Caesar Rodney Institute: State Policy Network attacks on offshore wind power

The Caesar Rodney Institute (CRI) is a Delaware-based affiliate of the State Policy Network (SPN), a 50-state network of think tanks that are frequently at the forefront of political attacks on renewable energy and funded by right-leaning donors and fossil fuel interests. 

David Stevenson is the director of the CRI’s (CRI) Center for Energy & Environmental Policy. He is “currently leading the national effort opposing offshore wind through the American Coalition for Ocean Protection and the Ocean Environment Legal Defense Fund,” according to his bio on the group’s website

CRI and the American Coalition for Ocean Protection (ACOP) are major purveyors of disinformation blaming offshore wind development for stranded and dead whales found along the East Coast. ACOP has partnered with the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) and the Heartland Institute, two anti-climate science groups that have received funding from the coal industry, on the website Their “Save the Whales Coalition” targeted Atlantic City in New Jersey in 2023 with aerial and billboard ads that promoted the website. 

Scientists have researched numerous unusual mortality events for whales and other marine mammals along the east coast and in other regions of the country, and say such increases in mortality are not a new phenomenon and occurred long before offshore wind development began. There’s no scientific evidence that offshore wind development is responsible for whale deaths. 

A month after the Save the Whales Coalition’s aerial and billboard ads hit Atlantic City, CFACT’s president Criag Rucker spoke at a meeting of the National Coal Transportation Association in Arizona. 

Rucker pointed to “the backlash by citizens to offshore wind because of its impact on endangered Right whales in New Jersey,” a CFACT blog post highlighting his appearance at the coal industry group’s meeting said. 

“… our coalition’s position is that no wind turbines be closer than 33 miles from the coastline,” a background page on ACOP’s website said. “At that distance, you cannot see them from a 15 story condo at the beach.” 

CRI anti-offshore wind campaign was nominated for multiple awards presented at SPN’s annual meetings, which are sponsored by fossil fuel interests  

In 2023, CRI’s multi-year campaign against offshore wind was a finalist for SPN’s “Best Issue Campaign” award presented at SPN’s 31st Annual Meeting in Chicago. 

Sponsors of the SPN event included the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) and Charles Koch’s Stand Together Trust. Koch is the CEO and Chairman of Koch Industries, which operates in multiple sectors of the fossil fuel industry. 

“Starting in 2019, CRI launched a ‘Save our Beach View’ campaign focused on resisting a federal wind farm initiative to build offshore wind projects along the coast from Maine to South Carolina,” SPN said on a webpage that described the nomination.   

AFPM contributed $10,000 each year to CRI in 2019 and 2020. CRI also received $15,000 from the American Energy Alliance in 2019. The American Energy Alliance received $250,000 that year from AFPM. 

SPN’s award nomination also said: 

… CRI set up the American Coalition for Ocean Protection (ACOP), which helped to replicate their efforts in other beach communities. Initially started with three members in three states, the coalition has now reached nineteen members in nine states, and it includes six Network members. This coalition has replicated and scaled the earlier CRI tactics, and some members have reached over 500,000 signatures in state petitions resisting offshore wind projects…

CRI’s “Save Our Beach View” campaign was also a finalist for the Communications Excellence Award presented at SPN’s 2020 annual meeting, and SPN published a case study celebrating the same anti-offshore wind campaign in 2021

ACOP members 

A CRI press release announced the formation of ACOP and the Ocean Legal Defense Fund in 2021 to support legal challenges to offshore wind projects, and listed ACOP’s members at the time. The list included five SPN groups that joined ACOP and included CRI, the John Locke Foundation in North Carolina, Maine Policy Institute, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Michigan, and Virginia-based Thomas Jefferson Institute.

Other ACOP members at the time included:

  • Nantucket Residents Against Wind Turbines (also known as ACKRATS and now called ACK4Whales), which held a press conference featuring Stevenson in 2021, during which Stevenson described CRI’s plans to raise $500,000 to support lawsuits against offshore wind projects like Vineyard Wind. 

ACK4Whales and Protect Our Coast NJ are also part of the Save Right Whales Coalition co-founded by Linowes.      

CRI has used its anti-offshore wind campaign as a fundraising tool 

In 2023, CRI hosted a $150 per individual dinner honoring Stevenson and Geoffrey Pohanka and “celebrating our progress in saving Delaware beaches from offshore wind turbines.” 

CRI offered sponsorships for the event that ranged from $5,000 to $30,000. 

Ben du Pont chaired the fundraising dinner.

CRI received $162,500 from the du Pont family’s Longwood Foundation in 2022, representing over forty-five percent of CRI’s total revenue of $351,654 that year. Thère du Pont is the Longwood Foundation’s president and also serves on the board of the DuPont Company, which sells a variety of products used by coal, methane gas and nuclear power plants and in oil and gas extraction.  

The Longwood Foundation’s chairman Charlie Copeland also works as Director of CRI’s Center for Analysis of Delaware’s Economy & Government Spending. Delaware Today described Copeland as “a scion of DuPont Co. founders and, of course, du Pont family wealth” in a 2012 profile. Copeland served as chairman of the Delaware Republican Party from 2013-2017.

Pohanka is chairman of the Pohanka Auto Group and a leading member of the National Auto Dealers of Association. He’s also a trustee for the John A. Pohanka Foundation, which contributed $50,000 to CRI in 2021, according to Politico.

In a 2020 Facebook post, Pohanka said he was “directly involved in opposing the offshore wind plans for the Maryland and Delaware coast.” 

“This is the website we have made to help educate people,” Pohanka also wrote in the post, where he linked to CRI’s Save Our Beach View website. 

Pohanka also has a website,, where he’s attacked climate science, wind and solar power, energy storage, and defended fossil fuels. 

“I am not a scientist and do not pretend to be,” Pohanka said in a welcome message on the frontpage of his website. 

CRI’s leadership and staff have financial ties to the fossil fuel industry

Rick Levinson serves on CRI’s board of directors. He’s also the Chairman and CEO of the Schagrin Gas Co., which delivers propane gas, a fossil fuel that emits carbon dioxide into the atmosphere when burned.  

Professor Charles Elson, a member of CRI’s advisory council, has been an advisor for Neuvo Energy, an independent oil and gas company.  

Stevenson has been the director of CRI’s Center for Energy Competitiveness since 2010 and served on President Donald Trump’s EPA transition team in 2016. Stevenson, who used to work for the DuPont Company, is also president of Alternative Strategies Consulting, LLC. 

In late 2013, Stevenson and several other plaintiffs who presented themselves as customers of the Delmarva Electric Cooperative and Delmarva Power filed a lawsuit challenging Delaware’s implementation of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. 

Under direct examination in the case in 2017, Stevenson described Alternative Strategies Consulting as a paid consulting firm and said he consults “for people on energy and environmental issues.”

“I have worked for utilities and large energy users,” he said, according to a trial transcript

Stevenson also said he was required to keep all of his clients confidential, but acknowledged at least one of his clients was an electric utility. 

Opposition to renewable energy coupled with support for expansion of gas pipelines and power plants, as well as offshore oil drilling 

CRI has long sought to repeal Delaware’s renewable energy standard. Delaware instead chose to increase that standard by requiring the state’s electric utilities to get 40 percent of their power from renewable energy by 2035. 

In 2018, CRI called for Delaware to provide “support for pipeline infrastructure to build at least four more power plants in Delaware.”

In 2014, CRI released a study it said aimed to be a conversation starter about the merits of opening up the Atlantic coast to offshore drilling for oil and gas, as previously reported by The Intercept

“A new study says Delaware can benefit from offshore drilling with minimal environmental impact,” CRI said in a press release about the study.  

CRI denied sea level rise in Delaware months after Hurricane Sandy’s storm surge inundated Delaware’s coast

Fueled by seal level rise caused by climate change, Hurricane Sandy’s storm surge contributed to record flooding of the Delaware River and caused widespread coastal devastation in neighboring New Jersey in 2012 

“There is no clear signal of sea-level rise in Delaware,” CRI advisor David Legates declared a few months after the storm hit at a 2013 event co-hosted by CRI. 

Willie Soon, an astrophysicist who denies the scientific consensus about climate change and has received more than $1.2 million funding from the fossil fuel industry, described those who warn about the impacts of climate change and rising seas as “a very sick group” at the same CRI event. 

CRI later wrote on its blog that it employed Soon from November of 2012 to April of 2013, in a post defending Soon after the New York Times reported on Soon’s long record of taking money from sources like ExxonMobil, the American Petroleum Institute, and Southern Company. 

Posted by Dave Anderson

Dave Anderson is the policy and communications manager for the Energy and Policy Institute. Dave has been working at the nexus of clean energy and public policy since 2008. Prior to joining the Energy and Policy Institute, he was an outreach coordinator for the climate and energy program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. He is also an alumnus of the Sierra Club and the Alliance for Climate Protection (now the Climate Reality Project). Dave’s research has helped to spur public scrutiny of political attacks on clean energy and climate science by powerful special interests, such as ExxonMobil and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). His work has been cited by major media outlets, such as CBS News and the Wall Street Journal, and he has served as a speaker on panels at national solar industry conferences. Dave holds a MA in Political Science from the University of New Hampshire, where he also received a BA in Humanities.