Maine State Housing Director Dale McCormick has entered into a deal with Chevrolet to sell carbon offset credits from the weatherization of Maine homes, but today refused to reveal to the MSHA board of commissioners the pricing details of the agreement. McCormick’s multi-million dollar carbon trading venture is coming under intense scrutiny from the board, as questionable financial decisions from the authority continue to be revealed.
McCormick has paid consultants hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop a process to quantify the amount of carbon saved when a home is weatherized. MSHA paid Lee International more than $370,000 over the last three years to help develop the project, which has thus far generated no revenue. Lee International is run by Catherine Lee, a major Democrat donor and member of the Lee Auto Mall family. Her brother Adam Lee is the chair of Efficiency Maine, and the two are the children of long-time Democrat funder Shep Lee.
McCormick Tuesday emphatically praised herself for her work on the carbon trading program, saying that her overview of the project in 2010 resulted in the only applause she’d ever received at a board meeting. McCormick insists that the program will yield over $4 million, based on a contract she has signed with auto-giant Chevrolet. However, when pressed for details of the transaction, McCormick cited a non-disclosure provision that prevented her from revealing the pricing details.
The Maine State Housing Authority is subject to Maine’s Freedom of Access Act, making it questionable whether the agency can legally negotiate such an agreement. The Maine Heritage Policy Center, upon learning of McCormick’s refusal to reveal pricing details to her own board, filed an immediate Freedom of Access Act request for the details of the arrangement.
McCormick’s secrecy may stem from earlier reports by Bloomberg that show Chevrolet’s deal with Maine Housing resulted in the sale of carbon credits far below market value. In a June 2011 article titled ‘Chevy Offsets Corvette Carbon With Inflated Green Housing Claim’, Bloomberg’s Ben Elgin details the pricing discrepancy:
“In Maine, the funds from General Motors Co. (GM)’s biggest brand will eliminate as much as 1,224 tons of carbon by 2014, based on data compiled by Bloomberg. That amounts to less than 3 percent of the 45,738 tons of reductions the credits Chevrolet says it will claim over the same period.”
The article describes the Chevrolet deal as one in a series of efforts by major polluters to claim offsets on carbon reductions that would have happened anyway, regardless of their financial involvement. Such is clearly the case in Maine, as MSHA’s weatherization efforts are being funded by the federal government, not Chevrolet.
Michael Wara, a Stanford assistant professor and scholar of environmental law, tells Bloomberg, “It looks like a deceptive marketing claim. If a project can’t show that it is changing behavior, it’s not clear what you’re buying other than a piece of paper.”
MSHA has also spent millions of dollars on a computer tracking system to facilitate the carbon quantification project. Board chair Peter Anastos Tuesday estimated the total expenditures to be nearly $6 million, though McCormick questioned the claim.
The Maine Wire will continue to report on the ongoing the carbon controversy as details emerge.