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Let's Schmooze Scott Sklar, Sunny Side Up

Fortnightly Magazine - April 15 1998

Avenue. Then again, it takes chutzpa to be in his business. How many other lobbyists would welcome a microscopic look at their workaday life? None but Sklar.

Hurwitch and Sklar share a laugh about the Clinton tête-à-tête, then talk about a shakeup at DOE and who will handle formulation of the restructuring bill there. One outcome: a DOE official will move to the World Bank, which could be a plus for funding renewable projects.

Soon Sklar is slashing at his throat (his beard really), apparently to end the sensitive chat.

Hurwitch orders breakfast and Sklar gets a second course: another English muffin, an egg over easy, some "very dry grits" and a second cappuccino.

"Did I tell you about our Carol Browner meeting that went so horrible? So I bring the industry, from all over the country to meet with Carol Browner," the EPA chief. "The worst meeting in the world I have ever had with a federal official."

"Them and DOE are in open warfare," Hurwitch says.

"But here [we are], a trade association that worships EPA, supports every crazy thing they've ever done, we might as well have blown our brains out¼ I bring four small business guys¼ [one is] the biggest solar pool heating company¼ They go around talking about what they do. And [Browner] is stonefaced¼ And she goes 'I hate swimming pools.' And he goes, 'Why?' And she goes, 'Well, they're just vats of chemicals.'"

"Did you get into Kyoto and her boss [Vice President Al Gore] talking about environmental regulation via technology?"

"I asked for seven things, none of which really cost money. [Two senior EPA officials] were nodding like crazy and she didn't commit to a damn thing."

Throughout breakfast, Sklar never takes a note. He won't jot down a single digit the rest of the day; the light of experience fueling some kinetic memory aid.

9:55 A.M. Breakfast breaks up. Sklar's running 10 minutes late for an office staff meeting. He pays for the meal, pockets his credit card (embossed with the sun), and heads outside to his minivan. Back at the SEIA office building garage off C Street N.W., he parks in a yellow striped "No Parking" zone, squeaking a tire against the curb.

He shows his visitor the fourth floor offices of the association, making way for a conference room cluttered with gadgets: an indoor-outdoor animal waterer called a Solar Sipper, books, papers, solar panels, sun-faced paperweights.

A magnum of Fetzer 1991 Sundial Chardonnay sits on the floor, choked in a web of wires leading to a phone, VCR and TV. The room's walls are splattered with pictures: Sklar and Clinton, Gore, Energy Secretary Federico Peña, Sen. Dale Bumpers, Gore again, and framed letters embossed with every eagle that flies over every branch of government.

Sklar disappears, apparently to his office, an igloo of paper and paraphernalia, to make phone calls. Hurwitch makes one last pitch for his friend: "No one's neutral about Scott," he says. "They either love him or they hate him. Either way, they respect him."

10:10 A.M. Sklar