Donors Benefited from David Perdue’s Opposition to Clean Water Protections
Washington, D.C. — David Perdue accepted thousands in campaign contributions from some of Georgia’s dirtiest polluters, including a company given the green light to mine a controversial site only after Perdue pushed to eliminate the Clean Water Rule, according to a new analysis of FEC records, lobbying disclosures, and legislative records compiled by Climate Power.
Perdue has a long record of opposing clean water protections — including the 2015 Clean Water Rule, which was designed to keep the drinking water and other waterways of 117 million Americans safe. Last June, when President Donald Trump weakened that rule, he publicly credited Perdue with having “helped lead the effort.”
But back home in Georgia, it was Perdue campaign donors benefiting from the senator’s work to gut the Clean Water Rule — despite concerns from the community that the mining project could destroy local wetlands. Before Trump weakened the water protection safeguards, Perdue was working with two donors, executives at Twin Pines Minerals, on their permit to mine near the Okefenokee Wildlife Refuge.
The permit application was under intense scrutiny as a mining site would potentially violate the existing Clean Water Rule by damaging the fragile ecosystem. Perdue’s office was intensely involved in the process — even receiving monthly updates on the status of the permit application. After the Clean Water Rule was eliminated, the Army Corps of Engineers decided it no longer had legal jurisdiction over the Twin Pines project and a federal permit was no longer needed.
“For a senator who claimed to be willing to drain the swamp in Washington, D.C., David Perdue has jumped right in,” said Meghan Schneider, spokesperson for Climate Power 2020. “For years, Perdue has put the interests of private companies above Georgians’ basic rights to clean air and water. His leadership has resulted in the weakening of vital environmental protections for the state, which has hurt Georgians and benefited the companies writing checks to Perdue.”
Twin Pines has no record of lobbying the federal government before needing the permit, but in the last two years, it has spent $325,000 on lobbying. Steven Ingle, the president of Twin Pines, has no record of donating to a federal election campaign until 2020 when he made the maximum contribution allowed to Perdue’s campaign.
Raymon Bean, another executive at the company who gave a maximum contribution to Perdue, has a record of pollution problems at another company he manages, Georgia Renewable Power. The company recently settled with the state of Georgia for at least $65,000 for water pollution violations in 2020.
Perdue’s work to gut clean water protections came despite local communities raising the alarm that the Twin Pine’s mine could “substantially degrade” the more than 400,000-acre protected area. More than 20,000 public comments were logged on the Twin Pines’ permit application.
Twin Peaks Mining Company is the most direct example of Perdue donors benefiting from the senator’s anti-clean water campaign, but Perdue also accepted donations from other companies accused of polluting communities.
During 2019 and 2020, companies like Rayonier Advanced Materials, Milliken & CO., Georgia Renewable Power, and International Paper CO. — all of which have faced allegations of severe environmental violations — contributed directly or through lobbyists to Perdue’s campaign.
Perdue also bought stocks in DuPont, a major chemical manufacturer. DuPont, along with other companies, faces an ongoing lawsuit for their alleged knowledge of the toxicity of perfluorinated compounds used in carpet manufacturing. The chemicals, namely PFOA and PFOS, migrated downstream in the Oostanaula River.
Below is a snapshot of campaign contributions to David Perdue from polluting industries:
- Twin Pines Minerals: The company was looking for a permit to mine near the Okefenokee Wildlife Refuge and worked closely with Perdue to obtain it.
- The permit application was under intense scrutiny from the Army Corps of Engineers because it potentially would violate the existing Clean Water Rule by damaging the fragile ecosystem.
- Twin Pines was able to move forward only after Perdue’s work to gut the Clean Water Rule made a federal permit no longer necessary.
- Twin Pines had no record of lobbying the federal government before needing the permit but, in the last two years, has spent $325,000 on lobbying.
- Steven Ingle, the president of Twin Pines, has no record of donating to a federal election campaign until 2020 when he made the maximum contribution to Perdue’s campaign.
- Rayonier Advanced Materials: In their 2020 “Dirty Dozen” report, Georgia Water Coalition wrote: “no other pollution problem in the state has landed in the report more times than the discharge from the Rayonier Advanced Materials chemical pulp mill in Jesup.”
- During this election cycle, their PAC donated to only two Senate candidates: Perdue and Mitch McConnell.
- Milliken & Co.: Milliken Longleaf Pine Facility in Georgia “failed to comply with the Clean Water Act in all 12 of the last 12 quarters, racking up $354,500 in fines since 2015, according to EPD’s records.”
- During this election cycle, their PAC donated to only three Republican Senate candidates, including Perdue.
- Georgia Renewable Power: Is one of the companies behind the wood-burning power plants in Georgia, and was recently held to a consent decree in a citizen lawsuit over Clean Water Act violations. Georgia Renewable power did not admit guilt but was ordered to implement a pollution control plan and to pay $312,500 for damage to nearby property. Residents near the company’s plants complain of chemical smells and loud noise from the plants. The company also recently settled twice with state regulators for wastewater discharges.
- International Paper CO.: The company was named a responsible party for a superfund site in Harris County, TX where paper mill waste was dumped in pits. One of the company’s facilities in Rome, GA has had repeated high-priority violations to clean air standards.
- Perdue was the senate candidate that received the most money to a candidate from International Paper’s PAC during this election cycle.