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Dale Bryk’s Blog

NJ Gov. Chris Christie Sneaking Around With Oil Billionaires

Dale Bryk

Posted September 12, 2011 in Curbing Pollution

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New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and his administration talk a good game about transparency and ethics in government. “Folks in this state have a right to know what we’re doing in their name every day,” the Governor told his cabinet at their first meeting in January last year. Less than six months ago, his commissioner of public affairs stated, “This administration recognizes that an informed public is essential to democracy.”

Why, then, has Christie failed to disclose his private meetings with the notorious oil billionaires David and Charles Koch, meetings brought to light last week by Mother Jones magazine? Why did the Governor omit from his public schedule a late-June appearance with the Koch Brothers and hundreds of wealthy donors at a closed-door “seminar” near the resort town of Vail, Colorado, where David Koch introduced Christie, calling him “my kind of guy”? Christie, for his part, called the Koch brothers and their invitees “modern-day patriots.”All of this seems relevant in light of his recent actions to kill successful clean energy, job-creating programs in the state – despite campaigning on these very issues before being elected to office.

Indeed, at the Vail meeting the crowd cheered wildly as David Koch described Christie’s unilateral withdrawal from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. RGGI is the successful and bipartisan 10-state compact among Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states that is delivering billions of dollars to the regional economy, cutting air pollution, reducing energy costs for consumers and businesses, creating good jobs that can’t be shipped overseas, and building clean energy industries in the Northeast.

These meetings amplify pre-existing concerns about where Governor Christie’s allegiances really lie. They underscore what we’ve been concerned about all along: Governor Christie is putting big, out-of-state oil interests over the best interests of Garden State residents.

Just in case you’re unclear exactly how important Charles and David Koch are, let me explain. They’re two of the 10 richest people in the US. They’ve bankrolled the Tea Party. Their Koch Industries, the second-largest privately held company in the nation, is built largely around oil. And its profits—approximately $100 billion annually—have underwritten a loud campaign of climate denial and political ploys. Through their foundations, David and Charles Koch pumped more than $5 million over into Americans for Prosperity Foundation’s “Hot Air Tour”, which spread disinformation about climate science around the country – including a radio ad campaign in New Jersey aimed at killing RGGI. Not only do the Koch Brothers promote disinformation about our increasingly fragile climate, they actively fight popular political moves to protect it. In 2010, they kicked in a cool one million toward the campaign to overturn California’s nation-leading climate protection laws. Between 2006 and 2009, they paid lobbyists almost $38 million to promote their backward-looking views on oil and energy.

This, of course, is not surprising – clean energy is a threat to their oil business.

That’s why it’s so concerning to see Governor Christie – who has given so much lip service to clean energy – getting so cozy with them. In the newly disclosed audio, David Koch raves about Christie to the big-money donors at his Vail confab: "Five months ago we met in my New York City office and spoke, just the two of us, for about two hours on his objectives and successes in correcting many of the most serious problems of the New Jersey state government," Koch said. "At the end of our conversation, I said to myself, 'I'm really impressed and inspired by this man."

Unfortunately for New Jersey residents and businesses, for David Koch, “correcting many of the most serious problems of the New Jersey state government” means killing policies that protect our kids’ health and that have created thousands of quality jobs in the state.  Although Governor Christie came into office on a clean energy and jobs platform, he has since changed his tune – even though a recent poll shows a large majority of New Jersey voters support these goals.

Governor Christie is making the wrong the choice between oil billionaires and the people of New Jersey. Our legislators must do the right thing and resist his misguided actions – from his attempt to abandon New Jersey’s participation in RGGI (despite reams of evidence that it’s creating jobs and reducing pollution at virtually no cost to consumers), to his plans to cut state solar energy incentives (which are on track to create more than 2,000 jobs in the state in 2010 alone).  The Garden State is counting on you.

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Comments

RightOneSep 12 2011 11:28 PM

Care to inform your readers how much energy in NJ comes from oil? Please don't dodge the questions. I'm sure you can figure it out and let us know.

Also, feel free to post the "facts" about the "thousands" of "green jobs" RGGI has created. Give us the names, positions, salaries, etc.

After that futile effort, then give us your thesis on how taxing electricity producers to the tune of $900M through RGGI has had NO effect on economic growth. Or will you actually with a straight face try to tell us that a $900M tax has no impact on jobs...unless, of course, you are one of the corporate welfare queens receiving the largesse?

Kathleen ConverySep 13 2011 10:27 AM

Are you one of the Kock brothers?

JDWSep 13 2011 12:38 PM

Ms. Convery,

If your going to revert to a desperate meme - at least spell those evil Koch brothers names correctly. Otherwise, you seems reflexive and clueless.

Dale BrykSep 14 2011 12:41 PM

A great resource on clean energy jobs is the new Brookings report, Sizing the Clean Economy.  It has an interactive map that lets you look at state and local details.  According to their analysis, New Jersey has more than 94,000 clean economy jobs.  Clean economy employers in the state include Mannington Mills, Inc, a manufacturer of green building materials, and Petra Solar, Inc.  My colleague Lauren Kubiak has a great review of this report that is worth a look.

Thanks to New Jersey’s historical focus on clean energy, everyone can easily keep tabs on the state’s fuel mix at the NJ Clean Energy Website.  New Jersey uses oil for only 1.2% of its electricity. But, of course, the Northeast uses a much larger percentage for heating.  Making our homes and offices more efficient is great for businesses and consumers because it reduces our heating bills. It’s not so great for the oil industry, because it reduces their sales.  More important to the oil industry, of course, is the potential shift to cleaner transportation fuels and electric vehicles.  The RGGI states are spearheading an effort to do just this.

And, folks, let’s try to keep this discourse civil.  I’m just trying to keep the air clean for your kids and mine.  If you think I have the facts wrong, please let me know; no need to attack me personally.  Thank you!

Bill WolfeSep 15 2011 11:40 AM

Where has NRDC been? I wrote this on March 28, 2011:

Christie Bowing To Koch Brothers on RGGI

http://www.wolfenotes.com/2011/03/christie-bowing-to-koch-brothers-on-rggi/

RightOneSep 17 2011 12:43 AM

Mrs. Bryk -- First off, the Brookings report has nothing to do with RGGI, which is what you wrote about and specifically what I challenged you on.

The Brooking report admits that it's like nailing jello to the wall to even define a green job...and then goes on to define the industry in the broadest possible terms.

Additionally, you made no effort to address the other side of the equaton: when you redistribute the wealth through what is now a total of a $900M tax, you can't just count those vague jobs "saved and created" by RGGI; you also need to be honest and admit that more jobs are lost when a billion dollars are taken out of the hands of electricity producers and increase rates residents and businessses.

Let me say, I have nothing against any company creating jobs in any sector of our economy. The issue with RGGI is its a tax that forces rates up to subsidize failure like wind and solar.

We need look no further tha Solyndra to see the results of this government interference and crony capitalism: failure and corruption. Green companies should compete in the marketplace; not be subsidied by our tax dollars.

Oh, and just remember: I'm only trying to keep you from destroying our economy so that our fellow citizens have jobs.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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