Texas Public Policy Foundation: State Policy Network attacks on renewable energy in the Lonestar State

Texas generates more renewable energy than any other state, but the Lone Star State is also home to the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), a pro-fossil fuels think tank that is one of the nation’s top political opponents of wind and solar farms. 

TPPF is an Austin-based affiliate of the State Policy Network, a 50-state network of think tanks funded by right-wing donors and fossil fuel interests, and is known nationally for its role in disinformation campaigns against renewable energy and climate science.  

TPPF has fought to halt plans to build new offshore wind projects on the East Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico. 

In 2023, one of the group’s newsletters included a fake image of a dead beached whale with offshore wind turbines artificially superimposed in the background. TPPF ran an online fundraising campaign that year aimed at raising $500,000 to support its fight against offshore wind, complete with misleading Facebook ads that falsely claimed offshore wind was responsible for “beaching whales.” 

TPPF filed a lawsuit in 2021 on behalf of commercial fishing interests in an attempt to block the Vineyard Wind offshore wind project in New England, again citing alleged impacts of offshore wind construction on endangered North Atlantic right whale. The lawsuit was dismissed

In contrast to its professed concern for the right whale, the think tank has elsewhere opposed listing species like the dunes sagebrush lizard and monarch butterfly as endangered when it would have affected the oil and methane gas industry. TPPF has long sought to weaken the Endangered Species Act, which TPPF has called the “pitbull” of environmental laws. 

TPPF is also a staunch defender of offshore drilling for oil and gas. In 2010, after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a TPPF policy analyst attacked President Obama for “The ‘browbeating of BP into disgorging assets’ regardless of actual liability.” 

BP later pleaded guilty to illegal conduct that led to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and agreed to a $4 billion fine, which the U.S. Department of Justice said was the largest criminal penalty in U.S. history. 

“Climate change has contributed to an increase in deaths and injuries,” the Marine Mammal Commission said in a 2023 case study of the North Atlantic right whale. Unlike fossil fuels, offshore wind power generates electricity without emitting greenhouse gasses that cause climate change. 

Offshore wind turbines

Photo by Ionna22 from Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 4.0 license. Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International

In 2021, TPPF filed a legal challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency’s science-based endangerment finding for greenhouse gas emissions on behalf of plaintiffs that included the Nuckles Oil Co. TPPF filed a nearly identical petition in 2017 that was used by coal producer Murray Energy in public comments opposing the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which sought to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, in public comments. The public comments were filed by a law firm involved in fighting wind and solar farms in Ohio for the coal industry. 

The EPA has denied multiple climate science-denial laced TPPF petitions seeking to overturn the endangerment finding, most recently in 2022

TPPF spread misinformation about wind and solar power causing Texas blackout

In 2023, according to the Guardian, TPPF directly edited and wrote pieces of last-minute amendments to a new Texas law to “impose new transmission costs on renewables and require them to source fossil fuel ‘backup’ power when the sun isn’t shining or wind isn’t blowing.”

TPPF has for years pushed a false narrative solely blaming renewables for causing widespread power blackouts in Texas during 2021 Winter Storm Uri, even though methane gas outages and long-term failures to properly weatherize the state’s gas infrastructure played the predominant role in causing the blackouts. 

TPPF’s affiliation with a top “grassroots” anti-wind and solar activist 

Lisa Linowes, a New Hampshire-based anti-wind and solar activist, has served as a senior policy fellow for TPPF. Linowes authored a two-part anti-wind power report for TPPF in 2018. 

Linowes leads several prominent anti-renewables groups, including the Industrial Wind Action Group she founded in 2006, which claims it is “not funded in any way” by the fossil fuel industry or “affiliated with large political activists groups.”

TPPF’s promotion of Linowes began well over a decade ago. A 2008 TPPF report on wind power cited a press release by the Industrial Wind Action Group and Linowes. 

The Industrial Wind Action Group is incorporated as a “Domestic Profit Corporation” in New Hampshire, though the group’s incorporation information states it was “organized exclusively for charitable, educational & scientific purposes.” 

Linowes is also the co-founder of the Save Right Whales Coalition that’s fighting offshore wind development along the east coast. She is also co-chairman of the Energy, Wildlife and Community Coalition, which opposes “harmful industrial-scale renewables.” 

In addition, Linowes serves on the board of directors of Environmental Progress, a California-based group known for trolling wind and solar power and advocating for nuclear energy and fossil fuels. Michael Shellenberger, the group’s president, is involved in the Save Right Whales Coalition with Linowes. 

Background and fossil fuel industry funding

TPPF is registered with the IRS as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose stated mission is the promotion and defense of “liberty, personal responsibility, and free enterprise.” The group was founded in 1989 by James Leininger, a conservative mega-donor in San Antonio. 

“… TPPF has been a leading voice on a variety of issues in the Texas State Capitol and, in recent years, nationwide,” Michael Nasi, a lawyer and lobbyist at Jackson Walker who was a senior advisor for TPPF’s pro-fossil fuels Life:Powered initiative, wrote in a 2019 article published in the National Coal Transportation Association’s magazine. 

TPPF experienced substantial financial growth in recent years and saw its national influence grow dramatically during the Trump administration

For 2022, TPPF reported receiving contributions of $21.5 million on its annual Form 990 report to the IRS, with a third of that revenue coming from just seven unnamed donors. The IRS doesn’t require 501(c)(3)s like TPPF to publicly disclose their donors, but some of TPPF’s donors have disclosed their contributions in their own tax filings. 

Charles Koch’s Stand Together Trust contributed $2 million to TPPF in 2022, as the Center for Media & Democracy first reported. Koch is the billionaire CEO of Koch Industries, a privately owned company that operates in multiple sectors of the fossil fuel industry.  

The State Policy Network, the central hub in the sprawling national network of SPN think tanks,  contributed $135,000 to TPPF in 2022.  

For 2021, TPPF reported more than $25.6 million in contributions, a new highwater mark for the group. The Charles Koch Institute and Stand Together Trust (aka The Seminar Network) together contributed over $1.2 million to TPPF that year, according to Form 990s available on the investigative research website Koch Docs

Koch-affiliated nonprofits contributed millions of dollars to TPPF between 2019 and 2020, including:

Several Koch nonprofits contributed over $4 million to TPPF between 1998 and 2018, $3 million of which was contributed in 2016-2018, according to Desmog. Examples of TPPF attacking wind power from as far back as 2005 can still be found on TPPF’s website. 

Dark money conduits Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund together contributed $5.3 million to TPPF between 2004 to 2018, and received millions of dollars from Koch nonprofits like The Knowledge and Progress Fund during that time. 

Donors Trust gave $685,000 to TPPF in 2022. 

The Strake Foundation has been a regular contributor to TPPF since 2001, according to IRS Form 990s, including $50,000 in 2022. The foundation’s president George W. Strake, Jr. has served on TPPF’s board of directors and as president of Strake Energy, which is in the petroleum business. 

TPPF describes itself as nonpartisan. The American First Legal Foundation, a group aligned with former president Donald Trump, contributed $177,500 to TPPF in 2021

In 2016, coal producer Peabody Energy disclosed $40,000 in previously secret payments to TPPF in a bankruptcy case filing. 

In 2012, The Texas Observer published a story with a list of TPPF’s donors from 2010, which had been inadvertently posted online. The list included donors from the fossil fuel industry like the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Crownquest Oil & Gas, Devon Energy, ExxonMobil, Henry Petroleum, Koch Industries, Jones Energy, and Petroleum Strategies. 

Also included on the 2010 donor list were power companies like AEP, Centerpoint Energy, Luminant, NRG Energy, Oncor and TXU Energy.  

Board of Directors

Of the nineteen people listed on TPPF’s website in 2024 as associated with TPPF’s board of directors, at least 10 have had direct financial interests in the fossil fuel industry and another has familial ties. Their fossil connections are not disclosed on TPPF’s board of directors webpage, which only lists board directors by name and title within the TPPF organization.   

DirectorPositionFossil-Fuel Affiliation
Tim DunnVice ChairmanCEO of CrownQuest, an oil and gas company. Dunn is a major conservative donor and has also served on the board of the America First Policy Institute, a Trump-aligned dark money group
Ernest AngeloDirectorLongtime independent petroleum engineer and “oilman.” 
Donald BennettDirectorExecutive Chairman of Superior Optimization, an “energy and industrial solutions” firm that serves  the oil and gas industry
Cody CampbellDirectorCo-Founder and Co-CEO of Double Eagle Energy Holdings, an oil and gas company.
Doug DeasonDirectorOn the board of directors for Foreland Resources and Intrexon Energy Partners, two oil and gas companies. Also an Advisory Council Member for Turning Point USA.  
Rick FletcherDirectorLongtime oil and gas lawyer. President of Anthem Water Solutions, LLC, a part of Bud Brigham’s network of oil and gas companies including Brigham Resources and Brigham Minerals.
Windi GrimesDirectorDirector for Burnett Oil Company
Stacy HockDirectorDirector for Atlas Energy Services, an oil and gas company. Previously on the board of Brigham Minerals.
Brooke RollinsSenior AdvisorSpouse Mark Rollins is VP at Hillwood International Energy, an oil and gas company. Also member of board of directors of Trump-aligned America First Policy Institute. 
Kyle StallingsDirectorOwner of Permian Basin Acquisition Fund, which is involved in oil and gas royalties and leases. Managing Partner at Desert Royalty Company, LLC an O&G company
George W. Strake Jr. EmeritusPresident of Strake Energy Inc., a petroleum company

Posted by Jonathan Kim