How bad is the economy? American Petroleum Institute lays off lobbyists

  • Published on April 2nd, 2020

Yesterday, the Washington Examiner’s Josh Siegel broke the news that the American Petroleum Institute is closing 15 of its state lobbying offices and firing 25 employees, according to an email to staff from the group’s CEO Mike Sommers. Given the financial condition the industry is in, and the pressure activists have put on companies to leave groups like API, it’s not surprising to see API making cuts.

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But leadership is portraying it as a reorganization, a shift from state offices to regional ones, which they’re hoping to get operational by June 30th. In the email to staff, Sommers wrote that “The regional approach will extend API’s advocacy capabilities in a changing landscape using data targeting, campaign communications, and coalition building, and build on our partnerships with state oil and natural gas associations in key production states.”

To us, that sounds like more ads – particularly digital ones that can be precisely targeted – and more front groups under the guise of coalition and partnership work. Looking at where the new offices will be can perhaps offer a hint of where API is headed, because it’s not just “key production states.”

For example, it’s opening up regional offices in Boston, Massachusetts, Springfield, Illinois and St. Paul, Minnesota, which aren’t exactly hotbeds of oil and gas.

But Minnesota does have a ban on fracking sand that’s being litigated, and more importantly, a debate over Enbrige’s Line 3 crude oil pipeline replacement, which is facing opposition from Native American communities. And Massachusetts is home to groundbreaking bans on new oil and gas pipelines. In Illinois, the legislature is considering a Clean Energy Jobs Act that industry analysts are worried about, so that may explain API’s justification for putting an office there.

And there are some obvious choices too, in states that are key producers, like Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and Denver, Colorado. But it’s odd to see that the Denver and St. Paul offices will apparently cover everything west of the Mississippi, while in the southeast API is opening regional offices in both Raleigh, North Carolina and Tallahassee, Florida, neither of which are major industry hubs.

However, North Carolina has a Democratic governor who’s under pressure from frontline and youth communities to oppose new fracking, and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline case is in front of the Supreme Court there. Meanwhile, even Florida’s Republican Senators are calling for a 10-year offshore oil drilling ban in the east Gulf of Mexico to be part of energy legislation.

As for the state offices shutting down, those will be in Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

From Cato shuttering its climate program last year to Heartland cutting its staff dramatically earlier this month to now API, it’s been a tough time for the fossil fuel industry’s faithful servants.

How sad that they sold their souls to defend one of the most profitable industries in human history, only to be cast aside so carelessly when times get tough.

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