Billionaire-Backed DC Think Tank Stays Mum On Role In Anti-Exxon Climate Crusade

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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A Washington, D.C., think tank with roots in the libertarian movement continues to ignore questions about its role in a lawsuit in Colorado targeting oil companies for contributing to global warming.

Niskanen Center’s chief attorney balked Friday when asked about his group’s role in suing ExxonMobil on behalf of the Centennial State. The group is keeping quiet about the lawsuit as its members are turning their sights on the use of eminent domain for natural gas pipelines.

“Our commitment to property rights is clear. We are working with property rights advocates. We have been busy writing an amicus brief for land owners who are victims of eminent domain abuse,” attorney David Bookbinder said at a press event in response to a question about whether his move to reform eminent domain is related to the Colorado lawsuit.

Bookbinder, an activist who formerly served as the Sierra Club’s chief counsel before joining Niskanen, also failed to address the role environmental groups have played in propping up Niskanen. The Daily Caller News Foundation attended the event, which featured speakers from across the country who spoke in opposition to the Trans Mountain Pipeline, among other projects.

The Rockefeller Brothers Fund gave his group $200,000 for its climate program in February before the former libertarian group joined the Colorado lawsuit. The group also received at least $350,000 from the Energy Foundation and a $300,000 grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

Bookbinder hasn’t weighed in on similar litigation in California but recent reports suggest he’s intimately aware of other lawsuits targeting Exxon. (RELATED: DC Think Tank Behind Boulder’s Climate Lawsuit Won’t Address Ties To Anti-Oil Crusade)

He was spotted at a climate tutorial hearing in the California cases. Keeling Curve Prize, a group that doles out grants for climate research, confirmed his appearance in a March 18 tweet. The tweet noted how its “advisory council member David Bookbinder was in the courtroom.”

Niskanen is now turning to lobbying Capitol Hill to amend the Natural Gas Act and tweak the way eminent domain is used for interstate gas pipelines. Federal regulators are facing scrutiny over how they grant condemnation authority to private developers acquiring land for approved energy projects.

Bookbinder’s group steers clear of those constitutional questions surrounding changes to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and are instead honing in on barring pipeline companies from using eminent domain under a conditional FERC certificate.

Niskanen is an offshoot of the Cato Institute — a benchmark D.C.-based libertarian group mired in turmoil shortly after the 2012 death of co-founder William Niskanen. Former Cato senior fellow Jerry Taylor founded Niskanen in 2014 after a falling out he had with fellow libertarians who wanted to alter Cato’s mission. Taylor’s group supports many issues countering traditional liberation causes, including rebel rousing for a tax on carbon.

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