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."