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Who is Paying For Heartland Institute Climate Denial-Palooza?

UPDATED March 24

This week the Heartland Institute will be gathering their small island of misfit toys in Washington, DC for another of their tedious climate Denial-Palooza events.  We have followed these events going back to 2008.

Heartland declares War on the climate

The climate deniers of course feel vindicated by the Trump election. These fringe extremists have a lot in common with the extreme agenda of the Trump camp, where many have embedded themselves. There are speakers at the Heartland meeting who were on the Trump EPA transition team, who will be talking about the plan to dismantle the government's climate science and policy capacity.  The Heartland Institute is equally gushing with pride, with boss Joe Bast declaring war in February, writing about the climate change policy fight, "It is a war, the most important and most consequential war of our era."  Fighting words indeed.

The question is...Who is paying for this?

Heartland has been losing a lot of revenue in recent years. DeSmogBlog has everything that can be found about Heartland Institute's funding.  

Heartland had a sugar daddy rich donor named Barre Seid revealed after a 2012 sting operation exposed Heartland's finances (New York Times and The Guardian covered this). Heartland recently left its glitzy upscale Chicago HQ, where it moved in 2012 from its self proclaimed "shabby" former offices. They now reside in a former dentist office in suburban Chicago (justifying that they were now closer to the airport).

Heartland Institute and friends are heavy recipients of Koch foundation funding and Donors Trust 'dark money' funding, but an important new donor has emerged in the past decade...

The Mercer Family and Heartland Institute

In recent months, the Mercers have been revealed as among the biggest backers of Trump's campaign and machine. Rebekah Mercer is now a Trump Whitehouse advisor according to news accounts.

The NewYorker's Jane Mayer published a new piece last week, The Reclusive Hedge Fund Tycoon Behind the Trump Presidency, on the Mercers and their influence over the current state of affairs

And the Washington Post's Matea Gold threw down a big piece on the Mercers and Steve Bannon in last Sunday's paper.

Over the past decade the Mercer Family Foundation has funded Heartland Institute and have become one of their biggest donors (e.g. Heartland 2014 total revenue = $6.9M Mercer foundation donation $885,000).  

The Heartland Institute took a big financial hit for unknown reasons between 2014 and 2015, with revenue dropping almost $2 million dollars.  We now know that a big chunk of the revenue drop was the Mercers cutting their donation from the ~$900,000 they had been giving Heartland annually from 2012-2014 down to $100,000 in 2015.  Who knows what they gave Heartland in 2016 or 2017. The Mercers dropped a lot of cash on the Trump election but is Heartland back on the Mercers A-list?

UPDATE: DeSmogBlog dove deep into the Mercer family's climate denial funding about a month ago documenting $22 Million the family has funneled to climate denial organizations from 2008-2014.  They are trying to out-Koch the Kochs in targeted climate denial spending in recent years.

We can update those numbers here with a new Mercer 990 from 2015, recently acquired.

2015 climate denial donations from Mercer foundation:

Media Research Center - $3 million (Marc Morano's former employer and again partner on a film project)

Cato Institute - $300,000

Manhattan Institute - $300,000

Reason Foundation - $50,000

Heritage Foundation - $500,000

...so add another $4 Million plus to Desmog's $22 Million tally of Mercer climate denial funding.

The  Washington Post's graphic below (without above 2015 data) nicely puts the scale of Mercer funding to Heartland Institute in perspective:

Screen_Shot_2017-03-20_at_2.25.19_PM.png

Mercer Family Foundation funding to Heartland Institute

2007 $0

2008 $1,000,000 (the year of the first Denial-Palooza)

2009 $500,000

2010 $370,000

2011 $444,000

2012 $912,000

2013 $877,000

2014 $885,000

2015 $100,000

The Mercer Family Foundation is also a heavy donor of three more of the Heartland Institute climate conference co-sponsors: the Media Research Center and the Heritage Foundation and Cato Institute.  MRC is the leading recipient of Mercer foundation non-profit giving, by far now totaling $16.5M from 2008-2015.  As DeSmog points out, MRC is where lead climate denier Marc Morano cut his teeth and they are now helping Morano with his film projects.  Rebekah Mercer also sits on their Board, as she would as a major shareholder.

 

But there is more...

UPDATE:  Heartland clearly is not only a grantee of the Mercers, but it seems a pretty important one.  In 2007, the Mercer foundation gave out small grants to just 5 grantees in and around NYC.

In 2008, suddenly they start funding think tanks, writing much larger checks, with Heartland at the top of the list on the Mercer tax forms at $1 million dollars, followed by Media Research Center (which also happens to be a prominent sponsor of the current Heartland Institute climate denial meeting).

Heartland remains the very top of the list on every one of the Mercer tax forms to this day, 

2008

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2014

Screen_Shot_2017-03-24_at_5.34.42_AM.png

 

 

 

 

 

 2015

Screen_Shot_2017-03-24_at_5.35.38_AM.png

I now think it's a fair hypothesis that the Mercers were a big part of funding the very first Heartland Denial-Palooza which took place in NYC, at a hotel on Times Square (for reasons we couldn't understand at the time, except the attempt to garner attention which Heartland craves). Perhaps they brought the show to the Mercers home town, literally on Broadway.

In 2012, when the Heartland Institute was exposed by a sting operation, and their full finances, climate strategy and funding scheme was revealed, the Mercer grants, which had been significant from 2008-2011 ( over $2M) were not mentioned by name.  

We know the Mercers like to remain anonymous if possible.  Their massive grants to the George W Bush Foundation are not revealed on the Bush side.  Heartland wrote of an "anonymous donor", later deduced by experts to be Chicago millionaire Barre Seid, who then funneled money to Heartland through Donors Trust.

In 2012, the Mercer grant to Heartland more than doubled.

 

Here's a climate denial wrinkle in Mercer funding...

Mercer Family Foundation funds the Berkeley Earth project, a controversial data crunch project started by Richard Muller.  They are the project's largest donor, listed on the Berkeley Earth web page as "Anonymous Foundation #1"  and gave another $250,000 in 2015 we now know.  Berkeley Earth confirmed the global temperature data showing a warming trend, much to the chagrin of the Koch funders and denier cheerleaders who hoped in 2010 for the opposite conclusion. 




Climate Lawsuit Demands Rex Tillerson's "Wayne Tracker" Emails

Petroleum industry knowledge of global warming in the Arctic, where ExxonMobil, shown here working on a massive drilling platform with Russian oil giant Rosneft near Sakhalin island, has long been a pioneer in oil exploration, is among evidence being sought in the Our Children's Trust case. 

 

Lawyers in the Our Children's Trust climate lawsuit are going after a trove of company emails written by former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson under the alias "Wayne Tracker."

The "request for production" for the emails went out to both the American Petroleum Institute, an oil industry trade association, and the U.S. government as part of pre-trial discovery in the Our Children's Trust federal suit, according to a press release by OCT late Sunday.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office stated in a March 13, 2017 court filing that Tillerson used the “Wayne.Tracker@exxonmobil.com” pseudonym “to send and receive materials regarding important matters, including those concerning to the risk-management issues related to climate change…”

According to ExxonMobil, Tillerson's pseudonym “was put in place for secure and expedited communications between select senior company officials and the former chairman for a broad range of business-related topics."

In its press release, the Our Children's Trust lawyers maintained the emails are likely to reveal "the deep influence of the fossil fuel defendants over U.S. energy and climate policies" and to demonstrate Big Oil's "private acknowledgement that climate change was caused by their product," both key issues in the case.

The OCT legal action was initially filed, not against the oil companies, but solely against the government for failing to pursue policies that would protect against and even exacerbated climate change. Suing in the case are a group of 21 children from all over the United States, each affected by global warming in a particular way. The kids' lawsuit maintains that a livable climate is a public trust and constitutionally guaranteed as part of the right to life.

In the fall of 2015, the National Association of Manufacturers, the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers and the American Petroleum Institute intervened in the OCT case in federal district court in Eugene, Oregon.

After trying unsuccessfully to have the suit thrown out, the trade associations have found themselves on the defensive, battling having to turn over internal documents that may show them and their members obstructing efforts - sometimes surreptitiously - to limit carbon emissions, and promoting misleading information about climate science in the media and elsewhere.

As the Trump team has taken over at the Department of Justice, which is charged with defending the government, the U.S. renewed its push to have the pioneering climate suit dismissed by asking the the judge to allow an appeal to a higher court to hear evidence about why the case shouldn't be allowed to go to trial, now scheduled for sometime before the end of the year.  If an appeal is allowed, there would also be a simultaneous ruling on whether to halt the case until the appeal runs its course.

So far, the fossil fuel companies have avoided answering whether they believe climate change is caused by burning fossil fuels, something the U.S. government has admitted in legal filings.

OCT lawyers were about to get an opportunity to question Tillerson under oath about his knowledge and activities at the American Petroleum Institute when he resigned at the end of December 2016 from both ExxonMobil and API, where he had been on the board of directors, in order to become secretary of state, at which time he became a named government defendant, one whom OCT is yet trying to question.

The government and API defendants have until April 16th to turn over any Wayne Tracker emails in their custody.

“When looking for evidence of a cover up, emails from Rex Tillerson’s pseudonym about climate change are just the kind of evidence the court needs to see,” commented Julia Olson, an OCT lawyer, in the organization's press release.




As Time Runs Out for Southern Company, a Brain Drain Begins at Kemper

Pipes

The syngas cooling area of the Kemper County Energy Facility, where "tube leaks" are being blamed for yet another delay in the plant going online. 

With builder Southern Company still promising that the Kemper power plant will go online soon, a group of key engineers and managers who work on the plant's so-far-inoperable gasifier has left the company.

Earlier this month, Southern Company posted a cluster of want ads on its web site for a "gasification owner,"  a "refinery technician-mechanic," a "refinery technician-entry level," and a "gasification technician."

Those four positions are located at the gasification island, home to the patented TRIG technology developed by Southern Company and Kellogg Brown & Root that is supposed to turn lignite coal from an adjacent mine into a cleaner burning syngas to produce electricity.  The project's twin gasifiers, however, have been troubled by frequent shutdowns and lengthy repairs.

The plant's operations manager, one of the most senior positions at the facility, tasked with day-to-day oversight of the entire power plant and its roughly 100 permanent employees, was also for hire until the posting was pulled from the Southern Company web site over the weekend.

"The Operations Manager will be responsible for providing leadership for the Kemper County Generating Facility," according to the job summary, and must foster "reliable and efficient plant operations of the lignite processing, syngas production, gas cleanup, chemicals production and power generation units."

If the history of the first-of-its-kind plant so far is any guide, it appears that relentless pressure by Southern Company to meet unrealistic construction and operations milestones paired with the failure of the coal gasification equipment to work for more than a few days at a time, and then at only a fraction of rated capacity, has led several demoralized engineers to leave what they see as a sinking ship.

The Mississippi Power Company, the Southern Company subsidiary that operates the plant, notified investors today that the plant will not go online as promised in mid-March but offered no new date, saying that will be provided in a company status update in early April.  This time MPC blamed "certain tube leaks in one of the syngas coolers for gasifier “A” which caused "an outage on gasifier “A” to perform necessary corrective actions."

A New York Times expose last July described what were apparently deliberately faked company estimates of when the plant could begin producing electricity - its commercial operating date, or COD - and correspondingly false estimates of how much Kemper would cost to build, first estimated at $1.2 billion and now at $7.1 billion.  These allegations also figure in an SEC investigation and a series of lawsuits by investors, customers and at least one company involved with the project.

Southern Company chief executive officer Tom Fanning has called the New York Times' allegations "garbage" and claims Kemper will yet perform as promised.

But Fanning also admitted last month that a company "Economic Viability Analysis" found that the plant can't profitably generate electricity from coal and is only economical operating on cheap natural gas. A few weeks later, the credit rating of Southern's Mississippi Power Company subsidiary, owner of the plant, slid to junk status.

With help from engineers familiar with the plant's design, the Climate Investigations Center looked closely at a series of technical reports by an independent watchdog that seem to indicate that the plant and the technology it represents are in deep trouble and may never work properly.  




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