In politics, money often means influence. In Sacramento, you can’t talk about influence without talking about Sempra Energy – no other company in California has attempted to buy more influence thus far in 2023. As reported in the Sacramento Bee, in the first half of this year, Sempra has been the single largest corporate contributor to California legislators and has spent heavily on lobbying the legislature and Public Utility Commission, including opposing major climate legislation focused on holding corporations accountable for their climate pollution and financial risk.
Despite a pledge by the California Democratic Party to refuse to accept campaign contributions from fossil fuel companies, 72 out of 94 – 76.6 percent – of all Democratic Assemblymembers and State Senators took contributions from oil and/or gas companies. Sempra contributed $252,178 to California legislative candidates in just the first two quarters of 2023 (an off-election year), nearly all of it to sitting legislators, a total higher than any of the company’s first and second-quarter amounts since at least 2015. Its influence peddling also includes retaining at least six lobby firms, in addition to a team of in-house lobbyists, spending nearly one million dollars in the first two quarters of 2023.
As California gets serious about finding solutions to the climate crisis, it is clear we must reduce our dependence on natural gas and other fossil fuels. And yet, Sempra consistently opposes policies that would set zero-emission goals for cars and trucks, electrify buildings, and promote renewable energy. Sempra is spending ratepayer dollars on marketing and political influence in a cynical attempt to reposition itself as part of the solution while simultaneously pursuing an anti-climate political agenda.
Sempra vigorously fought to undermine the adoption of zero-emissions technologies like electric vehicles, appliances, and buildings, instead promoting carve-outs for natural gas – but there is nothing “clean” about natural gas. Sempra knows the truth, as they face a $175,000 fine for claiming their natural gas was ‘renewable’ when more than 95 percent of what they deliver to customers is derived from fossil fuels.
In fact, analysis of the climate impacts associated with natural gas at all stages of development — from drilling and processing to transporting and combusting — just keeps getting worse. Methane (the main component of natural gas) is 84 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide in the short term. Leaks, venting, and flaring of natural gasses are also responsible for a range of other public health and pollution issues. Oil and gas supply chain methane emissions were 16 million metric tons in 2019, enough wasted gas to fuel 10 million homes, and adding natural gas vehicles to California roads will contribute to the state’s ozone and climate problems.
In light of the influence of Sempra and similar organizations on California’s policymakers, The CA Climate Accountability Project web tool serves as a vital resource to hold our legislators accountable for the money they take from oil & gas. With 79 percent of state legislators accepting oil and gas campaign funds and 16 of the top 20 recipients earning a D or F grade on climate action, this tool empowers Californians to demand transparency and climate-forward decisions from their elected officials.