More than two dozen Oregon lobbyists work for both sides on climate change, report finds

More than two dozen Oregon lobbyists are advocating policies on behalf of industries that contribute to climate change while also representing those that fight and respond to climate challenges, according to a report from a lobbying watchdog group.

Researchers at the group, Pennsylvania-based F Minus, launched last summer, compiled a database that shows that more than 1,500 lobbyists across the country are working at the state level for the fossil fuels industry as well as for conservation groups, public health entities, social justice organizations and local governments trying to respond to environmental and health issues caused by the burning of those fuels.

“Climate change is a holistic problem,” F Minus founder and executive director, James Browning, said at a recent news conference. “The activities of some clients do affect others when they make climate matters worse.”

Researchers identified at least 28 Oregon lobbyists, among the more than 1,000 registered in the state, who are working for more than 500 organizations and companies with conflicting values around climate change. They completed the analysis of Oregon lobbyists in January. 

Among the 28 lobbyists is one who is working for both the state’s largest natural gas utility, NW Natural, a heavy greenhouse gas emitter, while also lobbying for the Portland-based Wild Salmon Center, a conservation group that works to protect fish species suffering from climate change. Lobbyists at Portland-based Oxley & Associates, represent a petroleum association and advocate policies for the American Red Cross, which aids people affected by large wildfires and floods that are increasingly exacerbated by climate change. 

As one example, Browning said Kylie Grunow lobbies for a site he frequented as a boy, the Tualatin Hills Park & Recreation District, while also working for British Petroleum, or BP. 

Browning said the park’s leaders espouse a spirit of responsibility and stewardship for the climate and aim to be leaders on climate change.

“Then their own lobbyist is working for one of the most rapacious fossil fuel companies in the world,” he said.

As F Minus’ director, Browning is calling on foundations, nonprofits and governments to cut ties with lobbyists and firms that represent fossil fuel companies and associations. He recently visited Portland’s Metro Council to discuss the possibility of putting out a statement saying local governments should not work with fossil fuel lobbyists.

Fossil fuel companies bear great responsibility, he said, for pushing the planet beyond 1.5 degree Celsius or 2.7 degree Fahrenheit rise in average global surface temperatures considered the tipping point for larger and more frequent catastrophic climate events. Last year was the first in recorded history when that average global temperature increase was recorded every month throughout the year. But it is not considered a permanent temperature change yet, scientists at the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service recently reported. 

The Wild Salmon Center hired Phil Donovan of the lobbying firm NW Public Affairs in Tigard several years ago to advocate policies to protect Northwest salmonids that are struggling to survive amid rising water temperatures, due in part to climate change. On its website, the Wild Salmon Center notes that climate change must be combatted to protect these species. Donovan also works for NWNatural, which contributes to warming waters due to climate change. Natural gas is almost entirely methane gas, among the most potent climate-warming greenhouse gases, which trap heat in the atmosphere. One-third of global warming is due to human-caused emissions of methane, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Oakley Brooks, communications director for the Wild Salmon Center, said the group is aware Donovan also lobbies for NW Natural.

“He and his colleagues at NW Public Affairs have been extremely effective in securing historic wins for wild fish, healthy forests and clean water in the Oregon Legislature over the last several years,” Brooks said in an email. 

Donovan did not respond to an email and phone call requesting comment.

Other lobbying firms highlighted in the F Minus database are Milio Capital Consulting, which represents a Canadian tar sands oil producer, TC Energy, as well as the recycling company Recology. The production of tar sands creates waste ponds full of heavy metals and non-biodegradable chemicals, at odds with Recology, researchers noted. The company’s tagline is “waste zero.”

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Alex Baumhardt has been a national radio producer focusing on education for American Public Media since 2017. She has reported from the Arctic to the Antarctic for national and international media, and from Minnesota and Oregon for The Washington Post. She previously worked in Iceland and Qatar and was a Fulbright scholar in Spain where she earned a master's degree in digital media. She's been a kayaking guide in Alaska, farmed on four continents and worked the night shift at several bakeries to support her reporting along the way.