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Oil Lobby's 'Energy Citizens' Astroturf Campaign Exposed

09/13/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

An internal memo obtained recently by Greenpeace USA details polluting interests’ plans to launch a nationwide astroturf campaign attacking climate legislation at public events scheduled throughout the final weeks of recess before the Senate returns to debate the issue in September.

The email memo (download a PDF copy), which appears to come from the desk of American Petroleum Institute president Jack Gerard, asks API’s member companies to recruit employees, retirees, vendors and contractors to attend “Energy Citizen” rallies in key Congressional districts nationwide in the closing weeks of the August recess.  The campaign plan places a special focus on 21 states picked by API for having “a significant industry presence” or “assets on the ground.”

Taking a page from the playbook of astroturf campaigners currently crashing health care town hall events across the country, API hopes to similarly sully productive communications between Congress members and their actual constituents at public events scheduled for the coming weeks.  Gerard states that API is ready to bus in company members and provide logistical support, and reveals that API has retained “a highly experienced events management company that has produced successful rallies for presidential campaigns, corporations and interest groups.”

Gerard’s email states that API is partnering on the rally campaign with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, confirming that the groups are staging a coordinated effort to attack climate legislation despite the fact that several prominent members of these groups have stated support for strong Congressional action to combat climate change.

Greenpeace sent a letter to Gerard yesterday asking him to verify the authenticity of the email, and pointing out that the plan “runs contrary to several prominent API members’ public support for climate action, namely Shell, BP America, ConocoPhillips, General Electric and Siemens.” 

The memo closes with a ‘for your eyes only’ plea: “Please treat this information as sensitive and ask those in your company to do so as well… we don’t want critics to know our game plan.”

To which Greenpeace responded to Gerard in yesterday’s letter, “Game plan known.”

Here is a list of the “tentative venues” where API plans to hold “Energy Citizen” rallies.  If you live in one of the named cities, please email any news or tips you hear about the rallies to us at desmogblog@gmail.com.

Houston TX

Perry GA

Detroit MI

Roswell NM

Greensboro NC

Farmington NM

Ohio (venue being finalized)

Greeley CO

Nashville TN

Indiana (venue being finalized)

Bismarck ND

Tampa FL

Sioux Falls SD

Greenville SC

Anchorage AK

Joliet IL

Charleston WV

Fairfax VA

Philadelphia PA

Lincoln NE

Missouri TBD

Arkansas TBD