Johns Hopkins cuts some ties with coal lobbyists; Baltimore shares lobbyists with Curtis Bay Energy

December 13, 2023

The Johns Hopkins University and the City of Baltimore are backing away from working with lobbyists whose fossil fuel advocacy is at odds with their own climate goals, according to an analysis of new lobbyist registrations by climate group F Minus.

In July 2023, F Minus revealed that lobbyists for JHU shared the firm of Cornerstone Government Strategies with coal-plant operator NRG Energy, and shared the firm of Manis Canning with coal company Holcim–relationships maintained despite the university having divested from coal companies. New data for the November 2023 – October 2024 registration period shows that Cornerstone Government Strategies continues to represent JHU but not NRG Energy, while Manis Canning continues to represent both Holcim and JHU.

“Johns Hopkins employing coal lobbyists goes against everything they claim to care about on climate, especially on the destructive impact of coal,” said James Browning, Executive Director of F Minus. “This new data suggests that the university is telling at least one lobbying firm to make a choice. ‘You can represent us, or coal, but not both of us.’”

The City of Baltimore was found to share the lobbying firm of Gordon Feinblatt with ExxonMobil in 2021–despite the fact that Baltimore is suing ExxonMobil–and gas-plant operator Calpine in 2022. New filings show Gordon Feinblatt retaining Baltimore but neither ExxonMobil nor Calpine.

JHU continues to share Cornerstone Government Strategies with the American Petroleum Institute and Domtar, operator of woody biomass power plants in Maryland and 14 other states. JHU and the City of Baltimore also both continue to employ lobbyists for highly-polluting incinerators and waste-to-energy facilities in the city, with Baltimore sharing Gordon Feinblatt with Curtis Bay Energy and JHU sharing the firm of Harris Jones & Malone with Wheelabrator. Pollution from these facilities has been linked to environmental and health risks for communities of color and low-income communities in South Baltimore. Just this year, Curtis Bay Energy pled guilty to 40 violations of state environmental regulations and was fined $1.75 million, one of the largest penalties Maryland has ever charged for an environmental criminal case.

“Trash incineration emits more climate-warming pollution than any other energy source per kWh, even coal,” said Jennifer Kunze, Maryland Organizing Director with Clean Water Action. “Maryland’s trash incinerators emit mercury, lead, and dioxins into our air, directly harming people in our campus and city communities. Every reason that would motivate universities or local governments to cut ties with fossil fuel companies also demands cutting ties with trash incinerator companies.”

“F Minus’s research is key to ensuring climate accountability” said Sonia Demiray, founder of the Climate Communications Coalition. “This database holds our government and other institutions accountable for continuing to engage with lobbyists representing those who harm our communities and put our climate goals out of reach. This includes those that push fossil fuels as well as those who propose false solutions to the climate emergency including trash incineration, woody biomass for energy, and biogas.”

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