Black Lies Matter: Chevron Revealed Behind Racially Tinged Climate Denial Campaign

February 8, 2021

E&E News:

It was an audacious messaging campaign: White environmentalists are hurting black communities by pushing radical climate policies that would strip them of fossil fuel jobs.

The email to journalists, sent by a public affairs firm at the height of national protests over systemic racism earlier this month, accidentally contained the name of a high-profile client.

It was Chevron Corp.

The Virginia-based communications firm, named CRC Advisors, urged journalists to look at how green groups were “claiming solidarity” with black protesters while “backing policies which would hurt minority communities.”

“Despite this claimed solidarity, environmental organizations, composed of predominantly white members, are backing radical policies like the Green New Deal which would bring particular harm to minority communities,” wrote John Gage of CRC in an email sent to media outlets including E&E News.

The story pitch included an offer to connect journalists with black conservatives who oppose the Green New Deal, a sweeping government jobs program advanced by progressive lawmakers who champion environmental justice issues for communities of color.

The email ended with a revealing tagline.

“If you would rather not receive future communications from Chevron, let us know by clicking here.”

Chevron denied involvement in the messaging campaign, but the email’s accidental nod to the oil giant is renewing suspicions among activists and academics that Chevron’s public statements about climate change fail to match its lobbying activities. While Chevron has promised to do more to slow rising temperatures, observers view the email as a shadowy continuation of the fossil fuel industry’s past efforts to undercut legislation aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“Chevron’s fingerprints appear to be on this,” said Naomi Oreskes, a Harvard University history professor and the co-author of “Merchants of Doubt,” a 2010 book about how scientists with ties to Big Oil worked to obscure the truth about global warming.

Oreskes described previous instances of oil and gas companies working with communications firms to advance industry talking points. But the CRC effort is remarkable, she said, for trying to leverage national unrest about systemic racism and police violence to promote an expansion of oil and gas drilling.

“There’s no socially acceptable language to describe how despicable this is,” she said. “It’s hard for me to contain my fury.”

The email received by an E&E News journalist on June 3 included quotes from two black conservatives who oppose the Green New Deal.

They were Ken Blackwell, a Republican who served as Ohio’s secretary of state in the late 1990s and has gone on to stump for a wide variety of conservative causes, and Derrick Hollie, a former advertising executive.

The email portrayed CRC as playing a helpful role in distributing Blackwell’s and Hollie’s concerns with the climate plan and its effect on black communities.

Instead, the firm appears to have organized the campaign. Hollie, who said he doesn’t personally know Blackwell, revealed that CRC approached him with the idea.

“They was like, ‘Derrick, would you mind being a part of something that we’re working on?’ I said, ‘Absolutely.’ And they asked me to put together a quote,” Hollie said in a phone interview.

“I didn’t know what they were going to do with it,” he added. “I figured they were going to put it in an op-ed or something like that.”

Gage, the account executive at CRC, said in an email to E&E News that he had contacted journalists “on behalf of Mr. Blackwell and Mr. Hollie regarding this issue and inadvertently attached a disclaimer from another client’s media list onto that email.”

Hollie is the president of Reaching America, a nonprofit group whose tax-exempt status was revoked by the Internal Revenue Service in 2017 because it repeatedly failed to file required annual reports.

Since then, Hollie has testified twice in the House Natural Resources Committee against efforts to transition the U.S. economy away from fossil fuels. At a February 2019 hearing, he denied receiving any funding from fossil fuel companies or corporations.

“With black communities ablaze, the same nearly uniformly white environmental extremists assure us of their solidarity while at the same time trying to kill high-paying oil and gas jobs that have been the cornerstones of progress in lifting up working-class minority communities,” Hollie was quoted as saying in the CRC email to journalists. “Any program such as their Green New Deal that makes energy more expensive or jeopardizes jobs is counter-productive, reckless, and wrong.”

To be sure, the environmental movement has struggled with its own racial disparities. The largest green groups are overwhelmingly white, and they have historically overlooked communities of color when trying to reduce pollution. Some have racist pasts (Greenwire, June 5).

But people of color are also underrepresented in much of the oil and gas industry. For example, a 2016 report by the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, found the oil and gas business to be “among the worst in terms of employment and earning equity for women, African American and Hispanic populations.”

Reaching America is based in Bennsville, Md., but its sparse website is registered to Domains By Proxy LLC, an Arizona firm that shields the identities of web address owners.

CRC also has a limited online presence.

The group is led by Leonard Leo, President Trump’s informal adviser on judicial nominees, and Greg Mueller, a conservative communications executive. The firm recently hired two Trump White House communications staffers and a Fox News veteran. CRC’s website lists no staff, clients or contact information.

Although Hollie and his group have a long history with CRC, he denied having a formal role with the firm.

“Hell no! I wish I did,” he said with a laugh. “This guy named Jay Hopkins is who I deal with.

“I knew CRC had an energy client,” he added. “I didn’t know it was Chevron.”

4 Responses to “Black Lies Matter: Chevron Revealed Behind Racially Tinged Climate Denial Campaign”

  1. leslie graham Says:

    Well I’m shocked I tell you – shocked!

  2. doldrom Says:

    ‘‘among the worst in terms of employment and earning equity for women, African American and Hispanic populations’’

    Yeah. We need more women aspiring to be rough-necks, covered from head to toe with drilling mud and grease. Extra advantage is that they don’t have to be ticked off at not being able to see any chest hair before showering. And it pays well.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      A misogynistic comment, made for no good reason. If women want to be roughnecks and can do the job, they should be allowed to do so. (And any roughneck team that ends up “covered from head to toe in mud and grease” needs to go back to roughneck school and get reeducated).

  3. Is there any assertion in that email that is objectively untrue?

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