The West Coast's Top 20 Polluticos
plural noun: polluticos
informal term for the lobbyists, communicators, politicians and industry representatives that prop up polluters.
Table of Contents
Supreme Commander, Allied Polluters, Western US: Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA)
You’ll no doubt notice that WSPA’s name pops up throughout our list below. It is the lynchpin organization that props up a number of the most ardent clean air opponents in the region. In one way or another, WSPA has an outstretched tentacle in every state and has attacked, and often dismantled, every major action to price pollution and create a market for alternative fuels and clean energy investment in all three Pacific Coast states. Under Reheis-Boyd’s leadership, WSPA is at or near the top of the single largest lobbyists in each state and has been exposed as the backer of a dozen or more “Astroturf,” or front groups, across the region. Despite its seeming middle-of-the-road rhetoric, WSPA has been the most consistent and well-backed opposition to clean air progress in the west.
Stomping Grounds: California, Washington, Oregon, Interior West
Claim to Fame: Being exposed by Bloomberg BusinessWeek for creating “Astroturf” groups pretending to represent everyday people
Aliases: California Drivers Alliance, Californians for Affordable & Reliable Energy, Kern Citizens for Energy, Fed Up at the Pump, Tank the Tax, AB 32 Implementation Group, and many more
In Their Words: “The voice of the people was heard,” Reheis-Boyd wrote regarding lawmakers’ move to remove a key petroleum reduction provision of a clean air law called SB 350—even though 73 percent of Californians had supported the provision.
Tricks Up Their Sleeve: Claiming to seek a “collaborative approach,” but pitching a fit – and spending tens of millions – when WSPA doesn’t get its way.
Face of Oil: Frank Holmes, Regional Director, Western State Petroleum Association
Often quoted and constantly presenting WSPA’s message to the media, Frank Holmes has perfected the strategy of pushing for delay under the guise of seeking a middle ground. Holmes constantly gives quotes (example below) to the effect of “we’d love to have a great climate policy! Unfortunately this one just isn’t right.” But given WSPA hasn’t found a climate proposal it supports, it’s hard to take the organization seriously. Despite his cheery demeanor and “let’s compromise" style Holmes has orchestrated one of the most obstructionist legislative campaigns in the region’s history. Under his leadership, WSPA also hassled the charge on tying efforts like a clean fuels standard to funding for other issues. Further, he’s corralled legislators in both Northwest states’ in a scorched earth policy to refuse to fund badly needed transportation funding.
Stomping Grounds: WA and OR
Aliases: See list of front groups here
In Their Words: When asked what a properly designed (pollution reduction) system might look like, Holmes said, "I don’t know that there are any specific proposals that we would be willing to put forward." 2015 Seattle Times Interview
Tricks Up Their Sleeve: A seemingly endless purse to fight limits on pollution.
The Political Stonewallers: Doug Ericksen, Tim Sheldon and the Majority Caucus
Led by a heavy dose of cynicism and fueled by plenty of oil and coal funding, the Washington Majority Caucus (a self-chosen name for two of the state’s Republican legislators and two Democrats who vote with them) have acted in defense of polluters for years. Led by Whatcom County Senator Doug Ericksen, they have done everything from scuttling a comprehensive plan to reduce pollution to gutting a bill that would have made oil trains vastly safer. Their crowning achievement came in 2015 when they forced Governor Jay Inslee to swallow a legislative "poison pill": they blocked a clean fuels mandate by holding hostage badly needed transportation legislation.
Stomping Grounds: Olympia, Washington
Claim to Fame: Preventing major legislative action on climate change for the last 8 years killing the 2015 Pollution Accountability Act and implementing a clean fuels program poison pill.
In Their Words: "Climate change will always happen." – Doug Ericksen in 2014
Tricks Up Their Sleeve: A cozy relationship with and plenty of funding from the oil, coal and gas industries.
Texas in the Northwest: Tesoro Oil Matthew Gill, Senior Manager External Affairs and Jennifer Minx, Senior Communication Manager
Houston-based Tesoro has made its presence felt in the Evergreen State. Consistently one of the state’s top lobbyists, the company has been an effective advocate against efforts to reduce air pollution. Tesoro has been cited for dozens of safety violations, toxic releases, and labor practices violations. Seven Tesoro workers perished in a 2010 WA refinery accident. The company plans to build the largest oil-by-rail facility in North America in Vancouver, WA.
Stomping Grounds: A refinery in Anacortes, WA; a potential terminal in Vancouver, WA; and political influence that extends across the state.
Claim to Fame: One of largest single lobbying forces in Washington State.
Alias: Vancouver Energy
In Their Words: "On behalf of the 5,228 employees of Tesoro, I offer our support for your efforts." –Tesoro CEO Gregory Goff voicing his support for an amendment that would permanently prevent EPA from regulating pollution to address climate change.
Tricks Up Their Sleeve: Plenty of secondary voices speak on Tesoro’s behalf. The Association of Washington Business has taken hundreds of thousands from Tesoro, and employs several lobbyists and communications firms to polish the oil giant’s image.
The Dark Arts Wizard: Brandon Houskeeper, Government Affairs Director, Association of Washington Business
Brandon has helped take the typically more tactful and cautious Association of Washington Business in a wildly bizarre direction. Under his leadership, AWB has come out strongly against every significant effort to regulate or reduce pollution. AWB has shifted to be ideologically aligned with the Western States Petroleum Association, the region’s largest oil industry lobbying group. AWB has even stepped into the foray of more notorious organizations by organizing and running the climate front group known as the "Washington Climate Collaborative."
Stomping Grounds: Known to frequent the halls of the State Capitol in Olympia.
Claim to Fame: Creating an entirely new tactic against environmental efforts: pretending you are an environmental group and that everything’s fine.
Alias: Washington Climate Collaborative
In Their Words: "There's already standards in place, whether it’s greenhouse gas rack rules for our refineries, we already have socialized the costs in a variety of rules and regulations that the state already has on the books.” – KPQ, Feb. 2016. We know some folks (like economists), who might disagree.
Tricks Up Their Sleeve: The bait and switch - claiming to favor more "reasonable" alternatives rather than the climate and pollution reductions on the table. Mysteriously, they never take action to support any efforts to reduce pollution afterwards, "reasonable" or otherwise.
Army of Lobbyists: Communico, Alliances Northwest, Millennia Public Affairs, and Gano & Associates
When you have the kind of tarnished image the oil industry does, you have to hire folks to do your talking for you. These lobbying firms and communications houses have been the most consistent clients for the oil industry in Washington State over the last five years. For their efforts, they’ve been handsomely rewarded and have helped stymie efforts to reduce pollution for clients like the Western States Petroleum Association, BP, Tesoro, Chevron, and Shell.
Stomping Grounds: Stalking the halls of the Capitol in Olympia to pressure legislators to heed their oil clients’ orders.
Claim to Fame: Influencing and organizing one of the most obstructionist legislatures on environmental issues in decades.
Alias: As the chief persuaders, they essentially act as the aliases for fossil fuel interests.
Tricks Up Their Sleeve: Access and influence with the state’s decision-makers, like golfing with Sen. Doug Ericksen.
Coal’s Last Crusaders: Kathryn Stenger, Media Communications Marketing, Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports; Bill Chapman, CEO of Millennium Bulk Terminal; and Craig Cole, SSA Marine spokesperson for Gateway Pacific Terminal
When Northwest coal export proposals were first introduced, Chinese demand was booming and the coal industry made enormous bets that this trend would continue. It was then up to a number of PR and marketing firms to clean up coal’s image in the region. Fortunately, Washingtonians have rejected every coal terminal proposed so far.
Stomping Grounds: Whatcom County and Longview, WA
Claim to Fame: Despite five coal projects already nixed in the Northwest, dozens of coal industry bankruptcies, massive Native American opposition and plummeting demand for coal in Asia, these folks have only one project left and even that’s on life support -- Army Corps denied Gateway Pacific Terminal permit on May 9th.
Alias: Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports
In Their Words: "Millennium remains confident in making this world-class terminal a reality.” – Bill Chapman same day project’s major coal backer declared bankruptcy.
Tricks Up Their Sleeve: The energy poverty line – “Asian countries can’t develop with out coal!” Except countries like China and South Korea say they don’t even want our coal.
The Mad Scientists: Paul Romain, Oregon Fuels Association, and Brian Doherty, Miller Nash
Paul Romain has become infamous for his bombastic quotes that seem to imply he has outsized sway in Salem. He has, on multiple occasions, said that the state of Oregon should not fund a transportation package at all until his clients’ demands are met (namely dismantling the state’s Clean Fuels Program). In the 2015 legislative session, oil lobbyists were accused of rewriting legislation after language from their ballot measure mysteriously made it into a transportation bill nearly word for word. Their half cocked plan managed to collapse the bill but sent the legislature into a fervor. This stunt lost them more than a few friends and will likely haunt them for many sessions to come. Their meddling tactics have been going on for years. Romain was caught—and (half) apologized—for not disclosing taking legislators on a junket to Maui. These two play at a DC level in a Salem-sized court. They have enormous influence, and have been at it for years.
Stomping Grounds: Those infamous “back rooms” where legislation is written.
Claim to Fame: Tying the state in knots and stalling a massive transportation package to protest the state’s clean fuels policy. Proposing ballot measures to repeal Clean Fuels, only to slink away when it was clear voters hated the idea.
Aliases: "The hired hand,” Oregonians for Sound Fuel Policy, Western States Petroleum Association, Oregon Fuels Association
In Their Words: "Nobody is getting a transportation package. We’re serious about that.” –Paul Romain
Tricks Up Their Sleeve: Their quotes assume they run the Oregon legislature—a bold claim, that’s a little too easy to believe.
The Deafening Minority: Sen. Ted Ferrioli, Sen. Alan Olsen, and Rep. Mike McLane
It cannot be fun being outvoted by your colleagues time and time again. Yet, most take minority status in the legislature as a sign they need to negotiate, find common ground, or at least disagree with some grace. But nobody told that to the Minority Leadership in the Oregon legislature. Over the course of the state’s last two legislative sessions, these few lawmakers have turned the state’s processes into a circus of bizarre and media-focused tactics. They’ve taken to delaying proceedings by requiring that all bills be read aloud cover to cover, walking off the floor, skipping work entirely, and even refusing to vote on state funding until laws they don’t like are repealed. Unfortunately, the most theatrical of these fights has been centered on state efforts to reduce pollution. Fortunately for Oregonians who overwhelmingly support the legislation, none of it has worked.
Stomping Grounds: The halls of the State Capitol in Salem.
Claim to Fame: Killing the state’s badly needed transportation package in protest over a clean fuels program that was already law.
In Their Words: "The best thing for us to do in a short session is play out the clock." – Ted Ferrioli 2016. "We have a committed position to do almost anything we can think of to slow or stop the process." – Ted Ferrioli 2016
Tricks Up Their Sleeve: Parliamentary procedure, playing hooky, anything that delays what they don’t like.
The Oilgonian Firebrand: Erik Lukens, The Oregonian Editorial Board
Oregon's largest paper has a long history of award-winning journalism, especially when it comes to highlighting pollution and toxins affecting state residents. However, its editorial pages are constantly filled with a litany of unsubstantiated hit pieces on any effort to curb emissions or promote a cleaner economy. In 2015 alone, Erik Lukens’ Editorial Board wrote 17 editorials against moving away from coal power, electric vehicles, and even the state’s bottle bill. But the paper’s campaign against the state’s Clean Fuels Standard bordered on an unhealthy obsession; in two years, the Oregonian wrote 18 editorials against the law.
Stomping Grounds: Statewide
Alias: "Albatross around the state’s neck .”
In Their Words: The Oregonian Editorial Board’s response after receiving reader requests for more coverage on climate change and environmental issues in 2015: “Readers responded with scores of online comments and dozens of emails and letters to the editor, many of which urged us to focus on climate change…these readers will be disappointed when our agenda appears next month.” The Editorial Board continued: “It requires either profound myopia or incredible arrogance to pretend that any policy adopted by Oregon lawmakers will have a meaningful effect on the earth's temperature.” 2014
Tricks Up Their Sleeve: A penchant for ignoring the wishes of the paper’s readers, despite being the only statewide paper.
The Comeback Journeyman: Mark Nelson, Lobbyist
Regardless of the sport, every league has a journeyman – someone who plays for 13 different teams throughout their career and immediately takes the team to new heights. Oregon’s lobbyist journeyman is Mark Nelson. He has worked for tobacco companies, liquor and beer conglomerates, and regional utilities. He’s also been integral in fighting state renewable energy requirements and Oregon’s transition away from coal power, and he lobbied for notorious petrochemical company Koch Industries. But like Jordan playing for the Wizards or Favre’s ill-fated un-retirements, the game has changed on Nelson. The clean energy tide has shifted and for Oregon fans there’s no looking back.
Stomping Grounds: Formerly hosting the best parties in Salem, that everyone is afraid not to attend .
Aliases: "Karl Rove of Oregon politics,” and “one of the most feared lobbyists in Salem."
In Their Words: "It's like, why does someone like chess? The game changes all the time." Nelson on why he loves being a lobbyist in 2014
Tricks Up Their Sleeve: Knowing everyone, everyone knowing him.
The Whitewashers: Hubbell Communications
There are a host of public relations, marketing, and communications firms that work for the fossil fuel industry; it takes a bit of work to polish their image. But Hubbell does it with a zeal not many could stomach. They were caught in 2014 setting up false grassroots organizations to support the oil industry and combat bills on pricing pollution and the state’s clean fuels standard. The firm’s clients include Tesoro Oil, Western States Petroleum Association, Kinder Morgan pipeline company, the Oregon Trucking Association, and Associated Oregon Industries.
Stomping Grounds: Headquartered in Portland, active across the state.
Claim to Fame: White-washing even the dirtiest industries.
Alias: "Oregonians for Sound Fuel Policy"
In Their Words: When asked if they set up front groups for oil companies: "We're just helping them get a voice."
Your Worst Neighbor: Chevron
For places like Richmond, California, Chevron has not been a good neighbor. Their local refinery has had a litany of disasters and clean air violations. Local investigative pieces have chronicled the tremendous efforts the oil giant has made to sanitize its image in the public eye. Chevron has spent millions lobbying against clean energy in California in the current legislative session alone.
Stomping Grounds: Worldwide.
Claim to Fame: The company’s 2012 Richmond refinery incident endangered 19 workers, spewed pollutant-laced black smoke into the air for hours, sent 15,000 seeking medical attention, and hospitalized 20.
Aliases: "Human Energy,” “DoersDoing”
In Their Words: "Industry conditions are tough right now," John Watson, Chevron's chairman and chief executive, said in March 2016, weeks before making a $1 million contribution to support a state legislator who has already raked in millions from the oil industry.
Tricks Up Their Sleeve: #1 oil company in California for lobbying spending against clean air policies.
Misguided Manufacturers: Dorothy Rothrock, California Manufacturers & Technology Association (CMTA)
As a trade association, CMTA seems innocuous enough. Yet, under Dorothy Rothrock’s leadership, the organization has consistently peddled fear and misinformation when it comes to pollution regulations. CMTA could shift toward supporting a clean future, but it would require untethering itself from the oil industry.
Stomping Grounds: California
Claim to Fame: Consistently makes doom-and-gloom predictions about impacts of climate policies on the state’s manufacturing industry despite California consistently leading the nation in manufacturing gains.
Alias: "California Fuel Facts"
In Their Words: "It has been tough to be a California manufacturer even before AB 32 passed," Rothrock said in April 2014. Yet California continues to generate the most manufacturing output, jobs and exports of any state in the U.S., and energy policies designed to promote efficiency and reduce energy bills are contributing to the state’s manufacturing success (Next 10, September 2015).
Tricks Up Their Sleeve: CMTA operates in lock step with Western States Petroleum Association in opposing clean air laws; takes pride in its ongoing opposition to California’s landmark climate law (AB 32) since it was passed nearly a decade ago.
Astroturf 101: Californians for Affordable & Reliability Energy (CARE)
It’s a pattern that is easily recognized. Organizations with misleading names run and operated by Western States Petroleum Association are being propped up throughout California and the Pacific Northwest. “CARE” claims it represents the voice of consumer, but all of its funding and messaging comes from the oil industry.
Stomping Grounds: California
Claim to Fame: Front group launched by Western States Petroleum Association in 2013.
Alias: Western States Petroleum Association, California Business Roundtable
In Their Words: CARE claims to "serve as a voice on the consumer side with regard to energy costs," when its funding comes from the oil industry.
Tricks Up Their Sleeve: CARE puts “California Business Roundtable” forward as its public face, but in reality, WSPA’s lobbyist (KP Public Affairs) manages day-to-day operations for the front group.
Tin Foil Hat Club: California Drivers Alliance
This is, by far, the most outlandish group on our list. Directly funded and operated by oil companies through Western States Petroleum Association, this front group relentlessly attacked California’s signature climate change and clean energy bill (SB 350 – De León) in 2015. The organization used a multi-million dollar advertising and lobbying campaign to discourage lawmakers from supporting a goal of 50% reduction in petroleum use. To remove the petroleum provision from SB 350, the California Drivers Alliance painted a picture of various bizarre scenarios: government-mandated car tracking devices, and parents being stranded on the side of the road without gas—but its ad with a kindergartner claiming she “won’t get her slushy” with a “huge hidden gas tax” (there was no tax, of course) probably takes the cake.
Stomping Grounds: California
Claim to Fame: Western States Petroleum Association launched this front group in 2014 and the following year, the “group” shelled out millions in 2015 on misleading ads to kill SB 350.
Alias: Western States Petroleum Association
In Their Words: The front group claimed SB 350 “will limit how often we can drive our own cars,” a claim which was rated “mostly misleading” by the Sacramento Bee.
Tricks Up Their Sleeve: A wild imagination and a loose definition of the truth
This Emperor Has No Clothes: National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB)
Despite the benign name this organization has never met an environmental policy it didn’t hate. NFIB has been a major obstacle to strengthening the clean energy economy. Rather than the more direct tactics that are used by many on this list, NFIB has implored a message of delay. This is unfortunately becoming an all too common tactic that “more study and debate” are needed before we can decide on issues and plans already discussed for years.
Stomping Grounds: Across the U.S.
Claim to Fame: NFIB lobbies on issues that favor large corporate interests and run counter to the interests of small businesses.
Aliases: "Voice of Free Enterprise"
In Their Words: "We do what our members tell us to do. We've been doing it since 1943,” said NFIB, after receiving millions in their coffers from the infamous Koch Brothers.
Tricks Up Their Sleeve: NFIB's signature stall tactics include calling for more public debate and suggest that we should “hit the pause button” on clean air standards. Beyond the smoke and mirrors, NFIB has aligned itself with the oil industry to kill clean air policies.
Clean Air Policy Killer: California Chamber of Commerce
Similar to other business-focused organizations on our list, the California Chamber of Commerce has succumbed to the enormous pressure of its fossil fuel members to oppose any limits on pollution. The Chamber consistently works to paint environmental bills as “job killers” even while the state continues to lead the nation in clean energy innovation, investments and jobs.
Stomping Grounds: California
Claim to Fame: With funding from the Western States Petroleum Association, the Chamber of Commerce spearheaded the creation of the "AB 32 Implementation Group," which has worked to derail AB 32 while pretending it wants the law implemented.
Alias: California Foundation for Commerce and Education
In Their Words: In criticizing the state’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard, Loren Kaye of the California Foundation for Commerce and Education said: “A broad, if not exclusive, reliance on cap and trade will best achieve these [emissions] goals.” Meanwhile, the California Chamber of commerce is suing the State of California over cap and trade, falsely alleging the program is illegal.
Tricks Up Their Sleeve: Put AB 32 on its infamous “Job Killer" list in 2006. Meanwhile, California has added two million new jobs since the Great Recession, more than making up for recession job losses. Unemployment also has dropped by half since the economic downturn.
Oil’s Free Agent: Jay McKeeman, California Independent Oil Marketers Association (CIOMA)
If you need a clean air policy attacked or a front group started, McKeeman is your go-to guy. With funding from Western States Petroleum Association, CIOMA launched “Fed Up at the Pump,” a now-dormant front group. When Fed Up folded in January 2015 after unsuccessfully stopping transportation fuels from being included in the AB 32 cap and trade program, the front group referred its supporters to two other oil industry front groups: California Drivers Alliance and Californians for Affordable & Reliable Energy. McKeeman claims to operate independently on behalf of oil marketers, but his muscle flexing is bought and paid for by big oil companies.
Stomping Grounds: California
Claim to Fame: Helped kill the portion of SB 350 that would have led to a reduction in petroleum use across the state.
Alias: "Fed Up at the Pump"
In Their Words: Claimed to represent “California’s true business community,” when funding for the organization comes solely from the oil industry.
Tricks Up Their Sleeve: Joined other opponents of clean energy to claim that transportation fuels coming under cap and trade would result in wide swings and upheavals in energy and fuel costs, none of which materialized.
"Mod Dem" Caucus of the California Legislature
The so-called Moderate Democrats have become a powerful voting block in the California legislature. While the projected image is one of sober centrists, a handful of these legislators have proven to be reliable votes for the oil industry. Their number one priority has quickly evolved to be second-guessing and stalling legislation aimed at cleaning up the air and advancing clean energy. After successfully torpedoing the oil portion of 2015’s SB 350 bill, the group’s most prominent legislators received a big “reward” from the oil industry - hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions for this year’s election.
Stomping Grounds: State Capitol in Sacramento and throughout California
Claim to Fame: This bloc of “Moderate Democrat” legislators unites to serve as a roadblock on progressive issues, particularly regarding the environment and tobacco.
Aliases: Oil Dems, Oil Caucus
In Their Words: "What we're really trying to do on this is create a public discussion,” former Assemblymember and unofficial chair of the Mod Dem caucus Henry Perea of Fresno said of his failed 2014 bill to exempt the oil industry from having to comply with California’s signature climate change law, AB 32. During his time in the Legislature, Perea was the recipient of tens of thousands of dollars from the oil industry before quitting the Assembly early to lobby for the pharmaceutical industry.
Tricks Up Their Sleeve: A solid block of votes that breaks which ever way the oil industry pleases. These lawmakers routinely benefit from oil industry campaign spending and attend lavish golf trips, vacations, dinners, and other events paid for in part or in full by the oil industry.