Photo Credit: Nicholas A. Tonelli | Wikimedia Commons

There is a new group in support of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) and in opposition to the Green New Deal—and it’s run by figures with long-held institutional ties to the Republican Party and fossil fuel industry.

Called The Empowerment Alliance, it joins a few other campaigns funded by the fossil fuel industry lobbying against Green New Deal. Registered as a 501(c)(4) political action committee (PAC) and incorporated in Delaware on August 23, The Empowerment Alliance has not revealed its funders, but its Executive Director James Nathanson and its spokesman Terry Holt have ties to the upper echelon of the national Republican Party.

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“The American people deserve to know the consequences of radical and unachievable polices [sic] like the Green New Deal, and The Empowerment Alliance is going to advance that dialogue through the media with research and voter engagement,” said Nathanson in a press release announcing the group on September 27. “We don’t see energy independence, American strength, and higher-paying jobs as partisan issues. These are fundamental American values that can benefit everyone if we make a commitment to embrace natural gas as essential to our shared future prosperity.”

Nathanson is a veteran of Republican Party politics who formerly served as the political director of the Republican National Committee and the Ohio director for the 1988 George H.W. Bush campaign. He now runs his own firm called James S. Nathanson & Associates.

On its website, The Empowerment Alliance touts gas as a cleaner, greener fossil fuel.

“Natural gas is the cleanest of fossil fuels and can be used in many ways to help reduce the emissions of pollutants into the atmosphere,” reads the site. “Burning natural gas in the place of other fossil fuels emits fewer harmful pollutants, and an increased reliance on natural gas can potentially reduce the emission of many of these most harmful pollutants.

But natural gas production is a major emitter of methane, a greenhouse gas more 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide during its first 20 years in the atmosphere, and 28 times more potent over a 100 year period.

According to an article about The Empowerment Alliance published by Politico, the group’s spokesman is Terry Holt, a lobbyist and former press secretary for  Rep. John Boehner, who works for the firm HDMK. Holt has previously served as a spokesman for the coal industry public relations group Americans for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), and also worked as the spokesman for the George W. Bush 2004 re-election campaign. From 2000-2004, Holt served as a senior advisor for the Republican National Committee, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Image Credit: LinkedIn

Founded in 2007, HDMK’s clients have included natural gas and electricity companies such as Entergy, Central Electric Power Cooperative and National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, according to federal lobbying disclosure forms reviewed by The Real News Network

Holt’s reelection work for the Bush Administration, it could be argued, ultimately led to the modern fracking boom itself. In 2005, President Bush signed the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which exempts the oil and gas industry from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency enforcement of the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Water Act.

The Alliance has chosen not to disclose its funders, Holt said, out of fear of potential “eco-terrorists.”

“Because of violence and trespassing and other criminal behavior, the Empowerment Alliance is going to protect its donors from that kind of risk,” he told the publication EnergyWire. “We are offering donors this protection out of the concern that we would have should they come forward and the scrutiny of some of these eco-terrorists.”

Holt also told The Real News that it would not be revealing its funding. The group’s lack of funding transparency has come under criticism even from the industry itself.

“Interestingly, TEA has organized itself under the provisions of non-profit laws that allow it to keep the identities of its monetary supporters confidential,” wrote David Blackmon, an industry public relations hand who created the pro-fracking public relations group Energy In Depth and the now-defunct lobbying organization America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) while working at the natural gas company El Paso Corporation, in the publication Forbes

“But the desire to hold its list of contributors confidential also opens TEA up to being labeled a ‘dark money’ operation in media reports, with all the attendant negative news coverage and public perceptions that inevitably come along with that designation,” Blackmon continued.

One climate advocate, too, sees the formation of the group as a sign of fear of the growing movement in support of a Green New Deal.

“This shows how afraid oil and gas billionaires are of our movement,” said Stephen O’Hanlon, Communications Director for the Sunrise Movement, the group at the center over the push for the Green New Deal. “This is everything that’s wrong with our political system. Billionaires who feel threatened by change pour their money into TV ads and deceptive reporting to turn the public away from common sense ideas that would improve the lives of 99% of people.”

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Steve Horn is a San Diego-based climate reporter and producer. He was also a reporter on a part-time basis for The Coast News—covering Escondido, San Marcos, and the San Diego North County region—from mid-2018 until early 2020.

Also a freelance investigative reporter, his work has appeared in The Guardian, Al Jazeera America, The Intercept, Vice News, Wisconsin Watch, and other publications. He worked from 2011-2018 for the climate news website, a publication which investigates climate change disinformation and the fossil fuel industry influence campaigns.

His stories and research have received citation in a U.S. Senate report and mention in outlets such as The New York Times, The New Yorker, Bloomberg Businessweek, Mexico’s La Jornada, and The Colbert Report.

In his free time, Steve is a competitive distance runner, with a personal best time in the marathon of 2:43:04 and a 4:43 mile. He also has served on the film screening committee for the Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis and serves on the screening committee for the San Diego International Film Festival.