The DC lobbyist says that Exxon is talking with Senator Joe Manchin’s office ‘every week’
Over Zoom calls, Keith McCoy, a senior lobbyist for the oil giant, told an undercover reporter with Greenpeace that it is using key Democrats to achieve its goal of weakening the president’s American Jobs Plan, the faltering $973bn bipartisan package which faces a rocky road in Congress.
Last week, after weeks of bipartisan talks, Mr Biden conditionally endorsed a scaled-back version of his original $2 trillion infrastructure plan, culling hundreds of billions of dollars of proposed support for climate initiatives.
Mr McCoy, who is a senior director in Exxon’s Washington DC government affairs team, said on video that he is speaking to the office of Democratic senator Joe Manchin on a weekly basis with the goal of removing “negative stuff” from the legislation with regards to rules limiting greenhouse gas emissions.
“He’s not shy about sort of staking his claim early and completely changing the debate,” the oil executive said.
Senator Manchin, a moderate Democrat from West Virginia, is a crucial 50th vote for Democrats on Mr Biden’s proposals. The Independent has reached out to Senator Manchin’s office for comment.
During the video meeting, which took place in May according to Greenpeace, Mr McCoy also said that Exxon was targeting other moderate Democrats including Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema and Senator Jon Tester of Montana.
Surprisingly, the Exxon executive also claimed that the fossil fuel company had gained traction with Delaware Senator Chris Coons, a Democrat and close ally of the president from his home state, who has championed climate action.
“We’ve been working with his office. As a matter of fact our CEO is talking to him next Tuesday,” the Exxon staffer said.
The Independent has contacted Senator Coons’ office for comment.
He also said that Exxon would then look to Democratic senators who were up for re-election in 2022 such as New Hampshire Senator Maggie Hassan and Arizona Senator Mark Kelly.
The executive also lauded the oil corporation’s “great relationships” with Republicans. “We have great relationships with the Senators where we have assets.” he said.
He then added that those Republicans who were not up for re-election until 2026 weren’t worth targeting.
“The 2022 class is focused on re-election so I know I have them,” he said, name-checking Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Louisiana Senator John Kennedy and Montana Senator Steve Daines, calling them a “captive audience”.
“They know they need you and I need them,” Mr McCoy added.
On the video, Mr McCoy described the president’s plan to slash greenhouse gas emissions as “insane” and admitted that the company had aggressively fought early climate science through “shadow groups” to protect its business.
Greenpeace says that no serving Exxon executive has ever before admitted that the company fought climate science to protect its financial interests.
Mr McCoy also suggested that Exxon’s public pledge of support for a carbon tax to tackle the climate crisis is just an “advocacy tool” and “great talking point” but won’t happen.
Greenpeace said that reporters with their UnEarthed team posed as recruitment consultants looking to hire a DC lobbyist for a major client and approached Mr McCoy and a second Exxon lobbyist, Dan Easley, for a meeting. During the meeting reporters asked questions about Exxon’s current and historical lobbying on environmental issues.
Mr Easley left the company in January to join a clean tech firm but was chief White House lobbyist throughout the Trump administration. He burst out laughing on a Zoom call when asked by the undercover reporter if Exxon, which publicly claims it supports the Paris climate agreement, had achieved many policy wins under Trump.
“The wins are such that it would be difficult to categorise them all,” he said.
He went on to say that the former president’s slashing of the corporate tax rate was the biggest boon and “probably worth billions to Exxon.”
Greenpeace UK’s senior climate campaigner Charlie Kronick said: “The mask has slipped. No matter how much Exxon wants you to think they care about the climate crisis, this shows as clear as day that the tiger hasn’t changed its stripes.”
He added: “As a record-breaking heatwave engulfs the Pacific Northwest, people will remember President Biden’s big promises about transforming the US economy to avoid catastrophic climate change. If he wants to succeed, he can’t allow Exxon to undermine his flagship climate legislation. Either the White House stands firm on key measures about electric cars and clean energy, or this may go down in history as the Exxon bill.”
In a statement to The Independent, Darren Woods, chairman and CEO of Exxon Mobil Corporation, said: “Comments made by the individuals in no way represent the company’s position on a variety of issues, including climate policy and our firm commitment that carbon pricing is important to addressing climate change. The individuals interviewed were never involved in developing the company’s policy positions on the issues discussed.
“We condemn the statements and are deeply apologetic for them, including comments regarding interactions with elected officials. They are entirely inconsistent with the way we expect our people to conduct themselves. We were shocked by these interviews and stand by our commitments to working on finding solutions to climate change.”