Several companies with natural gas interests, including Exxon Mobil, Chevron and the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, have donated to the D.C.-based Center for Clean Air Policy as part of its efforts to sponsor an ongoing dialogue about domestic climate policy. Exxon and Chevron have given $35,000 each for an annual membership in the dialogue, while smaller industry associations have donated less.
Chesapeake Energy spokesman Jim Gipson said that “over the years, Chesapeake has been proud to support a number of organizations that share our interest in clean air and agree[s] that America’s abundant supplies of clean natural gas represent the most affordable, available and scalable fuel to power a more prosperous and environmentally responsible future for our country.” He would not comment on the recent rift.
Some of the groups that have taken money from natural gas interests emphasized that they have continued to question aspects of the industry even as they’ve accepted contributions. CAP spokeswoman Andrea Purse noted that while the group did endorse the Nat Gas Act, modeled on Pickens’s call for a transition to natural-gas-powered vehicles, it had touted natural gas as a transition fuel in 2007. Furthermore, CAP senior fellow Joe Romm wrote several blog posts critical of Pickens.
Pickens spokesman Jay Rosser said that Pickens’s activities aren’t limited to one party or political wing. “He’s lent his voice to a number of organizations interested in broad public policies on OPEC oil dependence, national security and clean-air concerns,” Rosser said. “These include business, political and environmental entities on both sides of the political spectrum.”
American Lung Association spokeswoman Carrie Martin said of Chesapeake, “We appreciate their support over several years,” adding that the group backs “increased use of natural gas as a transitional fuel for the production of electricity, as a cleaner alternative to biomass, coal and other fossil fuels.” She noted that the association recently urged the Environmental Protection Agency to adopt stronger limits on harmful emissions from gas wells, processing plants, pipelines and storage units.
At least one group that seriously considered McClendon’s offer, the NRDC, decided in the end that his support would constitute a conflict of interest. Half a dozen senior NRDC leaders and energy staffers — including John Adams, its founding director — traveled to Chesapeake’s Oklahoma headquarters in early 2008 to have what NRDC spokeswoman Jenny Powers described as “a serious and frank conversation about fracking” and to discuss a contribution to its “Move America Beyond Coal” campaign.
In a letter to the NRDC’s board of trustees earlier this month, President Frances Beinecke wrote that the group does not accept corporate donations and “decided that it would be unwise to accept his personal contribution.”
Groups such as the Center for Clean Air Policy have specifically invited oil and gas companies to contribute to their efforts to devise a compromise on climate change. The group’s president, Ned Helme, said the firms are “part of a much larger group” that includes representatives from government agencies and nonprofits.