By Miriam Raftery March 12, 2009 (San Diego’s East County) -- East County residents opposed to Sempra Energy’s Sunrise Powerlink project are mobilizing opposition to President Barack Obama’s nomination of David Hayes as deputy director of the U.S. Department of the Interior. Hayes served as Deputy Director of the department during the Clinton Administration, but later went to work for the lobbying firm Latham & Watkins representing Sempra Energy and SDG&E. The Interior Department oversees Bureau of Land Management properties that Powerlink is slated to cross in Lakeside's El Monte Valley and other areas of San Diego's East County. A vote is expected Thursday in the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee. (See http://energy.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=About.Members for a list of committee members and their contacts.)
The high-voltage power line project has generated massive opposition here in a region that has suffered the worst wildfires in California history. An environmental impact report found Powerlink will pose a serious fire risk and that the fire danger cannot be mitigated. Last week, Lakeside's fire chief testified that firefighting planes could be unable to scoop water from the El Capitan Reservoir if Powerlink is built.
Four California Public Utilities Commissioners appointed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger approved the project at the Governor's urging, even though two administrative law judges found the project unnecessary to meet our region's energy needs.
In a letter to President Obama dated March 10th, Ramona resident Diane Conklin wrote, “Mr. Hayes lobbied for Sempra Energy and San Diego Gas & Electric Company on transmission issues. SDG&E's Sunrise Powerlink transmission project was approved by the California Public Utilities Commission last December despite the company's refusal to dedicate any portion of the line for renewable energy. SDG&E threatened not to build the line rather than accept an alternate decision to condition a portion of the line for renewables. ..Now the line is not guaranteed to carry renewable energy and, in fact, may carry LNG-generated electricity from a Sempra Mexican generation plant, across the border from San Diego County and fueled by the newly built LNG facility in Baja, Mexico, just north of Ensenada.”
Conklin, who heads the Mussey Grade Road Alliance, added, “As a citizen intervenor, I faced Latham & Watkins during the proceeding and know that they are not concerned with our concerns on the ground. Our issue is wild land fires ignited by power lines. SDG&E's power lines ignited three such fires in the 2007 Firestorm. We brought the issue to the Commission months before that event and our intervention resulted in the Commission looking at power line fires for the first time in its history and dedicating some 300 pages of the EIR to the subject. Nevertheless the approval of this $2 billion transmission line, instead of the use of safer rooftop photo voltaic energy combined with some conventional generation, if necessary (the top two alternatives in the EIR), means that we in sunny San Diego County may never see renewable energy in the foreseeable future.”
Conklin urged Obama to reconsider the appointment, adding, “It is hard for me, a supporter of yours whose Obama bumper sticker is one of only three I have seen in my rural town of some 35,000 in the center of San Diego County, to understand how this is change. This appointment will mean that big energy business will operate as business as usual, but under the unearned umbrella of renewable energy."
Michael Pinto, founder and chairman of the Laguna Canyon Foundation, had this to say about Hayes in a letter he wrote to Obama. “Mr. Hayes has been on the wrong side of history as a lobbyist for Sempra Energy and San Diego Gas & Electric Company on transmission issues. The lobbying and public relations in support of the Powerlink has been a fabric of lies, so much so that the presiding administrative law judge recommended denial of their application, saying the line was not needed and that there were many better alternatives to meeting the energy needs of San Diego. During the CPUC hearings, SDG&E claimed their proposed Surnrise Powerlink was to carry renewable energy, but when they were asked to guarantee that renewable energy was to be carried on the line, they said if that were a requirement for approval, they would not build the Powerlink. Mr. Hayes' activities on behalf of SDG&E/Sempra was at the heart of this and his confirmation to deputy secretary of the Interior department would send a very bad message to those of us that have worked so hard for the vision of a sustainable energy future for our country."
According to a March 10 article at Politico.com, Hayes has not personally lobbied the Department of the Interior in over two years. But filings released Monday reveal he continued representing companies with business before the Department. http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0109/18128.html. Hayes, a lawyer, represented a wide array of energy concerns, manufacturing firms and advocacy groups with vested interests in the work of the Interior Department. Politico’s research reveals that Hayes was paid more than $2 million last year for his legal work at the lobbying law firm Latham & Watkins, where he was the partner in charge of its Environment, Land and Resources Department.
Over the next 10 years, Hayes will receive fixed payments from his retirement account with the firm, according to the filing. Hayes joined the firm in 2001 and resigned from the job at the end of last year. If confirmed for a second stint as Deputy Director of Interor, he’ll have to tread carefully to avoid running afoul of Obama’s strict revolving door prohibitions , which bar executive branch officials from working on issues “directly and substantially related” to their former clients or employers for two years.
The restrictions are even tougher for former lobbyists, who are barred from working on any issue “or for any department “ they lobbied for two years after they last lobbied. Hayes’ nomination doesn’t run afoul of the lobbying restrictions, since he was last registered to lobby at the end of 2006. At that time, according to lobbying filings , he represented San Diego Gas & Electric before the Interior Department and Congress on “general transmission line siting and permitting issues.” San Diego Gas & Electric and its parent company, Sempra Energy, paid Latham $220,000 for lobbying by Hayes’ team. After that, Hayes continued to represent San Diego Gas & Electric and Sempra on “transmission facilities permitting” as a lawyer, according to his disclosure statement.
If Hayes is confirmed, he “will of course follow the ethics guidelines for former clients that apply to appointees,” said White House spokesman Ben LaBolt, Politico reported. LaBolt praised Hayes’ “deep institutional knowledge” of the department and his “diverse background in energy and environmental policy.” In the Senate, an aide predicted members of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee won’t begrudge Hayes his private-sector work.
On his disclosure form, Hayes reported he did “environmental remediation” or “environmental permitting” work for power, manufacturing and contracting firms including Chevron, General Electric, General Dynamics, Pacific Gas & Electric, PacifiCorp, Public Services Energy Group, Ford Motor Company, Duluth Metals, Mirant and Merck. OpenSecrets.org listing for Hayes describes a “revolving door” between industry and government. Daily Kos reports that Hayes also represented “manufacturers of cancer-causing chemicals, exploiting the revolving door from regulator to lobbyist for the regulated, and trying to get a major polluter off the financial hook for contamination of a predominantly Native American community.” http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/12/14/22835/880 .
Several of Hayes’ former clients are involved in an Obama-backed plan to digitize the nation’s electric grid and build transmission infrastructure partly to help transport renewable energy “a plan in which the Interior Department is expected to play an influential role. The department manages nearly 20 percent of the nation’s land and could be key to overcoming siting issues that have plagued past renewable energy projects, including finding land to carry transmission lines.
Hayes reportedly provided “counseling on climate change matters,” another top issue for the Obama administration in which the Interior Department could play a substantial role, to a pair of environmental advocacy non-profits, the Linden Trust for Conservation and the World Wildlife Fund. He led the Obama transition team’s advisory committee on the environment and natural resources, and until recently was a fellow at the World Wildlife Fund and vice chairman of American Rivers, another environmental group.
His nomination has been welcomed enthusiastically by most environmentalist groups, Politico reported. “He has an excellent grasp of not only the legal angles of natural resource challenges, but the scientific and technical aspects as well,” said American Rivers president Rebecca Wodder .
Hayes graduated summa cum laude from the University of Notre Dame in 1975, received his J.D. from Stanford University in 1978, and was an editor of the Stanford Law Review. He currently serves as Chairman of the Board of Visitors for Stanford Law School. He and his wife, Elizabeth Haile Hayes, have three children, Katherine, Stephen, and Molly.
“David Hayes is the right person at the right time for this job,” Interior Secretary Salazar stated in a press release. “He is an experienced and thoughtful leader, a dedicated public servant, and has a strong record of helping find common sense solutions to some of our nation’s most complex natural resource and environmental challenges. He will bring a steady hand to the management of the Department and a career’s worth of expertise ““ from his service in the Clinton Administration to his work in natural resource law and on climate change policy.”