Unlike many of his Democratic colleagues running in competitive Senate races, Michigan Rep. Gary Peters has touted his support for environmentalist policies on the campaign trail, including speaking about global warming at the left-wing “Netroots Nation” conference and boasting on his website about his vote for a cap-and-trade bill.
The move is certainly helping in one respect, as liberal billionaire Tom Steyer and top green groups spent millions on television ads attacking his Republican opponent, former Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, on environmental topics.
But Peters’ investments in the energy sector are coming under increasing scrutiny, especially after it was shown that he owns $20,000 in a company that manufacturers “petroleum coke,” or “pet coke,” after Peters’ allies ran ads, judged by fact-checkers as far fetched, tying Land to the substance, which is controversial in Detroit.
A closer review of Peters’ portfolio shows that investment, in French energy firm Total SA, is hardly the only example of his investments in energy companies with controversial histories.
According to his U.S. House financial disclosure forms, Peters earned between $201 and $1,000 in 2013 from an investment in Air Products and Chemicals, Inc., (APD) assets worth between $1,001 and $15,000. APD facilitates offshore oil drilling by providing “on-site gas supply options” for the oil and gas industry, according to its website. Among the services APD provides for offshore oil rigs are “pressure testing on offshore platforms,” “inerting for transport ships,” “drilling operations inerting, “coil tubing projects,” “oil extractions inerting,” “pipeline purging, pigging & maintenance,” “fracturing,” “neutralizing wells for cementing and workovers,” and “enhanced oil recovery.”
Peters is invested in 3M, a conglomerate company based in Minnesota, for between $15,001 and $50,000–earning between $201 and $1,000 in 2013. That company, according to the Pioneer Press in the Twin Cities region of Minnesota where it’s based, has been accused by the state of Minnesota of damaging the environment.
“The attorney general is suing 3M for allegedly damaging the environment with perfluorochemicals, or PFCs,” the Pioneer Press‘ Bob Shaw wrote in April, adding later in the piece, “The environmental lawsuit involves traces of PFCs, which have been found in people and animals around the world. In Minnesota the chemicals, made by 3M and other companies, have been discovered in the Mississippi River, several lakes and the groundwater in parts of Washington County.”
Peters also owns between a $15,001 and $50,000 in Bristol-Meyers Squibb company, which the state of New Jersey’s judiciary system has highlighted a mass tort lawsuit for its role in allegedly polluting the environment for over 103 years.
“The complaints allege that the contamination has and will in the future affect public and residential property and those living, working or visiting the area,” the New Jersey court’s website highlighting the case reads:
Those affected or who will be affected allegedly have or are being exposed to a variety of toxic hazardous substances, including but not limited to, arsenic, mercury, vinyl chloride and asbestos. The exposure allegedly has or will be occurring via inhalation, skin contact and ingestion of fumes and vapors, soil, dust and water in the vicinity of the site. The damages alleged include personal injuries and per quod, wrongful death, survivorship and property damage claims. Other plaintiffs request medical monitoring.
Peters owns between $15,001 and $50,000 worth of stock in Dow Chemical Company, too, a company that has paid more than $2 million worth of fines to the federal government as part of a settlement after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) alleged it violated the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. The facility at which Dow Chemical Company allegedly violated those environmental laws was in Michigan. The EPA wrote in a 2011 news release:
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Justice today announced that Dow Chemical Company (Dow) has agreed to pay a $2.5 million civil penalty to settle alleged violations of the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) at its chemical manufacturing and research complex in Midland, Mich.
DuPont Company, a chemical manufacturer in which Peters owns between $1,001 and $15,000, was recently fined $1.8 million by the EPA for what the Rockford, Illinois, Rock River Times wrote was “alleged violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).”
“DuPont will pay a $1,853,000 penalty to resolve allegations that the company failed to submit reports to EPA about potential adverse effects of an herbicide product called Imprelis, and sold it with labeling that did not ensure its safe use,” the Rock River Times wrote. “When customers applied the misbranded Imprelis product, it led to widespread death and damage to trees.”
MLive Media, a Michigan news service, reported in 2009 that Pfizer, Inc., a drug manufacturer in which Peters is invested between $1,001 and $15,000, polluted Michigan water.
“Protection Agency researchers tested sewage at a municipal wastewater treatment plant in Kalamazoo, Mich., that serves a major Pfizer Inc. factory,” MLive’s Josh Hakala wrote in April 2009, adding:
U.S. manufacturers, including major drugmakers, have legally released at least 271 million pounds of pharmaceuticals into waterways that often provide drinking water–contamination the federal government has consistently overlooked, according to an Associated Press investigation. Hundreds of active pharmaceutical ingredients are used in a variety of manufacturing, including drugmaking: For example, lithium is used to make ceramics and treat bipolar disorder; nitroglycerin is a heart drug and also used in explosives; copper shows up in everything from pipes to contraceptives.
PPG Industries, Inc., another company in which Peters is invested between $15,001 and $50,000, was sued alongside Honeywell International, Inc., by residents of Jersey City, New Jersey, for allegedly dumping toxins into local water supplies.
“Residents of Jersey City sued Honeywell and PPG in May, claiming the companies dumped more than 1 million tons of cancer-causing hexavalent chromium and should pay for medical tests. The suit also seeks compensation for the owners of properties around the city where the companies dumped hexavalent chromium,” Bloomberg’s Chris Dolmetsch wrote in March 2011, adding later in his piece that “a Honeywell predecessor company owned a plant that generated 969,500 tons of chromium ore processing residue from 1895 to 1954, and a predecessor of PPG’s produced 300,000 tons of the byproduct from 1924 to 1963, according to the complaint.” He went on to say, “The residents also seek punitive damages, claiming the companies failed to remediate properties where the waste was deposited.”
The Washington Free Beacon reported Tuesday that Peters has also invested in an oil company that bribed the Iranian government and paid $400 million in fines since doing so. “Total S.A., the fourth largest oil company in the world, paid $60 million to an influential Iranian administrator over a nine-year period to gain access to lucrative oil contracts, according to a joint investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice,” the Free Beacon‘s Bill McMorris wrote.
Peters seems to have stepped up his focus on climate change and environmental issues in conjunction with liberal billionaire and climate change alarmist Steyer pumping millions of dollars into the campaign on his behalf.
But the focus is drawing scrutiny. For instance, Gannett Michigan recently took Peters to task in a lengthy fact-check that debunked claims in a pro-Peters ad.
In the column, Gannett Michigan‘s Todd Spangler found that despite Peters’ claims that “Land’s support from the Koch brothers and groups they are allied with links her with industrial pollution in a specific Detroit neighborhood and the pet coke piles along the Detroit River that Peters and others raised environmental concerns over last year,” there really is “no evidence Land had or has anything to do with” pet coke.
“There is also nothing linking her with pollution in Detroit’s 48217 ZIP code, which the Free Press has called the state’s most polluted,” Spangler wrote. “There have been several contributors to emissions there, including Marathon Petroleum–which produced the pet coke purchased by Koch Carbon–and Severstal Steel.” He added, “Land’s smaller-government policies might aid any of them, but she has no direct connections as far as we can tell. And none of them–lacking the Koch brothers’ repute–have figured in ads.”
Spangler also found that Peters’ investments, specifically “Peters’ ownership of shares in Total Petrochemicals, the French company’s U.S. subsidiary”–despite Peters and his campaign’s efforts to brush those facts aside as they hammer Land on climate change–are “fair game for questions.”
“The company owns a refinery that makes pet coke in Port Arthur, Texas–a city where several articles have been written about the effects of toxins on residents. Total paid an $8.75 million fine last year for earlier violations of pollution limits,” Spangler wrote. He added:
With less than $20,000 in stock in the company, Peters obviously has nothing to do with managing its operations–the company makes billions a year–but he still presumably stands to profit from its products, including pet coke, a substance his allies called in a recent ad targeting Land “some of the dirtiest oil waste imaginable.” Considering the emphasis Peters has put on the piles that once abutted the Detroit River, raising questions about his shares of Total S.A. is inbounds.
Right after the Gannett piece popped last weekend, The Detroit News followed up with a similarly damaging blow to Peters over his investments. In it, Peters admitted his many investments create an interest for him to vote against environmentalist priorities, but he said he has voted with environmentalists in spite of how it might impact his personal wealth.
“It’s clear that stocks that I may have in my retirement account have nothing to do with my public positions that I take,” Peters said. “I’ve been outspoken on inversion, we need to change the law. I co-sponsored legislation to do that. I introduced legislation to say we have to figure out ways to store pet coke properly to make sure we’re using best practices, we have to regulate it.”
When asked later if he’ll sell his oil stocks, Peters said he wouldn’t. “Am I going to sell it? I have no plans of it, no,” Peters told The Detroit News of his stock in Total SA. “It is an investment in the fourth largest oil company in the world. It has nothing to do with the Detroit situation.”