Look Who's Ready for a Fight: Hewlett Spends Big to Defend Those EPA Carbon Limits

The EPA’s proposal to slash emissions from coal plants has climate activists feeling uncharacteristically optimistic. It’s also likely going to draw more fire than the Obama administration has seen since the Affordable Care Act. The country’s top environmental groups are preparing to defend the rules, and Hewlett has their back.

This undercores what we were just saying about Hewlett the other day: This funder is a fighter for progressive policies, even as it calls its grantmaking "non-ideological" and prepares to blow $50 million spinning its wheels on a "Kumbaya" initiative to end polarization. 

Environmentalists are well aware that any substantial climate legislation is likely doomed in this or any near-future Congress, so the survival and implementation of the EPA rules proposed in June are the best chance they have at meaningful reductions in U.S. power plant emissions. Hewlett recently made a $2.5 million grant to a dream team of green groups to make sure the coal rules survive and stay strong. 

It will be no small task. The rules that would reduce carbon emissions from coal plants 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030 were celebrated as the strongest move the federal government has taken to fight climate change. But almost immediately, Republicans and industry lined up to announce opposition and the intention to block the move, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell getting downright Shakespearean by calling the proposal a “dagger in the heart of the American middle class.”

As such, a coalition of the country’s top green groups is pooling efforts on a campaign to defend the EPA’s ability to make such rules and to make sure they are well designed and implemented. Known as the Partnership Project, the coalition formed in 1999, teaming up 20 of the most influential advocacy groups working on environmental issues. A barely public, behind-the-scenes way to align the efforts of many environmental advocates, the Partnership Project combines the influence of the groups and their sizable memberships toward common interests. 

Members include the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, the EDF, League of Conservation Voters, the Audubon, the NRDC, the WWF, just to name the most prominent. Such groups don’t always see eye to eye on how to achieve the goals of protecting the environment, but they can all certainly agree on a campaign like this. 

In fact, the very existence of the EPA coal plant rules, in part at least, owe a debt to the groups in the Partnership Project, which contributed to the record-breaking 3.2 million comments the EPA received in support of regulating carbon emissions. Work on the ground in support of these regulations has been happening for a long time.  

Since 2003, the Hewlett Foundation, one of the country’s largest climate funders, has granted the Partnership Project more than $10 million, including the most recent grant for just over $2.5 million for the next year. Grants began to escalate in size since 2012, when Hewlett gave $3.5 million to the coalition. 

Hewlett is probably the most prominent backer of the coalition, but it’s actually not the biggest. That honor would go to Sea Change, the secretive foundation of Nathaniel Simons, son of science funder Jim Simons. Learn more about all that here.

Hewlett Foundation: Grants for Climate Change