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These 4 Koch-Funded Congressmen Are Behind the Bill to Abolish the EPA
By Alex Kotch
"Today, the American people are drowning in rules and regulations promulgated by unelected bureaucrats," Gaetz told fellow GOP lawmakers in an email reported by the Huffington Post "and the Environmental Protection Agency has become an extraordinary offender."
Rep. Gaetz's bill came the day after a Senate committee voted in favor of confirming Scott Pruitt, the fossil fuel-friendly attorney general of Oklahoma who has sued the EPA 14 times, to head the agency.
And like Pruitt, Rep. Gaetz and his three fellow sponsors of H.R. 861 have all benefited from campaign donations from oil, gas and coal companies and large electric utilities.
The four GOP representatives have raked in campaign cash from some of the biggest corporations peddling fossil fuels, including Koch Industries, Duke Energy, Chevron and ExxonMobil. What's more, an independent political spending group funded by an oil and gas company stepped in with ad buys to aid in Gaetz's recent U.S. House race.
Over their careers, these legislators appear to have responded in kind, pushing legislation favored by the industries reliant on fossil fuels. Here's who they are, how much they've received from the industry and what they've been up to in recent years.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL)
Since 2010, Gaetz's political campaigns have received $28,000 directly from fossil fuel companies and energy utilities, according to data compiled by the National Institute on Money in State Politics. These donors include the corporate PACs of utilities including Duke Energy, Gulf Power, NextEra Energy, Progress Energy, Southern Company and Teco Energy; oil and gas companies Chevron, Exxon and Koch Industries; and individual donors including the CEO of Gulf Power and the CEO of Global Industries and Dore Energy.
In 2016, as Gaetz ran for his first term in Congress, a super PAC supporting him received a $100,000 donation from Harness Oil and Gas, a Texas-based company reportedly run by family friends. This super PAC, North Florida Neighbors, spent more than $460,000, the bulk of its total expenditures during that election cycle, supporting Gaetz.
As a Florida state legislator, Gaetz successfully fought the requirement that gas sold in the state contain a minimum percentage of ethanol, something he called "a feel-good attempt to use alternative energy."
Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY)
Massie, a U.S. representative since 2012, was first elected with the backing of the Tea Party group FreedomWorks, which heavily opposes environmental regulations and regularly questions whether humans are affecting the climate.
In his three congressional campaigns, Massie took in nearly $155,000 from companies working in various parts of the oil, gas and coal industries, including Alpha Natural Resources, Chevron, Duke Energy, Exxon, Halliburton and Koch Industries, as well as from CSX Corporation, a transportation company that operates trains carrying coal, oil, natural gas and frac sand, an essential material used in shale drilling.
From his position in Congress, Massie has attacked and attempted to weaken the EPA repeatedly. He co-sponsored a 2016 bill to shift how the EPA analyzes greenhouse gas emissions in favor of fossil fuel companies—a bill lobbied for by Marathon Petroleum (which has given him $20,000) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (which raises doubt about human-caused climate change). Before that, he co-sponsored a 2015 resolution weakening an EPA rule under the Clean Air Act and a 2014 bill lowering EPA ambient air quality standards.
The Liberty for All Super PAC, funded mostly by the young, Texas-based millionaire investor John Ramsey, spent nearly $630,000 backing Massie for Congress in 2012. Unsurprisingly, Ramsey has "oil and gas ventures," according to his biography on the super PAC's website.
Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA)
Loudermilk's state and federal campaigns have received more than $60,000 from fossil fuel companies and trade associations, including Duke Energy, Exxon, Georgia Mining Association, Georgia Power, Koch Industries and Valero Energy.
In Congress, Loudermilk has co-sponsored several energy-related bills: a nuclear energy bill for which Duke Energy and Southern Company lobbied; a repeal of the U.S. crude oil export ban, which numerous fossil fuel companies, including BP, Chevron, Exxon, Marathon Oil and ConocoPhillips, lobbied in support of; and a bill challenging EPA greenhouse gas regulations, another piece of legislation oil and gas companies and utilities favored.
Both Loudermilk and Massie sit on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology—which has jurisdiction over the EPA, the Department of Energy and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)—and its subcommittee on oversight, key positions that would naturally attract the attention of fossil fuel companies.
Loudermilk's 2015 financial disclosure statement reveals that he received state funding to attend and speak at a "conservative policy summit" hosted by the climate change-denying Heritage Foundation, which has reportedly received $780,000 from ExxonMobil and nearly $6 million from Koch family foundations. Another speaker at the conference was Myron Ebell, the notorious climate change denier who led Trump's EPA transition team. Ebell crafted Trump's plan to hobble the EPA.
As a Georgia state senator, Loudermilk was on the communications and technology task force of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative bill mill that unites state legislators and big business representatives. ALEC has a history of producing templates for anti-environmental legislation involving climate change denial, promoting gas pipelines and attacking residential solar energy. In addition, ALEC is funded by many of the same fossil fuel corporations that donated to the campaigns of Loudermilk and his fellow legislators hoping to abolish the EPA: Chevron, CSX, Dominion, Duke Energy, Exxon and Koch Industries, to name a few.
Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS)
PACs and employees of companies in the energy and natural resources sector have given more than $265,000 to Palazzo's four federal election campaigns, which includes $168,000 from oil and gas companies. The fourth-largest donor is Mississippi Power, an electric utility owned by Southern Company that burns coal and natural gas and has given Palazzo's campaigns more than $34,000. Palazzo has also taken in $24,000 from Chevron, nearly $20,000 from Koch Industries and $19,000 from General Electric.
In 2015 Palazzo voted to oppose an EPA rule that increased emissions standards for coal-fired power plants and the year prior, he voted to halt defense spending on climate change initiatives and cut all funding for the Department of Energy's energy efficiency and renewable energy program. In previous years, Palazzo voted to speed up natural gas pipeline permits, allow state laws to supersede federal EPA laws regarding hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") and cut funding to the EPA, among other measures.
While serving as Mississippi state representative, Palazzo was also a member of ALEC.
Rep. Gaetz's office declined to offer comment, while the other three representatives did not respond to requests for comment.
While their bill to kill the EPA has been receiving little support from either political party and is unlikely to pass, its mere existence marks the extent to which fossil fuel funding has the potential to influence elected officials. This bill joins an effort already underway among the GOP-controlled House, Senate and White House to roll back regulations to protect the environment and public health.
Congressional observers likely can expect to see more of the same from these four representatives in the future.
Reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmogBlog.
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Global Banks, Led by JPMorgan Chase, Invested $1.9 Trillion in Fossil Fuels Since Paris Climate Pact
By Sharon Kelly
A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.
By Patti Lynn
2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."
England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.
By Jessica Corbett
A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.
By Madison Dapcevich
Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.
The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.
The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."
Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.
"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."
Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.
However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.
"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.
Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.
Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.
"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.
Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.
University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.