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Chevron lobbyist pushes secretive campaign against electric cars in Arizona

Oil and gas company Chevron recently announced that it’s bringing electric vehicle chargers to its gas stations — meanwhile, one of its lobbyists is spurring a fight against EV infrastructure in Arizona.

A Chevron lobbyist is persuading retirees of the company in Arizona to push back against electric car policies in the state, the Arizona Republic reports.

As the article notes, these Chevron retirees are using a form letter designed to urge Arizona Corporation Commissioners “not to require electric companies here to build electric car charging stations.” The Chevron retirees are also not identifying themselves as such, which is what’s causing the controversy.

Chevron lobbyist Marian Catedral-King sent the “call to action” form letter to Sel Larsen, president of the Arizona retirees group.

But David Newell of Scottsdale alerted the commissioners to the effort with his own email. It seems the letter got into the hands of the wrong person — Newell worked for Unocal on geothermal energy projects, but “because that company was acquired by Chevron, he is considered a Chevron retiree.”

As Newell wrote to commissioners about Chevron’s efforts:

I emphatically do not share their point of view. Many of the points raised in these attachments are irrelevant, inaccurate or misleading. They are raised in service of preserving the status quo of entrenched interests. These businesses perceive electric vehicles as a serious threat to their business model and are attempting to recruit those who might be seen by you as disinterested parties to promote their interests.

You can read both the lobbyist letter and Newell’s full response here. As Newell told the Arizona Republic,

“It’s within their rights to make their position known. It’s unfair to enlist people without clearly identifying who they are.”

Catedral-King did not respond to questions, but Larsen did speak with the Arizona Republic, saying the retiree group was “not opposed to environmental issues at all if they are fair.” He also said,

“If utilities are forced to provide infrastructure, then I pay for their choice of cars. The government already subsidizes that industry.”

The article follows that with this fine sentence: “Larsen said he could not comment on whether Chevron’s oil operations receive any government subsidies.”

Court Rich, an Arizona attorney who represents renewable energy interests, criticized the effort on Twitter:

He also characterized the move as desperate, telling the Republic:

“Ironically, I bet this is the same failed tactic that a desperate horse and buggy lobbyist once used to try and scare the public against gas automobiles.”

Chevron announced a partnership with EVgo just last week, as the company is bringing EVgo’s chargers to some of its gas stations. More than a dozen EVgo fast chargers are currently operational or under construction at various Chevron stations in California.

Electrek’s Take

Chevron’s one hand makes a public display of installing EV chargers while the other hand secretively urges a group of former employees to fight back against electric cars in their own state. As we’ve noted, it’s not that these oil companies want to embrace EV adoption. Old habits die hard — if they ever die at all. (Astroturfing is becoming a favored technique in the energy industry.)

These retirees really should be doing something — anything — better with their time. Kudos to Newell for being a voice for progress and exposing this campaign.

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Phil Dzikiy is an Editor/Writer with Electrek/9to5Mac. Tips: