Some of Congress’ most passionate advocates for tackling climate change have a different green issue when it comes to fossil fuel markets: money.
With sharp rises in energy costs in recent months, several Democrats in Congress or their spouses have made financial investments in energy companies with large fossil fuel portfolios, according to financial disclosures reviewed by The Washington Times.
In one instance, Rep. Lois Frankel of Florida, an environmental champion and strong supporter of the Green New Deal, ditched her stake in a solar energy business and invested as much as $60,000 into fossil fuel companies.
The list of Democrats who have sold or made investments through stocks or mutual funds in recent months involving fossil fuel companies includes Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, Don Beyer of Virginia, Bill Pascrell Jr. of New Jersey, Ed Perlmutter of Colorado, Thomas Suozzi of New York and Lori Trahan of Massachusetts, as well as the wife of Sen. Thomas R. Carper of Delaware.
Members are not required to report exact dollar figures, only ranges. Still, the group has purchased or sold up to $280,000 in fossil-fuel-related investments since December.
The Congress members’ investments in stocks and mutual funds likely did not break any laws against insider trading or conflicts of interest, but the investments in some of the country’s biggest greenhouse gas contributors run counter to the Democrats’ public stances on climate change and calls for more clean energy initiatives.
The financial transactions also could blur ethical lines and underscore why ethics watchdogs and some in Congress have called for a ban on lawmakers’ trades of individual stocks. Many of the members play pivotal roles in shaping U.S. energy policy and sit on committees that oversee industries where they have financial interests.
Financial disclosures show that Ms. Frankel offloaded $1,001 to $15,000 worth of mutual funds on Jan. 10 in SolarEdge Technologies, a global solar inverter manufacturer with headquarters in Israel. On Jan. 10 and 11, Ms. Frankel purchased $2,002 to $30,000 worth of stock in Diamondback Energy, an oil and natural gas company, and $2,002 to $30,000 in fossil fuel company Hess Corp.
Ms. Frankel sits on the powerful Appropriations Committee and a subcommittee that oversees the Department of Energy. She is also a member of the Safe Climate and Progressive caucuses. The Progressive Caucus strongly backs the Green New Deal.
Ms. Frankel’s office did not respond to a request for comment but has said she does not personally manage her investment accounts.
Her fossil fuel investments have landed her in hot water several times, as recently as October. Ms. Frankel invested $4,004 to $60,000 in Duke Energy and Dominion Energy, some of the country’s top polluters. Duke is ranked second on the Political Economy Research Institute’s Greenhouse 100 Polluters Index. Dominion is ranked 14th.
Rep. Don Beyer
Mr. Beyer, a Green New Deal supporter and Safe Climate Caucus member, sold stock in Berkshire Hathaway on Jan. 20 for $15,001 to $50,000. On Jan. 28, he reinvested in Berkshire Hathaway somewhere from $1,001 to $15,000. The conglomerate, which ranked No. 4 on the Greenhouse 100 Polluters Index, owns subsidiaries in oil and gas.
Mr. Beyer is not personally involved in his investments, a spokesperson said in a statement, noting that the Virginia Democrat supports proposals that would ban lawmakers from buying or selling individual stocks and would require members of Congress and their families to place investment assets into blind trusts during their time in office.
“Rep. Beyer does not personally manage or direct purchases or sales in his stock portfolio. It has historically been managed by a bank brokerage and with no input in individual trades from Rep. Beyer,” a spokesperson said. Mr. Beyer “has directed his brokerage to shift all of his investments out of individual stocks and into mutual/index funds where no trading occurs.”
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Ms. Wasserman Schultz invested $3,003 to $45,000 on Jan. 20 in Patterson-UTI Energy, an oil drilling company. She is a member of the Safe Climate and Solar caucuses and sits on the Appropriations Committee and a subcommittee that oversees the Energy Department.
Ms. Wasserman Schultz told The Times that she was unaware of the investment because it was made by her children. “I don’t really have direct involvement,” she said.
Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr.
Mr. Pascrell sold $1,001 to $15,000 worth of investment on Dec. 20 in Tortoise Energy Infrastructure Corp., which focuses on fossil fuel products. He is a co-sponsor of the Green New Deal and a member of five environmental caucuses: Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, Friends of Animals, Wildlife Refuge, Recycling, and Zoo and Aquarium.
Mr. Pascrell’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
Rep. Ed Perlmutter
Mr. Perlmutter offloaded $1,001 to $15,000 worth of investment in Berkshire Hathaway on Dec. 21. He is a member of the Sustainable Energy and Environment Caucus and the Climate Solutions Caucus.
His congressional website says he “supports a balanced, all-of-the-above energy plan” that includes “responsibly developing fossil fuels while investing in clean energy.”
“Ed believes we must reduce the serious threat of climate change by promoting and incentivizing energy efficiency measures and decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels,” according to his website.
Mr. Perlmutter’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
Rep. Thomas Suozzi
Mr. Suozzi invested $15,001 to $50,000 on Jan. 7 in Schlumberger, the world’s largest offshore drilling company. He is a co-sponsor of the Green New Deal and a member of the Climate Solutions Caucus.
Mr. Suozzi’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
Rep. Lori Trahan
Mrs. Trahan on Dec. 27 sold $1,001 to $15,000 worth of investment in General Electric, which has subsidiaries in fossil fuel industries. She is a co-sponsor of the Green New Deal and is a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees the Environmental Protection Agency. Mrs. Trahan also sits on the Natural Resources Committee.
Mrs. Trahan’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
Sen. Thomas R. Carper
Mr. Carper’s wife, Martha, invested $1,001 to $15,000 on Jan. 18 in fertilizer industry giant The Mosaic Co. The Florida-based company has a history of toxic spills and violations of federal and state hazardous waste laws.
Mrs. Carper invested the money just months after a pipe broke at a Mosaic phosphate mine in October, allowing about 6 million gallons of turbid water to flow into a Tampa Bay-area creek. A sinkhole at a separate Mosaic site in 2016 resulted in the release of 215 million gallons of radioactive wastewater. In 2015, the company agreed to a $2 billion settlement with the EPA for mishandling hazardous waste at sites in Florida and Louisiana.
Mr. Carper is chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee and is a co-chair and founding member of two environmental caucuses: Recycling and Environmental Justice. He has pushed for climate change initiatives that have acted as alternatives to the Green New Deal.
Mr. Carper’s office did not respond to a request for comment.