Media Guide: The Fossil Fuel Industry Players Setting Trump’s Energy Agenda

Media Guide: The Fossil Fuel Industry Players Setting Trump’s Energy Agenda

››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS

The fossil fuel industry has unprecedented influence on GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign. Here is what media should know about the fossil fuel lobbyists, executives, and front groups that would determine the country’s climate and energy policies in a Trump administration.

Mike Pence Larry Nichols
Myron Ebell David Bernhardt
Harold Hamm Mike Catanzaro
Stephen Moore Michael McKenna
Kevin Cramer Jeffrey Wood
Kathleen Hartnett-White Andrew Wheeler
Robert Murray Stephen Miller
Forrest Lucas Rebecca Rosen

 

 

Mike Pence

The Trump Connection

Trump announced in a tweet on July 15 that Republican Indiana Governor Mike Pence would be his Vice Presidential running mate.

The Fossil Fuel Connection

According to data compiled by the National Institute on Money in State Politics, between his 2012 campaign for governor of Indiana and since-abandoned 2016 reelection campaign, Pence received $338,677 from electric utilities, $256,250 from the mining industry, $79,075 from the oil & gas industry, and $79,750 from other energy interests. He also took $300,000 during those campaigns from oil industry billionaire David Koch. During his career as an Indiana member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Pence received $229,400 from the oil and gas industry, $62,000 from electric utilities, and $25,500 from the mining industry, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. Additionally, The Journal Gazette of Fort Wayne, IN, reported that Pence was “standing with big political donors” by opposing the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Clean Power Plan, including coal companies that funded his campaign and utility companies that contributed $1.7 million to the Indiana Economic Development Corp. Foundation, which “funds economic development travel for Pence.”

What Else You Need To Know

Pence has repeatedly denied the science of climate change. On the February 21, 2014, edition of MSNBC’s The Daily Rundown, host Chuck Todd asked Pence if he is “convinced that climate change is man-made.” Pence responded: “I don't know that that is a resolved issue in science today,” adding, “Just a few years ago, we were talking about global warming. We haven't seen a lot of warming lately. I remember back in the ‘70s we were talking about the coming ice age." Pence similarly stated on the May 5, 2009, edition of MSNBC’s Hardball that “I think the science is very mixed on the subject of global warming.” In a recent interview with CNN, Pence changed his tune somewhat, stating that “the activities that take place in this country and in countries around the world have some impact on the environment and some impact on climate.” But he did not fully accept the scientific consensus that human activities such as burning fossil fuels are the primary cause of global warming.

Further, Pence helped kill Indiana’s successful energy efficiency program, and he has repeatedly tried to block the Clean Power Plan, the EPA's landmark policy to address climate change. He has since indicated that he will comply with the Clean Power Plan if it is upheld by the Supreme Court, but Indiana remains one of the states challenging the plan's legality and has halted its work to prepare for the plan until a final verdict is reached. And during his 12 years in Congress, Pence received a 4 percent lifetime score on the League of Conservation Voters’ (LCV) National Environmental Scorecard. According to LCV, Pence did not cast a single “pro-environment vote” out of the 20 key votes he took related to air pollution, the 25 key votes he took related to clean energy, the 20 key votes he took related to climate change, or the 40 key votes he took related to drilling.

Myron Ebell

The Trump Connection

Myron Ebell is reportedly running the Trump campaign’s EPA transition team.

The Fossil Fuel Connection

Ebell is the director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), which has received $1,690,000 in funding from ExxonMobil since Ebell joined CEI in 1999. During that time period, CEI also received approximately $5.2 million from DonorsTrust and $1.1 million from Donors Capital Fund -- two dark-money groups backed by the oil billionaire Koch brothers -- as well as $150,000 from the David H. Koch Charitable Foundation and $104,703 from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. The Washington Post recently reported that DonorsTrust “is staffed largely by people who have worked for Koch Industries or non-profit groups supported by the conservative Koch brothers” and “has given to other non-profit groups supported by the Kochs.” Ebell said in an August 5 interview on C-SPAN that he would “like to see a lot more funding” from big coal companies.

What Else You Need To Know

Ebell has claimed that the Clean Power Plan is “obviously illegal,” and on Federalist Radio, he said of the Paris climate agreement: “I don’t want to say it’s a disaster, but I think it is potentially a disaster for humankind and not necessarily any good for the planet.”

Ebell is also the chairman of the Cooler Heads Coalition, a collection of groups that “question global warming alarmism and oppose energy-rationing policies,” according to CEI. In 2006, CEI ran a television ad with a tagline about carbon pollution that stated, "They call it pollution. We call it life." According to Vanity Fair, Ebell said he was “delighted at the howls it provoked.” In March 2015, during a Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) panel on climate change, Ebell falsely claimed that NASA deceptively "switch[es] the data" to make its climate change models look accurate. And in September 2015, Ebell spoke at a panel at the Republican Attorney Generals’ Association (RAGA) summer meeting titled “Climate Change Debate — How Speech Is Being Stifled.” The Post reported that during the panel, Ebell “challeng[ed] the overwhelming consensus among scientists that climate change is real.”

In 2003, Ebell worked with the Bush administration to attack an EPA report stating that human activities cause climate change. The Guardian reported:

Central to the revelations of double dealing is the discovery of an email sent to Phil Cooney, chief of staff at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, by Myron Ebell, a director of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). The CEI is an ultra-conservative lobby group that has received more than $1 million in donations since 1998 from the oil giant Exxon, which sells Esso petrol in Britain.

The email, dated 3 June 2002, reveals how White House officials wanted the CEI's help to play down the impact of a report last summer by the government's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in which the US admitted for the first time that humans are contributing to global warming. 'Thanks for calling and asking for our help,' Ebell tells Cooney.

The email discusses possible tactics for playing down the report and getting rid of EPA officials, including its then head, Christine Whitman. 'It seems to me that the folks at the EPA are the obvious fall guys and we would only hope that the fall guy (or gal) should be as high up as possible,' Ebell wrote in the email. 'Perhaps tomorrow we will call for Whitman to be fired,' he added.

Harold Hamm

The Trump Connection

Trump is considering Harold Hamm as energy secretary, according to a Reuters report. Additionally, Trump adviser Stephen Moore told Politico’s Morning Energy that Hamm is the “most influential” person in shaping Trump’s energy policies.

The Fossil Fuel Connection

Hamm is the CEO of Continental Resources, one of the top independent oil producers in the U.S. and a pioneer in fracking. Hamm is reportedly worth $10 billion. If appointed, Hamm would be the “first U.S. energy secretary drawn directly from the oil and gas industry since the cabinet position was created in 1977," according to Reuters.

What Else You Need To Know

Hamm is a member of the Interstate Oil And Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC), a “quasi-governmental” organization created by Congress that, according to Donald Flexner, chief of the energy section of the Justice Department's Antitrust Division, essentially serves as an oil industry lobbying group and “has been quietly working for decades to restrict federal oversight of oil and gas,” as InsideClimate News (ICN) reported. The IOGCC claimed credit for a measure within the 2005 Energy Policy Act that exempted hydraulic fracturing -- or fracking -- from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act. That provision, known as the “Halliburton loophole,” has “helped enable the modern fracking boom that has created vast economic benefits, but also has been implicated in cases of drinking water contamination, air pollution and rising emissions of climate-changing methane,” ICN reported.

In 2014, a New York Times investigation documented that Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt and other Republican attorneys general were engaged in an “unprecedented, secretive alliance” with large fossil fuel companies to “push back against the Obama regulatory agenda," and that Hamm was one of Pruitt’s “closest partners.” Hamm served as chairman of Pruitt’s re-election campaign in 2013 and 2014, and in recent years, Pruitt has been fighting the EPA’s efforts to protect drinking water from industrial pollution and reduce methane emissions, among other environmental and health safeguards.

Hamm also exploited the June mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub to baselessly call for more drilling. During his July 20 speech supporting Trump at the 2016 Republican National Convention, Hamm stated: "Every time we can't drill a well in America, terrorism is being funded. Orlando brought this home once again. … Every onerous regulation puts American lives at risk. Developing America's own oil supply is a matter of national security.” But the CIA chief said he was not “able to uncover any link” between the Orlando shooter Omar Mateen and ISIS, and increased U.S. oil production has done nothing to weaken -- and may even have helped -- ISIS, as Fortune reporter Chris Matthews has explained.

Stephen Moore

The Trump Connection

In May, Politico reported that Trump tapped Stephen Moore to assist in remaking his tax plan. Moore is currently listed on Trump’s “economic advisory council.”

The Fossil Fuel Connection

In January 2014, Moore became the chief economist at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank that received almost $800,000 from ExxonMobil and millions from the Koch Family Foundations. On September 28, Politico reported that Moore went on leave from the Heritage Foundation through the election, but he is currently listed on the website as a “Distinguished Visiting Fellow.”

What Else You Need To Know

In November, Moore completely distorted a NASA scientist’s study about East Antarctic ice to claim it was an “indication” that global warming is “actually not happening.” Moore has also claimed that opposing fracking “is like being against a cure for cancer” because it is “one of the great seismic technological breakthroughs” that is “giving us huge amounts of energy at very low prices.”

Kevin Cramer

The Trump Connection

On May 13, Trump announced that he had brought on Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) as an energy adviser. Reuters reported that Cramer said he would write a detailed report for Trump on energy policy ideas, which would “emphasize the dangers of foreign ownership of U.S. energy assets, as well as what he characterized as burdensome taxes and over-regulation.”

The Fossil Fuel Connection

Over his congressional career, Cramer has received $596,600 from the oil and gas industry, more than twice as much as he’s taken from any other industry, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

What Else You Need To Know

Cramer is a vocal climate science denier. As Slate has noted, Cramer has alleged, “We know the global climate is cooling,” and declared, “the idea that CO2 is somehow causing global warming is on its face fraudulent.”

The New York Times reported that Cramer listed the following rules that Trump “might do away with if he were president”: The Clean Power Plan, the Clean Water Rule, and limits on methane emissions. And E&E News reported that Cramer said he expects the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act to be among the statutes “rolled back in the first 100 days of a Trump administration, or over the two-year course of a Republican-held Congress.” Cramer has also said he would encourage Trump to “walk away from President Barack Obama’s agreement to sign the Paris climate accord,” Bloomberg reported.

Kathleen Hartnett-White

The Trump Connection

Trump announced in August that Kathleen Hartnett-White would join his economic advisory council, Politico reported. Stephen Moore told Politico in September that he has been “pushing” for White to be nominated as EPA administrator. Moore said, “She’s certainly qualified. She’s very pro-development. Some of the green groups would probably oppose her, but she did a great job in Texas.”

The Fossil Fuel Connection

Hartnett-White is a distinguished senior fellow-in-residence and director of the Armstrong Center for Energy & Environment at the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF). TPPF is part of the State Policy Network, a network of conservative think tanks across the country largely funded by Koch-backed dark money groups DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund. TPPF has received over $3.7 million from Donors Capital Fund and DonorsTrust, as well as almost $900,000 from the Koch-backed Claude R. Lambe and Charles G. Koch foundations and $100,000 from ExxonMobil.

What Else You Need To Know

Skeptical Science has compiled Hartnett-White’s climate science denial:

Hartnett-White told POLITICO in an interview that rather than listen to the conclusions of the world’s foremost climate science experts as summarized in the IPCC reports, she favors a commission that would develop an “alternative scientific methodology” and would include the voices of the less than 3% of climate scientists who reject the consensus on human-caused global warming. She believes “the sun had a powerful role” in global warming. However, the sun has had an overall cooling effect on global temperatures over the past 60 years, as the IPCC reports have shown.

At TPPF, White is part of the “Fueling Freedom Project,” which works to “explain the forgotten moral case for fossil fuels” and “end the regulation of CO2 as a pollutant.” Hartnett-White touted the supposed “environmental benefits” of fossil fuels -- and carbon pollution -- in a 2015 column for conservative website Townhall.com:

No matter how many times, the President, EPA and the media rant about “dirty carbon pollution,” there is no pollution about carbon itself! As a dictionary will tell you, carbon is the chemical basis of all life. Our flesh, blood and bones are built of carbon. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the gas of life on this planet, an essential nutrient for plant growth on which human life depends. How craftily our government has masked these fundamental realities and the environmental benefits of fossil fuels!

Additionally, Rolling Stone reported that a state auditor report found Hartnett-White consistently failed to hold polluters accountable for breaking the law when she chaired the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality:

Luke Metzger, director of the non-profit Environment Texas, has spent years going head-to-head with the Texas Environmental Quality Commission. As chair, Hartnett-White "embodied the philosophy at the agency, which was to put the interests of big polluters ahead of public health and the environment," Metzger tells Rolling Stone.

He cites a 2003 state auditor report finding that TEQC under Hartnett-White consistently failed to hold violators accountable for breaking its laws, applied fines that amounted to only about 40 percent of the profits the companies made breaking the law, and introduced policies that weakened its own regulations.

Robert Murray

The Trump Connection

Politico reported that Trump’s campaign has received “high-level energy policy advice” from Murray Energy CEO Robert Murray. Murray formally endorsed Trump in May and held a private fundraiser for Trump in June. SNL Financial reported that Trump asked Murray “about numerous facets of U.S. energy policy” during a private meeting in May, and Murray came away from the meeting convinced that Trump “would surround himself with the right people who could advise him.”

The Fossil Fuel Connection

Murray heads Murray Energy Corp., which is the largest privately owned coal mining company in America.

What Else You Need To Know

Murray Energy gave $250,000 to the Republican Attorneys General Association days before a group of attorneys general sued the EPA to block the Clean Power Plan. Based on a review of documents unearthed by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), along with tax filings and political campaign disclosures, Bloomberg reported on September 7:

Murray Energy Corp. made a $250,000 donation to the Republican Attorneys General Association [RAGA] last year and, in return, the coal mining company’s chief executive got a closed-door meeting with state prosecutors to discuss the Obama administration’s regulation of power plants.

Eleven days later, the attorneys general went to federal court to fight the rules that Murray Energy says could put the coal industry out of business.

[...]

The documents, obtained under state public records requests by a watchdog group, along with tax filings and political campaign disclosures reviewed by Bloomberg News, show how energy companies, Republican attorneys general and the association dedicated to re-electing them are aligned in a legal attack on President Barack Obama’s signature plan to combat carbon pollution from power plants.

Murray has also repeatedly fought against health and safety protections for coal miners. Murray Energy unsuccessfully sued the U.S. Labor Department over its rule to limit miners’ exposure to coal dust, which causes black lung disease. Black lung disease has reportedly killed over 76,000 miners since 1968, and in 2014, rates of the disease returned to dangerous levels “not seen in 40 years,” according to a study conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Murray also tried to prevent workers from filing safety complaints with the federal government, and in November 2015, the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission fined Murray Energy $150,000 for interfering with miners’ rights to file anonymous safety complaints.

Additionally, multiple reports have documented that Murray’s companies have recorded higher-than-average health and safety violations. Investigative Reporting Workshop, a project of the American University School of Communication, found that between 2000 and 2009, Murray Energy was fined $18,192,186 and received 7,747 "significant" violations.

Murray denied that his company bore any responsibility for a cave-in at Utah’s Crandall Canyon Mine in 2007, which killed six miners and three rescue workers. However, The New York Times reported that a congressional investigation found senior staff at the mine, which is owned and operated by Murray Energy, “hid information from federal mining officials that could have prevented the disaster.”

Forrest Lucas

The Trump Connection

Politico reported that Forrest Lucas is a “leading contender” for Interior secretary in a Trump administration, according to sources familiar with the Trump campaign’s deliberations.

The Fossil Fuel Connection

Lucas is the co-founder of Lucas Oil, which manufactures oil products for automobiles.

What Else You Need To Know

Politico reported that it would be “nearly unprecedented for [a] major oil executive to get the top job in the Interior Department.” Politico added that his nomination would be a “coup for the oil and gas industry, which has battled President Barack Obama’s Interior Department for years over everything from Endangered Species Act listings to access to federal lands for drilling.”

J. Larry Nichols

The Trump Connection

J. Larry Nichols is “among a small group of people who have Donald’s Trump ear on energy policy,” Stephen Moore told Politico.

The Fossil Fuel Connection

Nichols became chairman emeritus of Devon Energy, an independent oil and natural gas exploration and production company, which he co-founded, after stepping down as executive chairman earlier this year. He is also currently listed as “lead director” on the board of directors at Baker Hughes, which describes itself as an “oilfield service company” that “help[s] oil and gas operators make the most of their reservoirs” and seeks to “continue expanding the limits of oil, gas and alternative energy drilling, completion and production through innovation problem solving.” Nichols currently serves on the board of the National Association of Manufacturers, and is also a former chairman of both the American Petroleum Institute and the American Exploration & Production Council.

David Bernhardt

The Trump Connection

David Bernhardt, an Interior Department official in the George W. Bush administration, is leading the Trump campaign’s Interior Department transition team, sources told Politico.

The Fossil Fuel Connection

Bernhardt is the co-chair of the natural resources department at the law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, where he has recently represented: “An entity involved in energy development on Indian lands”; “A national trade association in Federal District Court interested in defending the U.S. government’s decision to proceed with an offshore lease sale under the Outer-Continental Shelf Lands Act”; and “An electric transmission facilities developer that crosses lands in federal jurisdiction”.

What Else You Need To Know

As Interior Solicitor in the Bush administration, Bernhardt authored a memo alleging that the cumulative effects of climate change "are of no relevance" under the Endangered Species Act, as McClatchy reported in 2008. Defenders of Wildlife Vice President Jamie Rappaport Clark criticized the memo, telling McClatchy that climate change is "one of the most obvious threats to species sustainability, and to say we're going to give it a pass, that's just clearly nonsensical."

Mike Catanzaro

The Trump Connection

Mike Catanzaro is the “head of Trump’s energy transition team,” Republican consultants told The Washington Post.

The Fossil Fuel Connection

Catanzaro is a partner at the lobbying firm CGCN, formerly Clark Geduldig Cranford & Nielson, which has a variety of fossil fuel industry clients. The Post reported that these clients include Halliburton, Devon Energy, Encana Oil & Gas, Hess Corp., Noble Energy, Talen Energy, the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, and Koch Industries.

Catanzaro is also a senior fellow for the American Council on Capital Formation (ACCF), according to his LinkedIn profile. ACCF has received nearly $1.4 million in funding from ExxonMobil, $525,000 from the Koch-backed Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation, and $300,000 from the American Petroleum Institute.

What Else You Need To Know

Catanzaro has engaged in climate science denial. In a 2003 blog post, he criticized a statement from the Union of Concerned Scientists that “global warming is real and underway,” and claimed that there is “serious doubt on anthropogenic theories of global warming.” In another post, Catanzaro said that scientific research connecting global warming to extreme weather events is “highly questionable -- if not outright silly.”

Catanzaro has also lobbied against the Clean Power Plan, according to lobbying disclosure documents reviewed by DeSmogBlog, and he supports blocking the Obama administration from integrating climate change into its National Environmental Policy Act reviews.

Michael McKenna

The Trump Connection

Michael McKenna was recruited to run Trump’s Energy Department transition team, Politico reported.

The Fossil Fuel Connection

McKenna is the president of the lobbying firm MWR Strategies. Politico described McKenna as “a well-connected energy lobbyist with ties to the industry-backed American Energy Alliance and Institute for Energy Research,” adding that he has lobbied for coal giant Southern Company and Koch Companies Public Sector. The Washington Post noted that McKenna has also lobbied on behalf of energy companies GDF Suez and TECO Energy.

Jeffrey Wood

The Trump Connection

Politico reported that lobbyist Jeff Wood was recruited by the Trump campaign in early September “to advise the nominee on energy policy.”

The Fossil Fuel Connection

The Washington Post reported that Wood is a partner at lobbying firm Balch & Bingham, adding that he is a “registered lobbyist for the utility Alabama Power and its parent company, Southern.”

Andrew Wheeler

The Trump Connection

Politico reported that Andrew Wheeler is a Trump campaign energy adviser, and The Washington Post reported that Wheeler is “also involved in transition planning.”

The Fossil Fuel Connection

Wheeler is the co-leader of the energy and natural resources practice at the firm Faegre Baker Daniels, and the Post reported that his “leading lobbying client” there is coal giant Murray Energy. Wheeler’s lobbying firm profile also lists him as Vice President of the “Washington Coal Club.”

Rebecca Rosen

The Trump Connection

Rebecca Rosen is one of Trump’s energy advisers, according to The Washington Post.

The Fossil Fuel Connection

The Post reported that Rosen “has been the Washington representative of Devon Energy, a leading independent oil and gas drilling company” that “is very active in shale oil and shale gas prospects,” adding: “The EPA is drawing up regulations to ensure that shale drilling firms capture methane, which is a potent greenhouse gas.”

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