Pittsburgh’s schools, its government, and its cultural institutions are taking aggressive steps to mitigate the climate crisis and reduce the city’s carbon footprint. Yet to an extraordinary degree—more than any other major American city, according to data from F Minus—these Pittsburgh institutions employ lobbyists who also lobby on behalf of fossil fuel companies. This report explores this paradox and argues that, for a city celebrated for reckoning with its industrial past, it is time to cut ties with lobbyists whose work for coal, oil, and gas companies threatens the city’s future.
- The City of Pittsburgh has almost entirely divested its pension funds from fossil fuels and plans a 50% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 relative to 2003 levels. Yet in 2023, the city employed lobbyists who also worked for eight fossil fuel companies, while the Port of Pittsburgh Commission employed lobbyists who worked for 16 fossil fuel companies.
- The city’s public schools face worsening climate impacts such as extreme heat and dangerously unhealthy air, and students have been organizing climate strikes.
- In 2023, lobbyists for the School District of Pittsburgh also worked for 16 fossil fuel companies, including the Koch Companies. Koch is a leading funder of both climate denialism and efforts to cut funding for public education.
- The climate crisis is increasingly a health care crisis as people are exposed to wildfire smoke, higher concentrations of ground-level ozone, and in southwestern Pennsylvania, water and air pollution from fossil fuel projects. In 2023, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center shared lobbyists with 24 fossil fuel companies, several of whom are involved in fracking and transporting fracked gas.
- In August 2023, new research from the University of Pittsburgh—which shares lobbyists with 21 fossil fuel companies—found that children living near shale gas activities in southwest Pennsylvania had a higher risk of developing lymphoma.
- Pittsburgh cultural institutions whose lobbyists also worked for fossil fuel companies included the Carnegie Institute, the Frick Art & Historical Center, the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, the Pittsburgh Symphony, and the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.
- Conservation groups and funders of environmental work in the city also employed fossil fuel lobbyists, including the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and the Pittsburgh Foundation, which funds groups working on climate change and environmental justice.