The American Clean Power Association has been billed as "the nation's top renewable energy trade group," but lurking beneath its green luster is a dirty reality.
That's according to the Revolving Door Project, which published a memo on Thursday to expose what is calls ACP's "close ties to the fossil fuel industry and an 'all of the above' energy agenda that allows for massive new fossil fuel development and environmental damage, as long as clean energy also benefits."
While ACP "does represent many clean energy companies, it is also a conglomeration of executives and corporations that are directly and indirectly tied to (and benefit from) the fossil fuel industry," states the memo.
"America needs a strong political force fighting for renewable energy, but American Clean Power doesn't fit the bill."
To take just one recent and prominent example of ACP's pro-fossil fuel advocacy, the group has lobbied for H.R. 1, the so-called "Lower Energy Costs Act" passed last month by House Republicans. Progressives have condemned the legislation they call the "Polluters Over People Act"—a sprawling package of 15 separate bills and two resolutions primarily aimed at deregulating fossil fuel production and exports—as a "giveaway to Big Oil" that threatens to exacerbate the climate and biodiversity crises while saddling U.S. households with higher energy bills.
In addition, prior to the introduction of H.R. 1, ACP championed permitting reform bills proposed last year by Senate Republicans and corporate Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia—a coal profiteer and Congress' top recipient of fossil fuel industry cash in the 2022 election cycle.
Other key findings of the 19-page memo include:
- ACP's board has over a dozen members with fossil fuel ties;
- ACP's annual conferences were sponsored by a number of fossil fuel entities;
- Apparent member groups of ACP include Shell, Ameresco, Duke Energy, Exelon, Lockheed Martin, BlackRock, and Amazon;
- ACP operates a "Clean Power PAC" that has received and contributed to many fossil fuel-tied entities;
- Current ACP CEO Jason Grumet co-founded the fossil fuel-friendly Bipartisan Policy Center and influenced the 2005 Energy Policy Act as executive director of the National Commission on Energy; and
- Former ACP CEO (2020-22) Heather Zichal is a revolver and has a long professional history of advancing fossil fuel interests in the name of clean energy.
Because of ACP's green public image, many people were shocked last month when Grumet, the organization's CEO, released a statement praising H.R. 1.
"The Lower Energy Costs Act contains important provisions and reforms that will help advance clean energy in the United States," said Grumet. "This legislation would create a predictable and timely federal permitting framework which is critical to the future development of America's vast clean energy resources."
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has described H.R. 1 as "dead-on-arrival." In the off chance it does reach the Oval Office, President Joe Biden—hardly a friend to the climate justice movement, according to green groups—has vowed to veto what the White House characterizes as "a thinly veiled license to pollute" that "would take us backward."
ACP, meanwhile, has had nothing critical to say about the legislation. In Grumet's words, "We look forward to working with Congress to build on this important effort."
Revolving Door Project, for its part, was not surprised by Grumet's vocal support of the package and unveiled its new memo as ACP "holds a lobby week" in Washington, D.C. "to push for a set of permitting reforms that have been criticized as being too friendly to the fossil fuel industry at the expense of environmental justice communities and climate action across the country."
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) said Tuesday at the launch of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's "Permit America to Build" campaign that the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will hold a hearing on permitting reform on April 26 and plans to hold additional hearings in May.
With House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and the GOP's deficit hawks threatening to withhold their support for raising the nation's arbitrary debt ceiling unless congressional Democrats and Biden agree to their reactionary policy agenda, Capito said that trying to force through all of H.R. 1—legislation the Congressional Budget Office estimates would increase the federal deficit by $2.4 billion from 2023-33—"is a bite of the apple a little bit too big, but if we can narrow down to meaningful permitting reform that might be enough to satisfy some folks."
Revolving Door Project warned Thursday that as GOP operatives pressure Senate Democrats in particular to support legislation designed to "loosen federal permitting rules for fossil fuel projects and allow industry to cut through communities without proper public input, ACP has been an enthusiastic cheerleader for their efforts."
Grumet, for instance, spoke at the same event as Capito earlier this week. Notably, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) recently described the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as "the number one political obstruction in the path of climate progress."
"Supporting an 'all-of-the-above' energy strategy to expand fossil fuels is like pushing for healthier school lunches with a side of cigarettes."
In a Thursday statement, Revolving Door Project's climate research director Dorothy Slater said that "it's easy to take American Clean Power at face value—it would be nice if it was actually the strong industry voice for clean and renewable energy it claims to be."
"But ACP is not that," Slater continued, "and the media has a responsibility to be skeptical about the truthfulness of ACP's intentions considering the economic well-being of its members and leadership is so closely tied to the continuance of the fossil fuel era."
Responding to the memo's findings, Collin Rees, United States program manager at Oil Change International, stressed that "America needs a strong political force fighting for renewable energy, but American Clean Power doesn't fit the bill."
"Supporting an 'all-of-the-above' energy strategy to expand fossil fuels is like pushing for healthier school lunches with a side of cigarettes," said Rees. "Congress and the White House must ignore ACP's fossil fuel boosterism, reject Manchin and the GOP's dirty energy packages, and support renewable energy to help people, not polluters."
That message was echoed by Jean Su, director of the Center for Biological Diversity's energy justice program.
"Despite its name, American Clean Power is yet another fossil fuel lobbying group trying to trick people into believing its greenwashing," said Su. "Any political leader who claims to care about the planet's future should shun this organization and work with groups truly fighting for just, renewable energy."
"It's disgraceful that we need a report to expose this group and its mendacity," she added, "but thank goodness for it."