Former Head of Energy, Environment at ALEC Hired by Trump Interior Department
Todd Wynn has described climate change as a potential 'net benefit for the planet'
This article originally appeared in DeSmogBlog.
Todd Wynn, former Director of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)'s Energy Environmental and Agriculture Task Force, was recently hired by President Donald Trump to work as a senior-ranking official in the US Department of the Interior.
Photo by Ad Meskins
DeSmog discovered the hire via LinkedIn, and Wynn says on his profile page that he began at Interior in October.
Wynn worked at ALEC from 2011 to 2013 and then became Director of External Affairs for Edison Electric Institute (EEI), a trade association representing electric utility companies nationwide. Prior to his position at ALEC, Wynn served as Vice President of the Cascade Policy Institute, a part of the State Policy Network (SPN), a national chain of state-level conservative and corporate-funded think-tanks which was started as an ALEC offshoot.
ALEC's critics have described the organization, a national consortium of mostly Republican Party state legislators and corporate lobbyists, as a “corporate bill mill.” That's because its lobbyist members convene several times a year with legislators to produce what it calls “model bills” which have ended up as actual legislation thousands of times since the organization's founding in 1973.
Wynn's new job at Interior will parallel his past role at ALEC, where according to LinkedIn, the office he will oversee “strengthen[ing] relationships between state and local partners and external stakeholders with the Oﬀice of the Secretary [Ryan Zinke]. [Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs] also serves as liaison for governmental and non-governmental partners in communicating with Departmental oﬀices and the Bureaus.”
Wynn has not responded to a request for comment.
“This is yet another choice to put an aggressive fossil fuel insider into a position of power at taxpayer expense. I have no doubt Wynn will put private interests — very special interests — over the public interest in protecting our public lands and forests,” said Lisa Graves, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy and publisher of the website ALECExposed.org, the first website to publish hundreds of ALEC model bills back in 2011.
“Promoting Wynn, with his long ties to the Koch Industries-fueled ALEC pay-to-play operation and other groups like EEI that peddle the corporate agenda, just underscores how Trump has put the swamp creatures in charge instead of 'draining the swamp.”
While still at ALEC, Wynn co-wrote an article in July 2013 titled, “EPA Growth Knows No Limits,” comparing then-President Barack Obama's introduction of the Clean Power Plan — which called for regulating coal-fired power plants under the legal authority of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) — to a “king” for using an executive agency to implement the plan.
“Simply put, the president is using Congressional inaction as a pretext for a climate policy power grab, and that is very troubling,” wrote Wynn and his co-author William Yeatman, the latter an energy policy analyst for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which was founded and funded by Koch Family Foundations money. “Congress had a vision for national environmental policymaking when it created the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970 … During President Obama’s first term, however, the EPA initiated an outright regulatory assault on the American standard of living.”
Under Wynn's watch, ALEC also commissioned Yeatman to publish a report in 2013 titled, ”The US Environmental Protection Agency's Assault on State Sovereignty,” which expanded upon the arguments made in their joint op-ed.
“Congress intended for states to be first among equals in this federalist arrangement,” reads that report, which further posits that “the EPA is replacing cooperative federalism with command and control.”
According to the Center for Media and Democracy's SourceWatch, during Wynn's time at ALEC, the Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force passed several anti-environmental bills, such as “The Disclosure of Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid Composition Act” (which called for voluntary industry disclosure via the FracFocus database and was eventually adopted by the Obama Interior Department for fracking on public lands), a “Resolution in Support of the Keystone XL Pipeline,” a “Resolution Supporting A Reasonable Compliance Timeline and Economy-Wide Impact Study of EPA's Mercury and Air Toxics Rule,” a “Resolution in Support of REINS Act” [a bill pushed for years by the Koch-funded front group, Americans for Prosperity (AFP) which recently became law in Wisconsin and is advancing in Congress], and a “Resolution in Opposition to a Carbon Tax.”
Before coming to ALEC, Wynn also regularly cast doubt on the science of climate change.
“It's absolutely ridiculous to say that they know that human activity is the major part of that [climate change],” Wynn said in 2010 while working for the Cascade Policy Institute. “We've had a temperature record a very spurious one for the maybe past 100 years, in the last 30 years a satellite temperature record. And then all the calculations for the predictions of the future are based on models … we've already seen that they're way off on their predictions.”
Wynn also appeared in and co-produced the film Climate Chains. That 22-minute documentary features a who's who of climate change deniers, including Marc Morano, Myron Ebell, Chris Horner, Patrick Michaels, and Ann McElhinney, and also was highlighted on the website for Koch Industries at the time, according to the Web Archive.
In the film, Wynn stated that “I think that global warming could be a net benefit for the planet in fact,” which is a sentiment shared by the recently named Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, Kathleen Hartnett-White.
Climate Chains was spearheaded by the Cascade Policy Institute and includes a special thanks to the Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute, according to the Web Archive.
During Wynn's time at Cascade, he served as Project Director of its “Carbon Cartel Education Project.”
“Environmental activists and the media have taken computer-generated scenarios of environmental catastrophe and used them as levers to demand radical income redistribution schemes,” Cascade claimed in a description of the project on the Web Archive. “The goal of the Carbon Cartel Education Project is to raise awareness of the costs and implications of policies based on global warming alarmism by conducting a multi-faceted campaign to peel away grassroots political support for carbon restrictions, while simultaneously promoting market-based policies that preserve individual liberty, economic opportunity, and environmental quality.”
Wynn has also spoken twice at the Heartland Institute's International Conference on Climate Change, the climate Denial-Palooza attempt to mimic the annual United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change summits, both in 2010 and in 2012.
While at Cascade, Wynn also hyped up the “climategate” non-scandal, which involved the illegal dissemination of stolen emails of climate scientists from East Anglia University that were taken out of context to make it seem as if scientists were exaggerating the threat of climate change.
“Some of the most important findings in the string of emails and documents reveal that climate scientists manipulated data in order to downplay the medieval warming period and overemphasize the current warming trend. Temperature history is one of the most significant issues in the global warming debate,” Wynn wrote. “If current warming is not out of the norm and temperatures have been at least as high in the past, then alarmist fears are unwarranted and drastic action is inexcusable.” (For the truth about the medieval warm period, check out Skeptical Science.)
Not just a climate denier, Wynn has also denigrated wind and solar power.
“Unfortunately, renewable energy costs more than traditional energy sources and is often less reliable,” Wynn wrote in 2011 for Cascade, just months before heading to ALEC. “Although generating energy from wind turbines and solar panels is essentially free, the costs of construction, maintenance, and integrating inconsistent energy into the grid are prohibitively expensive.”
More recently in 2016 at the State Policy Network annual meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, Wynn called on the representatives of the groups present to “get involved” in efforts to quash the growth of rooftop solar.
“Ultimately, I see a really strong role of the state-based think tanks of changing public opinion and I know that’s what you all are really good at. So op-eds, letters to the editor, the works,” Wynn told those present at the meeting, speaking from his vantage point of head of external affairs for Edison Electric Institute. “So I’d say keep putting out that public opinion, put that in the papers as much as possible, because ultimately when folks hear this they automatically take the solar side of things because they don’t know the details, and you guys are uniquely positioned to break down some of these complex topics into a more bite-sized chunk for the general public, and that can change the directions of these things.”
'He Will Be Missed'
In the “recommendations” section of his LinkedIn page, several energy industry leaders heaped praise on Wynn for his work and their interactions with him over the years.
“His leadership coupled with his political and policy capabilities make him a solid colleague, and I am fortunate to work along side him,” wrote Christine Csizmadia, Director of State Outreach for the Nuclear Energy Institute.
The praise is not limited to the nuclear energy arena and extends into the oil, gas, and coal industries, as well.
“Todd is clearly a highly motivated individual who takes extraordinary steps to go above and beyond what would typically be expected of someone in his position,” wrote Steve Higley, Manager of Federal Government Affairs for Marathon Petroleum, who also noted that he had worked alongside Wynn on the Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force for ALEC, back when Higley served as Manager of Outreach for the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM).
“His influence is openly apparent in every one of the organizations I have seen him work with — as evidenced by the success with which he is able to advance policy positions and disseminate information critical to his industry, as well as the impressive breadth of professional relationships he has developed and maintains with elected officials, policymakers, and numerous others in the energy and environmental arena.”
Another industry representative named Daniel Francis, Manager of Strategic Policy Analysis for American Electric Power (AEP) lamented Wynn's departure from EEI. But Francis also pointed out the great opportunity that could come with Wynn now working inside the Trump administration.
“Todd is very knowledgeable of the issues and effective in his interactions with policymakers, and he exudes energy and excitement,” commented Francis. “He will be missed, but I know great things will come as part of his new engagement.”