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Report: Big Oil Funneled Millions to Lawmakers Opposed to Biden’s Pause on New Drilling

Lawmakers Pushing Back on Biden Public Lands Policy Have Received $13.4M Over Their Careers From Big Oil, $23.6M From Energy and Natural Resources

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A new Public Citizen report finds that twenty-nine U.S. House lawmakers who oppose President Joe Biden’s order to pause new oil leasing on federal lands and offshore waters have received a combined $13.4 million over their careers from fossil fuel interests and $23.6 million from energy and natural resources interests.

“After four years of the Trump administration ransacking our public lands, ignoring and exacerbating the climate crisis, and accelerating the loss of nature and biodiversity, Americans have learned all too well that the oil and gas industry has far too much influence in Washington,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “The Biden administration must ignore the fossil fuel industry’s complaints and scaremongering and support our clean energy future by working to get America off dirty fuels as soon as possible.”

These members, all of whom are Republicans, are part of the Congressional Western Caucus, chaired by Rep Dan Newhouse (R-WA), who issued a joint statement in late January denouncing the Biden administration’s pause on new oil and gas leases. Many of these lawmakers have touted a misleading study promoted by the Western Energy Alliance that circulates an exaggerated estimate of the labor market impact on western states resulting from the leasing pause.

“Oil and gas CEOs and their political allies on Capitol Hill are doing whatever they can to prop up a system that allows them to exploit public lands at low costs and boost their profits,” said Alan Zibel, a Public Citizen researcher and the report’s author. “After four years of the Trump administration’s nonstop fossil fuel giveaways, we need to take a step back and examine whether taxpayers are getting a fair deal from government oil leasing program. We also must invest in clean energy and cleanup of abandoned wells will create jobs while protecting public lands for outdoor recreation.”

The report found that two top House Republicans, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), were the top recipients of oil and gas donations with $2.1 million and $1.8 million respectively, in total career contributions from fossil fuel interests, and $3.8 million and $2.7 million respectively, from energy and natural resource interests. McCarthy called Biden’s recent executive order “a political stunt” and Scalise claimed Biden “chose left-wing activists over American workers and affordable energy costs.”

McCarty and Scalise were followed by several lawmakers from key oil-producing states including Alaska, Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, and New Mexico, according to Public Citizen’s analysis of campaign finance data from the Center for Responsive Politics, which includes corporate political action committee donations and contributions from fossil fuel employees.

The study also found that the political action committee (PAC) for Western Energy Alliance, an oil industry trade group that filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration seeking to overturn the oil leasing pause, donated nearly $405,900 to House and Senate lawmakers in the past three election cycles, 94% of which went to Republicans. The biggest beneficiaries of these donations were U.S. lawmakers from Colorado, receiving $60,500 over the past three elections. Lawmakers from Arizona and Utah were also top recipients, receiving $32,000 and $27,000, respectively.