lead to an uncertain future for coal, but clear ramifications for consumers: less fuel diversity and higher electricity costs. EPA’s actions have the potential to shutter hundreds of coal-fired power plants across the nation, forcing utilities to switch generation fuel and invest billions in upgrades and new facilities. All this means higher costs for ratepayers.

“With coal producing over 40% of our nation’s electricity, limiting its potential will present a significant set of challenges that need to be carefully analyzed before we move forward with anything as ambitious as the President has outlined.”

[…]

“The President has laid out an aggressive plan – a plan that includes measures which will significantly and adversely affect electricity consumers across the United States for decades to come. Every homeowner, business, manufacturer and electricity consumer will undoubtedly feel the painful effects of higher energy costs under the President’s proposed plan. Congress must take an active oversight role in order to prevent these negative ramifications for our nation’s electricity consumers.”

On Solar

The Energy and Policy Institute (EPI) reports that while CEA claims to take a pro-solar stance, their website solarenergyfuture.org “offers no pro-solar advocacy, and thinly-veiled utility attacks on rooftop solar companies.”25Consumer Energy Alliance,” Energy and Policy Institute. Accessed November 2, 2018.

“The strategy of appearing to promote solar while attacking it is straight from the utility industry’s playbook, both in terms of its revamped “pro-clean energy” messaging designed to confuse, and its political tactics,” EPI notes.26Consumer Energy Alliance,” Energy and Policy Institute. Accessed November 2, 2018.

CEA has supported Amendment 1 in Florida, while CEA member company Florida Light and Power was a major funder of the ballot initiative that EPI described as “a controversial ballot measure that would amend the state constitution to pave the way for more restrictions and fees for solar customers.”27Kevin Doyle. “Amendment 1 would boost solar energy and benefit all: My Word,” Orlando Sentinel, June 12, 2016. Archived November 6, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/8FwRS 28Matt Kasper. “Florida Power Companies Continue To Spend Money Supporting Amendment 1 To Limit Solar,” Energy and Policy Institute, October 28, 2016.

Funding

CEA as Recipient

The following is based on data collected by the Conservative Transparency (CT) project and 990 tax forms.  According to CT, the Consumer Energy Alliance received regular funding from the American Petroleum Institute and the American Natural Gas Alliance between 2008 and 2012.29Consumer Energy Alliance,” Conservative Transparency. Accessed November 2, 2018.

American Natural Gas Alliance(Subtotal $194,500)
2010$15,000
2011$158,000
2013$6,500
2014$15,000
American Petroleum Institute(Subtotal $332,500)
2008$30,000
2009$67,500
2010$35,000
2011$50,000
2012$100,000
2013$50,000
Grand Total$527,000

Independent Contractors

In addition to the above grants, CEA was also hired to carry out “consulting” services for at least $2 million according to American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers 990 forms.

YearHiring GroupDescription of ServicesCompensation
2013American Fuel and Petrochemical ManufacturersConsulting$522,500
2012American Fuel and Petrochemical ManufacturersConsulting$790,000
2011American Fuel and Petrochemical ManufacturersConsulting$1,045,000
Grand Total$2,357,500

Since 2011, according to publicly available 990 forms, the CEA has paid HBW Resources (which also lists CEA president David Holt as Managing Partner) over $1 million per year for “management and professional” services.

Below is a summary of 3rd party contractors hired by CEA, according to their annual 990s:

Business Name2010201120122013201420152016Grand Total
HBW Resources$392,130$1,347,500$1,240,000$1,327,500$1,051,394$1,206,529$1,152,000$7,717,053
FTI Consulting $596,030$620,000$440,000   $1,656,030
Advocacy Group $373,221$236,800$232,800   $842,821
SmartMark Communications   $140,376$228,329$196,402$149,854$714,961
Story Partners      $535,442$535,442
Staging Solutions $168,270 $166,250$111,600  $446,120
Revolution Agency $191,976     $191,976
Amanda Orr$26,000      $26,000
David Batt$22,255      $22,255
Roetzel and Andress$11,346      $11,346
Cloberland$11,346      $11,346
Grand Total$463,077$2,676,997$2,096,800$2,306,926$1,391,323$1,402,931$1,837,296$12,175,350

990 Forms

Key People

Board of Directors

Name20082009201020112012201320142015201620172018TitleCompany
David HoltYYYYYYYYYYYEx-OfficioConsumer Energy Alliance
Mark PulliamYYYYYYYYYYY SwayPay, Inc.
John Heimlich YYYYYYYYYYVice ChairAirlines for America
Wayne Zemke    YYYYYYY Caterpillar, Inc.
Brett Vassey     YYYYYYChairmanVirginia Manufacturers Association
Brian Welch      YYYYYTreasurerMarsh Wortham
John Eichberger       YYYY National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS)
Randy Velarde        YYY The Plaza Group
Chad Eaton          Y Nucor Corporation 
Jennifer Diggins    YYYYY   Nucor Corporation 
Troy Bredenkamp    YYYY    Nebraska Rural Electric Association
David Harbour YYYYY     APRCEA
Rich Moskowitz YYYY       American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers
David BlackmonYYYY        El Paso Corporation
Melissa TaldykinYYYY        Consumer Energy Education Foundation
Jack BelcherY            

Staff

Name20142015201620172018Title
David HoltYYYYYEx-Officio
Andrew BrowningYYYYYChief Operating Officer
Michael WhatleyYYYYYExecutive Vice President
Brydon RossYYYYYVice President, State Affairs
Emily Haggstrom  YYYSenior Director, Communications
Lauren Westcott    YDirector, Communications
Kaitlin Hammons    YDirector, Campaign Activities
Kathleen Koehler van Keppel   YYDirector, Events and Special Programs
Michael ZehrYYYYYFederal Policy Advisor
Anne Seneca  YYYCEA-Alaska
Kevin DoyleYYYYYCEA-Florida
Mike Butler  YYYCEA-Mid Atlantic
Link Browder    YCEA-Mid Continent
Chris Ventura  YYYCEA-Midwest
Tim Page    YCEA-Southeast
Tommy Foltz YYY Executive Vice President
James Voyles  YY Director, Policy Counsel
Kathleen KoehlerYYY  Director, Events and Special Programs
Marty Allday  Y  CEA-Texas
Shawn MartiniYY   Communications Director
Ryan ScottYY   Executive Director, CEA-Midwest
R.C. HammondY    Communication Advisor
Natalie JoubertY    Policy Director

Board of Advisors (2009 through 2011)

  • Bill Kovacs
  • Carl Michael Smith
  • Charlie Drevna
  • David Blackmon
  • David Harbour
  • David L. Batt
  • Don Juckett
  • Elizabeth VanDersarl
  • Frank W. Wagner
  • Glenn Kramer
  • Greg Cohen
  • Heather McTavish Doucet
  • Jan-Oddvar Sornes
  • Jennifer Diggins
  • Jim Martin
  • John Heimlich
  • Kathryn Robison
  • Libby Cheney
  • Marshall Cohen
  • Mary Davis
  • Michelle Michot Foss
  • Rich Moskowitz
  • Rosemary O’Brien
  • Thomas L. Moskitis
  • Todd McCracken
  • Todd Thorner

Actions

November 23, 2020

The Los Angeles Times reported HBW Resources “runs Western States and Tribal Nations,” (WSTN) a group that claimed it “is organized and led by state, county and sovereign tribal governments to help aid rural economic development” with membership including “the companies whose investments will make that happen.”30Sammy Roth. “The fossil fuel industry wants you to believe it’s good for people of color,” Los Angeles Times, November 23, 2020. Archived November 23, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/3J0Bk

Western States and Tribal Nations arranged a letter praising the Energía Costa Azul project that was signed by governors of Utah, Wyoming, and New Mexico as well as the chair of the Ute Indian Tribe. It described the project as “One of the most promising LNG export facilities on the Pacific Coast.”31Sammy Roth. “The fossil fuel industry wants you to believe it’s good for people of color,” Los Angeles Times, November 23, 2020. Archived November 23, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/3J0Bk

Internal documents shared with The Times revealed the group’s main backers were county governments and fossil fuel companies. The group had only one tribal member, the Ute Indian Tribe.32Sammy Roth. “The fossil fuel industry wants you to believe it’s good for people of color,” Los Angeles Times, November 23, 2020. Archived November 23, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/3J0Bk

The documents, obtained by public records requests by the Energy and Policy Institute, listed the following members of the Western States and Tribal Nations:33Sammy Roth. “The fossil fuel industry wants you to believe it’s good for people of color,” Los Angeles Times, November 23, 2020. Archived November 23, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/3J0Bk

StatesCountiesCompaniesOther
Baja California (Mexico)Converse (Wyoming)Caerus EnergySeven County Infrastructure Coalition (Utah)
New MexicoDuchesne (Utah)Dominion EnergyUte Indian Tribe
UtahGarfield (Colorado)Laramie EnergyWyoming Coalition of Local Governments
WyomingMoffat (Colorado)Sempra LNG 
 Mesa (Colorado)Terra Energy 
 Rio Blanco (Colorado)TYR Group 
 Uintah (Utah)  

The Times noted that “Western States and Tribal Nations isn’t the only effort by fossil fuel proponents to cast themselves as allies of communities of color and defenders of their financial well-being.”

“There’s definitely a marketing campaign to gaslight everybody, literally gaslight them, by saying, ‘If we do the [clean energy] transition, it’s going to harm frontline Black, Hispanic and Indigenous communities,’” Leah Stokes, a UC Santa Barbara political scientist, commented.34Sammy Roth. “The fossil fuel industry wants you to believe it’s good for people of color,” Los Angeles Times, November 23, 2020. Archived November 23, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/3J0Bk

The WSTN website claims, “Tribal Self Determination Many tribal nations located in the Western United States seek economic prosperity and tribal self-determination through natural gas development” and notes that “The Ute Indian Tribe primarily funds its government through its oil and gas revenue.”35Our Guiding Principles,” Western States and Tribal Nations Natural Gas Initiative. Archived November 23, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/ArQkL

December 9, 2019

CEA announced on its Facebook page that the American Petroleum Institute (API) had become an official member. One month after posting the news, the announcement had received one ‘like.’36We’re pleased to announce our newest member, The American Petroleum Institute, we look forward to working with you! #MemberMonday,” Facebook post by Consumer Energy Alliance, December 9, 2019. Archived January 10, 2020. Archive.is URL: http://archive.is/SsJhi

November 4, 2019

CEA purchased op-ed space to criticize New Jersey’s draft Energy Master Plan (EMP), which proposed to transition the state to 100% renewable energy generation by 2050.37Potosnak. “Shadowy fossil fuel front group should come clean about who they really represent,” NJ.com, December 3, 2019. Archived November 30, 2019. Archive.is URL: http://archive.is/zeRr1 The plan was supported by approximately 75% of New Jersey’s residents.38Michael Butler. “NJ Rate Counsel Urges State to Consider Customer Cost of EMP: We Agree,” NJSpotlight.com, November 4, 2019. Archived December 9, 2019. Archive.is URL: http://archive.ph/K9lrD

According to the Rocky Mountain Institute, a Colorado non-profit with a focus on sustainability, New Jersey’s plan would achieve significant emissions reductions with a relatively small cost increase.39Tom Johnson. “Transition to Cleaner Energy Won’t Need Big Rise in Spending, NJ’s Consultant Suggests,” NJSpotlight.com, November 4, 2019. Archived Archive.is URL: http://archive.is/tokMK

CEA’s op-ed called the RMI study into question by suggesting that it was motivated by “ideologically-driven billionaires.”40Michael Butler. “NJ Rate Counsel Urges State to Consider Customer Cost of EMP: We Agree,” NJSpotlight.com, November 4, 2019. Archived December 9, 2019. Archive.is URL: http://archive.ph/K9lrD

June 29, 2019

CEA provided form letters and talking points to state legislators in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming in an effort to win support from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for a proposed natural gas export terminal in coastal Oregon. The terminal is seen as a vital point of departure to foreign markets for western fossil fuels.41Chris D’Angelo. “A Lobbyist-Tied Industry Group Was Behind Officials’ Letters Of Support For Gas Project,” Huffington Post, August 25, 2019. Archived August 26, 2019. Archive.is URL: http://archive.is/g2dbJ

View the archived email interchange below, as well as the original Word document outlining edits here (.docx).

Google Vault Op Ed (Text)

According to CEA COO Andrew Browning, dozens of elected officials had signed onto the CEA-generated letters, and op-eds were provided to organized labor organizations and western tribal groups to build additional support for the Oregon project.42Chris D’Angelo. “A Lobbyist-Tied Industry Group Was Behind Officials’ Letters Of Support For Gas Project,” Huffington Post, August 25, 2019. Archived August 26, 2019. Archive.is URL: http://archive.is/g2dbJ

One such column, attributed to a Colorado state senator and Mesa County Commissioner, was submitted to CEA leadership for feedback prior to publication. Browning and a CEA spokesperson responded with numerous edits and a pledge to help distribute the op-ed to media outlets.43Chris D’Angelo. “A Lobbyist-Tied Industry Group Was Behind Officials’ Letters Of Support For Gas Project,” Huffington Post, August 25, 2019. Archived August 26, 2019. Archive.is URL: http://archive.is/g2dbJ 44Ray Scott, Rose Pugliese. “Opinion: Ray Scott and Rose Pugliese: Colorado natural gas resources lead to geopolitical and environmental gains,” Boulder Daily Camera, June 29, 2019. Archived September 4, 2019. Archive.is URL: http://archive.is/XNkEa

The CEA-revised piece included the following language:

Whether your motivation is stabilizing rural economies in energy-producing counties or our allies abroad, lifting people out of poverty or contributing to a cleaner global environment, supporting the export of natural gas resources is the responsibility of all Americans.”45Ray Scott, Rose Pugliese. “Opinion: Ray Scott and Rose Pugliese: Colorado natural gas resources lead to geopolitical and environmental gains,” Boulder Daily Camera, June 29, 2019. Archived September 4, 2019. Archive.is URL: http://archive.is/XNkEa

Upon receiving the suggested revisions from CEA, the state senator replied:

When you guys edit you really edit…….lol.”46Chris D’Angelo. “A Lobbyist-Tied Industry Group Was Behind Officials’ Letters Of Support For Gas Project,” Huffington Post, August 25, 2019. Archived August 26, 2019. Archive.is URL: http://archive.is/g2dbJ

June 2018

CEA released its “2018 Solar Energy Report” that examined U.S. solar incentives. While CEA claims that it  “strongly supports the expanded use of solar power nationally and in Arizona,” the report criticized existing incentives and solar installations.47“Incentivizing Solar Energy: An In-Depth Analysis of U.S. Solar Incentives” (PDF)Consumer Energy Alliance. June 2018.

“[M]any states are re-examining the scope and methods surrounding their incentive programs and are now considering programs that rely more on a competitive marketplace to provide the economically optimal levels of rooftop solar adoption,” the report’s press release suggests. CEA had commissioned ScottMadden Inc. for the work.48New 2018 Solar Energy Report; Finds Incentives Contributed Significantly to Solar Power Expansion in Arizona,” Consumer Energy Alliance, June 14, 2018. Archived November 4, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/RdoEr

February 19, 2018

CEA came under investigation for a set of identically-formatted emails supposedly from South Carolina citizens supporting Dominion Energy’s proposed $14.6 billion takeover of SCANA Corporation, The Post and Courier reported.49Andrew Brown. “S.C. lawmakers call for law enforcement probe of bogus pro-utility emails,” The Post and Courier, February 19, 2018. Archived November 14, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/2kxuw

If you’ve got a utility or a group that is misappropriating people’s identities, I think that is a real problem,” said Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey, R-Edgefield.50Andrew Brown. “S.C. lawmakers call for law enforcement probe of bogus pro-utility emails,” The Post and Courier, February 19, 2018. Archived November 14, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/2kxuw

David Holt, CEA‘s president, confirmed the group had engaged in “grassroots” lobbying when it confirmed that Dominion wanted it to get involved. Dominion spokesman Chet Wade said the company had been apprised of the work before the fake emails became known.51Andrew Brown. “S.C. lawmakers call for law enforcement probe of bogus pro-utility emails,” The Post and Courier, February 19, 2018. Archived November 14, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/2kxuw

The more we hear about this issue, the more we learn, the more it feels like there was a deliberate attempt to mislead the public by someone other than us or CEA,” Wade said. “We are puzzled by it. We are disturbed by it.”52Andrew Brown. “S.C. lawmakers call for law enforcement probe of bogus pro-utility emails,” The Post and Courier, February 19, 2018. Archived November 14, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/2kxuw

September 2016

Released a report, prepared by Borlick Associates, LLC, criticizing solar tax credits and solar net metering.53“Incentivizing Solar Energy: An In-Depth Analysis of U.S. Solar Incentives” (PDF), Consumer Energy Alliance.  

“The report admittedly ignores the robust studies that quantify the values of solar power, which are substantial,” and “also confuses rebates offered by utilities with government policies and criticizes third-party solar ownership models,” the Energy and Policy Institute reports.54Consumer Energy Alliance,” Energy and Policy Institute. Accessed November 2, 2018.

2016

CEA faced allegations that it engaged in potentially criminal activity while promoting the Nexus Gas Transmission Pipeline in the Midwest.55Sue Sturgis. “Industry front group that ran McCrory’s offshore drilling campaign accused of lawbreaking in pipeline promotion,” Facing South, November 3, 2016.

CEA was accused of submitting fake letters to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) shortly before the public comment period closed. An attorney representing groups opposing the pipeline had tracked the letters, and noted one came from a man who had died in 1998 while another was submitted by a woman with dementia. He also found similar language in 200 of the letters, leading them to suspect there could be a higher number of fraudulent letters.56Sue Sturgis. “Industry front group that ran McCrory’s offshore drilling campaign accused of lawbreaking in pipeline promotion,” Facing South, November 3, 2016.

The Coalition to Reroute Nexus (CORN), a group of property owners opposing the Nexus Gas Transmission pipeline, filed a complaint at the FERC calling for a criminal review of CEA‘s actions in submitting comments in 347 letters to the FERCThe Plain Dealer reported.57Nexus pipeline opponents urge U.S. postal service to investigate lobbying group (photos),” The Plain Dealer, September 16, 2016. Archived November 14, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/enQPC

The complaint included affidavits from 14 Ohio residents who deny writing letters approving the pipeline and who said they never gave permission for CEA to write on their behalf.58Nexus pipeline opponents urge U.S. postal service to investigate lobbying group (photos),” The Plain Dealer, September 16, 2016. Archived November 14, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/enQPC

“This is an extremely serious matter,” attorney David Mucklow said in the filing. “Submission of hundreds of bogus comment letters during the comment period is calculated to convey the false impression that there is widespread public support for construction and operation of the pipeline.”59Nexus pipeline opponents urge U.S. postal service to investigate lobbying group (photos),” The Plain Dealer, September 16, 2016. Archived November 14, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/enQPC

CEA‘s President David Holt said that the Alliance has robocalled 25,000 homes asking for support for the project, and “then generated letters from questions asked by computers during the calls, attributing them the letters to owners of the telephone numbers dialed. Those letters were mailed to FERC with the residents’ names but did not indicate CEA‘s involvement in the process.”60Nexus pipeline opponents urge U.S. postal service to investigate lobbying group (photos),” The Plain Dealer, September 16, 2016. Archived November 14, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/enQPC

CORN co-founder Jonathan Strong said the CEA‘s actions were “criminal”:61Nexus pipeline opponents urge U.S. postal service to investigate lobbying group (photos),” The Plain Dealer, September 16, 2016. Archived November 14, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/enQPC

FERC does not seem to care about accountability,” Strong said. “The whole evaluation process has been co-opted by oil and gas. This is a new day. We must stand up against this kind of activity or it will not change.”

Strong said that every one of the 41 people CORN contacted whose letters appeared on the FERC website denied sending a letter.62Nexus pipeline opponents urge U.S. postal service to investigate lobbying group (photos),” The Plain Dealer, September 16, 2016. Archived November 14, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/enQPC

2016

According to its public 990 forms, CEA paid the public affairs group Story Partners a total of $535,442 for “communication” services in 2016. Story Partners lists work for both the American Petroleum Institute and for Noble Energy, a Colorado oil and gas production company.

Story Partners’ case study for Noble Energy describes an effort to fight against a proposed ballot measure in northern Colorado:63Gaining ground by building trust,” Story Partners. Archived November 14, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/V6kTs

“By reframing the controversy from a fight between industry, government and citizens to an opportunity to promote energy independence and innovation, we successfully built public understanding and trust,” the Story Partners boasts on its website.

The advertising materials for the campaign bear the logo of the Consumer Energy Alliance and link to a landing page on the CEA‘s website.64“Know the Value” (PDF), Consumer Energy Alliance. Retrieved from storypartnersdc.com.

2015

A Facing South investigation found that HBW Resources and CEA were instrumental in running the Outer Continental Shelf Governors Coalition, a group led by Pat McCrory (R) of North Carolina that promotes oil and gas drilling off the Atlantic Coast.65Sue Sturgis. “DRIVE TO DRILL: Energy lobbyists behind governors’ crusade for Atlantic oil,” April 30, 2015. Archived November 2, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/dC6Ky

October 2014

CEA was accused of submitting fake comments as part of a submission supporting changes to the Wisconsin electricity grid.66Kate Sheppard. “Lobbyist-Tied Group Accused Of Faking Support For Potentially Higher Energy Bills,” HuffPost, October 31, 2014. Archived November 14, 2018. During the open comment period for the rule (5-UR-107) that had the potential to raise electricity rates for Wisconsin utility customers, CEA submitted “2,500 comments from Wisconsin electricity users who believe every energy consumer should pay a fair share for maintaining the electrical grid,” according to its CEA‘s petition letter.67“Public Comments regarding 5-UR-107” (PDF), Consumer Energy Alliance, October 7, 2014. Archived .pdf on file at Desmog.

When The Capital Times contacted signers of the petition, a number of those listed said that they strongly opposed the plan that CEA had contended they supported, citing increased utility bills. In one example, listed supporter Mary Frawley said she had been contacted by CEA on the phone and agreed to let them use her name under the assumption they were against the proposal.68Mike Ivey. “Did Houston energy group dupe MGE customers to back rate changes?” The Capital Times, October 21, 2014. Archived November 14, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/5NmBU

The Consumer Energy Alliance filed the same list of 2,500 names to the PSC in the We Energies rate case Another listed supporter, Elizabeth Westlund, said she had received a call months ago but that she had never signed a petition and was opposed to “anything that will raise my bill.”69Mike Ivey. “Did Houston energy group dupe MGE customers to back rate changes?” The Capital Times, October 21, 2014. Archived November 14, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/5NmBU

Peter Taglia, who runs the energy consulting business Clean Wisconsin, noted that CEA specialized in creating campaigns that appear to be grassroots support—referred to some as “astroturfing” or “greenwashing.”70Mike Ivey. “Did Houston energy group dupe MGE customers to back rate changes?” The Capital Times, October 21, 2014. Archived November 14, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/5NmBU

If this is true, it undercuts the legitimacy of the PSC process,” Taglia said. “It’s clear these out-of-state coal companies know they benefit from higher fixed fees on seniors, renters and low energy users.”71Mike Ivey. “Did Houston energy group dupe MGE customers to back rate changes?” The Capital Times, October 21, 2014. Archived November 14, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/5NmBU

CEA‘s Michael Whatley denied that anyone contacted by the Alliance was misled into using their name in the PSC comments.72Mike Ivey. “Did Houston energy group dupe MGE customers to back rate changes?” The Capital Times, October 21, 2014. Archived November 14, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/5NmBU

July 16, 2014

Marty Allday, executive director of Consumer Energy Alliance-Texas, wrote a column for the San Antonio Express-News suggesting Texans should “should not be misled by anti-development activists threatening to thwart their state’s energy boom and its resulting economic benefits.”73Don’t fall for anti-energy scare tactics,” Consumer Energy Alliance, July 16, 2014. Archived November 3, 2018. Archive.fo URL:https://archive.fo/zjUbV

“Texas can expect to see more of this in the coming months and years. As the fight over the Keystone XL pipeline (eventually) comes to a close, groups who made their opposition to that project their signature issue are looking for another fight. And hydraulic fracturing is in their crosshairs. A tsunami of activist cash will be rerouted to pick apart the boom in U.S. energy by attacking its game-changing technology,” Allday wrote. “Don’t fall for their scare tactics! Be proud of Texas’ production. Let’s all take stock in Texas energy and Texas pride!”74Marty Allday. “Don’t fall for anti-energy scare tactics,” San Antonio Express-News, May 30, 2014. Archived November 3, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/1Muy0

December 2011

As first reported on at Salon.com75Geoff Dembicki. “Big Oil and Canada thwarted U.S. carbon standards,” Salon, December 15, 2011. Archived May 31, 2012. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/4Xj7y and The Tyee by Geoff Dembicki,76Geoff Dembicki. “How Big Oil and Canada Thwarted US Carbon Standards,” The Tyee, December 15, 2011. Archived November 2, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/RPVQw new documents obtained via FOIA request revealed how CEA worked at national and state levels to fight against low carbon fuel standards (LCFS). As DeSmog noted, the new documents revealed how “lend insight into how CEA interacts with the Alberta government, and in turn, how the Alberta government, working alongside CEA, influences the American government at both the state and federal level.”77Steve Horn. “‘Consumer Energy Alliance’ Front Group Exposed by The Tyee and Salon,” DeSmog, December 15, 2011.

July 20, 2010

CEA launched a $1 million ad campaign in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Minnesota fighting against the most recent low carbon fuel standard proposal in Congress drafted by Michigan senator Debbie Stabenow. As The Tyee reported, mails released later under a freedom of information request revealed CEA‘s communication on the topic:78Darren Goode. “Industries use airwaves to attack low-carbon fuel mandate,” The Hill, July 20, 2010. Archived November 2, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/iBAXx 79Geoff Dembicki. “How Big Oil and Canada Thwarted US Carbon Standards,” The Tyee, December 15, 2011. Archived November 2, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/RPVQw

Not sure if you are aware of this potential threat,” read an email sent to Whatley from an unnamed source. ”[The National Petrochemical and Refiner’s Association] is implementing an aggressive media, grassroots and lobbying effort against this potential amendment.”

CEA‘s campaign began approximately a week after the email.80Geoff Dembicki. “How Big Oil and Canada Thwarted US Carbon Standards,” The Tyee, December 15, 2011. Archived November 2, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/RPVQw

June 14, 2010

Alberta’s then-environment minister Rob Renner, while visiting the United States on a “Clean Energy Mission,”81“Final Report: Clean Energy Mission – Eastern United States” (PDF), Government of Alberta, October 4, 2010. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog. joined CEA for a Boston forum on the Low-Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS).82Alberta Minister Urges Northeast Governors to be Cautious When Considering LCFS,” SecureOurFuels.org, June 14, 2010. Archived June 18, 2012. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/4L2dg

During this time of unprecedented economic uncertainty, instituting a region-wide policy designed to drive up gas and diesel prices and make essential energy commodities such as home heating oil a whole lot more scarce doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” said Michael Whatley, vice president of Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA) who moderated the forum. “Maybe the more unfortunate reality of the LCFS, though, is that it won’t do a thing to reduce global concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. But that’s the LCFS: All pain, no gain.” 

August 2009

CEA started running radio ads warning that policies supporting a low carbon fuel standard would “threaten thousands of American jobs” and “would be disastrous for American consumers.” Each ad urged viewers to contact their state’s representatives in Congress. In the ad campaign, initially running in Tennessee, Montana, and the Dakotas, CEA claimed gasoline prices, “would increase by at least 60 cents a gallon.”83Keith Johnson. “Fuel Fight: The Battle over Low-Carbon Fuel Standards,” The Wall Street Journal, August 31, 2009. Archive .fo URL: https://archive.fo/7O4nU

CEA Members

View the attached spreadsheet for a summary of the below Consumer Energy Alliance members by year (.xlsx), based on data taken from the CEA website via Internet Archive:

Contact & Address

The Consumer Energy Alliance listed the following contact information on its website as of November 2018:87Contact,” Consumer Energy Alliance. Archived November 6, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/tmvO1

Consumer Energy Alliance
2211 Norfolk Street, Suite 410
Houston, TX 77098

(713) 337-8800 (main number)

Social Media

Other Resources

Resources

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