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Groups Ask Columbia University To Reveal Funding Behind Exxon-Tied Center on Global Energy Policy

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Final exams and winter break loom large for students at Columbia University, but at the upper echelons of the university’s administration, new calls for transparency about the funding of a university affiliated center are likely to create plenty of homework as well.

letter sent out today and shared with DeSmog from several high-profile advocacy groups addressed to Columbia President Lee Bollinger calls for Columbia to reveal the funders of the influential — and to-date, dark-money funded — Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP).

The letter was signed by groups ranging from Public Citizen, ForestEthics, Bold Nebraska, Environmental Working Group, Chesapeake Climate Action Network and the Checks and Balances Project.

“Now that POLITICO has revealed that ExxonMobil donated, through its foundation, $25,000 to CGEP in 2014, we ask that you insist the Center report its funding sources and amounts since it was created,” the letter reads, pointing to a Politico revelation first reported on by DeSmog.

As DeSmog reported, we have also contacted CGEP on multiple instances to ask where its funding comes from, every time receiving no response.

So too has the Checks and Balances Project, which has sent two letters in September 2014 and January 2015 respectively, to founding director Jason Bordoff. Bordoff formerly served as a top-level energy advisor to President Barack Obama’s National Security Council.

Exxon Not Alone

Beyond just serving as a call for transparency, the letter also breaks ground in revealing that the $25,000 donation given toCGEP by ExxonMobil was just the tip of the iceberg. Further, the letter reveals, 19 CGEP affiliated faculty and advisors have fossil fuel industry ties.

“We know that The Center on Global Energy Policy, formerly known as the Center for Energy, Marine Transportation and Public Policy, received at least $875,000 from ExxonMobil before its rebranding several years ago.”

DeSmog used the Way Back Machine to review an old version of the Center for Energy, Marine Transportation and Public Policy’s website and discovered that Exxon wasn’t the only fossil fuel industry donor to the Center. Though on most versions of the website reviewed by DeSmog — lasting between 2002-2013 — the Center did not disclose funders on its website, it chose to do so in 2010.

Beyond Exxon, Columbia lists donors ranging from French energy giants Total SA and EDF,  water privatization giant Veolia, oil and gas platform company Mitsubishi and others on the 2010 version of its website.

This piece first appeared at DeSmogBlog.

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Steve Horn is a freelance investigative journalist and Research Fellow at DeSmogBlog, where this piece first appeared.

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