New Report: Oil and Gas Industry Money Pollutes Our Democracy

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Washington, DC – The oil and gas industry’s influence throughout the 2016 election and on the Trump Administration’s energy and environmental policy is staggering. A new report by Clean Water Action explores how the industry uses its vast wealth and political resources to distort our democracy to consistently get what it wants, at the expense of public health and the environment. Without significant reform, the American people will continue to suffer as the starkly unpopular policies that the oil and gas industry pushes for its own financial gain are prioritized over clean water, breathable air, and action on climate.

The report, Stranglehold: Oil and Gas Industry Influence in the 2016 Election and Trump Administration Energy and Environmental Policy, finds:

  • The oil and gas industry spent more than $103 million in the 2016 election to elect sympathetic candidates to office. Eighty eight percent went to help elect Republican candidates.
  • The industry spent over $119 million on lobbying and employed 722 registered lobbyists in 2016. Enough to easily cover each member of Congress with a personal oil and gas lobbyist.
  • The American Petroleum Institute, the largest and most influential oil and gas trade association, increased its lobby spending by 75 percent in the first quarter of 2017.
  • In its first 100 days of 2017, Congress recorded 42 anti-environmental votes.

This type of extreme spending by one sector of the economy has consequences not just in Congress, but throughout the federal government. Scott Pruitt a vocal critic of environmental protections and reliable ally for the fossil fuel industry is now leading the Environmental Protection Agency. This has had direct positive impacts for oil, gas, and coal companies at the expense of public health and a stable environment. The New York Times described Pruitt’s agenda so far as “a regulatory rollback larger in scope than any other over so short a time in the agency’s 47-year history.”

“The oil and gas industry’s goal is to drill, extract, and burn all the oil and gas resources it can acquire,” said John Noel National Oil & Gas Programs Director. “It plans to do so at the rock-bottom level of public health and environmental protections and without any concern for the overt and cumulative negative impacts of its business model on the rest of society.”

The oil and gas industry has a clear-eyed vision for the future — its goal is to burn it all. The industry knows public opinion is not on its side and have stacked the political system in its favor to combat any attempts at com­mon sense reform. Americans aren't buying it. New polls show that support for protecting the environment has strengthened in the face of the government’s new push for fossil fuels. The public must continue to challenge the oil and gas industry's oversized influence in our democracy. Americans should demand elected officials and political appointees prioritize public concerns over special interests and hold them accountable when they do not. It's the only way to break the stranglehold.


Since our founding during the campaign to pass the landmark Clean Water Act in 1972, Clean Water Action has worked to win strong health and environmental protections by bringing issue expertise, solution-oriented thinking and people power to the table. We will protect clean water in the face of attacks from a polluter friendly Administration and Congress.

Michael Kelly