The Oil Industry Spent $31 Million to Kill a Climate Change Measure – VICE
The “No on 1631” campaign was funded pretty much entirely by the oil industry. Nearly all of its $31 million budget—a record-setting amount for a campaign opposing a Washington ballot initiative—came from BP America, Phillips 66, Andeavor, Chevron USA, Koch Industries, and other companies and groups whose business model relies on releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. “No” spokesperson Dana Bieber told me the campaign was “created from the grassroots up.” Yet it was sponsored by the Western States Petroleum Association. And spending documents show that companies such as BP (which gave nearly $13 million to No on 1631) got hundreds of their own workers to staff the campaign.
“I don’t think it should be any surprise that energy companies are supporting our campaign,” Bieber said when I asked her about oil industry involvement. “They have a stake in Washington. They employ tens of thousands of people across our state and contribute $100 million to our economy, they have a vested interest in this.”
They’re also highly exposed to legislation that puts a cost on carbon pollution. BP, Phillips, and Andeavor own oil refineries in Washington. Overall, the state’s refineries’ emissions could have become an $83 million per year liability under 1631. Beyond those immediate bottom-line concerns, support from out-of-state oil companies like Koch Industries also suggests that there were wider strategic considerations at play. “No jurisdiction anywhere has ever passed a carbon price at the ballot,” Kristin Eberhard, a senior researcher at the Sightline Institute, a Seattle-based sustainability think tank, told me. “Big oil really sees that if this can gain momentum among people… that could spread to other states. It could indicate that fossil fuels are on their way out faster than they think they are right now.”
“They’ve been allowed a free ride for their pollution and they don’t want it to end,” the climate change author and environmentalist Bill McKibben wrote in an email.