Energy 45 Fund

Energy 45 Fund

Background

The Energy 45 Fund (Energy 45) is a nonprofit organization created by Mandy Gunasekara, a longtime Republican climate, energy and environment strategist and former Trump administration official. Energy 45 describes itself as “a Jackson, Mississippi based 501(c)(4) non-profit educational organization dedicated to informing the public about the environmental and economic gains made under the Trump Administration.”1Homepage, Energy45.org. Archived February 19, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/LfJmV

As reported by the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), which has described Energy 45 Fund as a “dark money group,”2Former EPA official launches ‘dark money’ group to promote Trump’s energy agenda,” Center for Responsive Politics (OpenSecrets.org), February 13, 2019. Archived February 21, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/wip/eqojN incorporation records show that Gunasekara formed the nonprofit on February 8, 2019. On February 7, one day earlier, she had resigned from her position as Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation at the Environmental Protection Agency. Gunasekara served in this role while Scott Pruitt, President Trump’s first E.P.A. administrator, led the agency. A year later, Gunasekara was reportedly set to return as the E.P.A.‘s chief of staff for Administrator Scott Wheeler, according to The Washington Post.3Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis. “She pushed Trump to exit the Paris climate agreement and roll back environmental rules. And she’s returning to EPA as chief of staff,” The Washington Post, February 14, 2020. Archived February 19, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/5aQ9G

Gunasekara, and by extension Energy 45 Fund, is a member of the CO2 Coalition,4AMANDA (MANDY) GUNASEKARA,” CO2 Coalition. Archived February 19, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/wip/GqrM6 a group directed by climate change denier William Happer that portrays carbon dioxide as “a nutrient vital for life” and advocates for more of it in the atmosphere. The Coalition suggests “increasing levels of the greenhouse gas CO2 from fuel combustion will slightly increase the surface temperature of the earth” but that “the warming is so small” from a doubling of CO2 that “the resulting longer growing seasons and increased plant productivity from additional CO2 will of great benefit to life on earth.”5CO2 FUNDAMENTALS,” CO2 Coalition. Archived February 19, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/wip/YqEz9 In an October 2019 Senate hearing on the oil industry’s involvement in climate change denial, Gunasekara said she had only recently come on board the CO2 Coalition as an advisor.6Rep AOC Question line The Oil Industry’s Efforts to Suppress the Truth about Climate Change,” YouTube video uploaded by user “Oversight Committee,” October 23, 2019. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog.

According to public tax records analyzed by DeSmog, the CO2 Coalition has received at least $420,000 from the Koch-affiliated Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation (from available records for 2004 to 2012), $320,000 from the Mercer Family Foundation, nearly $210,000 from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, and another $54,000 from the Charles Koch Institute. Coalition director Will Happer was implicated in an undercover Greenpeace investigation where he agreed to write a report for a (fictional) Middle Eastern oil company on the benefits of CO2 while keeping the sources of the funding secret. Happer told the Greenpeace reporters that he would be willing to produce research promoting the benefits of carbon dioxide for $250 per hour.7Lawrence Carter and Maeve McClenaghan. “Exposed: Academics-for-hire agree not to disclose fossil fuel funding,” GreenPeace EnergyDesk, December 8, 2015. Archived April 6, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/EirtF

During the Obama administration, Mandy Gunasekara served as majority counsel for then-chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.).  Famously, Gunasekara was the staffer who handed Inhofe the snowball that he presented on the Senate floor in 2015 as supposed evidence against global warming.8Maxine Joselow. “Ex-EPA official on rollbacks, snowballs and selling Trump,” E&E News, February 22, 2019. Archived February 21, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/wip/CfJAH She also served as majority counsel for Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) while he was the committee’s chair, prior to her first appointment to the E.P.A.9Joe Romm. Snowball’s Chance: James Inhofe, Meet The Press, And The Climate Debate,” ThinkProgress, March 4, 2015. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/shXek 10Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis. “She pushed Trump to exit the Paris climate agreement and roll back environmental rules. And she’s returning to EPA as chief of staff,” The Washington Post, February 14, 2020. Archived February 19, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/5aQ9G

Gunasekara is a visiting fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum (IWF), a group whose chairman has said “being branded as neutral, but actually having people who know, know that you’re actually conservative” puts IWF and its sister organization, the Independent Women’s Voice (IWV), in a unique position in “the Republican conservative arsenal.”11Lisa Graves, Kim Haddow, and Calvin Sloan. “INDEPENDENT WOMEN’S FORUM AND INDEPENDENT WOMEN’S VOICE USE ‘INDEPENDENT’ BRAND TO PUSH RIGHT-WING AGENDA TO WOMEN VOTERS,” Exposed by CMD, August 17, 2016. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/SEYeH IWF vocally opposed the Clean Power Plan, and was responsible for creating a supporting group called Balanced Education for Everyone with the goal of stopping the teaching of global warming in U.S. Schools, describing it as “junk science.”12Nancy Lofholm. “Push to teach ‘other side’ of global warming heats up in Colorado’s Mesa County,” The Denver Post, May 26, 2010. Archived August 28, 2015. 13Amy Watson. “The Steve Largent Show: Mothers for Educating with Sound Science,” Independent Women’s Forum. Archived August 28, 2015.

Gunasekara is also a senior fellow at Life:Powered, a pro-fossil-fuel initiative created by the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF).14Mandy Gunasekara,” Texas Public Policy Foundation. Archived February 19, 2020. Archive.ph URL:https://archive.ph/J8Qkk She has often testified to Congress against initiatives like the Green New Deal, and to support oil company ExxonMobil amid litigation regarding the firm’s efforts to mislead the public about climate change.15Emily Holden. “Exxon sowed doubt about climate crisis, House Democrats hear in testimony,” The Guardian, October 23, 2019. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/wip/K9JRV

The name of Gunasekara’s husband, lobbyist Surya Gunasekara, appears on the domain name registration for Energy45.org. When asked about this by the Center for Responsive Politics, Gunasekara said that her husband’s name appeared on the record because they shared an account on the registrar service GoDaddy, and that he was not involved with Energy 45.16Former EPA official launches ‘dark money’ group to promote Trump’s energy agenda,” Center for Responsive Politics (OpenSecrets.org), February 13, 2019. Archived February 21, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/wip/eqojN

According to a search of the U.S. House of Representatives lobbying disclosures, Surya Gunasekara has worked for the following companies and organizations:17United States House of Representatives CLERK search, preformed February 24, 2020. Archived .xlsx on file at DeSmog.

Client20122013201720182019
AMERESCO  YYY
AMERICAN PETROLEUM INSTITUTEYY   
Assette  YY 
Coldchain Technology Services, LLC    Y
easy2u, LLC, (Formerly: EasyGoing, LLC)    Y
Endo Pharmaceuticals  YY 
McGinnes Industrial Maintenance Corporation   Y 
National Alliance of Forest Owners    Y
National Propane Gas Association    Y
NOVARTIS CORPORATION  YY 
ORACLE  YYY
Verizon Communications, Inc. and various subsidiaries   Y 
Waste Management, Inc.   YY

Stance on Climate Change

February 22, 2019

Energy 45’s Mandy Gunasekara sat down for an interview with E&E News where she responded to a question on her views on climate change:18Maxine Joselow. “Ex-EPA official on rollbacks, snowballs and selling Trump,” E&E News, February 22, 2019. Archived February 21, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/wip/CfJAH

Consensus on global warming is varied and nuanced. As a general matter, the climate is changing, and humans have a role. That’s a serious issue that deserves our continued attention.”

Funding

When asked by the Center for Responsive Politics about Energy 45’s funding, Gunasekara said her donors preferred to remain anonymous and that she would “respect their preferences.”19Former EPA official launches ‘dark money’ group to promote Trump’s energy agenda,” Center for Responsive Politics (OpenSecrets.org), February 13, 2019. Archived February 21, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/wip/eqojN

Key Documents

Key People

Actions

February 6, 2020

Gunasekara identified herself as the founder of Energy 45 when she testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform the Trump administration’s proposed rollback of mercury pollution protections. Gunasekara testified that the rollback would be “a positive change,” and stated that “claims that the new standards would harm children are false and  feed into a culture of alarmism.”21WATCH LIVE: Independent Women’s Forum to Testify Before House Subcommittee on Environment, Effects of Proposed MATS Regulations,” Independent Women’s Forum, February 6, 2020. Archived February 6, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/wip/PbVLa

October 23, 2019

Representing Energy 45, Gunasekara testified before the House Oversight Committee’s subcommittees on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties at a hearing regarding the oil industry’s efforts to distort public understanding of climate change.  As DeSmog reported, this was the first-ever congressional hearing to examine the oil industry’s denial and deception around climate change.22Dan Zegart. “As New York Takes Exxon to Court, Big Oil’s Strategy Against Climate Lawsuits Is Slowly Unveiled,” DeSmog, November 8, 2019.

During the hearing, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) questioned Gunasekara about her role with the CO2 Coalition:23Examining the Oil Industry’s Efforts to Suppress the Truth about Climate Change,Committee on Oversight and Reform. October 23, 2019. Archived February 21, 2020. Archive.ph URL:https://archive.ph/wip/QWDHy

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez [2:18:45]
“Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. Miss Gunasekara. You’re here advocating… I heard you mention the CO2 Coalition a few times. You believe they should have a credible seat at the table in climate policy, correct? “

Mandy Gunasekara [2:18:58]
“Yeah, I believe all scientists should have a credible… “

Ocasio-Cortez [2:19:01]
“So the CO2 Coalition Are you aware that they are primarily funded by the Mercer family and the Koch brothers?”

Gunasekara [2:19:06]
“So I’m not familiar with the makings of the institution. I just recently came on board as an advisor that that works with them, but I’m not a part of the infrastructure so to speak.”

Ocasio-Cortez [2:19:18]
“So you may be unwitting to the fact that this coalition that you’re a part of is funded by the Mercer family and the Koch brothers. Are you aware that the Koch brothers own oil refineries across several states in the United States and control some 4000 miles of gas pipeline and infrastructure?”

Gunasekara [2:19:33]
“Yes. “

Ocasio-Cortez [2:19:35]
“Do you think that there may be any role in their financing with the CO2 Coalition with the advancement of their private interests?”

Gunasekara [2:19:40]
“Again, I don’t know about the financing with regard to the CO2 Coalition. I’ll say my engagement with them though, is it’s not unwitting. It is active, and inspired, and educated because a lot of these folks are scientists that have long been diminished and ignored. And the CO2 Coalition has provided a platform for them to provide reality and balance in the context of the climate discussion.”

Ocasio-Cortez [2:20:07]
“Understood. Thank you for your testimony that you are not unwittingly working for the Koch brothers.”

August 15, 2019

Gunasekara, representing Energy 45 Fund, was a guest on the SuperTalk Mississippi radio talk show where she spoke about “President Trump’s energy administration and how the field is evolving.”24Mandy Gunasekara, founder of Energy 45 Fund, joins us to talk President Trump’s energy administration …” Facebook video by SuperTalk Mississippi. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog.

After talking about Trump’s deregulatory agenda, Gunasekara described the strategy to place conservative judges across the country:

“The judiciary strategy in terms of getting conservative judges on all across the country at all levels is extremely important because you’ve seen the alternative, the activist judges that are out there; That a district judge in California is powerful to the point that they can stop the president from doing something that is explicitly within his authority and needed for the safety of the country.”

She later suggested that the left’s strategy was to “infiltrate” the education system with regards to energy production:25Mandy Gunasekara, founder of Energy 45 Fund, joins us to talk President Trump’s energy administration …” Facebook video by SuperTalk Mississippi. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog.

“[Y]ou have to adjust to your audience, wherever it may be. And speaking out to millennial generation is so important because what the left did, effectively, was infiltrate the education system. So they’ve been force fed a lot of misinformation as it relates to the importance of energy and how it’s reduced poverty in the United States and the world as well as the role of the environment and our interaction with that. So I do have to adjust my tone and a lot of different ways, but I want to be effective towards a lot of folks.”

July 11, 2019

Gunasekara, representing Energy 45, was a signatory to an American Energy Alliance open letter to President Trump, congratulating him for rolling back automobile fuel efficiency rules, called “Corporate Average Fuel Economy” or CAFE standards. The letter urged Trump to resist California’s authority, established in the Clean Air Act, to set stronger state fuel efficiency regulations – a rule commonly called the “California waiver” – and allow other states to follow California’s rules.26“Dear Mr. President:” (PDF), American Energy Alliance, July 11, 2019. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

“Your efforts to reform this mandate will save consumers money, preserve their choices, and ensure that the federal government, and not a single state, sets national policy,” the letter reads.27“Dear Mr. President:” (PDF), American Energy Alliance, July 11, 2019. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

“The existing mandate makes cars more expensive…because of the mandate, those consumers who prefer trucks, SUVs, or crossovers pay more to subsidize those who buy smaller vehicles or electric vehicles.”28“Dear Mr. President:” (PDF), American Energy Alliance, July 11, 2019. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

May 9, 2019

Gunasekara noted her Energy 45 affiliation when she signed on to an open letter, organized by the American Energy Alliance, in opposition to an electric vehicle tax credit.29Dear Senator Grassley, Senator Wyden, Representative Neal and Representative Brady:” May 9, 2019. Retrieved from The Daily Caller.

The American Energy Alliance has organized a coalition to proclaim in one unified voice that there should be no expansion of the misguided electric vehicle tax credit,” Thomas Pyle wrote in a statement, quoted at The Daily Caller. There is no question that the electric vehicle tax credit distorts the auto market to no gain.”30Christ White. “CONSERVATIVES WARN LAWMAKERS: TESLA’S TAX CREDITS ‘OVERWHELMINGLY BENEFIT THE RICH’,”The Daily Caller, May 9, 2019. Archived May 9, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/qzvF3

According to Pyle and others who signed the letter, electric vehicle tax credits “overwhelmingly benefit the rich.” DeSmog’s Koch vs. Clean project has systematically debunked this, among other well-rehearsed talking points and misinformation put forward by industry about electric vehicles.31Christ White. “CONSERVATIVES WARN LAWMAKERS: TESLA’S TAX CREDITS ‘OVERWHELMINGLY BENEFIT THE RICH’,”The Daily Caller, May 9, 2019. Archived May 9, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/qzvF3

The letter cites research by the Pacific Research Institute (PRI), a group that has received over $600,000 from ExxonMobil and millions from “dark money” groups DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund.32Christ White. “CONSERVATIVES WARN LAWMAKERS: TESLA’S TAX CREDITS ‘OVERWHELMINGLY BENEFIT THE RICH’,”The Daily Caller, May 9, 2019. Archived May 9, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/qzvF3

Contact & Address

According to its articles of incorporation, Energy 45’s registered office address is:

45 Energy Fund
200 North Congress Street
Suite 110
Jackson, MS 39201

Note that the building on 200 North Congress Street also houses a lobbying group, Capitol Resources, in Suite 500.35Contact Us,” Capitol Resources. Archived February 24, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/1R2qk

Social Media

The Energy 45 website links to Mandy Gunasekara’s social media accounts:

Other Resources

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Resources

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