Friday, October 12, 2012

Who Is Mary Anne Sullivan?

At the center of CLF's charge that Northern Pass Transmission LLC (NPT) exerted undue influence on the selection of the EIS contractor is NPT's counsel, Attorney Mary Anne Sullivan. Who is she?

The Conservation Law Foundation's allegation

"NPT’s counsel – who was once DOE’s top lawyer and still appears to have extraordinary access and influence at DOE – handpicked the new EIS contractor team, with what appears to be minimal DOE involvement. Counsel for NPT acted as the new contractor team’s agent, recruiting the team, pulling together its submission of qualifications and a work plan proposal to DOE, and organizing a face-to-face meeting between DOE, NPT, and the team. It appears DOE conducted no real search of its own, in violation of governing regulations requiring that EIS contractors be chosen 'solely' by DOE" (CLF blog).

Sullivan's career

Sullivan received her J. D. from Yale University in 1976.

From 1977 - 1993, Sullivan was in private practice as a member of the energy group of a Washington D. C. law firm, Hogan & Hartson. She represented oil, gas, coal, and electricity interests before the Department of Energy (DOE), U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Department of Treasury, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The next phase of Sullivan's career was with the DOE. From 1994 to 1998, she was the DOE's Deputy General Counsel for environment and nuclear programs. In 1998, President Clinton appointed Sullivan as the DOE's top lawyer. She served as General Counsel of the DOE until 2001.

Sullivan then returned to Hogan & Hartson (which subsequently became Hogan Lovells), where she is currently partner. At the top of her list of experience, she includes "representing the developer of a major new electric transmission project in a Presidential Permit proceeding before DOE."

Sullivan's Continuing Involvement with DOE

In the last several years, Sullivan has defended the DOE's troubled loan guarantee program for renewable energy projects against critics. When Russian battery maker Ener1 Inc. went bankrupt, Sullivan argued that it was still a good investment:

"In an interview today, Mary Anne Sullivan, a former DOE general counsel who now serves as head of the law firm Hogan Lovells’ energy regulatory practice in Washington, D.C., said Ener1′s bankruptcy announcement does not mean the company failed to advance the development of lithium-ion batteries.

"'The mere fact that they haven’t been able to make their business case so far doesn’t take away from the fact that they may have made a valuable contribution to the development of advanced batteries that will have a bright future,'
Sullivan said." [January 30, 2012]

"Mary Anne Sullivan, who previously served as DOE general counsel and now heads law firm Hogan Lovells' energy regulatory practice in Washington, D.C., said: "You want the government to be where the private sector sees a risk they won't take. But it calls for judgment. There is no formula that tells you, 'Yes, this will succeed,' or, 'No, this won't.''' [April 8, 2012]

And when Energy Secretary Stephen Chu testified before a house investigation panel in November 2011 concerning Solyndra, another DOE backed renewable energy project that went bankrupt, Attorney Sullivan provided a third-party opinion that justified the legality of the DOE's loan:

"Democrats also plan to tout a letter written by Mary Anne Sullivan, former Energy Department general counsel during the Clinton administration, that says the department's decision to restructure the loan guarantee in February was legal. The letter supports the conclusions made by DOE Chief Counsel Susan Richardson in a February memo that justifies the restructuring." [November 16, 2011]

Sullivan and the First EIS Contractor, Normandeau

Attorney Sullivan initially dismissed calls for removing Normandeau because of conflict of interest (Feb. 16, 2011 letter), but later reversed course because of what she termed "strong expressions of concern by certain members of the public" (March 7, 2011 letter).

Sullivan and the "Well-Organized" Opposition to Northern Pass

In a recent interview concerning opening up public lands to the development of renewable energy projects, Sullivan worries that there will not be enough qualified government staff to move the projects along in a "business-sensitive time frame."

But Attorney Sullivan also worries about what happens when private citizens organize effectively to oppose the development of energy projects on their own land:

But don’t think the delays are only caused by encroachments on public lands. "I’m involved in a transmission project that involves both public and private lands, and I cannot say that the public land section is more difficult. Private land is extremely challenging as well when the opposition is well-organized," Sullivan concluded. [January 31, 2012]

If you would like to reach out and express your thoughts to Attorney Sullivan about the current EIS contractor, her email address is