The Alliance for Northwest Jobs & Exports issued a misleading statement to the Seattle Times  in response to last week's guest post by contributor Mike Stark: Why Are Coal Industry PR Pros Laughing About Climate Change in Private Talks on Export Terminals? 
The Alliance statement accused Mr. Stark of “eavesdropping” on a conversation between an Edelman PR vice president and Arch Coal executives in a hotel lobby. The Edelman/Alliance accusation lacks merit, as we demonstrate below.
In these audio files, Mr. Stark can be heard introducing himself and asking questions to Alliance spokesperson and Edelman vice president, Lauri Hennessey [mp3] .
A short time later, Mr. Stark engages with Arch Coal senior vice president Matthew Ferguson [mp3] , immediately prior to the subsequent conversation which he reported on last week at DeSmogBlog.
The audio reveals Mr. Ferguson agreeing to speak with Mr. Stark just prior to turning to speak with Ms. Hennessey.
In sum, both Ms. Hennessey and Mr. Ferguson were well aware that Mr. Stark was a reporter, and neither party did anything to suggest that the conversation Mr. Stark recorded was private, off the record or otherwise secret.
In response to the Alliance's allegations, DeSmogBlog issued the following statement to the Seattle Times and other media outlets that reported on this important story:
DeSmogBlog agrees with the Alliance that a respectful and productive dialogue is critical to the public conversation about the full spectrum of issues surrounding proposed Northwest coal export terminals. We are especially committed to ensuring transparency on the issue of the threat posed by the global warming pollution inherent in coal export, as well as the threats posed to an already imperiled Puget Sound.
Our guest contributor, Mike Stark, was well within his rights as a journalist to record the conversation, which was conducted in a hotel lobby with the coal industry representatives fully aware that Mr. Stark was standing right next to them. Additionally, his presence was known to each participant, and acknowledged explicitly in the audio recording at 0:48 when Mr. Stark and an Arch executive exchange greetings [‘hi’].
The real issue here, which the Alliance has not addressed, is the fact that its chief spokesperson, an Edelman vice president, suggested that she had provided the coal executives an “insider version” of the “wacky” opposition to proposed coal exports. This contradicts the Alliance’s stated commitment to a straight-forward dialogue. Also unaddressed is the Alliance's position on the climate change impacts of the projects that it is asking Northwest residents to allow.
Perhaps this should not be a surprise, given that the Alliance chose Edelman to lead their project. Edelman has a long history of helping bad actors bury inconvenient truths. Examples include assisting Penn State in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal; assisting Chevron’s attempts to walk away from its responsibility for an environmental disaster in Ecuador; and running American Petroleum Institute’s multimillion dollar Vote4Energy political campaign during the 2012 election. Perhaps most infamously, Edelman worked on behalf of Big Tobacco to spread doubt and misinformation about the public health threats of its products.
The discussion about the threats of coal export to the Northwest and the global climate is too important to tolerate Edelman’s “insider version” or denigrating remarks about the fine people of Seattle who are legitimately concerned about the impacts to health, traffic and tourism stemming from the proposed export projects.
DeSmogBlog challenges the Alliance’s assertion that this conversation was not indicative of the “values or the views of the Alliance or its members.” Ms. Hennessey is the official representative for the Alliance, and she was speaking with two Arch Coal vice presidents. Arch Coal is a key member of the Alliance.
If the Alliance's statement is any indication, it disagrees strongly with Lauri Hennessey. If she does not “reflect the values or the views of the Alliance or its members,” then the Alliance, and particularly Arch Coal, owe the people of the Northwest a sincere apology and a clear explanation for what is plainly offensive and inappropriate conduct by senior executives from both Arch and Edelman.
Image credit: coal train via Shutterstock