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Big Oil spent $22 million in first 3 quarters of 2023 in effort to kill climate bills

by Dan Bacher
The oil industry spent over $7.2 million on lobbying in California during the third quarter of 2023
It looks like 2023 could already be a record year for oil and gas spending on lobbying in California even without the fourth quarter expenses in yet.

The total oil and gas money spent on lobbying for the first three quarters of 2023 is $21,973,138, according to data posted on the California Secretary of State’s website:

This figure already surpasses the total oil and gas industry lobbying expenses for 2023 — $18 million. The results for the fourth quarter and the total for 2023 won’t become available until January 31, 2024.

Lobbying disclosures from Quarter 3, representing lobbying between July 1 - September 30, 2023, reveal that oil companies and trade associations spent more than $7.2 million on influence-related activities in an all out effort to kill California climate bills and hold Big Oil accountable, according to data compiled by the Climate Center.

The top three lobbying spenders — Chevron, the Western States Petroleum Association, and Aera Energy – far outspent all others in the oil and gas industry. – “Their filings depict opposition to a number of key pieces of climate  and energy related legislation, including SBX 1-2 implementation, AB 1167, SB 252, SB 253, SB 261, as well as numerous other bills,” the Center reported.

“These bills would all hold the oil industry accountable in various ways – either through transparency, financially, or both – and in the case of SB 252 would have called on the state’s public pension funds to divest from fossil fuels. Among them, only SB 252 failed to pass,” according to the Climate Center.  

Chevron leads Big Oil third quarter lobbying spending with 3.86 million doled out

The San Ramon-based oil giant Chevron topped third quarter fossil fuel industry lobbying expenditures, doling out a total of $3,866,296 in the third quarter. Of that, $71,192.89 of their influence spending went to the WSPA and another $2.18 million to WSPA front group Californians for Energy Independence.

“Oil and gas corporations are raking in record profits and using that money to subvert our democracy,” said Woody Hastings, Phase Out Polluting Fuels Program Manager for The Climate Center. “For them, climate delay is the new denial — and it’s just as deadly. It’s time for Governor Newsom to break Big Oil’s grip on Sacramento. He should start by eliminating tax breaks and subsidies for fossil fuel corporations in next year’s state budget. Taxpayers shouldn’t be footing the bill for oil lobbyists and PR stunts.”

In addition to lobbying against top priority climate bills, Chevron’s lobbying focused on promoting hydrogen and carbon capture, while also lobbying against SJR 2, a resolution calling for a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty, which successfully passed in the California legislature, the Center stated.

“The company also lobbied against a bill, SB 1305, that would offer civil penalties to companies that defraud the voluntary carbon offsets market. For hydrogen, the company on the one hand lobbied to promote the technology, while on the other hand lobbied against SB 1550, which would mandate that all hydrogen produced in California by 2045 be green hydrogen, or hydrogen made exclusively via renewable energy,” the group said.

The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), the Sacramento-headquartered trade association for Big Oil and the most powerful corporate lobbying group in California, placed second in fossil fuel industry lobbying expenditures with $1,381,995 spent lobbying the Legislature and other state officials in 2023's third quarter.   

“Beyond lobbying against the highest profile climate bills, WSPA lobbied on multiple aspects of SBX 1-2 implementation, legislation promoted early in 2023 by Governor Gavin Newsom and signed into law to hold Big Oil accountable for record-high gas prices at the pump faced by California drivers,” the Center said.

Aera Energy LLC, the Bakersfield-based natural gas, oil exploration and production company that started as a joint venture between Shell and Mobil, placed third in the Big Oil lobbying spending spree. The company doled out $788,192 on lobbying influence spending, including $45,000 paid to the firm Caliber Strategies, a firm that employs a former senior advisor to California’s leading climate regulatory agency, the California Air Resources Board.
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