An oil and gas industry group recently urged the board of directors of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)—the right-wing corporate bill mill—to reconsider adopting a model policy that would blacklist companies that limit their business with fossil fuels, according to a letter acquired by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD).
If adopted by state lawmakers, ALEC’s proposed Eliminate Economic Boycotts Act would prohibit state and local governments from awarding state contracts to any company that takes into account “social, political, or ideological interests” to “limit commercial relations” with fossil fuel energy, logging, mining, or agriculture businesses.
The measure would “ensure that our state and local taxpayer dollars are not advancing the woke agenda,” the letter from the Domestic Energy Producers Alliance (DEPA) claims.
The DEPA letter is part of a growing, well-funded right-wing campaign to pressure state lawmakers to oppose any policies or investments that take into account environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors. Federal and state lawmakers have introduced more than 100 anti-ESG bills in 30 states so far this year, and Republicans are reportedly expected to make anti-ESG messaging a core component of their 2024 campaign strategy.
In the letter, DEPA urges ALEC’s board to “eschew ESG ideology” by reconsidering the anti-boycott policy, which they rejected in January under pressure from the American Bankers Association and sent back to the group’s Energy Task Force “for additional review.” The board is composed of 23 state lawmakers who vote on which model legislation ALEC should promote.
Despite the oil and gas industry’s massive, record-breaking profits in 2022, the DEPA letter claims that ESG policies pose an existential threat to the industry and that fossil fuel producers are forced to “fight to preserve the freedom of our businesses,” which “starts with using our state tax dollars wisely.”
DEPA is a 39-member coalition of fossil fuel producers, royalty owners, oilfield service companies, and state and independent oil and gas associations. Although it refers to its activities as “grassroots,” its members are directly involved in domestic fossil fuel production.
The alliance posted $919,316 in revenues in 2021, according to ProPublica’s NonProfit Explorer..
Harold Hamm, a major GOP donor and board member of the pro-Trump America First Works (formerly America First Policies), is chairman of DEPA’s executive committee. He is also the founder and current board chair of Continental Resources, one of the country’s largest independent oil and natural gas exploration and production companies, which has in the past had a seat on ALEC’s Energy Task Force.
DEPA’s 30-member board of directors is composed of representatives of other fossil fuel interest groups and investment firms, including the Energy Equipment and Infrastructure Alliance, the Petroleum Association of Wyoming, and the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers. Its President and CEO Jerry Simmons and two other DEPA board members, Ron Ness and Diana Chance, serve on the board of the pro-Israel, pro-fossil fuel Council for a Secure America.
Although its letter to the ALEC board urges the adoption of model legislation that would undermine the widespread implementation of ESG practices, DEPA maintains a section devoted to ESG adherence on its website saying, “Social and environmental outcomes of a company are critical to the sustainability of company growth.” Other organizations that had previously, if only gingerly, embraced ESG—such as the right-wing asset management company Inspire Investing—have also abruptly pivoted away by vilifying it as part of a progressive “social-Marxist agenda.”
CMD previously reported on how ALEC’s Private Enterprise Advisory Council—which effectively acts as a private-sector counterpart to its board—recently expanded to include operatives in the Right’s fight against “woke capitalism.”
Although DEPA’s letter indicates that it “joins” another unnamed entity in opposing ESG, there are no other signatories listed. The group published its letter to ALEC in the January issue of its monthly newsletter, which is rife with sweeping statements championing the progressive march of Western civilization enabled by fossil fuel production.
The letter also applauds ALEC’s model State Government Employee Retirement Act, which would prohibit anyone managing state, local, or university public pensions from considering the climate emergency or any other social or political factors when investing pension funds. The ALEC measure is “an important first step in pushing back against the march of the progressive left through our institutions,” DEPA wrote.
David Armiak contributed research to this report.