California lobbyists play both sides of the climate crisis in 2023 legislative session

September 5, 2023

San Diego, CA–As oil and gas companies lobby to defeat several major climate bills in the final days of California’s 2023 legislative session, new research from F Minus shows that numerous lobbying firms and their lobbyists are serving as “double agents” by representing both fossil fuel companies and climate-stricken local governments, universities, and even environmental groups.

Those bills include, but are not limited to AB 1167, SB 253, and SB 261.

AB 1167 calls for a financial mechanism to pay for shuttering orphan oil wells, which pose a public health risk due to leakage of volatile organic chemicals such as benzene and a climate risk due to methane leakage. SB 253 would mandate disclosure of full supply chain lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions for companies with revenues of over $1 billion per year operating within the state. And SB 261 would mandate disclosure of climate-related financial risks faced by companies with annual revenues of over $500 million operating within California.

Conflicts revealed by F Minus include:

  • Arc Strategies has been lobbying for Berry Corp., one of the state’s top oil drillers, in opposition to AB 1167, SB 253, and SB 261. Also in 2023, Arc Strategies has been registered to lobby for the City of San Carlos and City of West Sacramento, whose respective climate plans each call for reducing emissions 40% by 2030 relative to 1990 levels.
  • Axiom Advisors lobbies for oil drilling giant Occidental Petroleum and has been opposing SB 253 and SB 261 on behalf of Marathon Petroleum. At the same time, Axiom lobbies for climate and environmental advocacy group The Nature Conservancy and climate urbanism-focused group SPUR in San Francisco, as well as Meta. Axiom was co-founded by a close friend and long-time advisor for Governor Gavin Newsom, Jason Kinney, as well as his former Policy Director as Lt. Governor, Kevin Schmidt.
  • Campbell Strategy & Advocacy lobbies for the City of Fresno, stricken this summer by drastic heat waves, while also lobbying for fracked gas utility, pipeline transmission, and LNG exports giant Sempra. Greg Campbell, the namesake of the lobbying firm, formerly was chief of staff for Senate President pro tempore Toni Atkins.
  • Heyworth Government Affairs lobbies for Kinder Morgan, opposing SB 253, which calls for full scope 1 through 3 emissions disclosure for companies with annual revenues of $1 billion or more operating within California. The firm also lobbies for St. Mary’s College, which has a 30% GHG reductions goal by 2025, carbon neutrality for Scope 1 & 2 emissions by 2030, and carbon netural for scope 3 emissions in addition to scope 1 and 2 by 2030.
  • Cruz Strategies lobbies for both Sempra and Stanford University, while Sloat Higgins Jensen and Associates lobbies for both Chevron and the Chancellor’s Office of California State University. This comes as the CSU System has divested from fossil fuels and Stanford has a goal of 100% renewable energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% below peak levels by 2025.During the legislative session, Sempra lobbied against SB 253, SB 261, as well as SB 252, a fossil fuel divestment bill aimed toward the state’s public pension system. Sempra also lobbied against a Senate joint resolution supportive of the fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty. Chevron, for its part, also opposed the joint resolution, as well as AB 1167 and the three climate finance-oriented bills.

“Californians hit by fires, smoke, drought, and now floods need to understand that, in many cases, their own tax dollars are being used by their city or county to hire lobbyists who work for the fossil fuel industry,” said James Browning, Executive Director of F Minus. “Students at Stanford, Cal State, and other universities who employ fossil fuel lobbyists need to know that their tuition dollars are going to these lobbyists. Environmental groups who work with these fossil fuel lobbyists also need to be challenged. Whose side are you on?”

“San Diegans pay the highest utility rates in the nation, for both electricity and gas, thanks to a flawed franchise agreement with SDGE, a subsidiary of Sempra Energy,” said Lori Saldaña, a former member of the California State Assembly who co-authored AB 32 (the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act of 2006) and served as Speaker pro tempore, while representing a district in the City of San Diego. “Much of Sempra’s natural gas is obtained via fracking and requires dangerous storage methods in Aliso Canyon, and much of their profits go to fund campaigns of elected officials and create a lucrative revolving-door industry for lobbyists.”


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