Western Fuels Association

Western Fuels Association (WFA)

Background

Western Fuels Association (WFA) is a not-for-profit cooperative that “supplies coal and transportation services to consumer-owned electric utilities throughout the Great Plains, Rocky Mountain and Southwest regions.” The group was founded in 1973 with the purpose of providing coal and other services to consumer-owned utilities. In 2013, the group was responsible for the production and or procurement and delivery of approximately 17 million tons of coal on behalf of its members. [1]

In the early 1990s, WFA and its director Fred Palmer were behind a targeted message to farmers and legislators suggesting that considerable doubt existed about the effect of carbon dioxide on global warming. Palmer moved to Peabody Energy in February, 2001 where he served as Senior Vice President of Government Relations. In January, 2016, Palmer joined the public affairs firm Total Spectrum. [2], [3]

According to a 2008 article in the Kansas City Star, past WFA Director Fred Palmer “confirmed in an interview that he created a nonprofit society that funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars into a public relations campaign to promote the idea that considerable doubt existed about the effect of carbon dioxide on global warming.” [4]

Information Council for the Environment (ICE)

WFA was involved in a 1991 coalition of US coal companies which created a campaign that proposed to “Reposition global warming as theory (not fact).” The coalition was titled Information Council for the Environment (ICE) and included membership from WFA, coal-heavy utility Southern Company and utilities association Edison Electric Institute. [5]

The campaign included a detailed PR campaign (documented by Greenpeace) which set out to target “older, less-educated males from larger households who are not typically 'information seekers' and 'younger, lower-income women.” [6]

Proposed advertisement headlines included: 

“The most serious problem with catastrophic global warming is– it may not be true.”
 
“If the earth is getting warmer, why is Minneapolis getting colder?’
 
“Who told you the earth was warming… Chicken Little?’
 
“Some say the earth is warming. Some also said the earth was flat.”
ICE was given $510,000 by the Western Fuels Association to test its messages in the districts of members of the Energy and Commerce or Ways and Means Committees of the US House of Representatives. The purpose was to “demonstrate that a consumer-based media awareness program can positively change the opinions of a selected population regarding the validity of global warming.” [7]

The Greening Earth Society

The WFA founded the now-defunct Greening Earth Society (GES) in 1997. While in operation, the GES described itself as “a vehicle for advocacy on climate change, the environmental impact of CO2, and fossil fuel use.” GES openly declared that the “bulk of our financial support comes from rural electric cooperatives, municipal electric utilities, and their fuel suppliers, including Western Fuels Association, Inc.”  [8]

According to a 1988 report by the Clearinghouse on Environmental Advocacy and Research, GES and WFA were “located at the same office suite in Arlington, VA. They share the same leader, Fred Palmer, several WFA board members serve as the board for GES, and they have the same 'manager of communications and governmental affairs,' Ned Leonard. Leonard and Palmer are both registered lobbyists for Western Fuels Association.” [9]

Past “Scientific Advisors” to the Greening Earth Society included a number of prominent climate change deniers: [10]

Stance on Climate Change

1995

According to Ross Gelbspan, who writes in Harper's Magazine, the Western Fuels Association's past annual reports have included statements on climate change:

“[T]here has been a close to universal impulse in the trade association community here in Washington to concede the scientific premise of global warming […] while arguing over policy prescriptions that would be the least disruptive to our economy. […] We have disagreed, and do disagree, with this strategy.” “When [the climate change] controversy first erupted […] scientists were found who are skeptical about much of what seemed generally accepted about the potential for climate change.” [11]

1998
The Western Fuels Association helped produce a video titled “The Greening of Planet Earth Continues” in 1998, which included statements by many prominent climate science deniers: [12]

Patrick J. Michaels

“The evidence that increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is going to cause a disaster is somewhere between slim and none.” 
”[…] The entire global climate change hysteria is driven by computer models. It is not driven by reality.” 

Robert C. Balling

“Damaging hurricanes, tornadoes, and whatever […] are not linked to the buildup of greenhouse gases.”   
“Increased CO2 worldwide with few exceptions means plants grow better, period. […] CO2 is something that plants love […] It's hardly a pollutant at all. It's a naturally occurring gas […]”
“That early 20th century warming had to be natural […] We estimate that most of the changes of the last several hundred years […] can be caused by these fluctuations in the sun's energy output.” 
“Climate is naturally very variable […]”
 
“Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. Carbon dioxide is a nutrient.” 

Funding

According to its 2014/2015 annual report (PDF), WFA had $348M in total coal and transportation revenue with expenses roughly matching total revenue. [13]

Other Annual Reports:

Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change (?)

When K. Estrada submitted a series of questions to the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, he stated “I think the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change is funded by Western Fuels Association.” The Center responded as follows:

“In spite of what you think, you could be wrong.  But as we do not divulge this information, you may also continue to think that you are right.  In either case, we are not inclined to confirm or deny your conclusion.  Also, don't you think your time would be better spent in trying to understand the issue than by trying to find out who funds us?  There is so much new work reported almost daily that we spend nearly all our waking moments studying the latest research on the subject of carbon dioxide and global change.  If you want to know how the world of nature functions, you will never discover the answer by wasting your time on trying to divine the sources of people's funding.” [14]

American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)

According to an archived CLEAR profile on the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Western Fuels Association was a funder of ALEC as of the early 2000s. [15]

The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) describes ALEC as 
a “pay-to-play operation where corporations buy a seat and a vote on ‘task forces’ to advance their legislative wish lists and can get a tax break for donations, effectively passing these lobbying costs on to taxpayers.” Learn more at ALECExposed.org.

Arch Coal Bankruptcy Documents

The Western Fuels Association is one of several US national and state coal lobby groups listed as creditors in Arch Coal's bankruptcy documents. (See .pdf, page 36 of 39).[29], [30]

Coal lobby groups mentioned in the creditors lists include: [29]

  • The National Mining Association
  • The National Coal Council
  • American Coal Council
  • Illinois Coal Association
  • Kentucky Coal Association
  • Montana Coal Council
  • West Virginia Coal Alliance
  • Western Virginia Coal Association
  • Western Fuels Association in Colorado

Key People

Board of Directors (Year over Year)

Name 2010[41] 2011[40] 2012[39] 2013[38] 2014[37] 2015[36] 2016[16] Description
Andy Serri Y Y Director, CEO and General Manger, Basin Electric Power Cooperative
C. Jim Soehner Y Y Vice Secretary/Treasurer.Secretary, Tri-State Generation & Transmission
Charles Ayers Y Y Y Chairman of the Board, Sunflower Electric Power Corporation
Claudio Romero Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Director, Tri-State Generation & Transmission Association, Inc.
Darrell D. Dorsey Y Y Y Manager, Electric Production & Supply, Kansas City Board of Public Utilities
David P. Geschwind Y Y Y Y Executive Director & CEO, Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency
Don L. Gray Y Y Y Y Y Y Y General Manager, Kansas City Board of Public Utilities
Dong Quach Y Y Electric Production Acting Manager, Kansas City Board of Public Utilities
Ed Throop Y Y Y General Manager, Sikeston Board of Municipal Utilites
Harold “Hub” Thompson Y President, Tri-State Generation & Transmission
L. Earl Watkins, Jr. Y Y Secretary/Treasurer. President and CEO, Sunflower Electric Power Corporation
Loren Ochs Y Y Y Y Chairman of the Board, Sunflower Electric Power Corporation
Mark S. Mitchell Y Y Y Y Y Director of Operations & COO, Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency
Mike McInnes Y Y Y Executive Vice-President & General Manager, Tri-State Generation & Transmission Association, Inc.
Paul Baker Y Y Director, Basin Electric Power Cooperative
Paul Sukut Y Y Y CEO and General Manager, Basin Electric Power Cooperative
Ray Hayward Y Y President. Executive Director and CEO, Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency
Reuben Ritthaler Y Y Vice President. Director, Basin Electric Power Cooperative
Rex Johnson Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Corporate Counsel. Sherard, Sherard and Johnson, Wheatland, WY
Rick Gordon Y Y Y Y Y Y President & Chairman of the Board, Tri-State Generation & Transmission Association, Inc.
Rick Landers Y Y General Manager, Sikeston Board of Municipal Utilities
Robert (Bob) D. Adam Y Y Manager, Electric Supply, Kansas City Board of Public Utilities
Ron Harper Y Y Director, CEO and General Manager, Basin Electric Power Cooperative
Stuart Lowry Y Y Y Y President & CEO, Sunflower Electric Power Corporation
Tony Casados Y Y Y Y Y Y Vice Chairman, Tri-State Generation & Transmission Association, Inc.

Management Team (2016)

As of February, 2016, The Western Fuels Association listed the following people on their “Management Team”: [17]

  • Meri Sandlin — Chief Executive Officer & General Manager
  • Kurt Mickelson — Controller
  • Ken Gray — Manager, Coal Transportation
  • Jerry Barneby — Fleet Manager
  • Beth Goodrough — Manager, Regulatory Affairs & Lands
  • Micah Carolus — Supervisor, Escalante Railway
  • Dave Gauntner — Mine Manager, Dry Fork Mine

Board Officers (2016)

As of February, 2016, The Western Fuels Association listed the following Board Officers on their website: [18]

  • David P. Geschwind (President) — Executive Director  & CEO,  Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency
  • Paul Baker (Vice President) — Basin Electric Power Cooperative
  • Tony Casados (Secretary/Treasurer) — Vice Chairman,  Tri-State Generation & Transmission
  • Stuart Lowry (Vice Secretary/Treasurer) — President & CEO Sunflower Electric Power Corporation

Past People

  • Fred Palmer — Served as General Council and later Chief Executive Officer of Western Fuels Association before moving to Peabody Energy. [19]

Climate Change Deniers Funded by WFA (1998)

According to CLEAR's 1998 report on “The Greening of Planet Earth Continues” the following individuals received or were suspected of having received funding from the Western Fuels Association: [9]

Actions

July, 2000

The Western Fuels Association (WFA) sued Friends of the Earth, the Earth Island Institute, Rain Forest Action Network, Turning Point Project, the International Center for Technology Assessment and Ozone Action, in Western Fuels Association v. Turning Point Project, No. 00-CV-074-D (D. Wyo. 2001) for “promulgating false and misleading statements about the impact of burning fossil fuels.” [20]

The lawsuit challenged an an advertisement in the New York Times on December 13, 1999, entitled “Global Warming-How Will It End?”
“When people say things about our business,” WFA's CEO and General Manager Frederick D. Palmer said, “and our effect on people in a public forum, in a New York Times’ ad, the Internet or national television, by God, they better be ready to back up what they say.

“I’m talking in the context of the Lanham Act,” he adds, “about people who are competing with us.”
The suit was subsequently dismissed by federal judgeAttorney Matthew F. Pawa, of Milstein, who represented the environmental groups, stated “Western Fuels' lawsuit is an obvious attempt to use a court  to harass and intimidate citizens concerned with global warming by subjecting them to expensive litigation in an inconvenient forum.” [21]

1998
 
The Greening Earth Society and WFA released a sequel to their 1991 video, titled “The Greening of Planet Earth Continues.” Emily Headen of the Clearinghouse on Environmental Advocacy and Research (CLEAR) provided the following review: [9]
“The Western Fuels Association is recycling a tired plot. It‘s a re-run of the corporate denial we‘ve seen from the tobacco companies’ paid scientists.” 
The CLEAR report outlined WFA's “global warming denial habit,” referring to WFA's 1998 annual report, which read “We lost $583,000 in 1997 […even though] Western Fuels is operating substantially in the black […] Our half-million dollar
shortfall is due entirely to our advocacy in the area of climate change.” [9]



The full video is available below:


 

January, 1997

WFA commissioned Craig D. Idso to prepare a report, titled “Greening of planet earth : its progression from hypothesis to theory.” [22]

May, 1995

Richard LindzenFrederick SeitzRobert Balling JrPatrick Michaels, and Keith Idsoserved as expert witnesses on behalf of Western Fuels Association in St. Paul, Minnesota to determine the environmental cost of coal burning by state power plants. [11]

They provided written testimony (document id 18319 and 13820 [34], [35]) and verbal testimony, about which Ross Gelbspan'sThe Heat Is On(1995) is a key source: [11] Testimony documents below, via Greenpeace research documents:

  • 05/22/95 - Richard Lindzen [31]
  • 05/23/95 - Richard Lindzen (cont), Pat Michaels. Note that, when asked, Lindzen noted WFA had paid expenses for a 1991 testimony [32]
  • 05/24/95 - Keith Idso and Robert C. Balling, Jr. [33]
1991/92

In 1991, the Western Fuels Association spent $250,000 to produce a video titled “The Greening of Planet Earth,” narrated by Sherwood Idso.


The video predicts large increases in crop yields from the doubling of the atmosphere's concentration of carbon dioxide. (See full video below). [23]


The WFA's video presented a number of well-debunked myths that have since been cataloged by SkepticalScience such as ”#120 CO2 is plant food,” “#5 “Models are unreliable” and “#56 Medieval Warm Period was warmer.” [24]

Shortly before the release of the video, WFA had been working with the National Coal Association and the Edison Electric Institute to create a group titled the “Information Council for the Environment (ICE).”

ICE's founding documents were leaked, and eventually made available online. The strategy was written in a document produced by the Western Fuels Association to “reposition global warming as theory (not fact),” reported Naomi Oreskes[25]

An official from the campaign denied that the strategy was ever implemented and said that the public relations  ”'program targeted … all the people in the communities' that were the objects of the campaign, according to Frederick Palmer, CEO of Western Fuels Association, Inc., and a vice-president of the Board of Directors of the ICE Campaign.” [26]

1990s
In the early 1990s, WFA and its director Fred Palmer were behind a targeted message to farmers and legislators promoting the idea that considerable doubt existed about the effect of carbon dioxide on global warming.

According to the Kansas City Star, then WFA Director Fred Palmer “confirmed in an interview that he created a nonprofit society that funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars into a public relations campaign to promote the idea that considerable doubt existed about the effect of carbon dioxide on global warming.”  [4]

Western Fuels Association Contact & Location

The Western Fuels Association listed the following contact information in its website as of May, 2016: [28]

Corporate Headquarters
12050 N. Pecos Street, Suite 310
Westminster, CO  80234
Phone: 720-697-6956
Fax: 720-697-6957
email [email protected]
Meri Sandlin, Chief Executive Officer and General Manager

Related Organizations

Greening Earth Society (Now-Defunct) [8]

Membership

According to its website, the Western Fuel Association's membership includes: [27]

“Class A Members”

“Class B Members”

  • Sikeston Board of Municipal Utilities
  • Arizona Electric Power Cooperative
  • Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp.
  • Arkansas River Power Authority
  • Associated Electric Cooperative, Inc.
  • City of Grand Island
  • City Utilities
  • Colorado Springs Utilities
  • Dairyland Power Cooperative 
  • Department Of Utilities
  • Great River Energy
  • Hastings Utilities
  • Heartland Consumers Power District
  • Lincoln Electric System
  • Lower Colorado River Authority
  • Missouri River Energy Services
  • Nebraska Public Power
  • Silicon Valley Power

Resources

  1. What We Do,” Western Fuels Association. Archived February 24, 2016. WebCite URLhttp://www.webcitation.org/6fXrESdQN

  2. Leadership Team,” Peabody Energy. Archived March 9, 2015. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmogBlog.

  3. Coal News: Fred Palmer joins an expanding Total Spectrum,” PennEnergy, January 20, 2016. Archived February 25, 2016. WebCite URLhttp://www.webcitation.org/6fYJM8ZSW

  4. Karen Dillon and David Klepper. “Lots of cash behind coal plant clash,” The Kansas City Star, March 30, 2008. Retrieved from America's News archive. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmogBlog.

  5. Graham Readfearn. “The Campaigns That Tried To Break The Climate Science Consensus,” DeSmogBlog, June 6, 2013. 

  6. “Distorting the Debate: A Case Study of Corporate Greenwashing” (PDFGreenpeace. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmogBlog.

  7. George Monbiot. “Case Studies,” Monbiot.com, December 7, 2009. Archived February 25, 2016. WebCite URLhttp://www.webcitation.org/6fYJfvKuO

  8. Join GES,” Greening Earth Society. Archived March 8, 2006. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmogBlog.

  9. “The Greening of Planet Earth Continues” (PDF), Clearinghouse on Environmental Advocacy and Research CLEAR, November 13, 1998. Retrieved from Documentcloud.org. Archived (PDF) February 24, 2016. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmogBlog.

  10. Scientific Advisors,” Greening Earth Society. Archived February 20, 1999. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmogBlog.

  11. Ross Gelbspan. “The Heat is On:The warming of the world's climate sparks a blaze of denial,” Harper's MagazineDecember, 1995. Archived February 25, 2016 from Dieoff.org. WebCite URLhttp://www.webcitation.org/6fY6GrVJv

  12. “The Greening of Planet Earth Continues (1998),” YouTube video uploaded by CO2Science, June 24, 2013. 

  13. Western Fuels Association Annual Report 2014/2015” (PDF), August 5, 2015. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmogBlog.

  14. Multiple-Part Question Submitted by K. Estrada, with Our Answers Italicized in Brackets,” CO2 Science. Archived February 24, 2016. WebCite URLhttp://www.webcitation.org/6fY0LPOQT

  15. Information on American Legislative Exchange Council,” Clearinghouse on Environmental Advocacy and Research. Archived December 2, 2000. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmogBlog.

  16. “Western Fuels Association Directors,” Western Fuels Association. Archived February 25, 2016. WebCite URLhttp://www.webcitation.org/6fYH5HXMK

  17. Management Team,” Western Fuels Association. Archived February 25, 2016. WebCite URLhttp://www.webcitation.org/6fYHUlxtY

  18. Board Officers,” Western Fuels Association. Archived February 25, 2016. WebCite URL: http://www.webcitation.org/6fYHe4BxZ 

  19. FREDRICK PALMER,” USEA. Archived February 25, 2016. WebCite URLhttp://www.webcitation.org/6fYIRkJJS

  20. David Rubenstein. “Six Environmental Groups Slapped by Coal Association: The Global Warming Debate Heats Up” (PDF)Corporate Legal Times, July, 2000.  Archived February 24, 2016. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmogBlog.

  21. (Press Release). “Environmental Organizations Defeat Coal Industry SLAPP Suit,CTA International Center for Technology Assessment, April 5, 2001. Archived July 16, 2007. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmogBlog.

  22. Craig D. Idso. “Greening of planet earth : its progression from hypothesis to theory,” Western Fuels Association, Inc., 1997. Accessed at WorldCat.org. 

  23. U.S. Coal Industry: Global Warming Is Good For Us,” The Heat Is OnlineArchived February 24, 2016. WebCite URLhttp://www.webcitation.org/6fY0b8gLo 

  24. Skeptic Arguments and What the Science Says,” Skeptical Science. Last updated July 26, 2010.

  25. “You Can Argue with the Facts: The Denial of Global Warming” (PDF). Original .ppt retrieved from American Institute of Physics. PDF archived at DeSmogBlog.

  26. The Coal Industry's 'ICE' Campaign (1999),” The Heat Is Online. Archived February 24, 2016. WebCite URLhttp://www.webcitation.org/6fY2yY59Q

  27. Our Members,” Western Fuels Association. Archied February 25, 2016. WebCite URLhttp://www.webcitation.org/6fYIwgi8Ihttp://www.webcitation.org/6fYIwgi8I

  28. Contact,” Western Fuels Association. Archived May 29, 2016. WebCite URL: http://www.webcitation.org/6hrEHdskm

  29. Bob Burton. “Arch Coal funded US ‘libertarian’ think tank and ALEC,” EndCoal.org, March 2, 2016. Archived June 23, 2016. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmogBlog.

  30. “In re: ARCH COAL, INC., et al., Debtors” (PDF) UNITED STATES BANKRUPTCY COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI EASTERN DIVISION. March 9, 2016. Retrieved from Prime Clerk case archive. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmogBlog.

  31. Environmental Costs (PDF), Vol. 8 (May 22, 1995). Retrieved from Greenpeace USA. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

  32. Environmental Costs (PDF), Vol. 8 (May 23, 1995). Retrieved from Greenpeace USA. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

  33. Environmental Costs (PDF), Vol. 8 (May 23, 1995). Retrieved from Greenpeace USA. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

  34. Dear Dr. Haar,” Doherty Rumble & Butler, March 15, 1995. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

  35. “Curriculum Vita” (PDF), March 6, 1995. Archived .pdf on file at Desmog.

  36. Western Fuels Association Directors,” Western Fuels Association. Archived December 3, 2015. Archive.is URLhttps://archive.is/aiQxx

  37. Board of Directors,” Western Fuels Association. Archived November 1, 2014. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/coayV

  38. Board of Directors,” Western Fuels Association. Archived October 21, 2013. Archive.is URLhttps://archive.is/2Huok

  39. Board of Directors,” Western Fuels Association. Archived August 17, 2012. Archive.is URLhttps://archive.is/tntOn

  40. Board of Directors,” Western Fuels Association. Archived July 23, 2011. Archive.is URLhttps://archive.is/6R8q6

  41. Board of Directors,” Western Fuels Association. Archived February 14, 2010. Archive.is URLhttps://archive.is/lL7Fa

  42. 1991 Information Council for the Environment Public Relations Collection,” Contributed by Climate Investigations, Climate Investigations Center. Retrieved from DocumentCloud. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

Other Resources