Activists and coalitions fighting the existence of Indian Point Energy Center praised a recent report by Common Cause on Entergy’s lobbying in Albany and Washington, D.C., to influence the plant’s licensing.
“This detailed report from Common Cause describes how Entergy conducted a campaign of intense lobbying, public relations blitzes, advertising and targeted political contributions to shore up political support and distract the public from the real safety risks posed by the aging nuclear plant’s operation,” read a joint statement by Brooklyn for Peace, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition, New York Environmental Law and Justice Project, New York Public Interest Research Group, PHASE, Riverkeeper and Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter.
The report by Common Cause, a nonprofit, nonpartisan citizen’s lobbying organization, states that from 2005 to 2012, Entergy-the Louisiana-based company that owns Indian Point-and its associated coalitions spent just over $4 million on lobbying at the New York state level and made $573,225 in state and local campaign contributions. In that same period, Entergy spent a total of $31.4 million lobbying the federal government, retaining a total of 18 lobbying firms and donating roughly $4.17 million to candidates, PACS and committees.
In 2013 and 2015, Entergy’s licenses to operate the plant’s two reactors will expire. It currently needs approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for two more 20-year licenses.
“In an effort to secure Indian Point’s future, Entergy has employed strategic political spending and a sophisticated public relations campaign coordinated by Burson Marsteller,” read Common Cause’s report. “One of Entergy’s key strategies is a grassroots ‘astroturfing’ campaign designed to create the appearance of public support.”
Astroturfing occurs when a corporation establishes a shill front-group organization that doesn’t disclose their connection to their corporate sponsor and attempts to exert influence on the sponsor’s behalf.
“In the case of Indian Point, Entergy has established two such organizations, NY AREA and SHARE,” stated the report. “NY AREA creates a seemingly independent voice at the grasstops level, making policy arguments to the media and public and coordinating support among powerful business lobbies.
“SHARE is used by Entergy to cynically adopt the rhetoric of the environmental justice movement to target support among communities of color by framing nuclear energy as a ‘green’ alternative to polluting fossil fuel plants.”
However, Jim Steets, communications director at Entergy, told the AmNews that the Common Cause report “skewed” and played with the numbers to make things look worse than they are, though he didn’t deny lobbying. Instead, he said it’s a necessary part of doing business in New York.
“I think one of the problems we have with the report is that they don’t distinguish between lobbying and making contributions to elected officials, so their claims add up to a very big number,” said Steets. “So I think they kind of skewed what Entergy spent on lobbying, and of course, they had numbers over a 10-year period, so it looks like we’re doing a lot more than corporations our size or what other corporations who lobby do.
“New York is a very challenging business environment,” continued Steets. “Lobbying is a necessary activity for us to reach decision makers in New York state who affect our customers and rate payers.”
The joint statement by the activists named New York state Sens. Kevin Parker and George Maziarz, of the Senate Energy Committee, as recipients of Entergy money who happen to be supportive of Indian Point’s current operations.
“Significantly, the company did not contribute to many of the elected officials who have publicly stated their opposition to Indian Point, including Governor Andrew Cuomo, Assemblymember Kevin Cahill and Reps Nita Lowey, Eliot Engel and John Hall,” read their statement. “Entergy’s campaign of political contributions includes key state and federal elected officials, which the Common Cause report itemizes in detail, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Sen. Charles Schumer and former Sen. Hillary Clinton, and numerous members of Congress, with Representative Nan Hayworth topping the list of recipients.
“Sen. Gillibrand and Sen. Schumer have yet to state their position on Indian Point’s relicensing,” continued the statement. “Our groups call on them to do so, so that their constituencies are fully informed as to where they stand.”
Steets had one more thing to say regarding Common Cause’s report on Indian Point: “It seems to me that they’re probably one of the smaller spenders.”