Colorado lobbyists playing both sides of climate crisis

May 8, 2024

Colorado counties with dangerously high levels of air pollution are “perversely employing” lobbyists who have been working to defeat anti-smog bills on behalf of their other, fossil fuel clients, finds a new report from F Minus and Brown University’s Climate and Development Lab. The report finds 24 Colorado lobbying firms or individual lobbyists who simultaneously represent fossil fuel companies and victims of the climate crisis, and it profiles four firms whose opposition to a package of anti-smog bills (SB 165, SB 166, HB 1330, HB 1339) is most deleterious to the local governments, schools, environmental groups, or anti-cancer organizations that they also represent: Capitol Focus, 5280 Strategies, Politicalworks, and Nexus Policy Group.

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From 2020-23, Capitol Focus was paid $319,000 by the American Petroleum Institute to lobby on 108 bills, many of which dealt directly or indirectly with greenhouse gas emissions; and the firm has been lobbying against all four of the 2024 anti-smog bills on behalf of API. During this same period the firm was paid $93,000 by the Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers, who warn that air pollution is a risk factor for developing lung cancer.

Nexus Policy Group has been lobbying against three of the four anti-smog bills for its client Tri-State Generation. But the firm previously lobbied on behalf of the Denver Public Schools, whose students have staged climate strikes and pressured the school system to switch to 100% renewable energy.

Politicalworks represents the Pew Charitable Trusts, whose climate funding focuses on ocean conservation, while also representing Chevron, whose fossil fuel extraction and processing operations have extensively polluted the Gulf of Mexico. In 2022, the firm lobbied on behalf of the Nature Conservancy in support of Colorado’s landmark law limiting toxic emissions from industrial sites (HB22-1244) while at the same time lobbying against the bill on behalf of Onward Energy and the Colorado Competitive Council.

“Colorado lobbyists are cashing in on the climate crisis by simultaneously working for its perpetrators and its victims,” said James Browning, Executive Director of F Minus. “But climate-stricken local governments, schools, and environmental groups can disrupt this dynamic by cutting ties with fossil fuel lobbyists.”

“I suspect that many Colorado nonprofits have no idea that they’re hiring the same lobbyists as fossil fuel companies,” said Max Boykoff, Professor in the Environmental Studies Program at the University of Colorado Boulder. “They really need to know this information as they make decisions.”

“It’s time to force Colorado lobbyists to pick a side in the climate fight,” said Micah Parkin, Executive Director of Colorado 350. “Colorado counties, schools, and nonprofit organizations can curb the power of the fossil fuel industry by refusing to hire lobbyists who also work for oil and gas companies.”

“When powerful lobbyists work both sides of an issue, especially when they work both sides of the same exact piece of legislation, there clearly is an unethical conflict of interest that undermines the democratic process,” said Aly Belknap, Executive Director of Colorado Common Cause.

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