Alex Kotch's blog

New York Gov. Cuomo Pushes Environmental Protections While Accepting Oil and Gas Donations

Read time: 5 mins
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo

By Josefa Velasquez and Alex Kotch. This post originally appeared on Medium.

Challenger Cynthia Nixon recently unveiled an ambitious climate platform and promised to reject fossil fuel campaign donations.

As New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo seeks to bolster his environmental platform amid a contentious primary race, campaign finance records show that the Democratic governor has taken in more than $100,000 from the oil and gas industry during this election cycle.

On Monday, days after Cynthia Nixon  —  the Sex and the City actress challenging Cuomo from the left  —  announced she would be rejecting campaign contributions from the oil, gas and coal industries, the two-term governor declared that he plans to push for legislation banning single-use plastic bags, an apparent shift from February 2017, when Cuomo blocked New York City’s efforts to impose a 5-cent fee on plastic bags.

West Virginia Gas Companies Wined and Dined Lawmakers Before Scoring Favorable Fracking Legislation

Read time: 9 mins
Wine and dinner

A country club luncheon. A $130 steak dinner. A whiskey tasting. Dinner at an historic neo-Georgian mansion.

These are just a few examples of the many occasions last year when oil and gas lobbyists wined and dined West Virginia state lawmakers on key committees that craft fossil fuel legislation. Lobbyists representing industry players including natural gas giant EQT, Antero Resources, TransCanada, and multiple oil and gas trade associations wooed state lawmakers with thousands of dollars’ worth of food and drink throughout 2017, according to lobbying records obtained by DeSmog.

Fossil Fuel-Funded Think Tank Lays out Anti-Clean Energy Plan for New Energy Secretary Rick Perry

Read time: 5 mins
Rick Perry pointing up

Last week Rick Perry, the former Republican governor of Texas, became the Secretary of Energy. As head of the Department of Energy (DOE), he is now responsible for guarding the U.S. nuclear arsenal, cleaning up nuclear waste, directing federal energy research and development, and advancing domestic energy production, from nuclear and renewables to, yes, oil, gas, and coal. 

On March 2, the day Perry was confirmed, right-wing think tank the Heritage Foundation published a document laying out its goals for Perry in his new post. Like the Heritage Foundation, Perry has received considerable funding from oil and gas interests, creating potential conflicts of interest as DOE chief and suggesting he might be inclined to take Heritage’s advice.

Surprise! The Four GOP Representatives Behind Bill to Abolish EPA Are Backed by Fossil Fuel Industry

Read time: 6 mins
EPA building in DC

On Feb. 3, Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz turned heads when he introduced a bill to “completely abolish” the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

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. 

Rooftop Solar Threatened as Arizona’s Biggest Public Utility Takes Over the Commission That Regulates It

Read time: 6 mins
Solar panels on Arizona Walmart store

On November 8, an already endangered rooftop solar industry took a big hit in Arizona. Three Republican candidates for the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) — backed by millions of dollars from the state’s biggest public utility — won their races, increasing the likelihood that new anti-solar policies will soon follow. 

In the coming months, the commission, which regulates public utilities and has been marred by conflicts of interest for years, will address requests from the major utility Arizona Public Service (APS) to raise its electricity rates, end net metering, and impose hefty fees on solar users.

If the commission sides with APS on these issues, the rooftop solar industry in the state with the nation’s fourth highest solar energy capacity will likely crumble.

Duke Energy Touts Solar Grants To North Carolina Schools While Holding Back Solar Industry

Read time: 6 mins
Solar panels.

On September 20, Duke Energy announced a $300,000 investment to install solar panel systems at up to 10 North Carolina schools. Numerous media outlets summarized Duke’s press release, hailing the company for its charity to schools and solar education. 

A footnote in the announcement is key: Duke is doing this as part of a $5.4 million settlement in 2015 with the Environmental Protection Agency and several environmental groups over possible Clean Air Act violations. 

The company denied any wrongdoing but settled “solely to avoid the costs and uncertainties of continued litigation.” 

Duke’s press release and much of its coverage failed to disclose two important details: Duke is heavily involved with the two nonprofits in charge of the solar schools project, and the company has been actively restricting the solar industry in North Carolina for years.

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