Close to 100 scientists have signed onto a letter decrying inadequate environmental and cultural impact assessments for the Dakota Access pipeline, calling for a halt to construction until such tests have been carried out. The $3.8 billion pipeline has faced months of resistance from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and members of more than 200 tribes from across the U.S., Latin America and Canada. We speak with Lisa Graves, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy, on the connection between oil and gas companies and the Republican Attorneys General Association. “What we have disclosed through our open records request and other investigations is the incredible role of oil companies … in basically getting influence with these attorneys general,” says Graves.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to shift gears a bit, Lisa. You have been looking at the Koch brothers for quite some time, looking at all the oil politics in this country. Close to a hundred scientists have signed onto a letter decrying inadequate environmental and cultural impact assessments for the Dakota Access pipeline, calling for a halt to construction until such tests have been carried out as requested by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. This is the Dakota Access pipeline, $3.8 billion pipeline, being built in North Dakota that’s being vehemently protested by not only the Standing Rock Sioux of the area, but hundreds of Native American tribes from Latin America, the United States and Canada. What do you know about the politics here and the connection between the private company, the Dakota Access pipeline company, and the government of North Dakota?
LISA GRAVES: Well, what we know is that there is a tremendous amount of influence by oil industry on the Republican Attorneys General Association. And so, what we have disclosed through our open records requests and through other investigations is the incredible role of oil companies, including Exxon, but other companies, in basically getting influence with these attorneys general. The attorney general of North Dakota has been the AG for more than 15 years. He’s the top law enforcement officer of that state, yet he’s been part of a pay-to-play operation that is the Republican Attorneys General Association, where they raise money for this group. The money—this group, RAGA, then helps fund those campaigns of those attorneys general.
Meanwhile, corporations are getting special access to attorneys general to push their agenda. And they’ve used that access in a number of ways. We’ve only been documenting part of it. But this goes back for more than a decade, the role of RAGA and these Republican AGs with these energy industry companies. So, we don’t know the full story yet, but we know undoubtedly that the fossil fuel industry has a disproportionate role within RAGA, and it has used that role, for example, to attack the Clean Power Plan and any other measure that tries to put democratic restraints on oil—on the oil and gas industry.
AMY GOODMAN: And finally, the presidential election, Washington Post reporting that Donald Trump’s transition team for the Environmental Protection Agency includes a climate skeptic: Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Can you explain who he is? He was recently speaking at the Republican Attorneys General Association, the group you’re talking about, RAGA.
LISA GRAVES: That’s right. We recently posted a transcript of his comments at that event. And what we know about him is that he is one of the most notorious climate skeptics or climate change deniers. He works for a group that has been funded by Exxon and the Koch brothers for many years, Exxon to the tune of millions of dollars. And so, he advances—he’s one of the merchants of doubt, as the book famously said. He’s one of the guys who basically is determined to sow seeds of doubt and try to throw every obstacle he can in the way of necessary efforts to address the climate changes that are underway.
AMY GOODMAN: Lisa Graves, thanks so much for being with us, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy and publisher of PRWatch.org and ExposedByCMD.org. She is featured in Ava DuVernay’s new documentary that’s just being released on Friday by Netflix called 13th.