Front groups and trade associations funded by gas utilities fight electrification policies

Gas utilities are funding front groups and mobilizing their trade associations to push back against policies that threaten its business model, including local bans on gas hookups in new housing, efforts to encourage the construction of all-electric homes, and energy conservation appliance standards. The front groups and trade associations attempt to influence government officials, regulators, and the public.

Trade associations have paid Instagram influencers to praise their gas stoves, sued the U.S. Department of Energy over appliance efficiency standards, get asked to “stem the tide of outlandish code requirements from the energy efficiency zealots,” and are involved in passing state-level bills to prevent cities from restricting fossil fuels. Front groups support the trade association’s campaigns by spreading misinformation about electric heat pumps and deploying advertisements that promote gas to specific demographics. In one email, for instance, Sue Kristjansson, then-president and CEO of Oak Ridge Utility District and member of the American Public Gas Association, said, “if they are saying that we are paying influencers to gush over gas stoves so be it … If we wait to promote natural gas stoves until we have scientific data that they are not causing any air quality issues we’ll be done.”

Below is a list of several trade associations and front groups working to prevent the enactment of electrification and climate policies.

Affordable Energy Coalition: Affordable Energy Coalition is a small front group created in March 2021 to attack building electrification policy in the Seattle region. The front group lists the Seattle Plumbers & Pipefitters union as its only member. 

Affordable Energy for New Jersey: Affordable Energy for New Jersey is a front group created in 2020 and is attacking Governor Phil Murphy’s Energy Master Plan, which outlines a statewide strategy to reach 100% clean energy by 2050, prioritizing the rapid electrification of buildings. Many business organizations and pipeline labor unions support the group, but it is unknown who explicitly funds its operations. The organizations supporting Affordable Energy for New Jersey include the Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey, the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, and the Southern New Jersey Development Council. Gas utility members of these associations include South Jersey Gas, New Jersey Natural Gas, and PSEG.

Californians for Balanced Energy Solutions: Californians for Balanced Energy Solutions (C4BES) was was set up and primarily funded by Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) to challenge California policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with buildings, including electrification. SoCalGas initially told reporters it was “invited” to join the front group. Documents, however, soon emerged and exposed SoCalGas’ role in setting up, funding, and recruiting members for C4BES.

Coalition for Cleaner Affordable Energy: Coalition for Cleaner Affordable Energy is a Nevada-based front group that includes Southwest Gas as a “partner” along with many of the gas utility’s allies. The front group launched in 2021 to successfully oppose climate legislation in Nevada and then went dormant after the legislative session but resurfaced to defend the fossil gas utility amid public frustration with high utility billsand mounting evidence concerning risks of gas appliances to public health.

Coloradans For Energy Access: Coloradans for Energy Access is a gas industry front group that launched in 2022 to oppose electrification efforts in Colorado. The group’s members include Xcel Energy and Black Hills Energy, investor-owned utilities that sell electricity and gas in Colorado, along with Atmos Energy and Summit Utilities, which sell gas in Colorado and other states. Huffington Post and Colorado Public Radio reported on an audio recording of an internal meeting, which revealed that the group is led by the largest gas-only utility in the country, Texas-based Atmos Energy, and FTI Consulting, which has a long history of running front groups for the oil and gas industry.

Consumer Energy Alliance: Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA) is an advocacy front group for some of the country’s largest fossil fuel corporations and trade associations. CEA pitches its “consumer advocacy voice” to fossil fuel companies and their trade associations to help industry campaigns “out flank” the opponents.

Energy Solutions Center: Energy Solutions Center, Inc. (ESC) is a 501(c)(6) non-profit organization that helps utilities expand the gas market. ESC, which has links to the American Gas Association, provides its utility members with pro-gas educational and promotional materials and guides them in various marketing strategies.

Natural Allies for a Clean Energy Future: Natural Allies for a Clean Energy Future is a 501(c)(4) front group launched in August 2020 that promotes fossil gas to support emission reductions and reliability. Reporting by the Guardian revealed that Natural Allies for a Clean Energy Future has budgeted over $10 million for its advocacy efforts. The efforts include convincing younger, liberal, and non-white audiences that fossil gas is a “clean” energy solution.

New Yorkers for Affordable Energy: New Yorkers for Affordable Energy is a front group whose utility company members include National Grid, Avangrid, Central Hudson, and National Fuel. The group, which advocates for expanding methane gas infrastructure in New York, also receives support from other major gas industry interests, such as the American Petroleum Institute, Williams Companies, and Millennium Pipeline. 

Partnership for Energy Progress: Partnership for Energy Progress (PEP) is 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization launched in March 2020 to fight building electrification policy in Oregon and Washington State. Members, which include the utilities Avista, Cascade Natural Gas, NW Natural, and Puget Sound Energy, raised nearly $3 million for the front group’s operations.

Virginia Energy Consumer Trust: Virginia Energy Consumer Trust (VECT) is a pro-gas front group based in Virginia. The group is closely associated with the Virginia Manufacturers Association, an influential industry trade and lobbying group. VECT is also linked to the Consumer Energy Alliance, a national front group promoting fracked gas. Using the slogan “electric-economy charges too much!,” VECT plans to deploy an anti-electrification campaign, attacking a key climate solution to wean entire sectors of the economy off of fossil fuels. VECT also calls for repealing the Virginia Clean Economy Act, a bill legislating the transition of the state to zero carbon by mid-century.

Posted by Energy and Policy Institute