Oil Lobbyist Mary Landrieu’s Foundation Connects Congress With Corporate Execs

During her time in the Senate, Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu was perhaps the oil and gas industry’s strongest ally among the Democrats. Landrieu, who was chosen to be the Energy and Natural Resources Committee chair in 2014, supported construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, favored exporting of crude oil and natural gas, voted to prohibit the regulation of greenhouse gases, and often sided with Republicans on legislation to deregulate aspects of the fossil fuel industry. Her lifetime environmental voting score from the League of Conservation Voters was just 51%.

Like many former members of Congress, Landrieu, who was defeated in 2014 by Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), is now a corporate lobbyist. Her fossil fuel industry clients have included oil exploration services company APTIM, oil company Noble Energy, which is now part of Chevron, natural gas producer Venture Global LNG, and coal industry group FutureGen. As of the most recent filings from her employer, the law and government relations firm Van Ness Feldman, she is lobbying Congress on behalf of pipeline company Enterprise Products Partners on “advancing the clients application under the Deepwater Port Act for authorization to build an export terminal off the coast of Texas and export crude oil from that facility.”

As she lobbies her former colleagues for these companies, Landrieu is also meeting with reps and senators under the banner of the Climate Solutions Foundation (CSF), a group she helped to found in 2019 that says it’s about bipartisan solutions to climate change. The group’s website says it was formed out of meetings with politicians and executives with a goal of finding a bipartisan way to address climate change, and that it hosts monthly lunches and dinners that bring together members of Congress, staffers, corporate executives, and leaders of environmental organizations. Landrieu co-chairs the group with former Republican House Rep. Carlos Curbelo, who founded a government affairs and corporate messaging firm called Vocero after being defeated for reelection in 2018.

CSF does not appear to have endorsed specific proposals, but it’s closely tied to other fossil fuel company-funded organizations that promote an industry-backed plan that many environmental groups say is insufficient and designed to protect corporate profits against the kinds of reforms to the energy sector that are needed.

The Climate Solutions Foundation’s executive director, Alex Flint, is also the executive director of the Alliance for Market Solutions, an organization formed in 2017 by a group of Republicans to promote market-oriented solutions to reducing carbon pollution. The Alliance for Market Solutions recently received a donation in the high six figures from ExxonMobil and Dow Chemical to support its work pushing Congress to pass a law establishing a carbon pricing plan that it says would lower greenhouse gasses by making their emission more expensive for a company than buying offsets or investing in reducing their pollution. Its board of advisors includes Shell Oil Company President Marvin Odum and Vicky Bailey, an energy industry consultant who is a board member of coal and gas-burning utility company PNM Resources.

CSF’s website says it “supports the continued work of the House Climate Solutions Caucus and the creation of the Senate Climate Solutions Caucus.” Its first public event, held in April 2021, was a Zoom discussion with the Senate caucus’ co-chairs, Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Mike Braun (R-Ind.). Many of the Climate Solutions Caucus’s House members have gotten behind a carbon tax bill called the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, which closely mirrors a proposal known as the Baker-Shultz plan that was developed by the Climate Leadership Council, a think tank whose founding members include oil and gas giants like ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips. The plan, as well as the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, would tax companies on their carbon emissions and send the revenues to utility ratepayers in the form of rebates. It was put forward in the House by Climate Solutions Caucus Chair Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), and Coons has put forward a similar bill in the Climate Action Rebate Act, co-sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calf.), whose 2019 exchange with young climate activists went viral because of her dismissive attitude. The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act is so close to the corporate-backed Baker-Shultz plan that it was endorsed by one of its authors, former Reagan administration secretary of state and George W. Bush advisor George Shultz.

Many scientists, activists, and academics believe that carbon pricing is not a suitable response to the impending climate crisis.

“Carbon pricing frames climate change as a market failure rather than as a fundamental system problem,” professors Daniel Rosenbloom, Jochen Markard, Frank W. Geels, and Lea Fuenfschilling wrote in a 2020 article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. “The market failure framing fails to appreciate the broad scope of the climate challenge and the sweep of system elements that must undergo change. And so, the resulting solution orientation is far from sufficient.”

The Indigenous Environmental Network and Climate Justice Alliance wrote in a 2017 pamphlet that beyond being insufficient, carbon pricing plans like those promoted by the Climate Solutions Caucuses have been designed to splinter the public. “Promises of revenue from the schemes are often used to quell resistance from impacted communities who might otherwise organize against corporate abuses,” the groups write. “Carbon tax proposals, like other schemes that promise compensatory revenues, can put impacted communities that are already in difficult situations into impossible ones.”

James Skea, co-chair of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Changes Working Group III, said in 2018 that a carbon tax is “‘one among that portfolio of instruments that can be used’ but could not serve as a panacea,” according to a HuffPost report. “There are some areas where carbon pricing may not be the most appropriate approach,” he said, according to the report.

Earlier this year, former ExxonMobil lobbyist Keith McCoy said that his company was only backing carbon pricing because it was a useful talking point. “Nobody is going to propose a tax on all Americans and the cynical side of me says, yeah, we kind of know that but it gives us a talking point that we can say, well what is ExxonMobil for? Well, we’re for a carbon tax,” McCoy said during a staged job interview that was secretly recorded by reporters for Greenpeace UK’s journalism project Unearthed.

Landrieu recently brought a delegation including House Reps. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.) and Andrew Garbarino (R-N.Y.) to Scotland during the United Nations’ climate change conference, according to gift travel documents filed with the House. In addition to attending official proceedings and government receptions, the delegation met with executives from companies including Amazon, Johnson Controls, United Airlines, SAP, Pegasus Capital Advisors, and Microsoft, and they attended a reception held by the utility industry lobbying group Edison Electric Group.

Sludge asked the Climate Solutions Foundation if it accepts funding from the fossil fuel industry and how Landrieu reconciles her fossil fuel company lobbying with the aims of the foundation, but multiple inquiries sent to the group’s press contact, political fundraising consultant Helen Milby, were not returned.