The shortlist of contenders seeking billions of dollars from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) features several organizations with considerable connections to the Biden administration, as well as the Democratic Party and its allies.
The Coalition for Green Capital, Power Forward Communities and Climate United are three of the five consortiums that are reportedly the most serious contenders to receive billions in National Clean Investment Fund (NCIF) grants from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF), a $27 billion EPA program established by the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), according to E&E News. The groups are variously composed of eco-activist organizations and smaller “green banks” with political connections, and they all feature numerous individuals on their boards who work for influential organizations aligned with the Democratic Party or previously worked for Democratic administrations.
“The list of people DCNF has discovered to be involved in the organizations seeking billions of funds from just this portion of the GGRF is a veritable who’s-who of insiders connected to both the current administration and the previous administration in which the president served,” Michael Chamberlain, executive director of Protect the Public’s Trust, a government watchdog organization, told the DCNF. “This is one of the largest programs in the history of the EPA and is looking like one of the most egregious examples of the revolving door since the invention of doors.”
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A “green bank” is an institution that provides financing options specifically for climate-related investments; they can be public, “quasi-public” or nonprofit companies, leveraging public and private money to back projects that are principally focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, according to the EPA. In addition to Coalition for Green Capital, Power Forward Communities and Climate United, the reported shortlist also includes Ecority and the Justice Climate Fund, according to E&E News.
“All applications submitted to the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund competitions are being put through a rigorous evaluation and selection process in line with the high standards of EPA’s Competition Policy, which ensures that the competitive process for EPA funds remains fair, impartial and free of undue influence,” an EPA spokesperson told the DCNF.
Under the IRA, the agency is required to deploy all of the program’s $27 billion out to grantees by the end of September 2024, a timeline which Republican members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee have suggested poses increased risks of inadequate oversight.
The three reported finalists highlighted in this report share institutional connections with environmentalist groups and labor unions that overwhelmingly support President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party. Additionally, they each have board members who worked for Biden’s administration or those of former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.
The EPA asked prospective applicants to demonstrate that they have selected a list of projects ready to receive funding in order to take advantage of the funds quickly, and the agency also said “senior agency officials” will review the applications after several other agencies vet them, according to E&E News. In November 2022, several months after the IRA became law, the agency hosted a meeting attended by several politically-connected environmentalist groups and think tanks to “provide early feedback” and “ask clarifying questions” about the GGRF, a move which Chamberlain described as “highly irregular” in a September interview with the DCNF.
“From most angles, this program— along with most of the green energy programs from the Inflation Reduction Act— appears tailor made to avoid oversight of waste, fraud and abuse and to dole out taxpayer funds to environmentalist special interests, many of whom have deep ties to the Biden administration,” Pete McGinnis, communications director for the Functional Government Initiative, an organization that advocates for government transparency, told the DCNF. “Therefore, it’s not surprising at all to see those who are in line to receive this $14 billion have strong connections to many of the same interests and who pushed for the legislation and crafted the program at the EPA.”
Coalition for Green Capital
The Coalition for Green Capital (CGC), a nonprofit consortium of “green banks” that has applied for nearly $12 billion from the NCIF program, aims to facilitate the expansion of “green banks,” according to its website. The CGC’s board of directors includes numerous individuals that formerly worked for Democratic administrations or currently work for environmentalist organizations and labor unions. CGC board members include David Hayes, a senior fellow for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC); Cecilia Martinez, the Bezos Earth Fund’s chief of environmental and climate justice; and Julie Greene Collier, chief of staff for the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO).
Before taking a job with an environmental organization and a seat on CGC’s board, Martinez was the senior director for “environmental justice” for the White House Council on Environmental Quality for the Biden administration, and she previously served as a member of the Obama EPA’s national advisory committee.
Likewise, Hayes served as a climate adviser to Biden. Before that, he served as the deputy secretary of the Department of the Interior for the Clinton and Obama administrations.
“David Hayes is the consummate insider, having shuffled between government and special interests influencing government climate policy for decades. Looking at his portfolio while he was in the Biden Administration, it is virtually inconceivable that he did not work on the legislation that created this program and likely the executive branch’s creation of this very program itself,” Chamberlain told the DCNF regarding Hayes’ connection to an applicant. “Yet (surprise! surprise!) an organization he lands on the board of ends up seeking $10 billion from it! Anyone wondering why trust in government has essentially disappeared need look no further than right here.”
Reed Hundt, the founder of CGC, formerly worked in the Clinton administration as the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and was a close ally of Vice President Al Gore. CGC receives funding from left-of-center and environmentalist nonprofits including the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the ClimateWorks Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
CGC also partners with several major environmentalist organizations, including NRDC, the Environmental Defense Fund and the Rocky Mountain Institute, an organization that partnered with the Chinese government’s economic planning committee to produce a 2016 report calling for Chinese citizens to electrify their appliances, according to the CGC’s website. The CGC has partnered with several existing “green banks” known to have political connections to Biden and the Democratic apparatus, including the Connecticut Green Bank, the New York Green Bank and the Montgomery County Green Bank in Maryland.
Power Forward Communities
Power Forward Communities (PFC) is a coalition consisting of Rewiring America, Enterprise Community Partners, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), United Way and Habitat for Humanity. The coalition has applied for $9.5 billion of funds from the GGRF, according to the coalition’s website.
Rewiring America is an environmental organization that pushes for full-scale societal mobilization to ditch fossil fuels and reshape the American economy to rely on green energy. LISC, established with funding from the Ford Foundation, deploys its funds to back community-level projects that advance left-of-center policy outcomes.
PFC says it will use EPA funding to support the replacement of gas-powered appliances with more efficient and expensive alternatives, boost solar and battery storage deployment and build out electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure. PFC lists several pro-Democrat labor unions as partners in its project, including the American Federation of Teachers, the AFL-CIO and the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers.
PFC’s board of directors includes several people with connections to the Democratic establishment. Shaun Donovan, the board’s chairman, served as secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and as director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for Obama.
The board’s two vice chairs are also Obama administration alums. Phyllis Caldwell worked in the Obama Treasury Department and Ari Matusiak, the founder and CEO of Rewiring America, served as the special assistant to Obama and as the administration’s director of private sector engagement. Notably, Rewiring America’s website says the group is a sponsored project of the Windward Fund, which is operated by the liberal consultancy Arabella Advisors.
“Congress’s intent is to get billions of dollars out to American families to help them upgrade their homes — so of course the groups that are applying to help do that have extensive experience in providing affordable and safe housing, and helping people afford to switch to efficient, clean energy,” a spokesperson for Power Forward Communities told the DCNF. “The grant application actually requires deep experience, a track record of success, and broad support from communities across the country.”
Climate United is a coalition consisting of Calvert Impact, the Community Preservation Corporation and Self-Help Credit Union. The coalition has applied for up to the full $14 billion made available by the NCIF. The organization is focused on expanding residential solar power and battery storage, decarbonizing buildings and to reducing emissions generated by travel, and it would support each of these aims with funds the EPA may award.
“We know that if you really want to decarbonize buildings at scale — and quickly — you have to change the behavior in the mortgage markets,” Beth Bafford, the initiative’s CEO, told E&E News. “If you don’t incorporate deep decarbonization investments through that process, we are never going to get to decarbonization at the scale that we need to actually make a dent in our emissions that come from buildings.”
Phil Angelides, president and board member of Climate United, is a Democrat who chaired the state’s Democratic Party and served as the California State Treasurer before unsuccessfully running for governor in 2006, according to his personal website. Anthony Foxx, who also sits on Climate United’s board, served as the Secretary of Transportation during Obama’s second term. Dolores Huerta, another board member, co-founded the United Farm Workers Association, one of the country’s prominent agricultural labor unions.
Biden appointed Harold Pettigrew, another Climate United board member, to the Treasury Department’s community development advisory board in 2021, and Pettigrew also served on the transition team for Washington, D.C.’s left-wing attorney general, Brian Schwalb, in 2022 and early 2023. Patrice Willoughby, another board member, worked as the executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus from 2008 to 2011. Willoughby is now a senior vice president at the National Association for Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
The White House, the Coalition for Green Capital and Climate United did not respond to requests for comment.
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