Jeffrey R. Holmstead is an attorney and lobbyist for Bracewell LLP in Washington, DC. Bracewell LLP, formerly known as Bracewell & Giuliani,* is a top K Street lobby group representing energy industry companies like Southern Company and Duke Energy.
Jeff Holmstead began his political career as the Associate Counsel to former President George H.W. Bush, moving from his government office to a lobbying firm to the Environmental Protection Agency to his current lobbying firm. During the Clinton years, Holmstead spent his time as a lobbyist for Latham & Watkins. In 2001, Holmstead was appointed to Assistant Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency Office of Air and Radiation, where he played a key role in the George W. Bush administration's efforts to roll back clean air and climate change protections.
Holmstead left the George W. Bush EPA in 2005, later joining the litigation firm Bracewell LLP as head of the firm's Environmental Strategies Group (ESG), which Bracewell describes as "a multi-disciplinary group that includes environmental and energy attorneys, public policy advocates, and strategic communications experts – most of whom have had high-level government experience."
Holmstead obtaied a J.D. from Yale Law School in 1987 and a B.A. from Brigham Young University in 1984. His professional contact information is available on the Bracewell website:
*Bracewell & Guliani was renamed in January 2016, following the departure of its namesake founder, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani.
"The benefits of reducing mercury are very insignificant."
-Environmental Law Institute debate, "Resolved: EPA Utility MACT is the right tool at the right time," 25:58, June 7, 2011.
"The answer isn't just to regulate our way to clean energy."
-Jeff Holmstead at Politico Energy Forum, November 15, 2011.
return to the epa under president trumP?
Jeff Holmstead appears to be poised for a high-level position in Donald Trump's cabinet, presumably at the Environmental Protection Agency, which Holmstead has both worked for and worked against as a utility lobbyist. The Washington Post reported that Holmstead filied a new lobbying disclosure indicating he has dropped all of his longtime lobbying clients, including Duke Energy and Ameren, which he has represented since 2007.
On June 19, 2017, reporters at Axios learned that Holmstead was being considered for the #2 position at EPA under President Trump and Administor Scott Pruitt. Jeff Holmstead's colleague, Scott Segal, told The HIll that this announcement was "premature" but did not deny the rumors. According to Public Citizen's Climate Program Managing Director, David Arkush, Holmstead's appointment may be designed to please coal executives since EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is notably more connected with the oil industry.
Coal Money for Lobbying:
Jeffrey Holmstead’s energy company clients are almost exclusively coal mining and utility companies. While his career has been largely dedicated to slowing or eliminating regulations of pollution that could affect his clients' revenue, he is descibed as a "leading climate change lawyer" defending companies "confronting major environmental and energy development challenges." Holmstead's clients have paid Bracewell & Giuliani heavily since Holmstead joined in 2007 and began personally consulting for them.
- Electric Reliability Coordinating Council: $10,697,500
- Southern Company: $3,380,000
- Ameren: $1,718,000
- Duke Energy: $1,638,000
- Energy Future Holdings: $1,598,000
- Arch Coal: $1,540,000
- Progress Energy: $948,000 (merged with Duke Energy)
- DTE Energy: $710,000
- Salt River Project: $624,000
- LG&E & KU Energy (PPL subsidiary): $210,000
- Mirant (now GenOn): $270,000
- Chase Power Development (power plant construction + private equity): $260,000
- CSX Corp & CSX Transportation (ships coal by rail): $198,000
- Edison Electric Institute: $60,000
Most of these companies, including Southern Co, Duke, Progress and EFH, are known members of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council (ERCC), a coal utility front group run out of Bracewell's office by fellow B&G lobbyist Scott Segal. The Electric Reliability Coordinating Council doesn't voluntarily disclose its other members.
As explained by NRDC's Brian Palmer, Holmstead's position on air pollution has shifted, depending on if he is employed as a lobbyist or as a government administrator:
Holmstead also has an embarrassing history of inconsistency when it comes to air pollution. While at the EPA, he argued that reducing emissions from power plants would save thousands of lives. As a lobbyist for the utilities, however, Holmstead said he didn’t believe that such emissions were killing thousands of people. As an EPA official, he called mercury a “potent toxin that causes permanent damage to the brain and nervous system.” As a lobbyist, he said, “It’s pretty hard to say that [mercury from power plants] is a significant public health issue.”
Dismissal by Federal Judge in EPA Lawsuit against Ameren Missouri
Holmstead was dismissed by a federal judge as an expert witness in a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency against Ameren Missouri, a coal burning utility. In an ongoing case, filed July 2012, U.S. EPA charged Ameren Missouri with Clean Air Act violations at its Rush Island coal plant after upgrades excluded certain pollution controls technology. Judge Rodney Sippel granted U.S. Justice Department's request to remove Holmstead as a witness, confirming that the lobbyist's history at U.S. EPA posed "multiple conflicts of interest." More can be read in the Judge Sippel's motion to dismiss Jeffrey Holmstead, which notes Holmstead's in-and-out role at U.S. EPA while working for coal companies to undermine EPA pollution law enforcement.
Holmstead in George W. Bush EPA:
While Jeff Holmstead has been a polluter ally as a lobbyist, he also worked internally to undermine the Clean Air Act during his time as EPA Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation. Most notably, Holmstead himself made critical decisions that stalled mercury pollution controls on US power plants for eight years. EPA estimates that these rules can save 4,200-11,000 people from prematurely dying every year.
At Politico's 2011 Energy Forum, Holmstead was confronted over his obstruction of clean air rules and the human lives lost resulting from his decisions to delay effective mercury pollution controls at U.S. power plants:
In his time at the EPA, Holmstead worked to weaken the new source review program, which ensures modified or upgraded power plants don’t increase pollution after they are retrofitted, and "oversaw the development of the Bush Administration’s Clear Skies Legislation," which would have allowed for three times more power plant pollution than the Clean Air Act. Holmstead refused requests from former Senator Jim Jeffords (I-VT) to reveal internal documentation concerning the Clean Air Act. For these reasons, Holmstead was named “Clean air villain of the month” in March, 2002 by the Clean Air Trust.
Underwriting legislation for Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK):
Jeff Holmstead received notable attention in 2010 for working with Sen. Lisa Murkowski and lobbyist Roger R. Martella, Jr. to craft legislation intended to stop EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gasses. Before working on the obstuction legislation with Murkowski and Martella, Holmstead’s employer and two of his major clients (Duke and Southern Co.) donated over $125,000 to Murkowski’s PAC. Other companies that both donated to Murkowski and paid Holmstead's firm to represent them in the 2009-2010 Congress were Ameren, Progress Energy, Arch Coal, and the Salt River Project.
'Citizens for the Environment' and Koch Industries:
Jeff Holmstead has ties to Koch Industries through the now-defunct Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE), which became astroturf group FreedomWorks as its associated sister group, the Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation, became Americans for Prosperity and the Americans for Prosperity Foundation. Holmstead was an adjunct scholar for Citizens for the Environment (CFE), a spinoff of Citizens for a Sound Economy. The Pittsburg Post-Gazette reported that Citizens for the Environment "labeled most environmental problems -- including acid rain, natural resource depletion and shrinking landfill space -- as myths," and noted that the group had "no citizen membership of its own." Citizens for a Sound Economy was founded and funded by the Kochs; the Americans for Prosperity Foundation is still a major recipients of Koch dollars, and David Koch is the chairman.
Repeated Dishonest Arguments Opposing EPA's "Clean Power Rule" to reduce Carbon Emissions from U.S. Power Plants
Jeff Holmstead has used his credentials as a former EPA Air and Radiation assistant administrator to cast doubt over the legality and efficacy of new rules to reduce carbon emissions at US power plants, including coal plants operated by Holmstead's clients. On multiple occasions, Jeff Holmstead has knowingly misrepresented the EPA's proposed rule, conflating a rise in electricity rates with threats that consumers' utility bills will increase, which is not expected to occur due to cost savings from energy efficiency investments. Holmstead has done this on numerous occasions since EPA proposed the Clean Power Rule.
On June 2 during a PBS interview, Holmstead demonstrated that he understood the difference between rising rates and lowered utility bills, saying,
"EPA’s argument is, well, the rates will go up, but your bills will go down, because our program will require you to use less electricity. That is just not very credible, and it will be expensive to reduce carbon."
The next day (June 3) on The Diane Rehm Show, Holmstead had to be corrected by other guests for conflating the raised rates with raised utility bills:
"But I think the concern comes from people who use a lot of electricity because there's no question that this will increase the cost of electricity. And even EPA concedes that fact. EPA's projections are that the utility rates will go up."
NRDC's President, Frances Beinecke corrected Holmstead on this false assertion:
First of all, the way to make this rule be the most cost effective is to have a very significant investment and energy efficiency around the country. So even if rates may go up, the consumer's bill will go down if their homes, businesses, industries are designed to be much more energy efficient. We've seen huge gains, for example, in the state of California on energy efficiency.
Holmstead later insinuated that California has higher utility bills because of its higher electrical rates:
Energy prices in California are much higher than the rest of the nation. Energy prices in the Northeast are significantly higher than the rest of the nation. So when you adopt these policies, you just need to be honest about what it means. It does mean that there'll be significant costs that people will have to pay for their energy.
Again, NRDC's Beinecke had to correct Holmstead's misleading assertion:
So I just think that Jeff's point -- in California, they have made major investments in efficiency, billions of dollars of investments, and the actual consumer bill in California is lower than in other parts of the country because of those investments. So, yes, the rates may be higher, but the bills are lower.
On June 5 at Resources for the Future, Holmstead did not make the false comparison between EPA's estimated rise in electrical rates but reduction in utility bills, though he called a carbon tax "politically incorrect."
On June 18th at the Bipartisan Policy Center's panel event for the EPA's Clean Power Plan, Holstead again make the false conflation between electrical rates and utility bills, which was corrected by Sue Tierney of Analysis Group. See "Panel Presentation" video below at 27:58.
After the Bipartisan Policy Center event, PolluterWatch activists asked Jeff Holmstead about his consistent opposition to policies and regulations that would require his clients to spend money to reduce their pollution, seeking an explanation for Holmstead's recognition of climate change as contrasted with his denial of proposed solutions. Holmstead was also asked why he only employs his expertise to protect polluting coal companies rather than serving the country by finding viable solutions to global warming.