A Democratic corporate lobbyist for ExxonMobil and other major corporations sits as chairman of the City of Charleston Environment Committee.
Charleston, West Virginia Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin appointed the lobbyist, City Council member Sam Minardi, to the position earlier this year.
The Environment Committee has taken no action this year since Minardi was appointed.
In addition to being an elected city council member, Minardi runs a corporate lobbying shop in the capital city – Minardi Public Affairs.
“Our job is to influence decision makers and shape the outcome of legislative, regulatory and political issues to then benefit of our diverse client roster,” Minardi writes on the Minardi Public Affairs website. “Clients benefit from our expertise in the government process, and extensive bipartisan relationships, to gain access to the top decision makers in both the Executive and Legislative branches of government.”
In addition to ExxonMobil, the West Virginia Ethics Commission Lobbyist Directory lists among Minardi’s other clients General Motors, Waste Management and Eastern Gas Transmission and Storage.
In recent years, Minardi has also represented FirstEnergy Corporation.
Why would Mayor Goodwin appoint a lobbyist for these companies to be head of the Environment Committee? (Mayor Goodwin and Council Member Minardi did not respond to requests for comment.)
In 2021, federal prosecutors in Ohio charged FirstEnergy in connection with a public corruption scandal.
To settle the charges, FirstEnergy entered into a deferred prosecution agreement, paid a $230 million monetary penalty and admitted that it “conspired with public officials and other individuals and entities to pay millions of dollars to public officials in exchange for specific official action for FirstEnergy Corp.’s benefit.”
As a condition of that deferred prosecution agreement, FirstEnergy was required to publicly report payments “to entities known by FirstEnergy to be operating for the benefit of a public official, either directly or indirectly for time periods beginning January 1, 2021.”
In one such recent report, FirstEnergy says it made a May 2021 payment of $12,000 to Minardi Public Affairs and a September 2021 payment of $21,000 to Minardi Public Affairs for “government relations and legislative consulting services.”
In other news, the West Virginia legislature has just passed legislation (HB 3308) that would require state ratepayers to pick up the full cost of plants jointly regulated by other jurisdictions when regulators in those jurisdictions require a plant to stop operating.
The Charleston Gazette reported today that the West Virginia Public Service Commission, Appalachian Power and FirstEnergy “have touted that provision as a way to spread out costs recovered by utilities from captive ratepayers over time and to reduce rate shock.”
But James Van Nostrand, director of the Center for Energy and Sustainable Development at the West Virginia University College of Law, has criticized HB 3308 as a way for utilities to avoid consequences of mismanaging power costs, the Gazette reported.
[Updated March 1, 2023 6:35 pm. A couple of hours after we posted this story, we received an email from Mayor Goodwin’s office. “Council Member Minardi notified the City, about a month ago, when he took on new clients that he thought may be a conflict and resigned as Chair,” Mayor Goodwin’s spokesperson Tina Stinson wrote. Although as of this writing, Minardi’s web page still lists him as Environment Committee Chair.]