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Nucor Exposed: Corporation Bankrolling Climate Denial Claims ‘Global Warming Not Taken Lightly’

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"Nucor Exposed: Corporation Bankrolling Climate Denial Claims ‘Global Warming Not Taken Lightly’"

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Our guest blogger is Shauna Theel, a researcher at Media Matters for America. The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Media Matters. With reporting by Josh Israel and Brad Johnson.

According to leaked documents, Nucor Corporation (NUE), one of the largest steel producers in the United States, is the top named funder of the Heartland Institute’s climate denial efforts, which consist of smearing scientists, distorting climate science, and teaching children that “whether humans are changing the climate is a major scientific controversy.”

Nucor gave over half a million dollars to the Heartland Institute specifically for the Environment and Climate News (ECN) project in 2010 and 2011, internal documents reveal. Edited by Heartland fellow James M. Taylor, ECN promotes conspiracy theories about climate scientists, distorts climate science, and attacks regulation of air and water pollution.

Nucor’s support for climate denial is in conflict with the company’s branding campaign as an environmentally friendly corporation, deeply concerned about “issues concerning climate change and greenhouse gas emissions.” Nucor has called itself a “Green Company” and even registered the slogan “It’s Our Nature” in order to promote its “promise to be environmentally conscious” and its practice of primarily using recycled scrap metal.

Why the contradiction? It turns out Nucor’s green credentials may be more talk than action. A closer look at Nucor’s website reveals unscientific claims that the climate is experiencing a “natural recovery” from a relatively cold period in the 19th century and that “scientists still debate whether man is impacting the climate.” The company’s source for these claims? The Heartland Institute.

Additionally, Nucor has a spotty environmental record. In December 2000, Nucor paid nearly $100 million to settle an EPA lawsuit that alleged Nucor polluted groundwater and failed to meet air pollution limits. Based on Nucor’s 2006 air pollution emissions, the University of Massachusetts’ Political Economy Research Institute ranked the company the 24th most toxic large corporation in the United States.

In official filings, Nucor sees regulation of carbon pollution, not the impacts of climate change as a material financial risk. Its 2010 annual report cautioned that “onerous” legislation or regulation of greenhouse pollution could cause legal and business costs from the “alleged impact of our operations on climate change.” A Nucor iron plant in Louisiana was the first project to have a permit for greenhouse gas pollution, granted in the beginning of 2011. Months before, Heartland argued the permit program “will stifle innovation and choke off job growth.”

A Nucor spokeswoman told ThinkProgress Green that the company has not released a statement on its support of the Heartland Institute and had no comment on this story.

NOTE: One in a series of posts about the Heartland Institute’s inner workings, from internal documents acquired by ThinkProgress Green. ThinkProgress is among several publications to have published documents attributed to the Heartland Institute and sent to us from an anonymous and then unknown source. The source later revealed himself. Heartland Institute has issued several press releases claiming that one document (“2012 Climate Strategy”) is fake and asserting other claims regarding the other documents. ThinkProgress has taken down the “2012 Climate Strategy” document as it determines the document’s authenticity.

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