ScienceThe Texas Public Policy Foundation’s National Crusade Against Climate...

The Texas Public Policy Foundation’s National Crusade Against Climate Action

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When a lawsuit was filed to dam the nation’s first main offshore wind farm off the Massachusetts coast, it gave the impression to be a simple conflict between those that earn their dwelling from the ocean and others who would set up generators and underwater cables that might intervene with the harvesting of squid, fluke and different fish.

The fishing corporations difficult federal permits for the Winery Wind venture had been from the Bay State in addition to Rhode Island and New York, and a video made by the opponents featured a bearded fisherman with a definite New England accent.

However the monetary muscle behind the battle originated hundreds of miles from the Atlantic Ocean, in dusty oil nation. The group bankrolling the lawsuit filed final 12 months was the Texas Public Coverage Basis, an Austin-based nonprofit group backed by oil and gasoline corporations and Republican donors.

With affect campaigns, authorized motion and mannequin laws, the group is selling fossil fuels and attempting to stall the American economic system’s transition towards renewable vitality. It’s upfront about its opposition to Winery Wind and different renewable vitality initiatives, making no apologies for its advocacy work.

Even after Democrats in Congress handed the largest local weather regulation in United States historical past this summer time, the group is undaunted, and its continued efforts spotlight the myriad forces working to maintain oil, gasoline and coal corporations in enterprise.

In Arizona, the Texas Public Coverage Basis campaigned to maintain open one of many greatest coal-fired energy vegetation within the West. In Colorado, it known as for looser restrictions on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. And in Texas, the group crafted the primary so-called “vitality boycott” regulation to punish monetary establishments that need to cut back their investments in fossil gas initiatives, laws adopted by 4 different states.

On the similar time, the Texas Public Coverage Basis has unfold misinformation about local weather science. With YouTube movies, common appearances on Fox and Buddies, and social media campaigns, the group’s executives have sought to persuade lawmakers and the general public {that a} transition away from oil, gasoline and coal would hurt Individuals.

They’ve steadily seized on present occasions to advertise doubtful narratives, pinning excessive gasoline costs on President Biden’s local weather insurance policies (economists say that’s not the driving force) or claiming the 2021 winter blackout in Texas was the results of unreliable wind vitality (it wasn’t).

They journey the nation encouraging state lawmakers to punish corporations that attempt to cut back carbon emissions. And thru an initiative known as Life:Powered, the group makes what it calls “the ethical case for fossil fuels,” which holds that American prosperity is rooted in an economic system primarily based on oil, gasoline and coal and that poor communities and creating nations deserve the identical alternatives to develop.

“Once you take a look at their advocacy, it’s constantly a false alternative between being environmentally accountable and having fun with financial prosperity,” stated Jeff Clark, chief government of Superior Energy Alliance, an Austin-based commerce group for renewable vitality corporations. “They’re in opposition to offshore wind, but they spent many years advocating for offshore oil drilling. They’re in opposition to subsidies, however solely when it applies to renewables. They’re for looser restrictions on fracking and drilling, however higher restrictions for photo voltaic and wind. This group exists to defend fossil fuels from any risk to their market share.”

On Thanksgiving, Jason Isaac, an government on the group, tweeted “At the moment, I’m grateful to stay a high-carbon way of life and need the remainder of the world may too. Vitality poverty = poverty. #decarbonization is harmful and lethal.”

Mr. Isaac stated that the advantages of oil, gasoline and coal outweigh the dangers, and that whereas emissions could also be warming the planet, the modifications are modest and people can adapt.

“Completely, man is having an affect, I simply disagree with the argument that it’s harmful,” Mr. Isaac stated in an interview.

Mr. Isaac’s remarks run counter to the overwhelming scientific consensus that the burning of fossil fuels is already making climate extra excessive, and if not rapidly and sharply abated will result in more and more catastrophic floods, warmth, storms, drought and social unrest.

“Simply because the tobacco business had entrance teams and the opioid business had entrance teams, that is a part of the fossil gas disinformation playbook,” stated David Michaels, an epidemiologist on the George Washington Faculty of Public Well being who has studied company affect campaigns. “The position of those so known as coverage organizations is to not present helpful data to the general public, however to advertise the pursuits of their sponsors, which are sometimes antithetical to public well being.”

Robert Henneke, the muse’s government director, disputed the assertion that it was a entrance for fossil gas pursuits. “That characterization is inaccurate,” he stated. He additionally stated that a lot of the insurance policies the muse promotes don’t have anything to do with vitality.

James Leininger, who earned a fortune promoting medical beds, based Texas Public Coverage Basis in 1989 to advertise constitution faculties. Because it advanced, the group embraced different causes together with prison justice, immigration, border safety, taxes, and vitality.

Mr. Leininger bankrolled Rick Perry’s profitable gubernatorial marketing campaign in 2000, and Mr. Perry reciprocated by donating the proceeds of his 2010 e book, “Fed Up! Our Combat to Save America from Washington,” to the group. Different rich conservative donors started writing checks, together with Tim Dunn, an oilman who’s the vice chairman of the board.

In 2015, the group moved right into a $20 million six-story headquarters in downtown Austin, the place the Texas Capitol is seen from the headquarter’s “Governor Rick Perry Liberty Balcony.”

When President Donald J. Trump tapped Mr. Perry in 2017 to function vitality secretary, the group adopted him to Washington, opening an workplace there and inserting a number of senior officers contained in the administration.

Mr. Trump nominated Kathleen Hartnett White, a fellow on the basis, to guide the Council on Environmental High quality. Ms. White, who had as soon as described believing in world warming as “a sort of paganism,” stumbled at a affirmation listening to, and the White Home withdrew her nomination.

Susan Combs, one other fellow on the group, grew to become performing assistant secretary of fish, wildlife and parks on the Division of the Inside. Brooke Rollins, chief government of the muse, went to work on the White Home.

Bernard McNamee, a onetime coverage adviser to Senator Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican, joined the Division of Vitality below Mr. Perry, then left for the Texas Public Coverage Basis, solely to return to the Trump administration after a number of months. Mr. McNamee is now a lawyer who advises fossil gas corporations.

Douglas W. Domenech, who ran the muse’s efforts to dam the Obama administration from regulating emissions from energy vegetation, grew to become assistant secretary on the inside division. He was later discovered to have violated federal ethics guidelines by assembly with basis officers, creating the looks that he was engaged on behalf of a former employer.

Because the group’s profile grew, donations ballooned from $4.7 million in 2010 to $25.6 million in 2021, the newest 12 months for which data can be found. That allowed the group to increase its mandate far past the Lone Star state.

The inspiration stated a lot of its funding comes from people. As a result of it’s a nonprofit, the Texas Public Coverage Basis just isn’t required to reveal its donors. However publicly out there tax filings present that the group has acquired cash from fossil gas corporations together with the coal big Peabody Vitality, Exxon Mobil and Chevron.

The inspiration has additionally acquired not less than $4 million from conservative donors together with Charles G. Koch and David H. Koch, in accordance with public filings. Koch Industries owns oil refineries, petrochemical vegetation and hundreds of miles of oil and gasoline pipelines, and the brothers have a protracted historical past of funding efforts to dam local weather motion. Most of the basis’s executives and board members have labored for the oil and gasoline business, together with Mike Nasi, a prime lawyer for coal corporations who’s a senior adviser to its Life:Powered venture.

The vitality insurance policies supported by the Texas Public Coverage Basis largely line up with these of the fossil gas business. And in not less than one occasion, its work instantly affected a donor, Peabody Vitality.

For greater than 4 many years, the Navajo Producing Station close to Web page, Ariz., burned coal from a close-by Peabody mine, releasing mercury, arsenic, sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxides from its smokestacks, together with carbon dioxide, whereas draining the underground water provide.

The fast enlargement of low cost, pure gasoline beginning round 2007, mixed with new emissions guidelines in the course of the Obama administration made the Navajo Producing Station too costly to function, and by 2017 it was slated for closure.

To attempt to entice new patrons for each the plant and the mine in 2018, the Texas Public Coverage Basis produced a video that portrayed the coal plant as not solely a serious employer for the Navajo nation but in addition part of its tradition. The video featured a Navajo woman talking over Native American flute music.

“Papa says it’s the center of the land,” she stated as a picture of the plant’s three smokestacks fill the display screen. “Typically I feel I can hear it beating.”

The trouble wasn’t sufficient; the Navajo Producing Station closed in 2019. Peabody Vitality didn’t return a request for remark.

Final 12 months, the muse set its sights on the battle in New England over the Winery Wind venture, which is able to encompass 84 generators situated 14 miles off the coast.

Attorneys for the group filed a lawsuit in federal courtroom on behalf of fishing corporations, working freed from cost, and the muse produced a cinematic YouTube video to advertise the case. The video assaults wind vitality, exhibiting footage of rusted, stalled generators and means that tax subsidies for wind generators profit “international governments.”

Meghan Lapp of Seafreeze Shoreside, a seafood wholesaler and one of many plaintiffs, stated she hadn’t been conscious of the muse’s in depth work to dispute local weather science however was keen to look previous it.

“The fishing business wanted any individual to symbolize them,” she stated. “Once you’re on the level the place you’re going through full annihilation, you search for individuals who may help.”

Since President Biden got here to workplace pledging to make local weather motion a prime precedence, the group has solely elevated its efforts to fight what it sees because the overblown response to world warming — disputing broadly accepted fashions that venture an uptick in temperatures, questioning the viability of wind and photo voltaic vitality and dismissing the 2015 Paris local weather settlement as a political stunt that can “will push extra folks into poverty.”

When a storm led to blackouts throughout Texas in February 2021, the muse blamed the blackouts on frozen wind generators, though utility officers stated the first trigger was the state’s pure gasoline suppliers. The message was echoed by Republican politicians throughout the nation and commentators together with Tucker Carlson.

The Texas Public Coverage Basis continues to marketing campaign in opposition to wind energy although Texas now generates nearly a 3rd of its vitality from wind energy.

It’s also serving to form the regulation. When a Texas oil government complained that he couldn’t get a financial institution mortgage to increase drilling operations, Mr. Isaac, a former state lawmaker who beforehand co-founded a nonprofit that promotes pure gasoline, drafted a invoice directing the state to cease doing enterprise with banks and corporations that had been divesting from the fossil gas business. Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas signed the regulation final 12 months.

With encouragement from Mr. Isaac and a community of Republican state treasurers, 4 different states — West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Oklahoma — have handed comparable legal guidelines. That has led some states to cease doing enterprise with main monetary establishments together with Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and BlackRock.

In the meantime, the muse is suing the Environmental Safety Company, difficult its designation of greenhouse gases as a hazard to human well being and welfare, and this summer time lodged its objection to a proposal on the Securities and Alternate Fee that may require public corporations to reveal the monetary dangers they face from local weather change.

As Republicans take management of the Home of Representatives in January, the Texas group is poised to regain affect in Washington.

“It offers us a leg up,” Mr. Isaac stated. “We’ve been educating employees on the Hill on our analysis, our positions and our messaging. We’re going to have extra of an affect in Washington not solely over the subsequent two years, however over the subsequent six years. It’s nice.”



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