Whitehouse: API does oil industry’s ‘dirty work’ on climate

Source: By Thomas Frank, E&E News reporter • Posted: Sunday, October 20, 2019

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) pointed to several instances in which Exxon Mobil Corp., Royal Dutch Shell PLC and BP PLC seemed to benefit from the institute’s opposition to environmental measures that the corporations had publicly supported.

“What I’m trying to get at is the extent to which Exxon, BP and Shell are just basically green washing themselves with public statements while leaving you to do the dirty work of opposing things they claim to support,” Whitehouse said in a sharp exchange with a top API official at a Senate hearing.

“I see very big companies that presumably contribute very significantly to your organization that seem to be economic winners for things you do that they claim not to support,” Whitehouse told Frank Macchiarola, the trade group’s vice president of downstream and industry operations.

“That’s not usual for a trade association,” Macchiarola replied. “We are consensus-based, principal-based organization. We are not an organization that is dictated by one member view. We wouldn’t last as a trade association that long because we don’t represent one member. We represent the broad spectrum of the industry.”

Whitehouse cited the three corporations’ support for carbon pricing in contrast to the institute’s reticence and their support for direct federal controls on methane emissions from oil and gas operations. The trade group, by contrast, supports the Trump administration’s proposal in August to scale back the direct federal controls.

“How did API take this position contrary to the public positions of three of its largest members?” Whitehouse asked during a subcommittee hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Whitehouse, the subcommittee’s ranking member, asked Macchiarola to “share with us any sincere effort by Exxon, BP and Shell to support carbon pricing within your organization or to have you reflect their views in opposing the methane rule.”

Macchiarola vowed to provide nonproprietary information and noted that the institute did not join some of its larger members in opposing increased fuel-efficiency standards for automobiles.

The 100-year-old Washington-based institute represents more than 600 companies in various aspects of the natural gas and oil industry including production, refining, marketing and pipelines.

With a $225 million annual budget, the group spends roughly $8 million a year lobbying Congress and the federal government and says its mission is “to influence public policy in support of a strong, viable U.S. oil and natural gas industry.”