Corporate Donations Compete With Climate Stance, Group Says
Companies that express concern about global climate change are more likely to donate to campaigns of U.S. lawmakers who oppose caps on carbon dioxide than to supporters of emission curbs, according to a study.
The Union of Concerned Scientists studied 28 companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (SPX) that weighed in on a California campaign to repeal limits on greenhouse gases or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s finding that carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases endangered public health.
When measured by donations from executives and employees, only nine of the 28 companies supported “science-based” climate policy, with the rest favoring “anti-climate” candidates, according to the report today. Campaign giving was one of the areas in which corporate actions deviated from statements on global warming.
The report is a “wake-up call to Americans about a concerted effort being made to distort science in order to fit a special-interest agenda,” Representative Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat, said in a conference call with leaders of the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based environmental group.
Nike Inc. (NKE), NRG Energy Inc., NextEra Energy Inc. (NEE), AES Corp. (AES) and Applied Materials Inc. (AMAT) rated the highest for consistent support for climate-change action, according to the study.
Eleven companies were called “obstructionist,” including Peabody Energy Corp. (BTU), Valero Energy Corp. (VLO) and Chesapeake Energy Corp. (CHK), a natural-gas producer that gave $26 million to the Sierra Club for an anti-coal campaign. Burning coal produces more carbon than burning natural gas.
“While all the companies publicly expressed concern about climate change, many misrepresented climate science or sought to undermine climate policy efforts in other venues,” according to the report.
The Union of Concerned Scientists said it supports a bill introduced by Van Hollen that would expand the disclosure of corporations’ political spending.
Among other changes, it would require companies to include in public financial filings what it spends on campaign-related activities.
While Chesapeake’s annual report and website cited concern about climate change, the report said the company challenged the EPA’s “endangerment finding,” which allowed the U.S. agency to regulate greenhouse gases.
Peabody was criticized for comments to the EPA and for the organizations it supports with cash that have challenged the science behind climate change.
Executives and employees of Peabody also donated four times as much to candidates who dispute that humans cause climate change than to candidates who agree with the scientific consensus, according to the report.
“The company continues its global leadership advancing emissions improvement toward the ultimate goal of near-zero emissions from coal,” Vic Svec, a Peabody spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement. “These activities are vital to ensuring our energy, economic and environmental goals are met.”
The bill is H.R. 4010.
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