Pick Your Poison

The Anti-cancer Groups who Employ Fossil Fuel Lobbyists

March 2024

POLLUTION 1

“Climate change creates conditions favorable to the greater production of and exposure to known carcinogens.”

“Climate change and cancer,” CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians,
The American Cancer Society, May 18, 2020

Cancer and Fossil Fuels

Leading anti-cancer organizations such as the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute warn that the climate crisis is increasing our exposure to carcinogens. Increasingly severe hurricanes and floods are spreading carcinogenic water pollution, warned ACS in 2020, and increasingly severe wildfires are spreading carcinogenic air pollution. Exposure to coal dust and pollution from coal-burning power plants have long been known to cause lung cancer. And as the U.S. replaces many of its coal plants with gas plants, a growing body of evidence also suggests that the extraction, transmission, and burning of gas are increasing our exposure to carcinogens.

FRACKING

Gas Extraction
and Cancer

In 2019, a study by the University of Toledo found that homes near gas fracking operations in Ohio had increased levels of radon, the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. In 2023, a University of Pittsburgh study found that children living near fracked gas wells in southwestern Pennsylvania were seven times more likely to develop the most common form of childhood cancer.

Photos by Brad Weaver, Lucas Van Oort
and Kwon Junho on Unsplash
GAS PIPES

Gas Transmission
and Cancer

Gas compressor stations produce 70 different types of air pollutants, according to a 2020 study by Physicians for Social Responsibility, 39 of which have been linked to cancer.

GAS STOVE

Gas-burning Stoves and Cancer

A 2023 Stanford University study found that benzene leaking from gas stoves poses a significant cancer risk, and that “a single gas burner on high or an oven set to 350°F raised kitchen benzene concentrations above the upper range of indoor benzene concentrations attributable to secondhand tobacco smoke.”

Despite these links between fossil fuels and cancer, and despite their own warnings about carcinogens being increasingly spread by hurricanes, floods, wildfires, and routine air pollution, many of America’s leading anti-cancer organizations continue to employ lobbyists who also work for fossil fuel companies. Between 2022-24, the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) shared lobbyists or lobbying firms with fossil fuel companies in ten states: Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Utah. The Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund (TFKAF) shared lobbyists with fossil fuel companies in four states: California, Colorado, New York, and Oregon. Following are some of the most extreme examples of these lobbyists for ACS CAN, TFKAF, and other anti-cancer organizations representing companies whose fossil fuel projects are routinely and accidentally exposing people to carcinogens.

American Cancer Society
Cancer Action Network

Florida

In 2023-24, ACS CAN shared the Florida lobbying firm of Heffley & Associates with the Tampa Electric Company (TECO). TECO promotes gas as a “clean” energy source and has been gradually converting its coal-fired power plants to run on gas. Food & Water Watch warns that TECO’s coal-to-gas conversions in Florida are a false climate solution because gas extraction creates its own localized health risks—especially when the gas is fracked—in addition to global climate risks from the methane emitted during the extraction, flaring, transportation, and burning of gas. In Oct. 2023, the Sierra Club’s Dirty Truth Report gave TECO a failing grade on its climate commitments because of its decision to switch its Big Bend coal plant to gas instead of shutting the plant down entirely.

In 2024, Heffley helped TECO pass HB 275, which will expose people who trespass at “critical infrastructure facilities” to greater criminal and civil penalties. As of Oct. 2023, 18 states had adopted similar bills as part of a push by the fossil fuel industry to limit protests of and at plants, terminals, and pipelines. In 2021, Heffley helped pass a bill prohibiting local governments from switching from fossil fuels to renewables without the state legislature’s approval. The net effect of these two bills—both pushed by ACS lobbyists wearing their TECO hats—is to make it harder for Floridians to protest new gas projects or transition away from gas power, even as a growing body of evidence shows that gas wells, compressor stations, and gas stoves are exposing people to carcinogens.

TECO’s Big Bend coal plant and North Bend coal ash pit are also exposing people to carcinogens. In May 2023, Earthjustice found that this coal ash pit was not in compliance with groundwater monitoring requirements established by the EPA’s Final Coal Combustion Residual Rule, and was releasing two carcinogens at levels exceeding federal health-based guidelines: molybdenum at twice the recommended limit, and radium at seven times the limit.

Heffley also lobbied for Chevron during this period; and while it was specifically focused on a biodiesel bill, the company’s fossil fuel projects have a long record of routinely and accidentally exposing people to carcinogens. Residents of Pascagoula, Mississippi are suing Chevron over plans to manufacture a new kind of highly carcinogenic boat fuel in Pascagoula that is an estimated one million times more carcinogenic than what is usually allowed by the EPA.

In 2024, ACS CAN also shared a different Florida lobbying firm, The Legis Group, with Duke Energy. In North Carolina, multiple communities downstream from Duke coal ash pits have traced spikes in carcinogens in their drinking water to leaks of bromide from these pits. In Florida, Earthjustice found that pollution from Duke Energy’s Crystal River coal ash dump has greatly exceeded federal health-based guidelines. Arsenic pollution from this coal ash dump was 144 times the recommended maximum, Molybdenum five times the maximum, and Boron, Radium 226, and Radium 228 were each three times the maximum.

Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, ACS CAN shares the Bravo Group with fossil fuel companies Moxie Freedom, NRG Energy, and Southwestern Energy. Pennsylvania does not require lobbyists to disclose the numbers of the bills on which they are lobbying. However, ACS CAN’s anti-cancer work in Pennsylvania stands in stark contrast to the many instances of NRG Energy and a former Bravo client, Sunoco Logistics, routinely and accidentally exposing people living near their fossil fuel projects to carcinogens.

NRG Energy operates two coal plants in Texas—the 1.7 GW Limestone coal plant and the 2.8 W.A. Parish coal plant. In 2017, Parish was the number one emitter of fine particulate pollution in Texas and number two emitter of sulfur dioxide. Air Alliance Houston has called on NRG to close the plant, citing, among other problems, the cancer risk that these emissions pose to nearby residents.

From 2012-17, ACS CAN shared the Bravo Group with Sunoco Logistics. In 2007 this company’s Philadelphia oil Pick Your Poison | 3refinery was found to be the largest single U.S. refinery source of polycyclic aromatic compounds, which include probable or suspected carcinogens. In 2018, Sunoco agreed to pay $750,000 in fines for illegally releasing various chemicals from its Marcus Hook refinery between 2014-15, including hydrogen chloride and hydrogen fluoride, along with nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and other greenhouse gasses linked to respiratory problems and other health issues.

In May 2023, Bravo client Moxie Freedom’s gas plant in Luzerne County, PA was twelfth on a list of the “dirty dozen” most polluting power plants in the state.

Ohio

“It is Time to Reduce the Burden of Cancer on Buckeyes,” said the Ohio chapter of ACS CAN in a Jan. 2024 press release, advocating for more affordable care for cancer patients and better access to biomarker testing.

In 2023-24, ACS CAN Ohio shared the lobbying firm of Byers, Minton & Associates with Invenergy. Invenergy is a diversified energy company that promotes gas as a safe and clean form of energy, and operates six U.S. gas plants that generate a combined 4.5 gigawatts (GW) of power, according to Global Energy Monitor. In Dec. 2022, the Ohio legislature legally defined gas as “green energy” in an extraordinary and arguably unconstitutional set of actions that made this change through legislation on which the public was never given a chance to testify.

ACS CAN’s Ohio chapter continues to share this lobbying firm with Invenergy despite this company’s reliance on fracked gas, and despite the University of Toledo’s 2019 study showing that residences near fracking operations in Ohio are experiencing increased levels of radon, the second-leading cause of lung cancer.

ACS CAN does extensive public education about the links between radon and lung cancer; in Ohio, its cancer-prevention efforts have recently been focused on a proposed $5.5 million funding increase for tobacco prevention and the legislature’s Jan. 2024 override of Gov. Mike DeWine’s veto of a bill prohibiting local governments from establishing their own, stronger tobacco control laws.

In 2023, Byers, Minton & Associates also lobbied on behalf of fossil fuel company Enel North America, a subsidiary of Enel, which operates 5.0 GW of coal plants and 13.2 GW of gas plants in several countries in Europe and South America.

Other States

A Feb. 2024 report from F Minus found that ACS CAN shared the New York firm of Kasirer LLC with three fossil fuel companies, including the Astoria Generating Company, whose gas- and oil-fired power plants in New York have contributed to higher instances of asthma and other health problems for nearby residents.

A 2020 report from the Environmental Integrity Project found that HollyFrontier’s New Mexico refinery was the worst emitter of benzene, a carcinogen, among 19 refineries cited for harmful emissions by the EPA. In 2022, ACS CAN employed Oklahoma lobbyist Margaret ErlingFrette, who also lobbied on behalf of HollyFrontier.

In 2024, ACS CAN shared Oregon lobbyist Drew Hagedorn with Kinder Morgan, developer of Canadian tar sands oil. Exposure to tar sands chemicals has been linked to higher rates of cancer in Indigenous communities in Canada and dangerous air pollution.

Lobbying For Fossil Fuels

and Against Cancer

Coal, oil, and gas firms retained by the American Cancer Society’s

Cancer Action Network in 2022-24

Lobbyist_webt 1

Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund

Oregon

Carcinogenic emissions from coal plants and coal ash pits. Carcinogenic chemicals used to treat utility poles. Failing to cut power to 600,000 Oregon utility customers during the state’s devastating 2020 wildfires—a failure that a Multnomah County jury found fed these fires, which covered much of the state in carcinogenic smoke.

The company involved in these three types of human exposure to carcinogens is PacifiCorp. In 2024, PacifiCorp shared the Oregon lobbying firm of Howe Public Affairs with the Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund, whose focus on protecting people and especially children from the carcinogens in cigarettes would seem to be outrageously incompatible with PacifiCorp’s record on carcinogens.

XRAY

Coal Power and Cancer

PacifiCorp owns or partially owns 4.2 GW of gas plants and 8.6 GW of coal plants in several western states. A 2019 Harvard University study estimated that 1.37 million cases of lung cancer in the world will be linked with pollution from coal-fired power plants in 2025. Earthjustice has found that coal ash pits associated with PacifiCorp coal plants in Utah and Wyoming are leaking carcinogens.

TIMBER

Utility Poles
and Cancer

In California, PacifiCorp was the subject of a 2015 complaint about exposing residents to carcinogenic chemicals used to treat its utility poles, and a 2023 lawsuit filed by the Ecological Rights Foundation alleging that the company has illegally discharged these chemicals into California waterways. Chemicals on poles and pooling at the base of poles pose a risk to children.

WILDFIRE

Wildfires and Cancer

In Mar. 2024, PacifiCorp was ordered to pay $42 million to 10 victims of Oregon’s 2020 wildfires over the company’s failure to cut power during these fires–a judgment that comes on top of two previous orders to pay a combined $175 million to fire victims. In 2021, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality found that smoke from the state’s wildfires was increasing residents’ exposures to several kinds of carcinogens.

New York

From 2022-24, the Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund retained the New York lobbying firm of Hinman Straub “to reduce tobacco use and its deadly consequences in the United States.” TFKAF estimates annual smoking-related deaths in New York at 28,200, and estimates that 26.7% of annual cancer deaths in the state are attributable to smoking.

While lobbying for TFKAF, Hinman Straub was also lobbying for 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.”

And as reported by the Guardian in Feb. 2024, TFKAF also shared Hinman Straub with the Koch Companies, a leading funder of climate denialism. Tobacco companies have long been allied with Koch efforts to promote anti-regulatory legislation drafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council. In Europe, Koch-funded entities have been linked to campaigns promoting e-cigarettes. Yet before employing Hinman Straub, TFKAF used a different New York firm, Patrick B. Jenkins & Associates, to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes in 2020. Passing such a ban continues to be a top priority for TFKAF in other states.

California

In 2023, TFKAF paid Campbell Strategy & Advocacy $157,500 to lobby for a bill (AB 935) banning the sale of flavored tobacco products. TFKAF estimates annual smoking-related deaths in California at 40,000, and estimates that 21.6% of annual cancer deaths in the state are attributable to smoking.

In 2023, Campbell Strategy & Advocacy was also paid $75,000 by gas utility Sempra to lobby on legislation promoting the continued use of gas in California residences. Yet in addition to the documented spread of carcinogens that occurs during the various phases of providing gas for residential use—from extraction to flaring to the release of carcinogenic chemicals by compressor stations—new research by Stanford University finds that “a single gas burner on high or an oven set to 350°F raised kitchen benzene concentrations above the upper range of indoor benzene concentrations attributable to secondhand tobacco smoke.” Stanford’s study used air samples from homes in California and Colorado and determined that gas-burning stoves emitted benzene at levels 10 to 25 times higher than electric stoves.

Colorado

The Colorado lobbying firm Politicalworks has a history of lobbying simultaneously for fossil fuel and environmental interests, and has even lobbied for and against the same environmental bill at the same time on behalf of different clients.

In 2021, the firm lobbied for Chevron in opposition to parts of SB21-200, a bill to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and establish an environmental justice advisory board within the Department of Public Health and Environment. Such environmental justice initiatives are one way of trying to help communities of color and low income communities who have been disproportionately impacted by the climate crisis and local pollution from fossil fuel projects.

TFKAF’s 501c3 affiliate, the Campaign For Tobacco-Free Kids, has worked to expose the ways in which tobacco companies prey on and harm these two communities. And yet in Colorado, TFKAF shares Politicalworks with Chevron, whose fossil fuel projects have extensively harmed environmental justice communities in the U.S. and globally.

Politicalworks also represents Onward Energy, operator of nine gas plants in the U.S., two of which are in Colorado.

Other Examples

Utah: Huntsman Cancer Institute and Fossil Fuels

In 2019, a study led by the Huntsman Cancer Institute in Utah sought to explain a trend whereby childhood cancer survivors in the state were experiencing worse respiratory problems during winter months. The study concluded that air pollution was responsible for this trend, with more than half of the respiratory problems covered by the study occurring within three days of a major bad air event, such as an inversion above Salt Lake City.

Across the U.S., the climate crisis is contributing to worsening air quality in many communities; while local pollution also threatens those near fossil fuel extraction projects and coal-, oil-, and gas-fired power plants. In Utah, the Huntsman Cancer Institute shares the lobbying firm of Foxley & Pignanelli with six fossil fuel companies, among them Kinder Morgan and AC Oil & Gas.

Pennsylvania: Nemours Foundation and Fracking

The Nemours Foundation funds research programs focused on treatments and cures for childhood cancer. In Aug. 2023, a University of Pittsburgh study found that children living near fracked gas wells in southwestern Pennsylvania were seven times more likely to develop the most common form of childhood cancer. This finding is problematic for Nemours because the foundation shares the lobbying firm One+ Strategies with fracking company EQT, which is a member of the Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC). In 2023, the MSC lobbied against HB 170, a bill that would increase minimum setback distances between shale gas wells and residences. The MSC also opposed HB 652, which would give the state Department of Environmental Protection more power to regulate industrial development in environmental justice areas.

Prior to Feb. 2023, Nemours was represented by the lobbying firm Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney, which is itself a member of the MSC.

Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Maryland: Susan G. Komen Foundation and Fossil Fuels

The multistate lobbying firm Cornerstone Government Affairs represents both the Susan G. Komen Foundation and fossil fuel interests in Oklahoma, Maryland, and Louisiana, which from 2016-2020 had the third-highest rate of death from breast cancer in the country.

In Louisiana, the firm represents oil and gas driller Baker Hughes, with whom Susan G. Komen teamed up in 2014 to help distribute 1,000 pink drill bits to oilfields around the world to help raise awareness about breast cancer. Cornerstone also represents gas-plant operator Invenergy and the Louisiana Mid-continent Oil & Gas Association, a trade association that includes numerous companies that operate fossil fuel facilities in Louisiana’s “cancer alley,” an 85-mile stretch of land between Baton Rouge and New Orleans that contains the highest concentration of fossil fuel and chemical facilities in the Western Hemisphere. In 2022, a study found that every census tract in this stretch ranks in the top 5% nationally for cancer risk from toxic air pollution. Cornerstone also represents the Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center in Baton Rouge.

In Aug. 2023, Cornerstone’s Maryland lobbyist Patrick Hogan was criticized by F Minus for simultaneously representing Johns Hopkins University, which is renowned for its public health program, and the American Petroleum Institute and coal-plant operator NRG Energy. Hogan has since dropped these two fossil fuel companies as clients. However, his Cornerstone colleague Delora Sanchez Ifekauche continues to represent the American Petroleum Institute and Susan G. Komen in Maryland.

Conclusion

Preventable

This word frequently appears in front of “deaths” in estimates of annual global deaths attributable to tobacco, which the World Health Organization put at 8 million for 2023. In the U.S., the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids estimates that more than 480,000 annual deaths are attributable to tobacco.

8 million is also the number of global deaths that a 2021 Harvard study attributed to fossil fuel pollution in 2018, or 1 in 5 deaths.

Are deaths caused by the climate crisis preventable? They are if governments and corporations act much more quickly to transition from fossil fuels to renewables. But in the U.S., this transition is being impeded by thousands of fossil fuel lobbyists, many of whom also represent clients being harmed by the climate crisis. This dynamic is particularly dangerous for people in frontline communities in places like Louisiana, where lobbyists for fossil fuel companies also represent a cancer foundation and a cancer treatment center, and Pennsylvania, where anti-cancer groups continue to hire some of the state’s leading champions of fracking as their own lobbyists.

It is time for anti-cancer organizations to stop working with lobbyists for fossil fuels, in the same way they avoid working with lobbyists for tobacco.

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