Partnership for Energy Progress
The Partnership for Energy Progress (PEP) was launched in March 2020 to fight building electrification policy in Oregon and Washington State. Partnership for Energy Progress has focused on paid media placement on social media and television.
Fossil gas utilities in the region contracted with the public relations firm Quinn-Thomas to create PEP. Members, which include the utilities Avista, Cascade Natural Gas, NW Natural, and Puget Sound Energy, raised nearly $3 million for the front group’s operations.
The American Gas Association (AGA) contributed $100,000 to PEP in 2020 and $75,000 in 2021, according to IRS tax filings.
As of March 2021, PEP has spent at least $93,000 on ads across Meta’s platforms.
Between 2015 and 2016, Quinn-Thomas ran a campaign under the banner of an entity called the Washington Climate Collaborative, which successfully defeated carbon pricing in Washington State.
The Seattle Times also reported in December 2019 that PEP had prepared a $1 million media strategy campaign that would feature paid advertisements focused on “key audiences in Washington and Oregon,” mobilize allies in policy debates, and create a “positive” message about gas.
PEP’s media strategy could be seen on the sides of King County Metro Transit buses throughout 2020 after the transit agency accepted $91,000 for 80 advertisements. However, the agency later said it made an error in accepting the ads since it has a policy against ads that express views “on a matter of public debate about economic, political, public safety, religious or social issues.” Metro spokesperson Jeff Switzer told The Seattle Times, that “on review, this ad shouldn’t have been run under our advertising policy, and was a failure of the screening process of our advertising contractor.” Caleb Heeringa, spokesperson for the local Sierra Club, said, “For good reason, they don’t let cigarette ads on buses, because of the public health threat. Greenhouse gases are also a threat to public safety and health.”
Additional member companies in Partnership for Energy Progress include Enbridge, TC Energy, and Williams, along with the trade associations Northwest Gas Association and the Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas.
Partnership for Energy Progress’ Ad Spending
Utilities continue to stall and limit climate action by funding front groups to spread climate misinformation and false solutions to solve the crisis through advertising on social media networks.
Using data from the Meta Ad Library API and existing code from Brown University, EPI created a tool to expose the amount Partnership for Energy Progress is spending on advertisements about social issues, elections, or politics across Meta technologies, along with the specific regions the advertisements target.