A lobbying and consulting firm that worked for environmental groups was simultaneously lobbying on behalf of major oil industry polluters, a Documented investigation finds.

The consulting group, MJ Bradley and Associates (MJB&A), worked closely with non-profits advocating for new Environmental Protection Agency rules to limit methane pollution from the oil and gas industry. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, over 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide at disrupting the climate, and the oil and gas industry is the largest industrial methane polluter. The EPA is in the midst of finalizing these new rules.

However, records obtained by Documented show that MJB&A also lobbied the EPA on behalf of BP, and represented or advised ConocoPhillips, BP, Shell, and Pioneer on EPA matters. Calendars and communications show that MJB&A set up meetings between EPA and oil corporations regarding the methane rules, and communicated with top EPA staff multiple times from March to July 2021. These meetings specifically addressed issues like requirements to measure methane pollution with leak detection and repair (LDAR).

MJB&A's position is unusual among oil and gas lobbyists because of their extensive work with green groups. For instance, the group recently authored a report on methane emissions which named the top 100 methane emitters from the oil and gas industry. The report was developed by a partnership between Ceres and the Clean Air Task Force, two influential environmental advocates working on EPA's methane pollution rules. ConocoPhillips, BP, and Shell were all on the list of top methane emitters. While communications between MJB&A and the EPA suggest that ConocoPhillips, BP, and Shell are clients of MJB&A, the oil companies do not appear on MJB&A’s website’s client list. MJB&A did not respond to a request for comment about the company's conflicts of interest policy.

MJB&A's choices in lobbyist also reveals ties to opponents of strong methane regulations. To augment their in-house lobbyists, MJB&A hired Nichole Distefano of Mehlman, Castegnetti, Rosen, and Thomas to influence the EPA and Congress. In addition to MJB&A, Distefano represents the American Exploration and Production Council (AXPC), a trade group lobbying for exemptions from the EPA methane rule. Distefano held meetings between top EPA officials working on methane and her client, AXPC, whose members include ConocoPhillips and Pioneer (companies listed as potential partners to MJB&A). Distefano also lobbies on behalf of Chevron, Edison Electric Institute (EEI) and American Chemistry Council (ACC).

The relationships between MJB&A and those trying to weaken methane rules is an example of how oil corporations use myriad messengers to influence potential regulations. Groups like MJB&A, which may be seen as more credible than industry groups because of their work with environmental non-profits, make valuable additions to the the oil lobbying chorus.

Shell exemplifies this strategy of lobbying through multiple channels. The company enlisted MJB&A, hired lobbyists from Van Ness Feldman, and met with EPA as a member of the American Petroleum Institute. This allowed Shell multiple cracks at top EPA officials, using a variety of tones and voices. A Shell white paper on methane regulations reveals what Shell wants from its lobbying efforts: EPA methane regulations that are "flexible and cost effective" but do not "strive to set ambitious performance levels to maximize methane reductions."

Timeline of EPA’s meetings with lobbyists

Meetings between top EPA officials and MJB&A, Van Ness Feldman (VNF), Shell, Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA), American Exploration Production Council (AXPC), National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), American Chemistry Council (ACC) and the American Petroleum Institute (API) regarding EPA methane regulations.

1 Mar 2021

American Exploration & Production Council (AXPC) logo, pulled from the group's Twitter account.

Carbonell meets with with AXPC re: methane. Attendees here.

2 Mar 2021

Van Nes Feldman company logo, pulled from company's Facebook profile.

Meeting with Tomás Carbonell of the EPA and Stephen Fotis of Van Ness Feldman. Attendees are listed here and here.

3 Mar 2021

American Petroleum Institute's (API) logo, pulled from the group's Facebook.

Tomás Carbonell meets with API “re: Methane, Ozone & PM NAAQs” etc. Meeting attendees listed here and here.

22 Mar 2021

Michael J. Bradley & Associate's (MJB&A) company logo, pulled from the company's Twitter profile.

Michael Bradley of MJB&A writes to Carbonell, requesting a meeting regarding methane regulation:

“MJB&A has recently agreed to manage a collaborative process between several oil and gas companies focused on the anticipated EPA proposed methane regulation. These companies include ConocoPhillips, BP, Shell and Pioneer. Equinor and Oxy may also decide to participate in the future. The companies are looking to play a constructive role in the development of the methane rule for the oil and gas sector,” wrote Bradley.

29 Mar 2021

Screen shot of an External Meeting Request Form filed by MJB&A to meet with Tomas Carbonell.

MJB&A puts in an external meeting request to meet with Carbonell regarding EPA’s Proposed Methane Regulation, hoping to meet April 6.

6 Apr 2021

Sandra Snyder writes to Peter Tsirigotis asking if there might be “an opportunity to meet with you, Joe Goffman and others at EPA to discuss methane regulations.” Snyder emphasizes that INGAA is “supportive of federal methane regulations” and is eager to share their thoughts.

6 Apr 2021

Screen shot of an External Meeting Request submitted by the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America on April 6, 2021 to meet with EPA's Office of Air and Radiation regarding methane regulations.

INGAA puts in an external meeting request to meet with Goffman, Tsirigotis and “other EPA subject matter experts” re: “INGAA’s climate statement and thoughts about methane regulation,” hoping to meet between April 16 and May 21, 2021.

8 Apr 2021

A meeting is set with EPA officials and MJB&A. Attendees included representatives from ConocoPhillips, BP, Shell and Pioneer, Equinor and Oxy.

8 Apr 2021

National Association of Manufacturer's (NAM) logo, pulled from the organization's Facebook.

Carbonell meets with the National Association of Manufacturers. “re: O&G methane regulation.” Attendees listed here.

9 Apr 2021

Carbonell meets with Fotis and Britt Fleming of Van Ness Feldman and Tomás Carbonell of EPA. Additional attendees are listed here.

13 Apr 2021

American Chemistry Council's (ACC) logo, pulled from the group's Facebook.

Carbonell meets with the American Chemistry Council “re: Climate Policy and EtO." Attendees listed here and here.

16 Apr 2021

Screenshot of a letter written to Biden on April 16, 2021 from 13 different utility companies. The letter expresses the companies' support of the administration's goal of achieving an 80 percent carbon emissions reduction below 2005 levels by 2030.

Michael Bradley sends Goffman and Carbonell a letter to Biden "from 13 electric companies expressing support for achieving an 80% reduction in carbon emissions from 2005 levels by 2030."

20 Apr 2021

Van Ness Feldman submits an external meeting request for Shell to meet with EPA re: methane regulations.

20 Apr 2021

Fotis passes along an invite for EPA to "join the virtual briefing on the LA 100% Renewable Energy Study by senior officials at LADWP."

28 Apr 2021

EPA officials meet with Shell and Van Ness Feldman. Meeting attendees are listed here and here.

28 Apr 2021

Shell's company logo, pulled from the company's Facebook profile.

Following the meeting with Shell and EPA, Fotis reaches out to let Goffman and Carbonell know that Shell and VNF will start pulling "together a short a short white paper that outlines the CAA regulatory framework issues discussed during our meeting"

29 Apr 2021

Interstate Natural Gas Association of America's (INGAA) logo, pulled from the association's Facebook account.

EPA officials meet with INGAA “re: Methane and INGAA” as listed on Carbonell’s calendar and on Goffman’s calendar. Meeting attendees, which included representatives from INGAA and National Fuel Gas are listed here and here.

3 May 2021

Fotis sends Goffman and Carbonell “a short white paper outlining our initial thinking on a possible framework for regulating methane emissions from existing oil and gas sources..." The white paper can be found here.

19 May 2021

Fotis reaches back out to Carbonell and Goffman requesting a meeting with Shell to touch base re: "a number of high level issues on processing for moving forward" on methane.

26 May 2021

Van Ness Feldman submits an external meeting request on behalf of Shell to meet with EPA re: Clean Air Act and methane regulations.

29 May 2021

Screen shot of a report released on methane emissions in June 2021 which named the top 100 methane emitters from the oil and gas industry. The report was created for Ceres and includes contributions from Clean Air Task Force, two influential green groups.

MJB&A sends along a “GHG emissions benchmarking assessment of the top 100 oil and gas producers” on behalf of CERES and the Clean Air Task Force to Peter Tsirigotis, Kevin Culligan and David Cozzie at EPA.

3 Jun 2021

EPA officials meet with VNF and Shell.

15 Jun 2021

Fotis sends along an invitation to Goffman to to speak at Large Public Power Council's annual summer CEO meeting.

12 Jul 2021

Administrator Regan meets with the American Petroleum Institute (API). Marnie Funk of Shell writes to EPA's Dan Utech, alerting him that Shell's President Gretchen Watkins will not be able to attend but "would welcome an opportunity to meet with Administrator Regan in the fall to discuss how Shell can best be constructive on climate and environmental policy within EPA's jurisdiction."

29 Jul 2021

INGAA meets with EPA “to discuss existing source methane rulemaking.”

29 Jul 2021

BP meets with EPA regarding "Federal Methane Regulations."

About the authors
Jesse e1614381592133
Colette R