December 15, 2014

Shell Warns Oil Industry May Join Big Coal’s War on EPA to Prevent ‘Precedent’ of Carbon Regulation

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Expect much of the fossil fuel industry to oppose the upcoming Environmental Protection Act rules governing carbon emissions from power plants, says a senior executive from Shell Oil. Though the agency’s new Clean Power Plan impacts existing coal-fire power plants, the Shell spokesperson suggested that the oil and gas industry may lobby to block the regulation to prevent the “precedent” of wide-ranging regulations on other carbon polluters.

“In my sector, the oil and gas sector, they view coal first, and oil and gas next. So when they saw what producers have called the ‘War on Coal,’ and they felt that if the administration is launching this war on coal, there was a view that, we need to be proactive in terms of how we address this, because we’re next,” said Marnie Funk, vice president for communications at Shell Oil.

Funk, speaking at an event hosted by the European Union at the United Nations climate summit last week in Lima, Peru, made her comments during a talk about industry’s perspective on U.S. climate policy. In the talk explaining how the next Congress will seek to stymie future action on carbon pollution, Funk explained that GOP legislators will move quickly to block EPA action through oversight hearings, “messaging” legislation, and through attaching policy riders to must-pass appropriations bills. Blocking the EPA rule through an appropriations rider could lead to another government shut down, given that President Obama is likely to veto any legislation that rolls back agency authority.

Funk, a former GOP Senate staffer, also predicted that oil and gas firms will join lawsuits against the EPA’s power plants rule so that “something just like that” could not be one day applied to other sectors, such as oil refiners.

“You’re going to see litigation from sectors with a fear for what it means for them,” she said.

“When they look at the Clean Power Plan,” said Funk, discussing the oil and gas perspective, “what they might see is, you need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with manufacturing gasoline, and by the way, one of the ways that can be complied with is, if there are fewer combustion engines on the road when you move to batteries or you move to renewable fuel in the gas tank,” she continued. “And they realize this could be demand destruction for gas engines, similar to the coal industry and demand destruction over their rule.”

During the press conference, Funk responded to a question from Republic Report and said that to her knowledge, Shell has not funded any dark money groups active in the 2014 midterm elections. She said that she had met with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and explicitly declined funding a political effort this year.

DeSmogBlog’s Brendan DeMelle asked Funk about whether her company would lobby to remove EPA’s authority to enforce the Clean Power Rule through an approriations rider or another budget mechanism.

“You asked about EPA budget, we don’t engage on lobbying the Hill on EPA budget,” Funk replied. “I can’t imagine a scenario where we’d be lobbying for a federal agency’s budget to be cut, which is just not in our nature.”

Federal disclosures, however, suggest Funk may have downplayed her company’s role in lobbying the appropriations process. The company has spent millions of dollars attempting to influence a range of budget-related issues for federal agencies. Last year, for example, Shell lobbied the Homeland Security appropriations bill to “prevent funds from being made available to enforce section 526 of EISA 2007.” That measure “restricts Federal Agencies from entering into contracts to buy alternative fuels that are more polluting than conventional fuels,” according to Sharon Burke, a Defense Department official.