Anti-cancer lobbyists also pushing fossil fuels

March 20, 2024

Leading anti-cancer organizations continue to employ lobbyists for fossil fuel companies, finds a new report from F Minus, despite these organizations’ own warnings that fossil fuels and the climate crisis are increasing Americans’ exposure to carcinogens. Employing gas lobbyists is especially problematic for these anti-cancer organizations, finds F Minus, because of studies showing the cancer risks faced by people who live in proximity to gas extraction projects, gas transmission projects, and gas-burning stoves.

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From 2022-24, the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) shared lobbying firms with 21 fossil fuel companies across 10 states. In Florida, it shared the firm of Heffley & Associates with gas- and coal-plant operator the Tampa Electric Company (TECO). In 2021, Heffley helped pass a bill that prohibits local governments from switching from fossil fuels to renewables without the state legislature’s approval, and in 2024 it helped TECO pass a bill aimed at discouraging protests at “critical infrastructure” sites such as power plants. 

In Pennsylvania, ACS CAN shared the Bravo Group with NRG Energy, operator of a Texas coal plant that environmentalists have targeted for closure because of the cancer risk its emissions pose to nearby residents. The Bravo Group also lobbied for Southwestern Energy and Moxie Freedom, whose Luzerne County gas plant was on a 2023 list of the “dirty dozen” most polluting plants in Pennsylvania. In Oregon, ACS CAN shared the firm of Tonkon Torp LLP with Kinder Morgan, developer of tar sands oil, whose chemicals have been linked to higher rates of cancer in Indigenous communities in Canada.

“While anti-cancer groups are fighting to protect people from tobacco, their own lobbyists are in some cases fighting for fossil fuel companies whose projects are exposing people to carcinogens,” said James Browning, Executive Director of F Minus. “Given what we now know about the cancer risks from fracking and gas-burning stoves, how do these groups justify working with gas lobbyists?”

The Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund (TFKAF) shared lobbying firms with fossil fuel companies in four states in 2022-24: New York, California, Colorado, and Oregon. While lobbying for TFKAF, the New York firm of Hinman Straub was also lobbying for the Koch Companies and the Iroquois Pipeline Operating Company. In Dec. 2023, more than 60 state and local officials joined several environmental groups in calling on Gov. Kathy Hochul to oppose an expansion of this company’s Iroquois Gas Pipeline, citing the environmental risks of furthering New York’s dependence on fracked gas and health risks from “compressor stations [that] have a documented history of emitting cancer-causing chemicals.” 

The report also highlights the cancer risks faced by frontline communities in Pennsylvania and Louisiana, both of which have numerous anti-cancer lobbyists who also work for companies that are routinely and accidentally exposing people to carcinogens. In 2023-24, the Nemours Foundation, which funds childhood cancer treatments and cures, shared lobbyists with gas companies whose fracking projects have been associated with increases in childhood cancer in southwestern Pennsylvania. In Louisiana, the Susan G. Komen Foundation and the Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center shared a lobbying firm with the Louisiana Mid-Coast Oil & Gas Association and four other fossil fuel companies.

“In Louisiana, my family is living with the dangerous impacts from the gas industry,” said Roishetta Sibley Ozane, Founder of The Vessel Project of Louisiana. “My sister and nephew are both in remission from cancer, and while they are blessed to still be here, many local families have lost loved ones to cancer. This is all because our communities are overburdened with pollution from oil, gas, and petrochemical expansion. It’s horrifying that these cancer societies are sharing lobbyists with the gas industry when so many families they advocate for are suffering from toxic air pollution.”

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