The corporate heavyweights polluting our politics
A list of the top companies lobbying Congress on energy and environmental issues reveals who’s fighting to kill climate action.
Emily Sanders is editorial lead for the Center for Climate Integrity. You can catch up with her on Twitter here.
More than 3 million adults across the United States had to flee their homes in the face of hurricanes, floods, and other severe weather events this past year, according to a new count by the Census Bureau. Roughly 16 percent of those people — many of whom have disabilities — became climate refugees, never returning home at all.
While more and more people are unmoored from their communities, forced by way of survival to financially and emotionally rebuild, the corporations most responsible for climate change are still actively fighting policies that would begin to lessen the damage.
A list compiled last month by E&E News shows that the top companies lobbying on climate and energy policies in 2022 were chemical, fossil fuel, and utility giants — and that their spending skyrocketed in response to lawmakers’ push for the Inflation Reduction Act.
As the likelihood that Congress would pass historic climate and clean energy provisions grew, companies ramped up their lobbying on issues such as permitting reform, energy efficiency, methane emissions, tax proposals, carbon capture, toxic chemical regulations, renewable fuel standards, and more. And in the end, we were left with a version of the IRA that sacrificed frontline communities to the continued expansion of fossil fuels.
It’s not the first time in recent years that these and other major fossil fuel corporations have responded to the threat of climate action by spending millions to defeat, water down, or manipulate legislation to their benefit before they have the chance to pass.
One of the top political spenders was ExxonMobil, the oil behemoth famous for decades of climate denial, deception, gaslighting, and lobbying against their own so-called climate priorities. As readers of ExxonKnews already know, Exxon has since become the target of more than two dozen lawsuits for climate damages and fraud, a congressional investigation into the spread of climate disinformation, and a subpoena from California’s attorney general for lying about plastics recycling (Exxon is the world’s largest producer of plastics, too).
But who are the other corporate giants pouring so much money into our politics? Here’s a look into just some of the other winners spending big bucks to pollute our climate and environmental legislation with industry giveaways:
The American Chemistry Council
Trade association for chemical producers and the main lobbying arm for the plastics industry. Its member companies include oil and gas majors like Exxon and Chevron, who helped spearhead a concerted campaign to mislead consumers about whether plastics could actually be recycled in order to sell their products.
Uses aggressive and deceptive PR tactics to counter regulation of its member companies’ toxic products.
Ratcheting up their advertising spending on “advanced recycling,” a new industry ploy to convince consumers that plastics are recyclable. (“Advanced” or chemical recycling has produced few results, and involves burning more fossil fuels, using more chemicals, and emitting more greenhouse gasses.)
Promoting new investments in gas, a fossil fuel, as part of a “lower-emissions future” (it’s not).
A multinational conglomerate, heavily invested in oil and chemicals.
Its conservative activist founder funds powerful groups that have deeply influenced American politics, and a slew of state-level organizations, all of which have been instrumental in spreading climate disinformation and blocking climate action.
One of the original kingpins of climate denial, Koch is facing a lawsuit from Minnesota for climate fraud.
Has made billions while dodging lawsuit payouts owed to those harmed by its dangerous products.
Edison Electric Institute
Trade association representing all U.S. investor-owned electric utilities, which contribute heavily to greenhouse gas emissions.
Uses ratepayer funds to fight legislation that would reduce emissions, including a years-long campaign to undermine the transition to distributed solar power.
Knew about the climate consequences of burning fossil fuels since the 1960s, but worked with oil and gas companies to spread climate denial and doubt.
Oil major and one of the top 25 of the world’s most obstructive companies on climate policies, according to a 2021 report by InfluenceMap.
Working overtime to cash out on new carbon capture facilities that will allow it to continue burning fossil fuels and polluting while receiving massive tax breaks for constructing largely unproven technology.
Spent the most of any oil and gas company on climate and energy lobbying in 2022.
Georgia-based utility and the third-largest greenhouse gas polluter in the U.S.
Spent more than $62 million spreading climate denial and disinformation during what could have been a crucial decade for U.S. climate action between 1993 and 2004, according to an analysis of corporate filings by the Energy and Policy Institute.
CEO was denying the link between climate change and fossil fuels as recently as 2017. The company still refers to gas as “clean.”
Has recognized in its annual reports to investors that lawsuits for climate damages pose a financial risk to the company.
Was forced to refund $377 million to Mississippi ratepayers, who sued the company for fraud over its failed “clean coal” plant.
Oil major facing lawsuits from cities and states for consumer fraud and resulting climate damages.
Pushing for an $8 billion oil drilling project in northwest Alaska that is expected to produce 600 million barrels of crude over 30 years, emitting the annual equivalent of 66 new coal-fired power plants.
These companies may have seemingly boundless influence in Congress, where the passage of the IRA represented the first crack in a decades-long stranglehold over our political system. But the same tactics don’t work quite as well in our legal system, where pesky things like evidence and the law can get in the way. And perhaps that’s why many of these same corporations are using every trick in the book in an attempt to escape accountability in climate deception lawsuits: once they’re on trial, up against clear evidence of their lies, it’s a lot harder to buy a way out.
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