Rep. Whitfield: "Rewarding Friends" in the Fossil Fuel Industry

Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) took to the floor of the House of Representatives Wednesday to decry an Environmental Protection Agency whose conduct he says that he says “rewards its friends and punishes its opponents.”

Whitfield went on to state “We cannot afford a government that systematically goes against groups that it opposes, and yet rewards groups that it favors,” then speaking about fines for killing wildlife and fees for FOIA documents that he says the EPA requires from fossil fuel industry sources but does not demand of renewable energy producers and green groups.

At no time did Whitfield, a former oil distributor and chair of the House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power, seem to be aware of the irony of his statement, which one could mistake for an apt description of his own actions.

Whitfield neglected to note the more than $1 million that fossil fuel interests have poured into his campaign coffers over the years or his role “rewarding” his industry allies by pushing legislation to remove regulations on emissions from fossil fuel combustion and to avoid action against climate disruption. His favored fossil fuel industry groups keep billions of dollars in benefits yearly from tax subsidies and from emitting carbon pollution for free.

  • Polluting industries are top sources of money to Whitfield’s re-election campaigns over his career. His top five career donor industries are stacked with polluters: electric utilities (second, with $497,000), oil and gas (fourth, with $370,000 over his career), and mining, which is dominated by coal interests (fifth, with $280,000), according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.
  • So far in 2013, Whitfield has voted to force construction of the controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, written an op-ed in The Hill urging more fossil fuel development, and introduced a bill limiting the EPA’s ability to provide grants.
  • In 2012, Whitfield held three forums questioning the Clean Air Act, events that were described by Energy & Commerce Committee Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) as “partisan forums” that rejected Democrats’ offers of collaboration and refused to cover the topic of climate change.
  • At least four of Whitfield’s former staffers have gone through the revolving door to work on behalf of oil and gas interests directly or at a lobbying firm that represents them: Robert Sumner at America’s Natural Gas Alliance; Jeff Mortier at Ryan, MacKinnon, et al (ANGA, Domestic Fuel Solutions Group, Energy Transfer Equity, Williams Companies); Brook Simmons at Territory & Commonwealth (Domestic Petroleum Council, Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association); and Julianne Carter at Akin, Gump, et al (Chevron, Domestic Petroleum Council, Hess, Shell).
  • Whitfield gets personal financial gain from the oil and gas industry as well, with two of his five largest personal investments in the stock of oil giants Chevron and ExxonMobil. The two holdings are worth between $500,000 and $1 million, according to his most recently filed personal disclosure forms covering 2011.

Given that advocacy group Oil Change International estimates that the costs of subsidies to fossil fuel companies range between a low of $10 billion per year to a high of $52 billion per year, Whitfield is right: we truly can’t afford a government that systematically rewards groups that it favors. Perhaps if Whitfield were less busy receiving money from the fossil fuel industry, he would be able to see this as well.