ExxonMobil, Peabody Coal Lobbying for Bill Preventing Climate Change Accounting in US Trade Deals

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

The day before global leaders and diplomats passed a climate change deal in Paris at the United Nations climate summit, the U.S. House of Representatives -- in a 256-158 vote -- authorized the final text of a bill that has a provision preventing climate change to be accounted for in all U.S. trade deals going forward.

That bill, the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 (H.R.644), now may proceed for full-floor votes in both the House and the U.S. Senate after its conference report was agreed upon. A DeSmog review of lobbying records shows the bill has received heavy fossil fuel industry support. 

The language in the bill originally dictated that "trade agreements do not require changes to U.S. law or obligate the United States with respect to global warming or climate change."

According to National Journal, Congress changed that language in the conference report to "greenhouse gas emissions" and took "global warming or climate change" off the table.

Koch-Funded Politician Inserts Language

National Journal also detailed that U.S. Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) inserted the original language into the bill and he is content with the amended language, too. 

"He finds it ac­cept­able be­cause he re­ceived as­sur­ance from [U.S. Trade Rep­res­ent­at­ive Mi­chael Fro­man] that the [Trade Pro­mo­tion Au­thor­ity] bill does not provide the ad­min­is­tra­tion any new au­thor­ity to enter in­to cli­mate-change agree­ments," Sensenbrenner spokes­wo­man Nicole Tie­man told National Journal.

Sensenbrenner, campaign finance records show, maintains Koch Industries as one of his top donors. He also has well over $1 million in fossil fuel industry investments. Those include:

-$100,001 to $250,000 in BP stock

-$39,253 in Chevron stock

-$564,717 to $1,064,716 in ExxonMobil stock

-$250,001 to $500,000 in General Electric stock

-$100,001 to $250,000 in Wisconsin Energy Corporation stock

Meet the Lobbyists

In name, Sensenbrenner introduced the anti-climate provision into the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015, but in reality industry lobbyists are the ones who ensured the U.S. House did the industry's bidding. That much is clear by reviewing lobbying disclosure forms.

Fossil fuel companies who have put their best lobbying feet forward on H.R. 644 include General Electric (GE), ExxonMobil, Chevron, Peabody Energy and the American Petroleum Institute (API).

One of the members of GE's lobbying team for H.R. 644, Lisa Wolski, served as chief-of-staff for former U.S. Sen. John Kyl (R-AZ). Nancy Dorn, another lobbyist on the team, formerly served as Legislative Affairs Assistant to Vice President Dick Cheney and as National Security Advisor to former Speaker of the House, U.S. Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-IL).

ExxonMobil also played the revolving door game on H.R. 644, paying lobbying firm Nickles Group -- which is named after former U.S. Sen. Don Nickles (R-OK) -- to do so. Nickles Group lists Don Nickles as one of its lobbyists for the bill on its lobbying disclosure form for quarter two. 

Image Credit: U.S. Senate

Peabody Energy, the coal production company whose stock price has plummeted since the passage of the Paris Agreement, deployed Ruth Demeter to lobby in Washington on the bill.

Demeter formerly worked as an energy policy advisor for U.S. Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) and U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, touting on her LinkedIn page that as a Senate staffer she "prepare[d] meeting memorandum" and prepared for meetings with lobbyists. 

The coal giant also hired a team of lobbyists at Greenberg Traurig LLP to push for H.R. 644, two of which are former congressional members: U.S. Sen. Tim Hutchinson (R-AR) and U.S. Rep. Albert Wynn (D-MD). 

Veto Call

In July, environmental groups such as 350.org, Sierra Club, Greenpeace USA, Food and Water Watch, Natural Resources Defense Council and others wrote a letter to Congress urging the anti-climate provision to be rejected.

The proposed provision poses significant risks to future progress on climate action. If accepted, it would limit the United States' latitude to safeguard climate policies from trade attacks under existing and future trade agreements; it would inject even greater uncertainty into ongoing negotiations in the UNFCCC and other arenas by raising news questions about the scope of US negotiating authority; and it would raise serious challenges to the fulfillment of formal agreements like the US-China commitment to facilitate trade in clean-energy technologies, and global commitments to phase out fossil fuel subsidies.

It appears the letter fell upon deaf ears and blind eyes, though. When the bill and the anti-climate provision advanced, Friends of the Earth (FOE) issued a statement calling for President Barack Obama to veto the bill.

"The Republican leaders of the U.S. Congress, with the help of President Obama, are expediting passage of a Customs Bill that explicitly excludes consideration of climate change when the United States negotiates international trade agreements," reads the statement by Bill Waren, senior trade analyst at FOE. "President Obama must stop allowing trade to trump effective action on climate change. He should reverse course and veto the climate-denying Customs Bill when it comes to his desk."

Congressional session has closed for the year and the White House has not yet signaled if it would veto the bill if it arrived at its desk when session begins anew in 2016. 

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