Manchin Visits Alberta as Canada Ramps Up US Lobbying Amid Energy Crisis

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) visited Alberta, Canada, this week and met with Alberta Premier Jason Kenney to discuss North American energy security in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The visit came as the oil-rich province has quickly expanded its U.S. outreach in an effort to advance Alberta’s energy and trade interests in America, according to documents filed with the U.S. Justice Department.

Recent weeks have seen the following: Alberta government retained at least two firms in Washington to assist in “strategic communications,” “message testing” and “direct advocacy with the United States Congress,” documents show. The Canadian Energy Centre, a government-funded corporation that promotes and defends Alberta’s fossil fuel industry, also recently hired an ad agency to spearhead media campaigns in the U.S.

The disclosures required under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, shed light on Alberta’s efforts to influence U.S. policy as the American government grapples with near-record high gas prices, inflation, climate change and conflict in eastern Europe. Kenney has been involved in the U.S. policy debate since the Ukraine war. has repeatedly urged the U.S. to import more oil from Alberta, home to the world’s fourth-largest proven oil reserves.

Manchin, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, supports an “all-of-the-above” approach to energy policy that leverages renewables, as well as fossil fuels, to drive down energy costs. He has also advocated for increased Canadian oil and natural gas imports.

Some climate and security experts are not, however. say The best way to combat rising energy costs and Russian aggression, is to stop using fossil fuels. Anthony Swift, Canada program director at The Natural Resources Defense CouncilOpenSecrets countries should take advantage of this opportunity to accelerate the transition from oil markets, according to an environmental advocacy group.

“I think that efforts to phase out combustion engines to support the electrification of our vehicle fleet will do far more to reduce our dependence on, you know — on oil from Russia and other petro-states, than really doubling down on oil production,” Swift said.

Manchin, who profits from his family’s West Virginia coal companyMore information was received campaign donations More senators are drawn from the oil and coal industries than any other senator in this election cycle.

Recent debates about how to deal with rising energy prices are a part of the ongoing report by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that the window to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius is rapidly closing. The global average temperature will rise further unless greenhouse gas emissions are stopped by 2025, according to the U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres — who has said that increased use of fossil fuels in response to Russia’s aggression risks jeopardizing climate goals — called on countries to accelerate their shift to renewable energy.

One firm hired to represent the Alberta government claimed it had access to U.S. lawmakers, which included Manchin. The firm Crestview Strategy, recently signed a 2-year contract with the provincial government worth one million Canadian dollars — equivalent to about $791,000 in U.S. currency — and partnered with the lobbying powerhouse Capitol Counsel earlier this year to further Alberta’s outreach in Congress, foreign lobbying disclosures show. In a letter hyping Capitol Counsel’s government connections, Crestview Strategy partner and U.S. managing director Maryscott Greenwood Singled out Jonathan KottFormer adviser to Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.). Kott joined Capitol Counsel in 2021 after more than a decade in government, including seven years in Manchin’s Senate office.

Greenwood Herself is a former diplomat who serves as the CEO of The Canadian-American Business Council. The council’s members include the Association of Oil Pipe Lines As well as oil and natural gas giants ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil Enbridge, Canada’s largest transporter Of crude oil.

In March, Alberta’s government also signed a two-year, CA$2 million contract with JDA Frontline PartnersThe group is led by the long-time lobbyist and former communications director of the Republican National Committee. Trevor Francis. JDA Frontline Partners dissolved the firm, but retained its name in documents filed with the Justice Department. rebranded As Seven Letter in 2019, after it merged with Blue Engine Message & Media.

While the firms were hired to advance the government’s interests on a range of issues, energy remains front-and-center. JDA Frontline Partner’s media strategy revolves almost entirely around positioning the Alberta oil and gas industry as a secure, reliable and environmentally responsible energy supplier, documents show.

The two firms also lobbied previously for the now-cancelled Keystone XL The pipeline, which if completed would have transported 830,000 barrels Alberta oil daily to refineries along America’s Gulf Coast. The Alberta government supported it, but it was bitterly opposed. opposed by indigenous communities or environmental groups.

JDA Frontline Partner conducted a nationwide poll that showed widespread support for the project. President Obama was inaugurated on the same day. Joe Biden pulled Crestview Strategy and a key permit were required to prevent the pipeline from being built in the U.S. Crossroad StrategyAnother consulting firm that was hired by the Canadian government, in 2021, shared the results with media congressional aidesIncluding House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) chief of staff, documents show. JDA Frontline Partners is also available booked Interviews with Kenney Fox NewsAnd MSNBC.

Keystone XL was abandoned last summer by TC Energy, a Canadian company. But policymakers in the U.S., Alberta and elsewhere seem determined to keep the pipeline alive. Kenney, whose government suing The U.S. will recoup CA$1.3 Billion it lost in this project told CTV News reported that Alberta would consider the project if it was assured by the American government. A bill Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Ga.), is a member the House Energy Committee and aims to do exactly that.

The Alberta government refused to answer questions about contracts it had with Crestview Strategy or JDA Frontline Partners. In a statement to OpenSecrets, it said, “The United States is Alberta’s largest trading partner and export market. We have strong relationships in technology, energy, and agriculture. There are also connections across many other sectors. Ensuring Alberta’s interests are well represented in the United States is not only important — it’s essential.”

Canadian oil gas industry interests’ U.S. advertising on the rise

Another group pushing Alberta’s oil and gas interests is the Canadian Energy Centre, a publicly-funded corporation established by Alberta’s United Conservative Party government in 2019. Kenney formed the center to counter what he called misinformation about the province’s lucrative but embattled industry, the subject of frequent criticism for its record on indigenous and environmental issues. The so-called “energy war room” is overseen by three provincial cabinet ministers who make up its board of directors. Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage — a former Enbridge lobbyist — serves as board chair.

In March, the Canadian Energy Centre launched a print and digital ad campaign that seized the war in Ukraine to urge Americans to “look north” for their energy needs.

“Russia changed the global energy conversation,” an ad in The Washington Post paid for by the center read. “If not Canada, who are you entrusting your energy security to?”

The campaign’s CA$1.7 million price-tag reflects the Canadian Energy Centre’s dramatic increase in spending on advertising in the U.S. The center’s first and only other campaign targeting Americans, a series CA$240,000. was spent on billboard ads in New York City and Washington last year. OpenSecrets was told by Tom Olsen (CEO and managing director) that about one-third will be used for U.S. outreach. DDB Canada, an ad agency that is part of the advertising and public relation giant, is also a subsidiary. Omnicom Group, is on retainer until at least March 31, federal disclosures show.

Olsen told OpenSecrets by email that the war in eastern Europe has underscored the “folly” of Western energy policy.

“Energy transition takes time. It can’t be accomplished overnight,” he said. “At the CEC we want to promote a realistic conversation about the energy mix as we move towards a lower carbon future.”

But Swift of the Natural Resources Defense Council said expanding Canada’s oil and gas production and export capacity will also take time, which he believes could be better spent building out Canada’s green energy infrastructure.

“The idea that it’s going to take longer to deploy alternative clean energy technologies than it will to expand, you know, tar sands production is … simply false,” he said. “Over the next eight years, we can generate an enormous reduction in our oil use through the deployment of clean energy technologies.”

Swift also rejected Alberta’s argument that countries should import Canada’s “ethical oil” as an alternative to oil from countries where profits may be used to “fund terrorism, violence and global instability.”

“Given the consequence of climate change that we’re already seeing,” Swift said, “I think it’s hard to describe oil at this point as ethical, produced anywhere.”

Alberta may soon be in a position to directly appeal to Congress for increased production. At a joint press conference capping his visit to the province, Manchin said he intends to invite Kenney and a delegation from Alberta to testify before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to tell the American people “what you do, how you do it, and how well you do it.”