While Nation Focused on Impeachment and the Coronavirus, Koch Continued to Lobby to Stop Climate Legislation

This story is published as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.

Despite the impeachment and the coronavirus stimulus bills which kept Congress busy to the exclusion of other issues, Koch Industries, the parent of the conglomerate owned by Charles Koch, still spent $2.7 million on lobbying in the first quarter 2020.

Koch continued lobbying against Democratic initiatives on a "Green New Deal," renewable energy legislation, and donor transparency, while continuing to lobby for eliminating the tax credit for electric cars, a trade agreement with Mexico and Canada, and limits on the President's ability to levy tariffs, duties, and other trade measures.

While lobbying reports to the Congress do not show how much time or money is spent on different issues, stopping the "Green New Deal" appears to have been its major defensive effort, and getting the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord its main offensive issue.

Koch Industries continued to block Senate movement on the Climate Action Now Act, H.R. 9, which passed the House in May 2019 along largely party lines. The bill would prevent federal funds from being used to leave the Paris climate agreement. In November of last year, Trump initiated the process to remove the United States from the accord.

Koch also fought against H.R. 330, the Climate Solutions Act of 2019, which has not yet passed the House, that would require the U.S. to "increase the percentage of electricity sold in the United States that is generated from renewable sources" to 100 percent by 2035.

Koch continues to oppose a carbon pricing tax as well, last year in the form of opposition to H.R. 763, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act of 2019.

With the Fairness for Drivers Act of 2019, introduced in the Senate as S. 343, Koch continues to oppose electric plug-in vehicles or vehicles using renewable resources, such as fuel cells. The bill, which will see no action in the House as long as it is controlled by Democrats, would eliminate the tax credit for electric plug-in vehicles, as well as impose a tax on vehicles using renewable energy.

Since last Congress, Koch has opposed H.R. 2256, the Driving America Forward Act, which would expand tax credits for plug-in electric vehicles and fuel cell vehicles. The bill has 139 co-sponsors, not surprisingly all Democrats, and none receiving any money from Koch Industries' political action committee, KochPAC.

On the other hand, all four of the House Democrats that have received contributions from KochPAC over the last three election cycles have not co-sponsored the bill: Collin Peterson (MN), Henry Cuellar (TX), Jim Costa (CA), and Kurt Schrader (OR).  Americans for Prosperity, Koch's astro-turf group, supported Cuellar in his primary race this year, their first such endorsement of a Democrat.

Koch also spent money in 2019 trying to pass H.R. 531, which would repeal the Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks first set by Congress in 1975.  On March 30, the Trump administration did it for them with new rules to be enforced by the Department of Transportation.

The new rules "rolled back the Obama-era law that pushes automakers to produce more fuel-efficient vehicles, severely limiting a rule designed to decrease pollution from transportation in the face of climate change," according to an article in The Hill.

Transportation is now the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the nation, with pollution from cars and trucks responsible for more emissions than either the burning of fossil fuels to generate electricity or from industry.

Don Wiener

Don Wiener is a writer at the Center for Media and Democracy. Don has 40 years experience working as a policy analyst, researcher, media strategist, and coalition coordinator for dozens of community, public interest, labor, and environmental groups. He has a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.