Politics

Dem Candidate Who Called ‘Climate Crisis’ An ‘Existential Threat’ Represented Oil Company After Major Spill

Screenshot via YouTube/uPolitics

Michael Ginsberg Congressional Reporter
Font Size:

Matthew Putorti, a Democrat challenging Republican New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, has repeatedly expressed concern about climate change, but previously worked for an oil company attempting to recoup losses after a major spill.

As a lawyer at the New York City-based law firm Anderson Kill, Putorti appeared in court in 2013 on behalf of United Refining Co., a Pennsylvania-based oil company. Putorti and United requested that a federal judge order insurance companies to pay United $20.5 million in the wake of the 2010 Enbridge oil spill. A rupture in the Enbridge pipeline near Marshall, Michigan, released more than one million gallons into the Kalamazoo River. It was the second-largest inland oil spill in U.S. history.

Cleaning up the spill cost Enbridge more than $1.2 billion. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fined the Canadian energy giant another $177 million for violations of the Clean Water Act.

United contracted with Enbridge to transport crude oil to its refineries in western Pennsylvania and claimed to lose up to $32 million due to the spill and accompanying shut down of the Enbridge pipeline. United then sued five insurance companies in federal court, claiming that the companies violated their contracts by not paying out United’s claims. A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit, sending the two parties to arbitration.

Putorti’s representation of United stands in sharp contrast to his campaign rhetoric on climate change.

“Dealing with the climate crisis at large” is one of the most important issues for Putorti, he told uPolitics in a Monday interview.

“I do think protecting our democracy and protecting our environment, and the climate crisis, are both such existential threats, that those are the things that most urgently demand our attention,” Putorti continued. “But that doesn’t mean we can’t do that in conjunction with things like making sure that people have good jobs. So for example, in this district, which I said, it’s a very environmentally-conscious district, and it’s post-industrial, there’s great opportunity for those green jobs to be done here. And so you are combating two things at once, which I think we need to be able to do.”

Putorti declared his congressional candidacy in June and is one of three candidates running to unseat Stefanik. He most recently worked as an attorney at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, where he represented the state-run media outlet China Daily. Putorti also filed under the Foreign Agents Registration Act due to “legal, communications and public affairs” work he did for the Embassy of Qatar. (RELATED: Stefanik Challenger Once Registered As A Foreign Agent For ‘Embassy Of Qatar’)

Putorti did not respond to multiple requests for comment from the Daily Caller.