The Kochs are lobbying against a price on pollution

“Engaged citizens are worth more than all the money in politics,” says CCL VP of Government Affairs, Danny Richter.

The Kochs are lobbying against a price on pollution

By Nadia Cortez, CCL Legislative Fellow

The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act has been steadily gaining support since its introduction into this Congress in January 2019. It has grown to 85 cosponsors and garnered more than 2,000 endorsements across the country.

With that prominence comes some opposition. CCL volunteers regularly lobby for this legislation, but some others are lobbying against it. 

“Any organization that lobbies for or against a bill is required to report it to the public through a lobbying disclosure file,” explains Adeline DeYoung, Government Affairs Coordinator for CCL. “While checking to see who was lobbying for and against the Energy Innovation Act, we were surprised to find Koch Industries had filed every quarter since the bill was introduced in January of 2019.”

The Koch network is notorious for its political activities, spending hundreds of millions of dollars to influence elections. They’re also notorious for their impact on the planet: Rolling Stone reports, “Only three companies rank among the top 30 polluters of America’s air, water and climate: ExxonMobil, American Electric Power and Koch Industries.” 

So it’s notable that of the ten carbon pricing bills currently in the congressional pipeline, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (H.R. 763) is the only one Koch Industries seems to have their eye on. The filings signal that they see this popular policy as a credible threat to their pro-carbon investments. Let’s take a look at a few aspects of the initiative that might have garnered Koch Industries’ attention.

Bipartisan appeal

The Koch network’s political activities “pull the Republican party to the right on economic, tax and regulatory issues,” according to The Guardian. And yet, Republican support for a price on pollution is gaining traction. Recently, the current Chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), has observed that a “price on carbon…should be on the table.” Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy signaled a change in the Republican caucus’s position on the issue earlier this year.

A reduction in fossil fuel use

The reactionary ratcheting mechanism within the Energy Innovation Act’s framework is key to achieving greenhouse gas reduction goals. After implementation, if the initial $15 carbon fee hasn’t met the desired emission reductions, the fee will increase by a minimum of $10 every consecutive year—eliminating the need for coal by 2030. Furthermore, a Columbia University study confirmed that the tax would slash American carbon pollution by almost 40 percent within a decade; outperforming any Obama-era climate policy and go well beyond the United States’ 2015 commitment under the Paris Agreement. All of that threatens Koch Industries’ fossil fuel investments.

Industry and states are moving forward

Despite Koch’s lobbying efforts, states are increasingly adopting forward-thinking measures to reduce their carbon footprint and transition their economy to net-zero energy. Earlier this year, Virginia became the first southern state to officially commit to transition to clean energy by 2050. Increasingly, industry insiders are calling for conservative leadership on carbon reduction. This fall, executives from J.P. Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, and BP all signed off on a Commodities Futures Trading Commissions report that calls for the United States to price carbon consistent with the Paris Climate Agreement. 

No wonder Koch Industries is targeting this popular policy idea. But Danny Richter, CCL’s VP of Government Affairs, reminds us, “The wager at the center of CCL has always been that engaged citizens are worth more than all the money in politics. We’re beginning to find out if that wager is going to pay out for the climate.”

CCL volunteers should remember one of our founder’s favorite quotes, often attributed to Mahatma Gandhi: “First, they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win.” This is a clear indication that they’re fighting us. Next, we win.

Nadia Cortez is a legislative fellow in CCL’s Washington, D.C., office and is currently obtaining her M.A. in Global Environmental Policy at American University.