19 U.S. Climate Foundations Employ Fossil Fuel Lobbyists

December 12, 2023

A new report from F Minus finds 19 U.S. climate-focused foundations who pursue non-climate policy goals in areas such as education by employing fossil fuel lobbyists. Collecting data on climate legislation and state-level lobbyist registrations from 2022-23, the report highlights four climate foundations whose grant-making is “most conflicted” with the pro-fossil-fuel advocacy of their own lobbyists: Ballmer Giving, New Venture Fund, the Pew Charitable Trusts, and the Pittsburgh Foundation.

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Ballmer Giving funds climate and indigenous rights programs, but shares the Washington State lobbying firm of Insight Strategic Partners with Puget Sound Energy, which is building an LNG terminal on Puyallup land in the Tacoma Tideflats over the tribe’s objections. Insight Strategic Partners also lobbies for Chevron, and in 2022, it represented NextEra Energy Resources, which owns fracked gas assets in Texas, the Southeast, and the Mid-Atlantic. 

New Venture Fund employed fossil fuel lobbyists in six states in 2022-23, the highest number among the 19 climate-focused foundations and 86 total foundations in the F Minus database. In California, New Venture Fund shared the lobbying firm Arc Strategies with oil driller the Berry Corporation. In Maryland, it gave money to protect the Chesapeake Bay while sharing a lobbying firm with NRG Energy, a major Bay polluter. And like Ballmer Giving, it shared the Washington State firm of Insight Strategic Partners with Chevron, NextEra Energy Resources, and Puget Sound Energy.

The Pew Charitable Trusts advocates for marine life conservation and reducing plastic pollution, but shared the Colorado lobbying firm Politicalworks with Chevron. Chevron has a lengthy record of threatening marine ecosystems with routine and accidental spills from its extraction projects; and its subsidiary Chevron Phillips Chemical Company is estimated to be the 15th largest global producer of SUP-bound polymers. In August 2023, Chevron and the state of Louisiana sued the Biden Administration for limiting oil and gas leasing in the Gulf of Mexico as part of an effort to protect the endangered Rice’s whale. 

The Pittsburgh Foundation’s environmental grant-making focuses on environmental justice issues, but the foundation’s lobbying firm, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, is a member of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, which is currently lobbying against a Pennsylvania environmental justice bill dealing with well setbacks, and another bill dealing with permitting industrial projects in environmental justice communities.

“Foundations need to vet their lobbyists and make sure they aren’t promoting fossil fuels or causing the climate problems that their own grantees are trying to solve,” said James Browning, Executive Director of F Minus. “You can’t seriously condemn plastic pollution in the ocean while sharing a lobbying firm with Chevron. You can’t be a champion for the Chesapeake Bay while sharing a lobbying firm with NRG Energy. More than 200 foundations have pledged to divest from fossil fuels–and it is time for this sector to also cut ties with fossil fuel lobbyists.”

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