NY’s top lobbyists playing both sides of climate crisis

February 13, 2024

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New York’s leading fossil fuel lobbyists are simultaneously lobbying on behalf of environmental groups, hospitals, universities, cultural institutions, and tech giants such as Google, Microsoft, and Amazon, according to a new report from F Minus and LittleSis. The report argues that such “double agent” lobbyists are part of a strategy by the fossil fuel industry to greenwash its image and dissuade state lawmakers from supporting climate proposals such as the NY HEAT Act and the Climate Change Superfund Act.

New Yorkers living near gas plants have long suffered higher instances of asthma and other respiratory problems, yet two of the state’s most pro-fossil-fuel lobbying firms also represent communities threatened by these plants. The MirRam Group represents two hospital systems in addition to Calpine, the country’s largest operator of gas-fired power plants, including five on Long Island. Ostroff Associates represents five fossil fuel companies in addition to the Albany-based Maternity & Early Childhood Foundation. Meanwhile, cultural institutions such as Lincoln Center and the Guggenheim Museum have shared the firm of Kasirer LLC with the Astoria Generating Company.

Advocates for local conservation and climate remediation efforts also share lobbyists with fossil fuel companies. The Billion Oyster Project, Riverside Park Conservancy, and the Randalls Island Park Alliance all share the firm of Greenberg Traurig with seven fossil fuel companies. A separate F Minus report in Dec. 2023 found that the Adirondack Foundation is one of 19 climate-focused philanthropies who employ oil and gas lobbyists–and that it currently shares the firm of Hinman Straub with the Koch Companies and the Iroquois Pipeline Company.

“New York is careening toward climate catastrophe, but you wouldn’t know it from the popularity of fossil fuel lobbyists in Albany,” said James Browning, Executive Director of F Minus. “This popularity is rooted in their ability to retain prestigious clients like museums, universities, and environmental groups. It is time to hold these organizations accountable for their choice of lobbyists.”

“Hiring politically-connected lobbyists is a key prong of the fossil fuel industry’s multi-million dollar campaign to block, delay, and water down efforts to meet New York’s climate obligations,” said Robert Galbraith, Senior Research Analyst at LittleSis. “The climate crisis is already here, and groups in New York and around the world need to decide if they can stomach teaming up with political influencers who are getting rich by helping fossil fuel corporations torch the planet.”

“It is a cautionary tale that most of the State’s top lobbying firms are working for clients who are actively undermining efforts to protect the health and well-being of our communities, particularly communities of color,” said Stephan Edel, Executive Director of NY Renews. “When a firm represents a corporate polluter, they are materially and immediately harming the New Yorkers living at the front lines of the climate and environmental justice crisis—centrally, Black and Brown New Yorkers.”

In the tech sector, Google and Microsoft have ambitious goals for reducing their own emissions; yet Google shares Brown & Weinraub with fourteen fossil fuel clients including the Koch Companies, leading funders of climate denialism. Microsoft shares Park Strategies with ExxonMobil and Enbridge, and Amazon shares the MirRam Group with Calpine.

“When it comes to climate, Big Tech companies tend to play both sides — and need to bring their lobbying into alignment with their pro-climate stance,” said Bill Weihl, founder and Co-Executive Director of ClimateVoice. “This means leaving anti-climate trade associations and not employing anti-climate lobbyists.”

NYU pledged to divest its endowment from fossil fuel companies last August and Syracuse University moved to do so in 2015, yet both continue to share lobbying firms with fossil fuel companies. Other universities facing pressure to divest while employing fossil fuel firms include Bard, Barnard, Columbia, Hofstra, and Stony Brook.

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