Here’s who scored White House climate sit-downs

By Robin Bravender, Timothy Cama | 02/14/2023 01:41 PM EST

Environmentalists, labor leaders and industry representatives met with senior White House climate officials, according to new visitor logs.

John Podesta.

John Podesta, senior adviser to President Joe Biden, on Capitol Hill on Dec. 14, 2021. Francis Chung/E&E News

On a Friday in mid-October, influential environmental advocates huddled with President Joe Biden’s senior adviser John Podesta to urge the administration to use cash from the massive new climate law to benefit public lands.

“Of course we want to speak to the person who’s implementing the Inflation Reduction Act to emphasize our interest in spending the money to restore public lands and national parks,” said Kristen Brengel, senior vice president of government affairs at the National Parks Conservation Association.

Brengel was one of 11 conservation leaders who huddled with Podesta in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Oct. 15, according to White House visitor logs. Biden hired Podesta in September as his top White House official tasked with implementing the sweeping climate and clean energy law that passed last year, which Democrats dubbed the Inflation Reduction Act.


Also present during that October meeting: Loren Blackford of the Sierra Club, Brendon Cechovic of the Western Conservation Foundation, Christy Goldfuss (who was then with the Center for American Progress and has since moved to the Natural Resources Defense Council), Daniel Hartinger and Jamie Williams of the Wilderness Society, Gene Karpinski of the League of Conservation Voters, Amy Kenney with the National Ocean Protection Coalition, GreenLatinos’ Mark Magaña, Shannon Colbert of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, and the Conservation Lands Foundation’s Brian Sybert.

The crowd discussed using the Antiquities Act to preserve lands, Brengel said, and conservationists expressed their appreciation for funding in the climate law that goes toward national parks and the Bureau of Land Management to work on restoration and resilience.

That meeting was one of many that Biden’s top climate and clean energy officials held in the White House last October, according to the most recent visitor logs released this month by the Biden administration. The records offer insight into the CEOs, senior EPA aides, solar energy advocates, European officials, labor leaders and others who snagged coveted White House sit-downs as the administration got to work implementing the biggest climate law in U.S. history.

Valdis Dombrovskis, the European Commission’s commissioner for trade, had a “short meeting” on Oct. 14 with Podesta, along with some other European officials including Michael Curtis, the European Union’s deputy ambassador to the United States, as part of a visit to Washington that month by Dombrovskis, said Miriam Garcia Ferrer, an EC spokesperson. It was focused on Inflation Reduction Act implementation; Dombrovskis and other officials have been harshly critical of the U.S. law, arguing that it amounts to unfair subsidies for domestic industries, according to POLITICO.

Podesta brought in Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase & Co., on Oct. 13, along with Dimon’s chief of staff, Judith Miller. Stripe Inc., an online payment processor that allows users to contribute to carbon dioxide removal efforts, got a meeting, as well; executives Patrick Collison and Amy Roberti met with Podesta on Oct. 13.

Labor leaders, industry executives

Podesta also met with labor leader Stephen Lerner and United Auto Workers representatives Joshua Nassar and Cindy Estrada on Oct. 5, the records show.

Kristina Costa, Podesta’s deputy, hosted Jason Walsh, Ben Beachy and Katie Harris from the BlueGreen Alliance later that month. That group represents labor unions and environmental groups, and advocates for policies that benefit both.

“We met to discuss implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act and division of labor on implementation within the Executive Office of the President,” Walsh said. “We also reviewed expectations of timing and process on Treasury guidance with respect to the IRA’s clean energy tax credits.”

Podesta hosted Wendell Weeks, chair and CEO of Corning Inc., for a huddle on Oct. 11, the logs show. Weeks is a White House regular; he previously met with Podesta in September and joined Biden in July during a White House roundtable with CEOs to discuss the U.S. economy (Greenwire, Jan. 9).

Roger Martella, General Electric Co.’s chief sustainability officer, and GE’s Scott Strazik met with Podesta on Oct. 14. Martella served as EPA’s general counsel during the George W. Bush administration.

On Oct. 5, Podesta met with Mike Carr, Suzi Emmerling and Christine Turner of Boundary Stone Partners. They were at the White House representing the Solar Energy Manufacturing for America Coalition, Emmerling told E&E News. They spoke to Podesta about “what would benefit domestic solar manufacturing,” she said.

Sara Menker and Michael Simonetti of Gro Intelligence met with Podesta Oct. 13. The officials from Gro, a data analytics firm specializing in food and agriculture commodities, shared data on climate and commodity pricing, said Kalee Kreider of public affairs firm Ridgely Walsh, who accompanied them.

Clinton CEQ chair, N.Y. officials

White House National Climate Adviser Ali Zaidi met with Clinton-era Council on Environmental Quality Chair Katie McGinty in October. McGinty, who is now vice president and chief sustainability and external relations officer for Johnson Controls, was joined at the meeting by Craig Sharman, Johnson Controls’ senior director of federal government relations.

“Johnson Controls met with senior level members of the Administration to discuss our joint goal to reduce carbon emissions and increase energy efficiency in buildings, which are responsible for approximately 40 percent of global emissions,” said spokesperson Kari Pfisterer.

A handful of EPA officials met with Zaidi, who leads the White House Climate Policy Office, on Oct. 6: Alison Cassady, Zealan Hoover and Alejandra Nunez. Cassady, who was EPA’s deputy chief of staff for policy, moved to Podesta’s office that month as an adviser.

Zaidi also hosted Doreen Harris, president and CEO of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, and Democratic New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s deputy director of federal affairs, Michelle Marchello, on Oct. 21. Zaidi served as New York’s deputy secretary for energy and environment before he joined the Biden administration.

He and the New York officials discussed “shared climate and clean energy priorities between New York State and the nation,” said Kate Muller, NYSERDA’s vice president of corporate communications, events and marketing.

Werner Hoyer, president of the European Investment Bank, had a meeting with Zaidi Oct. 13, along with Ambroise Fayolle, the bank’s vice president.