‘Double agents’: [more than 1,500] fossil-fuel lobbyists work for US groups trying to fight climate crisis

More than 1,500 lobbyists in the US are working on behalf of fossil-fuel companies while at the same time representing hundreds of liberal-run cities, universities, technology companies and environmental groups that say they are tackling the climate crisis, the Guardian can reveal.

Lobbyists for oil, gas and coal interests are also employed by a vast sweep of institutions, ranging from the city governments of Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia; tech giants such as Apple and Google; more than 150 universities; some of the country’s leading environmental groups – and even ski resorts seeing their snow melted by global heating.

The breadth of fossil-fuel lobbyists’ work for other clients is captured in a new database of their lobbying interests which was published online on Wednesday.

It shows the reach of state-level fossil-fuel lobbyists into almost every aspect of American life, spanning local governments, large corporations, cultural institutions such as museums and film festivals, and advocacy groups, grouping together clients with starkly contradictory aims.

For instance, State Farm, the insurance company that announced in May it would halt new homeowner policies in California due to the “catastrophic” risk of wildfires worsened by the climate crisis, employs lobbyists that also advocate for fossil fuel interests to lawmakers in 18 states.

Meanwhile, Baltimore, which is suing big oil firms for their role in causing climate-related damages, has shared a lobbyist with ExxonMobil, one of the named defendants in the case. Syracuse University, a pioneer in the fossil fuel divestment movement, has a lobbyist with 14 separate oil and gas clients.

The searchable database, created by compiling the public disclosure records of lobbyists up to 2022 reveals:

  • Some of the most progressive-minded cities in the US employ fossil-fuel lobbyists.

  • Environmental groups that push for action on climate change also, incongruously, use lobbyists employed by the fossil-fuel industry.

  • Large tech companies have repeatedly touted their climate credentials but many also use fossil fuel-aligned lobbyists.

  • More than 150 universities have ties to lobbyists who also push the interests of fossil-fuel companies.

  • A constellation of cultural and recreational bodies also use fossil-fuel lobbyists, despite in many cases calling for action on the climate crisis.

Nearly all states require lobbyists to register and submit periodic disclosure reports, and lobbyists tend not to advocate for both sides of the same piece of legislation. Beyond that, the laws around lobbying are scant. There is no bar to lobbyists working for clients with seemingly diametrically opposing aims, and there are few guardrails to ensure sensitive information is not shared with the other side.

The practice of political lobbying has grown significantly since the 1970s, with the fossil-fuel industry among the most prolific users of paid operatives to help shape favourable government policies. A study released in May found that not only is the industry more likely to lobby than others, its lobbying expenditures have jumped when faced with potential climate-linked threats to its business model.

Read the full story here

The Guardian

Locations: Los Angeles, CA Chicago, IL Philadelphia, PA Baltimore, MD California Illinois Pennsylvania Maryland Washington Florida New York City, NY Utah 

Organizations: Apple Google F Minus State Farm ExxonMobil Syracuse University BP Koch Industries Tenaska Environmental Defense Fund Calpine Duke Energy Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) BHP Amazon Microsoft California State University University of Washington Johns Hopkins University New Museum Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) Sundance Film Institute Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra Florida Aquarium Jackson Hole Vail Hinman Straub Bard College Brown & Weinraub Shell American Petroleum Institute Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre 

People: Timmons Roberts Seth McKeel 

Tags: Lobbying Climate Change Environmentalism Fire Fossil Fuel 

Type: Headlines