Fracking North Carolina:
In North Carolina, Halliburton and other fracking industry interests helped write a fracking chemical disclosure bill. But when that bill ended up requiring disclosure of harmful chemicals to the state environmental agency, the bill was killed and replaced with one that further limited disclosure of the chemicals used in fracking.
A cache of emails obtained by Greenpeace has revealed the cozy relationship between the hydraulic fracturing industry and North Carolina’s Mining and Energy Commission.
The Mining and Energy Commission (MEC) was set up after an errant vote by a state senator legalized fracking in North Carolina. Because the state had not seen oil and gas drilling in recent history, the Mining and Energy Commission was tasked with writing oil and gas regulations, specifically for fracking. The 15 members of the MEC propose regulations for fracking, which are then passed on to the North Carolina legislature to be turned into law.
Emails and meeting schedules from members of the North Carolina’s Mining and Energy Commission reveal how various fracking companies and national lobby groups, including America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA), Energy in Depth (EID), Halliburton, and Koch Industries, influenced the Mining and Energy Commissioners, in regards to disclosure of chemicals used in fracking.
Halliburton has played a significant role in shaping potential fracking regulations in North Carolina. In March of 2013, the Commissioners approved a chemical disclosure bill in committee which would have required fracking companies to disclose to the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) the chemical ingredients in fracking fluid, many of which are extremely toxic. However, Halliburton, a major fracking services company, raised some reservations which killed the bill, as AP reporter Michael Biesecker confirmed:
In an interview with AP, Mining and Energy Commission Chairman Jim Womack acknowledged that before deciding to delay the vote, he spoke with a senior Halliburton executive.
“They indicated to me in a phone conversation that there may be other options than what was written in that rule,” Womack said.
The bill was taken off the agenda by Womack, and sent back to be rewritten by the chemical disclosure committee.
Commissioner Womack himself is not worried about water contamination from fracking. He once said:
“You’re more likely to have a meteorite fall from the sky and hit you on the head than you are to contaminate groundwater with fracking fluid percolating up from under the ground.”
Halliburton has always cast a long shadow over the MEC. Commissioner Vikram Rao was at Halliburton for over 30 years, ultimately as the company’s Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer. He maintains a significant financial stake in Halliburton, and also has over $10,000 invested in BioLargo, a company involved in disposal of fracking wastewater.
Rao has also called the idea of disclosing the contents of frackfluid “a joke.”
Documents obtained by Greenpeace also reveal that the shale industry was close with one commissioner in particular.
George Howard, the pro-fracking conservationist
George Howard serves as vice chairman of the MEC, and as the chairman of the chemical disclosure committee, which is tasked with creating regulations for frack fluid and other fracking chemicals. He was appointed by North Carolina’s Senate President Pro-Tem Philip E. Berger to serve in one of two “conservation” slots on the MEC. Berger received $46,700 in campaign contributions from fracking interests between 2009 and 2011.
In his tenure as Mining and Energy Commissioner, George Howard has been a strong proponent of hydraulic fracturing. He has said that public fears around fracking are exaggerated and that responding to public pressure is “pandering.” He has also claimed “it is physically impossible for hydraulic fracturing – the full industry term for fracking – to contaminate underground aquifers.”
In addition to serving as commissioner for the MEC, Howard is the founder and CEO of Restoration Systems, an environmental remediation company. Through Restoration Systems, Howard has a significant financial stake in the fracking industry, including a multi-million dollar shale play project in Pennsylvania. Howard has also invested in the area of North Carolina most likely to be leased by fracking companies.
Howard is connected to other top regulators, especially John Skvarla, the Head of North Carolina’s Department of Environmental and Natural Resources (DENR), who was president of Restoration Systems before becoming an environmental regulator. DENR would be the agency responsible for enforcing fracking laws recommended by the MEC.
Halliburton/Koch Industries Lobbyist Pushed ALEC fracking bill
Documents obtained by Greenpeace include correspondence between George Howard and various representatives of the oil and gas industry during the creation of the first chemical disclosure bill. Howard had multiple meetings with the American Petroleum Institute (API) and spoke with high-ranking members of the American Natural Gas Association (ANGA). Howard specifically requested help from Energy In Depth (EID), an oil and gas front group run by the PR firm FTI Consulting and funded by the fracking industry. Howard asked Steve Everley, the spokesman for EID and an FTI Consulting operative, to help him prepare for a MEC meeting on chemical disclosure.
Although George Howard met with and solicited information from multiple shale industry groups, one lobbyist was particularly influential. Bowen Heath, who represents Halliburton, Koch Industries, and various other oil and gas interests for the lobbying firm McGuireWoods, had unparalleled access to the Commission. Emails reveal a chummy relationship between George Howard and Heath, who spent evenings together and went for beers in the afternoons.
Heath used that access to advocate for a fracking chemical disclosure system that allows generous exemptions for chemicals that companies deem “trade secrets.”
Heath provided a fracking chemical disclosure bill to Howard that the shale industry and its political allies previously passed in Colorado. The Colorado bill was based on a model bill from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate-funded group dedicated to passing legislation approved by ALEC’s corporate funders, including fracking companies like Chesapeake Energy. Bo Heath has longstanding ties to ALEC, and has attended ALEC annual meetings.
A New York Times investigation found that the Colorado chemical disclosure bill was the handiwork of one ALEC funder in particular, ExxonMobil.
As part of the push for the ALEC fracking bill passed in Colorado, Bo Heath arranged for Colorado ex-governor Bill Ritter to fly down to North Carolina to meet with George Howard and the MEC. The AP confirmed that Ritter’s fees and expenses were not paid by the MEC, and Bo Heath’s lobbying group refused to comment on Ritter’s funding.
Hallmarks of the ALEC fracking bill include generous exemptions from disclosure for “trade secrets,” and reliance on the FracFocus website for disclosing chemicals to the public. FracFocus’s operational costs are paid for by the oil and gas industry lobbying groups American Petroleum Institute (API) and America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA). FracFocus was found to be “severely lacking” as a regulatory tool by a recent Harvard study.
Heath continued to advocate for the industry/ALEC approach to chemical disclosure, and even brought in a key member of FracFocus, Mike Paque. Paque is the executive director of the Ground Water Protection Council (GWPC). The GWPC has long been an ally of the oil and gas industry, receiving funding from the American Petroleum Institute and other industry affiliates. Reports produced by GWPC are the backbone of the oil and gas industry’s claims about the safety of fracking. The GWPC also runs the FracFocus website, and advocates for its use.
Taking up his drinking buddy's suggestion, George Howard selected Paque as an expert witness for the MEC. Paque presented the industry-funded FracFocus website in an unrecorded meeting on December 18, 2012.
The New Bill Further Limits Disclosure
In the end, even though the bill that George Howard passed through committee was shot down by Jim Womack and Halliburton, it contained most of what Bo Heath and other industry lobbyists wanted. It used the API, ANGA funded website FracFocus for disclosure of chemicals, and exempted chemicals deemed trade secrets from being disclosed to the public on that website. However, Halliburton killed the bill because it required disclosure of all chemicals to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
The new bill, which has passed through the MEC committee and is headed for ratification in the State House of North Carolina, included a requirement to use the FracFocus website, following the ALEC fracking model legislation passed in multiple states. And like those states, trade secrets are not disclosed the state, or the public.
10 out of 11 Tea Party spokespeople quoted in major news outlets regarding the IRS scandal have ties to the Koch funded Americans for Prosperity.
The Internal Revenue Service, not the most popular government agency to begin with, has been in the midst of a scatological squall for the past 3 weeks over their treatment of tea party groups. According to an agency spokesperson, organizations garnered additional scrutiny of their applications for non-profit status for having “Tea Party, Patriot, or 9/12” in the application materials. Non-profit status is granted by the IRS for “social welfare organizations” and federal law puts legal limits to the amount of overtly political things you can do if you are applying to be a non-profit, and thus tax-exempt.
In the coverage of this story, now a scandal, there are a couple of important facts that some of the reporting has missed.
First is the fact that the tea party is a creation of enterprising political and public relations professionals, constructed to accomplish a political purpose. A study published in the Tobacco Control Journal actually traced the origins of the tea party to “free-market” groups founded by tobacco corporations and the oil industry billionaires David and Charles Koch.
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="738"] This map, created by researchers at UC San Francisco, shows the historical links between tobacco corporations, moneyed interests like the Koch brothers, and the modern tea party.[/caption]
According to researchers at UC San Francisco:
“Rather than being a grassroots movement that spontaneously developed in 2009, the Tea Party organizations have had connections to the tobacco companies since the 1980s. The cigarette companies funded and worked through Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE), the predecessor of Tea Party organizations, Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks, to accomplish their economic and political agenda.”
Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE), was founded in 1984 by the Koch brothers.
There is even a tea party website registered to a Koch group in 2005, long before the conservative outcry we now know as the tea party began.
The second thing to keep in mind is that the tea party is still controlled by enterprising political and public relations professionals, funded by the David and Charles Koch. In coverage of the IRS scandal, there were 11 people who were involved in tea party groups quoted about IRS scrutiny. Of those 11, 10 have substantial ties to Americans for Prosperity (AFP). As you can see from the chart above, AFP (also founded and funded by the Kochs), is the direct descendent of CSE - one of the groups who registered a tea party site in 2005. Of those 10 with ties to AFP, 2 actually work for the organization currently. All 10 have received aid from AFP which included help with messaging and communication.
The tea party groups that were scrutinized by the IRS are not just separate grassroots citizen groups unfairly accused of political shenanigans, as the Koch associated spokespeople in the media would have you believe. They are one part of a wider political strategy, funded and managed by a very wealthy few. they have uniform and coordinated messages, such as attacking climate science and opposing environmental regulations.
As this IRS scandal progresses, it is important to keep in mind that many of the tea party groups in question deserve to have their non-profit, tax-exempt status questioned. The New York Times has already found that several tea party groups investigated by the IRS were engaged in activities that are illegal for tax exempt groups.
For the record, Greenpeace and Rainforest Action Network experienced expensive and debilitating audits by the IRS during George W Bush’s presidency. Those audits were most likely at the behest of an Exxon funded front group.
Tea Party Spokespeople with ties to Americans For Prosperity (AFP)
Tom Zawistowski: quoted in the Wall Street Journal and other sources
- AFP funded his tea party conference
Margie Dresher: Quoted by ABC news
- Currently works for AFP
Toby Marie Walker: Quoted by Business Insider
- earned the "Watchdog of the Month" award in March and the “Tea Party Leader of the Year -2010” from Americans for Prosperity
Jennifer Stefano: Quoted by ABC news
- currently works for Americans for Prosperity as state director of Americans for Prosperity - Pennsylvania
Carol Waddell: Quoted by ABC news
- AFP trained Waddell and her Waco tea party group
- AFP coordinated and helped fund the "Waco Tea Party’s Grassroots- Campaign, Leadership & Activist Survival School"
- Waddell and the Waco tea party joined tax day protest organized by AFP:
Tim Savaglio: Quoted by the Associated Press
- AFP trained Savaglio and his tea party group in tactics and messaging
- Radke was a key speaker at the "Smart Girl Summit", funded by AFP
- Radke, who is running for state senate in Virginia, has an "alliance" with AFP
Larry Norvig: Quoted by CNN
- Norvig's tea party group is part of AFP campaigns
- Norvig's tea party group in Virginia runs AFP funded campaigns and displays AFP messaging prominently on their website
Tim Curtis: Quoted by CNN
- Curtis is a speaker at AFP events
Susan McLaughlin: Quoted in Reuters
- AFP ran tactics and messaging strategy training for Mclaughlin's group in Liberty Township, Ohio.
- McLaughlin served on the Romney campaign's Conservative Leadership Coalition with representatives from AFP
Jay Devereaux: Quoted by Fox News
- The only tea party spokesman quoted in the media with no obvious ties to AFP
This means that Congressman Stewart now has dominion over the EPA, climate change research, and "all activities related to climate." According to the House Science Committees website (of which Stewart's subcommitee is a part), the chair of the Environment subcommittee oversees:
"all matters relating to environmental research; Environmental Protection Agency research and development; environmental standards; climate change research and development; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, including all activities related to weather, weather services, climate, the atmosphere, marine fisheries, and oceanic research;…"
Unfortunately for the EPA, NOAA, and anyone worried about climate change, Chris Stewart is a climate science denier. Mr. Stewart believes there is "insufficient science" to determine if climate change is caused by humans. He believes this in spite of the fact that the EPA, NOAA, and all experts in the field (which he now oversees), disagrees with him.
For the record, Chris Stewart has no advanced degrees in science. However, before running for congress he was owner and CEO of Shipley Group, a company that trains government workers on environmental issues. Shipley Group actually runs a training on climate change science, and according to the Shipley Group website "Upon completion of the workshop, participants will be able to understand basic climate change science." Clearly Mr. Stewart has never taken his company's training.
Ties to Fossil Fuels
Though Stewart seems to ignore climate change science (while his company profits by teaching it), he does not ignore the fossil fuel industry. In fact he is quite sympathetic to the plight of oil and gas companies. His campaign website claims:
"I am the CEO of a company that works extensively with independent energy producers. I understand how difficult it is to get a drilling permit on federal lands. It is painfully slow, incoherently arbitrary, and always expensive."
Stewart's "extensive" knowledge of the fossil fuel industry is not a surprise. His brother, Tim Stewart is a lobbyist for American Capitol Group, a washington DC lobbying firm. American capitol Group lobbies for fossil Fuel interests, like the Western Energy Alliance, a group mainly comprised of fracking and oil companies. Tim Stewart also lobbied for EnergyNorthAmerica, a company he cofounded to lobby for the Fossil Fuel Industry. One EnergyNorthAmerica slide presentation reads:
"The fact that fossil energy and mining are viewed by political "elites" with disfavor, a view driven by acolytes of radical environmentalism, has resulted in damaging laws and regulation and general neglect"
Unsurprisingly, the fossil fuel industry does not ignore Chris Stewart either. One of Stewart's books (which were published and praised by Glenn Beck), is recommended reading at Koch Industries. Stewart received the maximum possible campaign contribution from ExxonMobil and Koch Industries during his last campaign. He also received considerable support from several Koch and Exxon funded SuperPACs. All told, he received more funding from dirty energy companies and their superPACs than any other single source.
See Chris Stewart's PolluterWatch profile for more information.
As students in Michigan, Kansas and Virginia attempt to pin down evasive administrators to review grant contracts cut between billionaire Charles Koch and their universities, one campus is working to tie these regional movements together. Photos from across the U.S. are posted below.
Florida State University (FSU) students affiliated with the group FSU Progress coordinated various student groups at 20 campuses across the U.S. to push back against corporate donors who use money to weave their interests into the mission of universities: educating students. For FSU Progress, this not only means resisting the efforts of Charles Koch to capture colleges to wage his long-term political campaigns--at the expense of academic freedom--but protesting the rigged process by which a Koch-backed politician is poised to take FSU's presidency. Inside Higher Ed explains:
"Monday’s event, though, focused on the wider issue of "corporatization of higher education" and homed in on state Sen. John Thrasher’s appointment last month as president. He was approved despite strong objections from students and faculty members.
"Student activists with the FSU Progress Coalition are asking the state Board of Governors to reject Thrasher’s appointment at its meeting this week. About 80 students walked from campus to the Old Capitol Monday as part of a rally protesting the selection of Thrasher. There’s also a walkout and occupation of the president’s office planned for Thursday while the Board of Governors meets, said Lakey, a graduate student at Florida State who only goes by one name. [...]
"Thrasher also was chosen multiple times as legislator of the year by the conservative, Koch-supported American Legislative Exchange Council, Lakey said. And Allan Bense, chairman of the university’s board of trustees, is also chairman of the board of directors of the James Madison Institute, a Koch-funded think tank.
"Thrasher has denied any sort of relationship with the Koch brothers, although he has received modest campaign contributions from Kansas-based Koch Industries."
In solidarity, other campuses took action in solidarity with FSU student organizers.
George Mason University is by far the largest university benefactor of Koch money, receiving $24 million from 2005-2012, excluding tens of millions of dollars from Koch to two Koch-governed think tanks on campus. GMU student protestors petitioned their fellow students to help grow pressure on the GMU administration, which has so far failed to provide the transparency needed to prove to it students and professors that Koch money isn't exerting influence in the classroom. Photo below.
University of Virginia students hosted a teach-in on the student debt crisis that was conducted in solidarity with the FSU protests. Photo below.
Michigan State University students filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to obtain any grant agreements signed between MSU and the Charles Koch Foundation. MSU was Tweeting its support yesterday. Photos below.
Students at University of Kansas are awaiting the results of an open records request submitted in September, which their administration charged them $1,800 for. After making their case in a public op-ed in the Lawrence Journal-World, public supporters helped KU students raise the money needed to get documents relating to former Koch-lobbyist Art Hall who now runs a project in KU's business school with Koch grants. University of Maryland is being criticized by members of the Student Labor Action Project (SLAP). SLAP member Chris Bangert-Drowns noted the shady history of Koch Industries, which has faced a range of multi-million dollar fines, lawsuits, criminal and civil penalties for chemical leaks, oil spills, stealing from American Indians and wrongful death due to corporate negligence. Given Koch's history of profiting from such bad business conduct, Bangert-Drowns noted,
"In accepting the donation from the Charles Koch Foundation, this university is condoning the historically criminal, destructive and treacherous behavior of Koch Industries and its leaders."
As with UMD, students have questioned what Koch's six-figure grants are buying at George Washington University, a private school in Washington, DC. Last spring, Freshman student Kinjo Kimea wrote:
It’s impossible to tell whether strings are attached to this donation. The University has declined to disclose if there were any conditions that came with accepting the money. That should raise red flags. Students deserve to know whether politics play a role in these decisions. Donors can be outspoken Republicans or Democrats, yes, but fundraising requires transparency.
Koch is now noticing this nationwide revolt. In response to student protest, the Charles Koch Foundation just created "academic giving principles" that aim to gloss over the documented cases in which academic freedom took a back seat to Mr. Koch's preferences. This is consistent with the activities of Mr. Koch: micromanage the things you fund, and use fancy words to obscure what you're actually doing - in this case meddling with the education of high school and college students.
Charles Koch cannot hide his assault on academic freedom with words. Mr. Koch is attempting to buy a constituency which is actively developing its ability to think critically. Students and professors are asking the right questions, and Koch-funded university administrations aren't helping by behaving in secretive ways.
The primary suspect in examining nationwide attacks on academic freedom is billionaire Charles Koch. Greenpeace has documented that what little is known about the $50 million Koch sent to universities from 2005-2012 puts Mr. Koch's corporate ideologies ahead of the ability for faculty to teach concepts freely.
Resources: Day of Action against the Corporitization of Education.
- Facebook event page
- Twitter #UnKoch feed
- Announcement from Florida State University Students
- Greenpeace report: Koch on Campus: Polluting Higher Education
Photos from FSU and solidarity protests across the country:
Stand with students today to #unkoch our schools. Follow @FsuProgress to learn more. pic.twitter.com/pZNGIMywIZ — Greenpeace USA (@greenpeaceusa) November 3, 2014
.@SLAPUCF stands in #solidarity with Florida State students, faculty, and workers. #UnKoch #fightcorruption pic.twitter.com/E3VDIEJONE — SLAP - Student Labor (@studentlabor) November 3, 2014
.@slapumass supports FSU students, faculty & workers. #fightcorruption #UnKoch F$U #UnKochMyCampus #StopCorporateU pic.twitter.com/slI4yL9svR — SLAP - Student Labor (@studentlabor) November 3, 2014
GP staff standing w/students to #unkoch our schools. Take your own pic & post with #unkoch http://t.co/htCFuSFOAo pic.twitter.com/IMBiCUE3W7 — Greenpeace USA (@greenpeaceusa) October 30, 2014
.@floridastate alum and @greenpeaceusa staffer Florence stands w @FsuProgress to #UnKoch their campus! #highered pic.twitter.com/hIgtMSN5DI — Connor Gibson (@ClimateConnor) October 31, 2014
University of Oregon Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation
George Mason University students
Temple University (PA) Students
University of Virginia students
Michigan State University students and Grad Employees Union
American University students
If you're John Stossel and you want to host a segment to rail against the US Environmental Protection Agency, who ought you call?
It turns out, a man who was convicted and sentenced to six months in prison for defrauding the EPA!
Stossel's guest last night, Jay Lehr, was sentenced to six months--serving three--in a minimum security federal prison back in 1991, and his organization at the time was fined $200,000. So Jay Lehr knows about EPA corruption better than anyone: he was the guy caught "falsifying employee time sheets on a government contract" for EPA, according to the Columbus Dispatch.
Ironically, Lehr told Stossel that EPA is "fraudulent" in estimates of amounts of pollution that pose hazards to people's health, such as particulate matter in coal pollution, estimated to prematurely kill 13,000 Americans every year, according to the American Lung Association.
John Stossel did not mention Lehr's fraud conviction. Perhaps he didn't know his guest defrauded US taxpayers, but Stossel and Lehr share a flair for denial of global warming for polluting corporations like Koch Industries, which has financial ties to both men. Heartland is part of the Koch brothers-funded State Policy Network--the massive apparatus of state-based and national front groups that push political agendas that are favorable to billionaire executives like Charles Koch. Heartland itself has received money from Koch foundations.
Stossel hosts "Stossel in the Classroom," a product of the Koch-funded Center for Independent Thought. When Stossel ran a TV segment in 2009 that was intended to mislead students about the scientific reality of climate change, Koch's Claude Lambe Foundation gave CIT $35,000. The Center for Independent Thought has continued to receive money from Koch foundations every year since, according to IRS tax filings.
According to a Heartland Institute email advertising Lehr's attendance on Stossel's show, Mr. Lehr's relevance in attacking the EPA comes from a Heartland report he wrote urging the agency to be "systematically dismantled." This coming from a group soliciting money from coal company Murray Energy, former ExxonMobil lobbyist Randy Randol and the Charles Koch Foundation.
This all fits into the framework that is becoming nauseatingly familiar to American voters: billionaires pull the strings, and our voices don't matter. Stossel is just one of many Koch-funded or Koch friendly media personalities that wrap Charles Koch's values in patriotic rhetoric and un-factual packaging. Meanwhile, people like Jay Lehr at groups like Heartland continue to carry Koch's water into the policy arena, influencing politicians to do things like undermine enforcement of laws to reduce air and water pollution or mitigate dangerous climate change.
USA V. LEHR, ET AL, Case Number: 2:91-CR-00068, Charges Filed 04/26/1991, U.S. District Court Southern District of Ohio.
SHOWTIME's Years of Living Dangerously series just aired a segment featuring James Taylor, a lawyer who has been paid to confuse the public over the reality of climate change, its causes, and its impact on humanity. The Heartland Institute, where James Taylor works, is know for alienating its corporate supporters by comparing people like you and me--assuming you recognize the reality of climate change--to the Unabomber, Charles Manson, and Osama bin Laden.
I wish I was joking, but I'm not.
The joke was on James Taylor, last night. Taylor made an easily disprovable boast to America Ferrera, claiming, "I'm a scientist by training as well," apparently in addition to his law degree. See a teaser of that interaction here:
When pushed for an explanation--since Taylor holds no degree in science--he misrepresents himself:
"I successfully completed Ivy League atmospheric science courses, so I'm a scientist by training."
Who'd would've thought? Apparently if we all want to be scientists, we just need to take a course or two in science!
That means there must be thousands, perhaps millions of people in this country who qualify as scientists in James Taylor's world. Unless, of course, you have to take your science classes at the Ivy Leagues--I'll follow up with Taylor about that and let you know what he thinks.
After trying to spin his lack of expertise as full credentials, Taylor invokes the long-debunked "Oregon Petition" as supposed proof against climate change, despite the petition's inception as a tactic of the fossil fuel industry, its lack of climate experts as signatories, and its inclusion of fictitious characters like the Spice Girls.
As Lisa Graves at the Center for Media and Democracy explains in the Years of Living Dangerously segment,
"The scientific evidence is really against them, but they say things so boldly and stridently that it makes some people believe that they must be telling the truth."
She's right. It has to take a lot effort, creativity and sheer willpower to make a career pretending the obvious does not exist.
Imagine if The Heartland Institute's staff spent their time and money working on real solutions to these problems. Imagine if people like Koch and Murray felt the inevitable need for a shift, and put their skills as businesspeople into solutions-based entrepreneurship.
Unfortunately, these fossil fuel executives would rather fight against inevitable future trends, just like the Tobacco industry fought tooth and nail against scientific evidence of the dangers of smoking. In fact, The Heartland Institute continues to wage Big Tobacco's campaign. Check out this recent video of Heartland's president, Joe Bast, caught in an embarrassing contradiction of his own claims denying the health impacts of smoking:
The Heartland Institute, the American Legislative Exchange Council, Americans for Prosperity and other fossil fuel industry front groups have united to kill incentives for wind energy in Kansas. Affiliated under the banner of the State Policy Network, these groups have also coordinated against clean energy in states like North Carolina and Ohio, where dirty energy giants may score a victory against renewable industry jobs.
So far, most of the State Policy Network attacks on clean energy have failed. As Years of Living Dangerously examines in Kansas, leasing land for wind farms has benefited farmers like Pete Ferrell, who faced impossible economic conditions from recent extreme droughts, made worse by climate change, leasing land to the wind industry has provided crucial income.
Because of farmers like Pete, and blue-collar wind workers and other citizens who are pleased with getting energy from sources that doesn't poison their air, water or climate, Kansas politicians have now defeated attacks on renewable energy incentives three times in the last two years. More are likely to come, as companies like Duke Energy and Peabody coal don't want clean energy competitors, while executives at Koch Industries and Murray Energy Corporation still combat the science of climate change with the finance of misinformation.
That means we will continue to see people like James Taylor, popping up on our TV sets and our state legislatures, lying about whatever he's paid to lie about. Keep your eyes peeled.
Heartland Institute lawyer James Taylor, as illustrated in Greenpeace's report on climate change deniers: "Dealing in Doubt"
Crossposted from Greenpeace's blog, the EnvironmentaLIST.
Leaked American Legislative Exchange Council documents published by The Guardian recently offered a glimpse into ALEC's financial troubles, spurred by its role in peddling corporate laws through statehouses around the country. ALEC's controversial work has caused its member companies to abandon it, such as pushing the National Rifle Association's Stand Your Ground laws, efforts to undermine clean energy incentives and delay climate change regulations, and breaking workers unions.
The ALEC documents revealed its "Prodical Son" project [sic], a list of 41 corporate members the legislator-lobbyist matchmaker would like to entice back into its roster. ALEC has lost about 60 corporate members since 2011, the year ALEC Exposed was launched by the Center for Media and Democracy.
But there are some private sector members that ALEC doesn't want back. 60 companies left ALEC and it's asking 41 to rejoin...so who is missing from the Prodigal Son list?
Conspicuously, both the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) are not on ALEC's secret Prodigal Son list. Not surprising, since an ALEC staffer accused residential solar rooftop owners of being "freeriders," despite how they feed extra electricity back into the grid and spare utilities the capital costs of installing those solar panels themselves.
The solar trade group SEIA left ALEC in the fall of 2012. Shortly before that, ALEC's Energy, Environment & Agriculture task force considered, but didn't ever approve, the Solar Streamline Permitting Act (see p. 18). It's pretty much what it sounds like--making it faster and easier for state governments to approve solar projects, a concept that you might assume ALEC's conservative member legislators would embrace.
But ALEC didn't pass the solar permitting model bill. At the same time, ALEC was incubating its assault on state clean energy incentives through The Heartland Institute's proposed Electricity Freedom Act, the repeal of state renewable portfolio standards, later introduced in some form in 15 states, according to ALEC.
ALEC's documents list SEIA among "Lapsed" members, with a note explaining "left because their bill did not pass the task force." SEIA was ALEC's only interest dedicated entirely to solar energy at the time, and with both SEIA and AWEA absent from ALEC's ranks, ALEC has no members predominantly focused on clean energy development.
Check out Rachel Maddow's recent interview with Guardian reporter Ed Pilkington for more on ALEC's work against clean energy and other revelations from ALEC's leaked documents:
ALEC's Energy, Environment and Agriculture task force: Hostile Territory for Clean Energy
Members of ALEC's EEA task force include Koch Industries, the engine of climate denial finance, not to mention many groups its billionaire owners fund and even helped create, like Americans for Prosperity, the Cato Institute and The Heartland Institute.
There's ExxonMobil and the American Petroleum Institute, the architects of the leaked 1998 master plan to publicly attack climate science and scientists, which included ALEC itself and other ALEC members like DCI Group.
There's Peabody Energy, which commands its PR spokespeople to deny global warming. There's Duke Energy and Arizona Public Service, two major utilities fighting to make residential rooftop solar energy more expensive for residents and small businesses owners in their respective regions. ALEC's utilities are joined by their top trade association, Edison Electric Institute.
And don't forget the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, the heavily advertised "coalition that hates each other." ACCCE was caught subcontracting groups that forged letters to Congress against 2009's failed national climate policy.
Mining, petrochemical, utility, & agribusiness interests supporting ALEC:
Many dirty energy interests have recently sponsored ALEC's conferences, pay to participate in ALEC's Energy, Environment and Agriculture task force meetings, or both. ALEC's Energy, Environment and Agriculture task force is currently co-chaired by American Electric Power's Paul Loeffelman and Wyoming state Representative Thomas Lockhart.
*Companies with membership on ALEC's national corporate board are indicated with asterisks.*
*Koch Industries*--with business in oil and gas exploration, pipelines, refining and trading, coal and other carbon product logistics, timber and consumer paper products, commodities trading and investing, chemicals, fertilizer, ethanol, cattle and game ranching, glass, fiber optics, electronics and plenty of awkward public relations. The Charles Koch Foundation and Koch-controlled Claude R. Lambe Foundation both fund ALEC outside of Koch Industries' membership dues, together giving ALEC hundreds of thousands of dollars. ALEC has long depended on the Koch brothers.
- Atmos Energy
- Cheniere Energy
- Chesapeake Energy
- Continental Resources
- Devon Energy
- EnCana Corporation
- Energy Transfer
- Marathon Oil
- McMoRan Exploration Company
- OXY USA (Occidental Petroleum)
- QEP Resources
- Spectra Energy
- TransCanada Pipelines
- Williams Companies
Oil & Gas Lobby:
- American Petroleum Institute (API)
- American Gas Association (AGA)
- America's Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA)
- Center for Liquified Natural Gas
- *Peabody Energy*
- Cloud Peak Energy
Utilities (primarily Coal, Gas and Nuclear generation):
- American Electric Power (AEP)
- Arizona Public Service (APS)
- Dominion Resources
- Duke Energy
- *Energy Future Holdings*
- MDU Resources
MidAmerican Energy (all owned by Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway)
- NV Energy
- PG&E Corporation
- Salt River Project (SRP)
Coal, Chemical & Fossil Fuel Product Shipping Railroad Co's:
- Burlington Northern Santa Fe (owned by Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway)
- CSX Corporation
- Genessee & Wyoming Inc.
- Norfolk Southern
- Union Pacific
Coal & Utility Lobby:
- American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE)
- Edison Electric Institute (EEI)
- Indiana Energy Association
National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA)
- Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives (NRECA member)
- Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI)
Chemical, Agribusiness and Paper Industry Interests:
- LyondellBasell Industries
- American Chemistry Council
- American Plastics Council
- J.R. Simplot Company
- CropLife America (lobbying group for Monsanto & other agribusiness corporations)
- International Paper
Uranium Mining & Nuclear Technology:
- Virginia Uranium
State Policy Network, SPN members & SPN associate members:
- State Policy Network (umbrella for 64 state-based orgs and over 250 formally-affiliated allies--see full SPN member list)
- Americans for Prosperity
- Atlas Foundation
- Competitive Enterprise Institute (co-authors ALEC reports against U.S. Environmental Protection Agency pollution rules)
- The Heartland Institute (IL)
- Goldwater Institute (AZ)
ALEC notes show that SPN members the Commonwealth Foundation (PA) and John Locke Foundation (NC) have recently lapsed but would like to rejoin ALEC's ranks. Each of these SPN groups are part of the the Koch-funded climate denial machine.
Public Relations firms with known Fossil Fuel Clients:
- Dezenhall Resources (consulted for ExxonMobil)
- DCI Group (climate denial PR for Exxon, API; represents coal companies pushing for exports in the Pacific Northwest)
- Harris Deville & Associates (PR work for Koch Pipelines, American Petroleum Institute, Dow, and others)
If any companies have disassociated with the American Legislative Exchange Council, we will gladly update this post upon request.
Last week, the Center for Media and Democracy and ProgressNow released a series of reports on how the State Policy Network coordinates an agenda carried out by affiliate "Stink Tanks" in all 50 states. Responding to questions from reporters, SPN's CEO Tracie Sharp demanded that each of the seemingly independent groups were "fiercely independent."
But Jane Mayer at the New Yorker reports Tracie Sharp said the opposite to attendees of SPN's recent annual meeting. In Oklahoma City last September, Ms. Sharp plainly told her associates how to coordinate a broad agenda and pander directly to the interests of billionaire funders like the Koch brothers and the Searle family for grants:
Sharp went on to say that, like IKEA, the central organization would provide “the raw materials” along with the “services” needed to assemble the products. Rather than acting like passive customers who buy finished products, she wanted each state group to show the enterprise and creativity needed to assemble the parts in their home states. “Pick what you need,” she said, “and customize it for what works best for you.” During the meeting,
Sharp also acknowledged privately to the members that the organization’s often anonymous donors frequently shape the agenda. “The grants are driven by donor intent,” she told the gathered think-tank heads. She added that, often, “the donors have a very specific idea of what they want to happen.” She said that the donors also sometimes determined in which states their money would be spent.
Tracie Sharp responded to the New Yorker with a generic statement that didn't address her contradictory statements. And who knows if there's anything useful she could say at this point, The State Policy Network was just caught with its pants down.
For those who don't spend their days reading about the inner workings of the corporate-conservative political machine, the State Policy Network isn't a familiar name. But it's an important entity. SPN serves as the umbrella of ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) and all of its state and national allies pushing a coordinated corporate-friendly agenda through all 50 states.
SPN and ALEC have led the coordinated attack on clean energy in states like North Carolina, Kansas and now Ohio. Dozens of SPN groups are longtime players in the Koch-funded climate change denial movement. By orchestrating against policies to lessen global warming impacts or by directly undermining the science, SPN's efforts have ranged from urging inaction on global climate treaties and forcing teachers to misrepresent climate science to their students.
Beyond shilling for the coal, oil, gas and nuclear companies bankrolling ALEC and SPN's operations, these coordinated entities attack public employee unions, wages and pensions, block Medicaid expansion, suppress legitimate voters, push to defund and privatize schools, and undermine choice in women's health.
And who pays for SPN's work in all 50 states?
SPN's main purpose is to advance the interests of its corporate funders: dirty coal and petrochemical industries, the tobacco giants, agribusiness, pharmaceutical companies, private education firms, tech and telecom companies, and the usual web of trade associations, law firms and lobby shops paid to represent each of those industries. Corporations use SPN to advance political campaigns they are typically embarrassed to associate with publicly.
The State Policy Network also serves to advance an ideological agenda that tends to undermine the interests of most Americans in favor of those who are particularly wealthy and well-connected.
The Koch brothers fit this description, of course. But they're joined by a legion of lesser known multi-millionaires and billionaires, sometimes coordinating directly with the Kochs.
These SPN funders include Richard Mellon Scaife, Phil Anschutz, Art Pope, the Coors family, the DeVos family, the Searle family, and the remains of the Bradley family fortune, to name a few of the better known of these sources of dark money. Few citizens recognize the names of this quiet minority of political puppetmasters, but people still feel the bruise of plutocratic spending as state and national politics are pushed to new extremes.
Here's one climate change denier who really doesn't want you to think twice about his funding from Koch, coal and oil: Dr. Willie Soon, freshly profiled in today's Boston Globe. In the video above, we asked Dr. Soon about his fossil fuel funding at a climate denial event hosted by the Heritage Foundation last month--the event that wraps up Christopher Rowland's article in the Globe.
There is a bizarre sense of urgency in Dr. Soon's statements, both in our video encounter with him and in the Boston Globe article. He is a man whose profession has developed far outside of his actual expertise as an astrophysicist. After Greenpeace revealed that Willie Soon has taken over $1 million in payments from fossil fuel interests on "research" intended to undermine climate science, his credibility has evaporated. Professionals in the field of climate have been hugely critical of Dr. Soon's pre-determined "research."
Highlights from the Boston Globe:
The Boston Globe notes Willie Soon's contrarian stance against basic facts of climate change.
"Polar bears? Not threatened. Sea level? Exaggerated danger. Carbon dioxide? Great for trees. Warming planet? Caused by natural fluctuation in the sun’s energy."
Soon’s views are considered way outside the scientific mainstream, which makes him a prophet or a pariah, depending on which side you ask. Some say his work simply doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, that his data are cherry-picked to fit his thesis.
Dr. Soon's industry-funded interference is contextualized by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI):
Outside the Beltway, the science is largely settled. Yet in the capital, government response to one of the major environmental and economic challenges facing the planet is mired in an endless cycle of conflicting claims and partisan finger-pointing.
The work of Soon, and a handful of like-minded scientists, is seen by a critics in Congress and elsewhere as a case study in how this deadlock has been engineered by energy companies and antiregulation conservatives.
“They are merchants of doubt, not factual information,’’ said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat who delivers a Senate speech every week demanding stronger air-quality standards. “Their strategy isn’t to convince people that the scientists are wrong. Their strategy is simply to raise the specter that there is enough doubt that . . . you should just move onto the next issue until this gets sorted out,’’ he said. “It gives credibility to a crank point of view.’’
American Petroleum Institute falsely associates Dr. Soon with Harvard
While Dr. Soon's office is on Harvard's campus, Dr. Soon has no formal affiliation with the university and has been forced to acknowledge as much after misrepresenting the relationship as a credential for pro-coal pollution op-eds.
“You have a guy that is aligned and associated with Harvard University, one of the top universities in the United States, and the Smithsonian, also very reputable,’’ said institute spokesman Eric Wohlschlegel.
The Globe notes how Harvard requires Dr. Soon to disassociate his unqualified views from the institution's name:
Soon said he is required by the center to recite a disclaimer – saying his views are his own, and not that of Harvard-Smithsonian — each time he speaks or writes on anything outside his expertise in solar radiation. But the complexities of his relationship with Harvard-Smithsonian are often ignored by his sponsors and conference hosts eager to showcase his impressive credentials.
The Harvard-Smithsonian Center’s former director, Harvard astronomy professor Irwin Shapiro, said there was never any attempt to censor Soon’s views. Nor, he said, was Soon the subject of complaints or concern among the 300 scientists at the center.
“As far as I can tell,’’ said Shapiro, “no one pays any attention to him.’’
Not Credible, but Not Done Denying Either
Willie Soon continues to attend industry-funded climate denier events and detests questions that highlight the dirty energy companies funding his work: watch Dr. Soon shout at a student asking critical questions last April, at events run by the campus arm of CFACT, a well known climate denial organization.
Dr. Soon's oil- and coal-funded climate "research"
Dr. Soon's grants came from the Koch brothers, ExxonMobil, Southern Company, and the American Petroleum Institute, among others, according to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests from Greenpeace to the Smithsonian Institution, Dr. Soon's employer. A newer entity called Donors Trust is now helping funnel money from undisclosed donors to Dr. Soon. Donors Trust and affiliate Donors Capital Fund have sent $146 million to groups that deny climate science (since 2002).
Dr. Soon's reaction to Greepeace's request for clarity on the Donors Trust grants doesn't give us much confidence that they aren't simply obscuring more donations from fossil fuel interests, rich political ideologues, or both.
Recognition must be lent here to Dr. Soon's call for an end to FOIA probing of scientists--many legitimate researchers (and their employers) have had their time and reputations wasted by industry-funded attacks from climate denial groups that work closely with the Heartland Institute, like the Competitive Enterprise Institute. These abusive probes do nothing to advance a constructive dialog on solutions to runaway climate change.
The key difference is this: Dr. Soon's work is a platform for The Heartland Institute and other political entities to lie and confuse the public and policymakers alike about the seriousness of global warming, funded exclusively by dirty energy interests. Thanks to the obstruction led by Dr. Soon and other people who sold out the public interest to the highest bidder, it's too late to prevent climate change. The climate is changed, and we're feeling the impact.
The question is how radically we can cut greenhouse gas emissions from coal, oil and gas and rapidly shift to a clean economy that doesn't thrive off of the ruin of our planet. This is why it's crucial to leave the obstructionist opinions of Heartland and Dr. Soon out of true scientific conversations.
But with the IPCC 5th Assessment Report coming out the door and Heartland touring the country to undermine what real scientists are saying about climate change, it is time to stand up to the madness and show this country how bought and sold their positions are. When The Heartland Institute came to town with Willie Soon, we pressed president Joseph Bast to acknowledge their funding from Chicago billionaire Barre Seid for the climate denial work:
Look to Greenpeace and PolluterWatch in the coming weeks for ongoing accountability of those who are paid to undermine our future, and help spread the word!
Written by Greenpeace's Bonnie Barclay with input from Connor Gibson.
It might surprise quite a few who know me, but I'm actually quite a shy and introverted person. So what exactly moved me to show up at a Congressional hearing and put on a tin foil hat? Two words: Climate Deniers.
Denying climate change is as bizarre and out-of-touch as tin foil hat conspiracies. Congressional climate deniers need to accept the science and bolster the President's actions with a tax on carbon pollution. That's why we brought our tin foil hats to yesterday's hearing, called together by the U.S. House of Representatives Energy & Power subcommittee chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY). It focused on the Obama Administration’s Climate Action Plan, with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy and Energy Secretary Earnest Moniz testifying.
Whenever the members of Congress started saying false things about climate change, we tossed on the tin foil hats. By the end of the three-hour hearing, the silly tin hats were on our heads for almost half of the entire event.
Of all the politicians in yesterday's hearing who are known climate change deniers, West Virginia Rep. David McKinley gets the tin foil hat award for his completely false assertions about climate change science. Check out this CSPAN clip, starting at 2:01:26.
First, Rep. McKinley said, "Over the last forty years, there's been almost no increase in temperature." He was attempting to undermine the reliability of climate models, which in reality have underestimated climate change.
Worse, my jaw dropped when I heard Rep. McKinley claim that Arctic sea ice increased by 60% from last year to this year, a false figure he apparently got from a typo in a bad newspaper article! H/T @RLMiller--see NASA for the facts on how consistently and rapidly the ice cap has melted in recent years.
Finally, McKinley completely misrepresented the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), saying, "Most experts believe by 2083--in 70 years--the benefits of climate change could outweigh will still outweigh the harm."
Ummm...that is completely wrong. The IPCC has made it crystal clear that global warming is a very serious problem that demands immediate policy action if we have any chance of solving it. Perhaps the $391,000 McKinley has received from the coal industry explains some of his scientifically-irrelevant opinions--McKinley wrapped his speech up by promoting the coal industry.
My first Congressional hearing....
- Climate deniers in Congress make their points not by stating factual information from peer-reviewed studies, but by quoting newspaper headlines. I'm pretty sure those were meant to sell newspapers, not settle a debate.
- The hearing was packed. People do care about what Congress is OR isn't doing on climate change.
- It's actually not the "do-nothing Congress," as Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) pointed out, it's much worse! "On Climate we're doing worse than nothing--we are affirmatively obstructing progress." [CSPAN, 38:25].
Luckily there were a few members of Congress who seem to get it, including these three:
Representative Waxman called out his elected peers for their obstruction and no serious proposals to solve the problems posed by global warming:
- "What's your plan? It's easy to criticize other people's solutions, but if all you did is criticize you're either a climate denier because you don't think anything needs to be done--'the science doesn't warrent it, it's not happening'--or, they're [sic] ignoring the warning of scientists." [CSPAN, 42:35]
Representative Eliot Engle (D-NY):
- "It's time for us to act and Congress has been ducking this issue, even going so far as to deny the basic science behind climate change. I've seen the devastating effects right in my area when hurricane Sandy hit New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. My district suffered huge devastation. Rising seas, stronger storms and flooding will only increase if we choose to do nothing[...]." [CSPAN, 2:55:35]
Representative Doris Matsui (D-CA) pointed out the key logical disconnect with the naysayers who try to scare us into inaction:
- "My Republican colleagues are quick to argue that tackling climate change will hurt the economy. But in reality, climate change itself poses an enormous economic risk and failure to address it could be disaster to the global economy." [CSPAN, 1:59:43]
Climate Change Denial and Extreme Weather
In a week where we're seeing people's lives lost and communities devastated in Colorado by extreme flooding, the type of disaster we can expect more frequently thanks to climate change, one would think the urgency to act to avoid future economic devastation and loss of life would become crystal clear to those who we elected to represent us. Unfortunately, nothing seems to cause Congress to take action. It's like they missed the last year of weather events!
You can see the distortion of climate denial in Greenpeace's recent report, "Dealing in Doubt", which summarized how industrialists like the Koch brothers have funding fake science and sheer misinformation to make us question the hard truth about climate change. So it comes as no surprise that Koch Industries is the second highest donor this election cycle to the chairman of yesterday's hearing, Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY), as well as other Representatives on the subcommittee, like Koch's hometown favorite Mike Pompeo, and Texas politicians Joe Barton and Pete Olson.
I'm tired of seeing members of Congress put their head in the sand and deny climate change. It's an appalling manipulation of our future potential by people who are meant to represent us and do the right thing.
So why'd I show up for the hearing yesterday? People's lives and livelihoods are on the line. The strength and future resilience of our country and our communities and all we've built as a nation are at risk if we don't do anything. We're not do-nothing people. We're Americans. We lead. We work. We improve. We build. We innovate.