Fossil Fuel Operative Declares: “There Can Be No Middle Ground”
Since January, we’ve been looking into who is blocking the growth of wind energy in Ohio. We’ve documented how powerful House Majority Leader Bill Seitz works for energy lobbyists in the state capital of Columbus to block the growth of wind energy, a job-creating clean energy solution embraced by neighboring states. At the county level, local gadfly Chris Aichholz is the point-man in Seneca County who pressures commissioners with anti-wind propaganda from the fossil fuel lobby.
Then, there’s Kevon Martis, who rolled into the village of Attica, Ohio, on May 31, 2018, after visits to North Dakota, Missouri, Indiana and Illinois. Martis is a senior policy advisor at the front group Energy & Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal), which is based in Washington, DC. He is also founder of a Michigan-based, Koch-connected anti-wind group. Martis travels with a propaganda slide show about the supposedly terrible side-effects of wind energy.
Public records obtained by Checks and Balances Project (C&BP) reveal that Aichholz forwarded Martis’s presentation to Seneca County Commissioners Holly Stacy and Shayne Thomas with the comment:
“Mr. Martis spends a lot of time doing this and is one of the finest speakers on wind turbine projects. This stuff is all great information and is all backed up.”
Agnostic About Climate Change
Kevon Martis positions himself as a volunteer who travels the country educating local communities. He claims he is “agnostic” about whether or not CO2 pollution from oil, natural gas and coal is killing the planet. Yet he publishes frequently on the website, Master Resource, a “free market” forum that lists “Principals” who have spent their careers in the oil and utility industries or at Libertarian think tanks and anti-wind groups. And at E&E Legal, he’s part of an organization with a notorious history of anti-climate science denial.
“Expenses Are Covered”
During his presentation in Attica, Martis declared, “I am not paid by the fossil fuel companies to fight wind,” but admitted that his expenses are covered.
E&E Legal, however, has received funds from fossil fuel companies, including coal producers Arch Coal and Peabody Energy. Another source of funding has been Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund. While individual and corporate contributions to Donors Trust are concealed by the lack of reporting requirements, nonprofit contributors to the funds are required to report their donations. Of the reported financial activity involving DT/DCF, Koch organizations emerge as both a leading contributor to, and recipient of, Donors Trust funding.
Formerly known as American Tradition Institute (ATI), the group changed its name to Energy & Environment Legal Institute and relocated from Colorado to Washington, D.C. In 2012, C&BP exposed ATI’s secret coordination of supposedly locally driven groups opposing wind projects.
Harassing Climate Scientists
The group’s first big claim to fame was when it filed multiple lawsuits demanding documents and emails of the prominent climate scientists including James Hansen, Michael Mann, Malcolm Hughes, Jonathan Overpack, Andrew Dressler and Katharine Hayhoe — in some cases for documents dating back to the 1990s. This harassment of respected climate scientists is ongoing.
Martis’s predecessor in the fight against wind energy, John Droz, (now a Principal at Master Resources) worked with North Carolina state legislators on a law that prevented the state from defining rates of sea-level rise for four years. This occurred after a report recommended the state plan for up to 39 inches of sea level rise by 2100.
In 2017, E&E Legal went to court again to obtain emails and documents from Obama-era State Dept. officials to relating to the Paris Climate Accord — after Trump had withdrawn from the pact. E&E Legal attorney Matt Hardin said the records would “expose the previous Administration’s pursuit of an extreme ‘climate’ treaty.”
No Mention of Pipelines
In his presentation, Kevon Martis talked up the virtue of nuclear power and declared to the citizens gathered in Attica to hear him:
“Did you know that every gas, coal and nuclear powerplant in the State of Ohio would fit inside just ONE Ohio township?”
In Martis’s presentation, however, there’s no talk of Ohio’s Enbridge Nexus Pipeline, Kinder Morgan’s Utopia and Tennessee Gas pipelines, the Columbia Gas Buckeye Xpress or Leach Xpress pipelines. Energy Transfer Partners’ Rover Pipeline, when completed, will stretch across 18 Ohio counties, including Seneca County. The ultimate goal of the pipeline is to transport fracked gas from the Marcellus and Utica shale region of Ohio and Pennsylvania to export terminals in the Gulf of Mexico and Canada.
These pipelines are placed along routes where Ohio’s most vulnerable residents receive services:
- 241 schools
- 162 medical facilities
- 134 daycares
- 66 nursing homes
- 36 drinking water intake pipes
- 3 Superfund sites
Martis Coordinates with Seitz
In a June 5, 2018, email to Rep. Bill Seitz, Sam Randazzo and Julie Johnson, Martis comments on a letter from Rep. Bill Reinecke to a constituent that is generally pro-wind energy development.
“As I always say, the only Republicans who support wind energy development are either too lazy, too dim or too corrupt to perform a proper cost/benefit analysis.”
“There can be no middle ground. You give Big Wind the easement and they build or you don’t and they leave.”
Despite his folky style and positioning to the contrary, Martis is a highly polished, fossil fuel operative with aggressive tactics. The taxpayers of Seneca County and all of Ohio deserve a more honest broker than Kevon Martis.
Scott Peterson is executive director of Checks and Balances Project, an investigative blog that seeks to hold government officials, lobbyists and corporate management accountable to the public. Funding for C&BP comes from sustainable economy philanthropies and donors.
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