Exxon lobbyist pressured lawmakers to remove climate measures from Biden's initial $2 trillion infrastructure plan, report says

  • An Exxon lobbyist reportedly pushed for Congress to cut climate measures from the infrastructure plan.
  • He said in a recording he lobbied key senators to take climate provisions out of Biden’s $2 trillion plan.
  • Biden has since reached an agreement with a bipartisan group that cut out many climate provisions. 
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Whether to include climate provisions in an infrastructure plan has been a major point of contention between Republican and Democratic lawmakers. But new recordings reveal outside influences may have also had a hand at determining the role climate should play.

The UK’s Channel 4 News obtained recordings from Unearthed, Greenpeace UK’s investigative platform, that showed a lobbyist for oil and gas giant ExxonMobil, Keith McCoy, saying the company had fought legislative action on climate change. He was talking on a Zoom call in which Unearthed investigators posed as headhunters looking to hire a lobbyist for their client. 

McCoy said he had lobbied key senators to remove or diminish climate change measures from President Joe Biden’s original $2 trillion infrastructure proposal, and he added that ExxonMobil had joined “shadow groups” to pursue climate change denial.

“Why would you put in something on emissions reductions on climate change to oil refineries in a highway bill?” McCoy said in the recording. “So, people say, ‘Yeah, that doesn’t make any sense,’ so then you get to the germane of saying that shouldn’t be in this bill.”

In a lengthy statement to Channel 4 News, ExxonMobil said that Greenpeace has waged a “multi-decade campaign” against the company, which has included “false claims and unlawful actions” at the company’s facilities.

“We have supported climate science for decades,” ExxonMobil said in the statement. “Greenpeace and others have distorted our position on climate science and our support for effective policy solutions.”

McCoy also said that ExxonMobil’s public support for a carbon tax lies under the assumption that the carbon tax will never happen, allowing the company to support the tax to appear green. The company responded to that claim in its statement by saying it has been “clear in supporting an efficient, economy-wide price on carbon.”

These recordings come after Biden reached an agreement with a bipartisan group of senators on a new infrastructure plan that is more than half of his initial proposal, with many climate-related measures cut out. For example, as Insider previously reported, $213 billion for affordable, green housing was cut from the plan, along with $35 billion in climate research.

That’s why many Democrats are calling for the bipartisan deal to be passed alongside a reconciliation bill that would include the care-economy measures cut, like affordable housing and free community college, along with substantial climate-related measures.

“I’ve said all along: no climate, no deal,” Democratic Sen. Ed Markey wrote on Twitter last week. “The bipartisan framework doesn’t get us there. So I agree with our leadership that this must be resolved in reconciliation. Until then, I’m still no climate, no deal – let’s get this done.”