A senior official with U.S. oil and gas giant ExxonMobil was captured on video revealing the identities of 11 senators “crucial” to its lobbying on Capitol Hill, including a host of Democrats.
The footage was obtained by Unearthed, an investigative unit of environmental group Greenpeace UK, which posed as headhunters to obtain the information from Exxon lobbyist Keith McCoy.
Among the senators listed as allies, McCoy calls Joe Manchin the “kingmaker” on energy issues because of his status as a Democrat representing West Virginia, a key natural gas-producing state. McCoy says he speaks with Manchin’s staff every week. Manchin is also chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
McCoy also named Sens. John Barrasso of Wyoming, the top GOP member of the Energy Committee, and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, the Republican ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee.
Other lobbying targets of Exxon include centrist Democrats Sens. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Jon Tester of Montana.
McCoy also singles out Sen. Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat, as an important contact because of his close relationship with President Joe Biden.
Other Exxon contacts are up for reelection in 2022, McCoy notes: Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire and Mark Kelly of Arizona.
McCoy also name-checks traditional Republican allies John Cornyn of Texas, Steve Daines of Montana, and Marco Rubio of Florida.
In the leaked video, McCoy also suggested that Exxon is only publicly supporting a carbon tax to appear to be environmentally friendly with little consequence because it sees the policy as politically impossible to pass and thus unlikely to affect the company. Exxon is one of many large oil and gas companies and their lobby groups that have endorsed the concept of a carbon tax as preferable to mandates and regulations.
“I will tell you, there is not an appetite for a carbon tax. It is a non-starter. Nobody is going to propose a tax on all Americans,” McCoy said. “And the cynical side of me says, ‘Yeah, we kind of know that. But it gives us a talking point. We can say, ‘Well, what is ExxonMobil for? Well, we’re for a carbon tax.’”
Among other revelations, McCoy acknowledges Exxon “aggressively” fought against climate science in the past to protect its oil and gas business and joined “shadow groups” to push back against the science underpinning global warming.
“We were looking out for our investments. We were looking out for our shareholders,” McCoy said.
And he claims that Exxon lobbied Congress to limit climate provisions in infrastructure negotiations over Biden’s American Jobs Plan and to focus on roads and bridges.
“If you lower that threshold, you stick to highways and bridges, then a lot of the negative stuff starts to come out,” McCoy said. “Why would you put in something on emissions reductions on climate change to oil refineries in a highway bill?”
Exxon CEO Darren Woods issued a statement Wednesday afternoon condemning the lobbyist’s comments and apologizing for them, specifically those “regarding interactions with elected officials.”
Woods stressed Exxon’s “firm commitment” to supporting carbon pricing to address climate change.
McCoy posted his own apologetic statement declaring himself “deeply embarrassed” and saying his comments “clearly do not represent ExxonMobil’s positions on important public policy issues.”