Peabody Coal Bankruptcy Reveals Climate Denial Network Funding

Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private-sector coal company, has provided funds to a network of individuals, scientists, non-profits and political organizations espousing climate change denial and opposition to efforts to tackle climate change, according to newly available documents reviewed by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD/PRWatch).

The recipients of funding from Peabody Energy were made public in the company's recent bankruptcy filings.

Although the documents filed so far do not show the scale or precise dates of funding—they only list current creditors—they demonstrate for the first time that Peabody Energy has financial ties to a very large proportion of the network of groups promoting disinformation around climate change.

Who Received Peabody Cash?

* Willie Soon. According to the list, prominent and controversial climate change denial scientist Willie Wei-Hock Soon has received cash from Peabody.

Soon, who is not actually a Climate Scientist but an Aerospace Engineer, works for the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and espouses the widely discredited position that it is sun spots and not CO2 that is a major driver of change in the climate.

He is known to have received significant funds from the fossil fuel industry for his work in the past, including from ExxonMobil and Southern Company.

But this is the first known support from Peabody Energy for Soon, whose role with the Smithsonian Institute has proven to be quite controversial.

Who else is financially tied to Peabody?

* The Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), which recently released a film—"Climate Hustle"—spreading disinformation about climate change. Its position is that increased CO2 is "beneficial" to plant growth and therefore a good thing for the planet.

* Similar views on climate change are promoted by numerous other groups that have received funds from Peabody, including the Center For The Study Of Carbon Dioxide And Global Change. The group’s founder, current Chairman and former President, Craig Idso told an American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) conference in 2011: "CO2 is not a pollutant. It is a benefit. It is the very elixir of life."

* ALEC is another recipient of Peabody funding. Peabody sits on the ALEC corporate board, participates in the Energy, Environment and Agriculture task force, and according to the bankruptcy filings it has provided funding for numerous other ALEC events and "scholarship funds" to bring state legislators to ALEC conferences and events. A lobbyist from Peabody Energy told legislators at a ALEC conference that it is seeking "guerrilla warfare" against the EPA. ALEC has long promoted climate change denial at its annual meetings and through its "model" legislation.

* The State Policy Network (SPN), a network of corporate funded think tanks at the state level, which works to promote an agenda closely tied to that of ALEC on a range of issues.

SPN and its member think tanks have increasingly been active opposing action to tackle climate change at the state level, in particular in opposition to the Obama-administration’s Clean Power Plan.

* Select SPN members are also listed as having had direct financial ties to Peabody, including the Independence Institute from Colorado, and the Texas Public Policy Foundation. (In 2013, CMD co-released a report on SPN titled "The Powerful Right-Wing Network Helping to Hijack State Politics and Government.")

* Berman And Company, the public relations firm run by Richard Berman, with long ties to corporate America and a reputation for creating front groups and spreading disinformation. Richard Berman was called Dr. Evil by 60 Minutes in 2007. In 2015, two Berman front-groups, the Employment Policies Institute and the Interstate Policy Alliance, worked together with SPN think tanks to release and promote reports at the state-level providing opposition to the Clean Power Plan. CMD helped release and analyze audio of his pitch to corporations to attack environmental groups, labor, and foundations.

* The Energy & Environment Legal Institute and the Free Market Environmental Law Clinic.

These two organizations, which share numerous staff and consultants including lawyers David Schnare and Chris Horner, have developed a reputation for filing overly broad public record requests with climate scientists, including seeking unpublished work product and personal emails. When scientists and their universities fail to turn over everything that the organizations has asked for, the organizations file lawsuits, often tying scientists up in litigation for many years. The actions of these groups has been called "harassment".

* The 60 Plus Association, a front group that has been backed by Koch cash and that has been spending cash to oppose the development of solar energy in Florida through a constitutional amendment. It also opposes the Clean Power Plan, which it has dubbed the "Cruel Power Plan."

* Roy Spencer, who recently wrote an article titled "Whose Supported Policies Kill More People: ISIS…or Greenpeace?," was exposed by Greenpeace as receiving $4,000 in 2015 from Peabody to testify on their behalf at a hearing in Minnesota. Spencer is listed as a creditor, but it is not clear if the $4,000 he received in 2015 is the full extent of his funding from Peabody.

One group notable by its absence is the Heartland Institute, the climate denial group best known for comparing those that accept the overwhelming consensus view on climate change to terrorists. Though Heartland is not listed, at least one of its staffers is reported as a creditor: James Taylor, Heartland’s lead staffer working on its climate change project.

* Numerous organizations with close ties to the Republican party are listed as creditors. These include the Republican Attorneys General Association, an organization that has promoted opposition to the Clean Power Plan to its Attorney General members, who in turn have filed lawsuits against the EPA plan. Also listed is the Republican Governors Association, Republican National Committee, Republican Party Of Arkansas, Republican Party Of Kentucky, Republican Party Of New Mexico, Republican State Leadership Committee, Republican State Senate Campaign. The Democratic Governors Association is also listed.

Others financially tied to Peabody (listed as creditors) include:

  • 60 Plus Association
  • The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE)
  • American Energy Alliance (AEA)
  • Alliance For Energy And Economic note: likely refers to AEEG, Alliance for Energy and Economic Growth
  • Alliance For Sound Energy Policy
  • American Association of Blacks in Energy (AABE)
  • American Energy Alliance
  • American Legislative Exchange Council
  • Americans For Balanced Energy
  • Americans For Prosperity Oklahoma
  • Atlas Economic Research Foundation (Atlas Network)
  • Co2 Science
  • Center For Legislative Energy And Environmental Research (CLEER)
  • Burson Marsteller
  • Berman And Company, Inc
  • Consumer Energy Alliance
  • Center For Clean Air Policy (CCAP)
  • Center for Energy and Economic Development (CEED)
  • Center For The Study Of Carbon Dioxide And Global Change (CO2 Science)
  • Coal Blue Project
  • Coalition for Responsible Regulation
  • Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT)
  • Council of State Government (CSG) note: address is listed as CSG South, the Southern Legislative Conference
  • Council on State Taxation (COST)
  • DCI Group AZ, LLC
  • Ducks Unlimited note: chapters in WV, TN, IN and the national (DC) organization
  • Energy & Environment Legal Institute
  • Energy Ventures Analysis (EVA)
  • Energy and Mineral Law Foundation
  • Edison Electric Institute
  • Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity
  • Free Market Environmental Law Clinic
  • Faith & Politics Institute
  • Frontiers Of Freedom Institute
  • George C. Marshall Institute
  • Hill Knowlton Strategies
  • Hill Knowlton, Inc
  • Hudson Institute
  • Hunton & Williams
  • Independence Institute (SPN)
  • Institute For Energy Research
  • Institute for Liberty
  • Missouri Legislative Black Caucus Foundation
  • Missouri Right to Life
  • Montana Tax Foundation
  • National Association of Manufacturers (NAM)
  • National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC)
  • National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL)
  • National Energy Foundation
  • National Taxpayers Conference
  • National Mining Association (NMA)
  • National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC)
  • National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA)
  • NextGen Energy Council
  • Ohio Coal Association
  • PACE note: Address is redacted, possibly refers to Partnership for Affordable Clean Energy
  • Science & Public Policy Institute
  • Sidley Austin LLP
  • Southern States Energy Board
  • State Policy Network
  • Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute (SPN)
  • Texas Public Policy Foundation (SPN)
  • Texas Association of Manufacturers
  • The Energy Council
  • The North Carolina Coal Institute (NCCI)
  • The Presidential Roundtable
  • Troutman Sanders LLP
  • U.S. Chamber of Commerce
  • Western Business Roundtable
  • Wyoming Taxpayers Association

Political party organizations:

  • Republican Attorneys General Association
  • Republican Governors Association
  • Republican National Committee
  • Republican Party Of Arkansas
  • Republican Party Of Kentucky
  • Republican Party Of New Mexico
  • Republican State Leadership Committee
  • Republican State Senate Campaign
  • Democratic Governors Association
  • Democratic Party of Christian County

Individuals and Scientists:

  • Kelly Forbes Mader (Works at Energy Policy Network)
  • James Mcbee Taylor (Works at Heartland Institute)
  • Laurence H. Tribe
  • Dr. Blanche M. Touhill
  • Dr. Bob G. Thompson, M.D.
  • Dr. Dale E Wickman
  • Dr. David A. Singer, Jr
  • Dr. Ehud Ronn
  • Dr. Frederick R. & Bille Jo Ridg
  • Dr. Heather A. Wilson
  • Dr. Henry Givens
  • Dr. Jack Groppo
  • Dr. John L. Sexton
  • Dr. K. F. Unrug
  • Dr. Larry Barton
  • Dr. Mark Troutman
  • Dr. Nancy Kiernan
  • Dr. Raymond D. Harbison
  • Dr. Rick Honaker
  • Dr. Robert N. Anfield
  • Dr. Stephen L. Hayford
  • Dr. Terry Menning
  • Dr. Walter E. Balfour
  • Dr. William Dowd
  • Roy W. Spencer
  • Dr. Willie Soon
  • Richard Lindzen

ALEC Individual Events/Funds:

  • ALEC Arkansas State Scholarship Fund
  • ALEC Colorado State Scholarship Fund
  • ALEC Illinois State Scholarship Fund
  • ALEC Indiana State Scholarship Fund
  • ALEC Missouri State Scholarship Fund
  • ALEC Montana State Scholarship Fund
  • ALEC New Mexico State Scholarship Fund
  • ALEC Scholarship Fund-Arizona
  • ALEC Texas State Scholarship
  • ALEC Wyoming Scholarship Fund
  • ALEC-MO Night


The lists are really useful, with many familiar names, but some new ones worth checking. Of course, the documents list *current* creditors, not all past payments. Will Happer and CO2 Coalition are not listed, although last year, he was paid $8,000 for his work for Peabody in the Minnesota Social Cost of Carbon case, although as a "donation" to CO2 Coalition. See Table 2 in Of 7 witnesses, *'d still owed $ for something 1) Will Happer (via CO2 Coaltiion) earned $8,000 for this work. 2)* Richard Lindzen is still owed, but unclear whether for this work or something else. Lindzen was asked, no answer. 3)* Spencer admitted $4,000 for this, but as Nick notes, unclear if got paid, or still owed 4) Robert Mendelsohn (Yale) was asked, no answer. 5) Roger Bezdek wasn't asked. 6) Richard Tol was asked, said did it for free, and that is believable. 7) William Wecker wasn't asked.

Anyone still working there in 2016 deserves to be unemployed. And unemployable. I just hope we're not too late to undo the damage they did.

It takes 240,0000 tons of C02 to make an 80 meter wind mill which only last about 25 to 35 years It takes a lot of cooper, steel, zinc, and 15 other materials to make a solar panel all have to be mined and uses coal to smelt. Nothing is free millions of tons of CO2 are used to build a hydro dam plus all the tree killed that took C02 out of the air. Coal will be need for the next thousand years so will oil...

"It takes 240,0000 tons of C02 to make an 80 meter wind mill which only last about 25 to 35 years." What research do you refer to on this. Sounds like fake news. Here are links to sources: