Pittsburgh’s extreme embrace of coal, oil, and gas lobbyists

October 31, 2023

A new report from F Minus and LittleSis finds that Pittsburgh has the most “extreme embrace” of fossil fuel lobbyists of any big American city and that the climate goals of many Pittsburgh institutions are being undermined by their own lobbyists, many of whom also work for coal, oil, and gas interests. The two groups called on the City of Pittsburgh, the School District of Pittsburgh, the University of Pittsburgh, and other leading institutions to cut ties with them and adopt policies against working with such lobbyists in the future.

Download the report

Key findings:

  • The City of Pittsburgh has almost entirely divested its pension funds from fossil fuels and plans a 50% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 relative to 2003 levels. Yet in 2023, the city employed lobbyists who also worked for eight fossil fuel companies including ExxonMobil, while the Port of Pittsburgh Commission employed lobbyists who worked for 16 fossil fuel companies.
  • In 2023, lobbyists for the School District of Pittsburgh worked for multiple fossil fuel companies, including the Koch Companies, a leading funder of both climate denialism and efforts to cut funding for public education.
  • In August 2023, new research from the University of Pittsburgh found that children living near shale gas activities in Southwest Pennsylvania had a higher risk of developing lymphoma. Yet among the fossil fuel companies who also employ the University of Pittsburgh’s two lobbying firms–Allegheny Strategy Partners and Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney–are several that frack and transport fracked gas.
  • Conservation groups and funders of environmental work also employed fossil fuel lobbyists, including the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and the Pittsburgh Foundation, which funds groups working on climate change and environmental justice.

“The smoky summer of 2023 shows us that we need to get off fossil fuels as fast as possible,” said James Browning, Executive Director of F Minus. “But slowing Pittsburgh down is the fact that many of the people who lobby for the city’s government, its schools, and some of its most climate-conscious institutions are double agents who also work for coal, oil, and gas interests.”

“It’s time for these Pittsburgh institutions to put their money where their mouth is,” said Aly Shaw, a Research Analyst with LittleSis. “Corporations like EQT and Shell have done real damage to the people and environment around Pittsburgh. The City and environmental nonprofits should not be doing business with fossil fuel lobbyists.”

“Pittsburgh’s institutions and their commitments to mitigating climate change must be reflected in their ambitions, partnerships, and associations,” said Jasmine Banks, Executive Director of UnKoch My Campus. “The data is clear: our institutions, educational pillars, and beacons of culture continue to engage with lobbyists intertwined with the fossil fuel industry, notably the Koch entities known for funding climate denialism and undermining public education. This unfortunate reality undermines the future we aspire to forge for future generations. We call upon every Pittsburgh institution to divest completely from lobbyists who represent or have ties to fossil fuel interests, affirming that the city’s path towards a sustainable future is resolute and unclouded by conflicting interests.”

The report “Pittsburgh’s Double Agents” details five lobbying firms who represent both fossil fuel companies and institutions being harmed by the climate crisis in Pittsburgh: the new firm of One+ Strategies, whose clients include EQT, Kinder Morgan, and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center; Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, which represents fossil fuel companies in addition to numerous clients in the arts, conservation, and education sectors; Malady & Wooten, which represents both ExxonMobil and the City of Pittsburgh; and Allegheny Strategy Partners, which represents both coal interests and two children’s museum’s.

 

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