The Chamber of Commerce is riding shotgun with Big Oil
As SCOTUS arguments draw near, the dark money front group is up to no good.
Emily Sanders is the Center for Climate Integrity’s editorial lead. Catch up with her on Twitter here.
On Tuesday, attorneys for Big Oil will argue before the Supreme Court that Baltimore’s climate damages lawsuit should go through yet another procedural hoop. They’re being supported by a slew of industry groups with a financial stake in the future of fossil fuels, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Why does the Chamber, which filed an amicus brief on the defendant companies’ behalf, want to help Big Oil avoid accountability in the highest court in the land?
Well, it just so happens to have a track record as perhaps the biggest dark money front group supporting the fossil fuel industry’s campaigns to deceive the public about climate change. Don’t just take our word for it. A Senate report released in August describes the Chamber as “by far the largest lobbyist in Washington” and, along with the National Association of Manufacturers, one of the “the two most influential opponents of climate action.”
Let us count the ways...
The Chamber has spent nearly $150 million on Congressional candidates opposed to climate action since Citizens United, according to that same report. The only unknown: just how much money fossil fuel executives funnel to the Chamber to keep these efforts flowing.
Here’s Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, who calls the dark money front group “one of climate action’s most implacable enemies,” with the details:
The Chamber has used its vast resources to attack climate liability lawsuits in ways other than filing court briefs.
A project of the Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, owns a collection of news sites with names like Legal Newsline, the Florida Record, and the Southeast Texas Record — all of which publish slanted, misleading and critical coverage of climate liability cases.
In 2019, that same project authored a report recommending ways that state elected officials could block off access to the courts, through preemption and other means, for municipal lawsuits seeking to hold not just climate polluters, but any companies whose products harm the public, accountable. Within a year, two states introduced bills that could have been copied and pasted from the report’s recommendations.
Now, U.S. senators are urging the Supreme Court to take the Chamber’s defense of Big Oil with a grain of salt.
A brief filed by six senators in support of Baltimore’s case, led by Sen. Whitehouse, cautions the justices that groups like the Chamber appear to be part of “an orchestrated and coordinated campaign” to mislead the Supreme Court by creating an illusion of broad, organic backing for the industry — without disclosing their entrenched financial ties to fossil fuels and central role in spreading the climate denial that got Big Oil sued in the first place.
“The Chamber’s actions are not those of an organization in search of ‘serious solutions’ on climate,” the senators wrote. “They are instead part of a decades-long campaign of disinformation, obstruction, and political intimidation designed to prevent democratically accountable branches of government from solving the problem of carbon pollution.”
A new group of young writers, researchers, and activists is taking the Chamber head on.
Through social media campaigns, direct outreach to businesses, public education and research, Change the Chamber — a growing nationwide coalition of undergraduate students and recent graduates concerned about the future of our planet — are determined to hold the Chamber accountable.
In a recently released report, the group exposes the Chamber’s multi-pronged strategies to keep America hooked on fossil fuels. The Chamber’s sheer financial influence, they say, is a primary facilitator of the loss of lives, homes and more as the climate crisis bears down on communities. But as consumers and future workers, they find themselves in a unique position to pressure the Chamber’s member businesses — and shift their course of action.
“The lack of progress we can make individually is frustrating,” said Emma Marotta, a recent graduate of Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee. “So to be a part of something where we directly engage with the corporations who have a much bigger impact on the climate crisis than any one of us individually, to be able to get at the source of the problem, is really fulfilling for us.”
Next week at EXXONKNEWS we’ll give you a full report on Tuesday’s Supreme Court arguments in the Baltimore v Big Oil case. (With President-elect Biden’s inauguration the day after, and some other, ahem, major events currently in the news we know it’s not easy to keep track.) But remember this: the Chamber and other Big Oil allies wouldn’t be expending so much effort to stop climate liability cases from getting their day in court if they weren’t genuinely terrified of what the cases could reveal.
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On Monday, more than 50 environmental and faith-based groups sent a letter to Biden’s transition team asking the President-elect to rescind his consideration of David Frederick, a lawyer representing Shell in climate liability lawsuits, for solicitor general.