Revealed: Tom Steyer’s Firm Funded Coal Plants in Australia, China, and Indonesia

Despite marketing himself as an “environmental justice” advocate combating “climate change,” billionaire Democrat presidential candidate Tom Steyer oversaw the funding of coal plants in Australia, China, and Indonesia during his tenure as CEO of hedge fund Farallon Capital Management.

Steyer also bought and sold coal stocks during the Obama administration’s “war on coal,” explained Peter Schweizer, president of the Government Accountability Institute and senior contributor at Breitbart News, in episode four of the Drill Down.

“If somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can; it’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted,” said Barack Obama to the San Francisco Chronicle in January of 2008, describing his intentions to tax carbon dioxide emissions, adding, “under my plan … electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.”

As a bundler for Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign, Steyer procured access to senior officials, including Obama’s former chiefs of staff Rahm Emanuel and Bill Daley and former presidential counselor John Podesta.

Schweizer outlined how Steyer stood to financially benefit from coal-related investments and business related to Obama’s energy policies, saying:

As Steyer availed himself of this access [to the Obama administration], his firm was cashing in on purchases of coal-related stocks while the Obama administration was declaring a war on coal.

In 2009, shortly after Obama took office, Farallon took a large stake in Freight Car America, which produced rail cars that transported coal.

Steyer’s hedge fund also purchased over 1 million shares of Massey energy in 2011. A year earlier, Massey had seen 29 miners killed in an accident at a plant in West Virginia.

Steyer supported Obama’s termination of the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline development — via presidential veto in 2015 of legislation approving the project — while being invested in a competing Canadian pipeline company, Kinder Morgan. 

Schweizer reflected on Steyer’s investments in coal plants overseas during the latter’s heading of Farallon Capital, saying:

Under Steyer’s watch, Farallon Capital invested in coal plants in China, Indonesia, even Australia, where a newly constructed plant in New South Wales is expected to churn out coal for the next 30 years. The mine’s 2014 groundbreaking, which occurred in an Australian state forest, inspired a veteran to stand in front of a bulldozer and a music teacher to chain himself to a piece of excavation equipment.

All told, the coal mines increased their production by more than 70 million tons of coal since getting investment from Steyer. As the New York Times noted, that’s more than Britain consumes annually.

Steyer’s mid-1990s Russian oil investments also raise questions. His firm invested in Russia’s emerging oil markets as that sector was being privatized by the Russian government. Russia’s free market shift was being overseen by Harvard economist Andrei Shleifer. Despite conflict-of-interest regulations that barred American advisors from investing in countries they were assisting, Shleifer’s wife—a hedge fund manager at Steyer’s firm—was directly involved in those Russian investments.

“It’s a classic maneuver of crony capitalism,” said Schweizer.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to clarify language describing Steyer’s firm’s involvement in Russia’s oil industry privatization.

Follow Robert Kraychik on Twitter.

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