Over the past four years, former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Christine Todd Whitman and industry press agent Patrick Moore have been promoting a nuclear energy revival without mentioning the fact that the nuclear industry is paying them for their services.
The benignly named “coalition” they co-chair, the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition (CASEnergy) was founded and is solely funded by the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), the industry trade association. The coalition, which Whitman and Moore call a “grassroots” group, is nothing more than a website featuring a list of nuclear power supporters.
Over the last decade, the nuclear industry has spent $600 million on lobbying and $63 million on campaign contributions, according to a recent investigation by former Los Angeles Times reporter Judy Pasternak. At least $8 million of that money went to Hill & Knowlton, which NEI hired in 2006 to launch a public relations campaign . The PR firm, known for defending the tobacco industry in the 1950s and ’60s, created CASEnergy and tapped Whitman and Moore to serve as spokespeople. Since then, both of them have been crisscrossing the country, making public appearances and writing op-eds proclaiming the benefits of nuclear power. NEI, meanwhile, quotes both of them on its website in a section featuring “environmentalists” who support nuclear power, but there is no mention of the connection between NEI and the coalition.
Whitman also has not fully disclosed her financial ties to other energy producers. In late April, Newsweek reported that from 2006 to 2009, BP paid her $120,000 a year to serve on a company advisory board. A week later, a half dozen newspapers published a Bloomberg News-syndicated op-ed by Whitman on BP’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The disaster, she wrote, shouldn’t stop us from pursuing additional offshore drilling. She also took the opportunity to plug nuclear power in the piece. Not only did she again omit the fact that she is paid by the nuclear industry, she did not disclose her ties to BP.
Moore, who says he co-founded Greenpeace, began working for industry interests in the mid-1980s, hiring himself out as a spokesman for logging, mining and chemical companies, among others. He is no stranger to Astroturf groups. In 1991, the same year he started a PR firm called Greenspirit Strategies, he was appointed the director of the British Columbia Forest Alliance, a front group set up for the logging industry by Burson-Marsteller, the same PR firm that represented Exxon after the Valdez oil spill and Union Carbide after the Bhopal chemical disaster.
On May 12, Whitman and Moore appeared at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., to release CASEnergy’s four-point energy plan . It called for the federal government to: promote the construction of a new fleet of nuclear reactors, significantly increase the federal loan guarantee program, support education programs for workers in the industry, and promote reprocessing of nuclear waste. (Watch for an upcoming UCS Factcheck debunking the plan). That same day, the Hill, a congressional newspaper, published an op-ed by the pair, “Energy Innovation: An economical path forward.” Again, there was no mention of their relationship with the industry.
Only when called out by UCS in a letter to the editor in the Hill did Whitman acknowledge her funding sources. In a letter in response, she wrote: “Although I am compensated for my work with the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition (which is funded by the Nuclear Energy Institute), CASEnergy couldn’t pay me enough money to promote something in which I did not believe.”
Whether Whitman believes in the product she is selling is irrelevant. The public has right to know that Whitman and Moore are being paid by the nuclear industry and are not presenting an independent, disinterested view.
The Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading U.S. science-based nonprofit organization working for a healthy environment and a safer world. Founded in 1969, UCS is headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and also has offices in Berkeley, Chicago and Washington, D.C. For more information, go to www.ucsusa.org