Our Strategy In Action

Water protectors protest as police line the hill at Standing Rock during an ongoing dispute over the building of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Photo: Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

New fossil fuel drilling and infrastructure that locks in future production, growth, and warming is fundamentally incompatible with both the carbon budget and time we have to achieve the necessary solutions. Equation Campaign supports place-based efforts to block new oil and gas infrastructure in the United States where corporations and their backers overwhelm local residents with money and power. A majority of our funding is awarded to campaigns led by frontline organizations, where industry and climate impacts are high, and where climate philanthropy has been historically low. Notwithstanding these enormous corporate advantages, communities and organizations proximate to industry have succeeded against the odds in stopping expansion or new construction in several key locations, from the Great Lakes through the Midwest, Plains and Appalachia, through the Ohio River Valley to the Gulf Coast.   

Fighting Power: Fossil Fuel Infrastructure Grants

Every successful fight to delay or shut down a pipeline, LNG terminal, petrochemical facility, or extractive infrastructure keeps a measurable amount of greenhouse gasses out of the atmosphere.

They also ignite the passion and power of grassroots, national and international movements, and are what the oil and gas industries fear most. These movements on the ground to keep fossil fuels in the ground are poised to win if they receive the support they need. Our grantees focus on these places:

Keystone XL, Summit and Navigator Pipelines (C02 NE, IA, SD, ND, MN, KS, IL)

Landowners in Nebraska were barely able to celebrate—after over 10 years of fighting—the complete return of their land by Transcanada when a new threat began bearing down on these same lands, and others stretching across the Midwest. Farmers, ranchers and Tribal communities now face risky carbon pipeline project proposals, which are seeking to use eminent domain and other tactics to seize land for a massive network of new pipelines across seven states, and beyond.

Grantees: Indigenous Environmental Network, Pipeline Fighters Hub/Bold Alliance, NDN Collective, Brave Heart Society, Native Organizers Alliance, Dakota Rural Action, 350.org, Wiconi un Tipi Resistance Camp.

Gulf Coast: Texas and Louisiana

Confronting the development of the Permian Basin is perhaps the holy grail of US supply-side campaigns. Already producing more oil than the Bakken, Eagle Ford, Alaska’s North Slope, offshore Gulf or any other oil source, the Permian alone has carbon-budget busting potential. The Equation Campaign is exploring the development of a full campaign that targets the Permian as a whole, with strategies that recognize the extreme difficulty of confronting extraction in Texas at the source. We are supporting community-led campaigns against LNG and crude export terminals that would carry oil and gas from the Permian and other sources in Texas, and our grantees have already had significant success.

Grantees: Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas, MOVE Texas, Texas Civil Rights Project, Resilience Force.

DAPL Fracked Oil Pipeline (Standing Rock, ND)

The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) can carry almost 19 million gallons of toxic fracked oil per day from North Dakota to Illinois, tearing its way through traditional indigenous lands of the Sioux tribal nations, sacred sites and fragile ecosystems. The historic mobilization at Standing Rock activated tens of thousands in the US and around the world, inspiring many of today’s youth and celebrity climate activists alike. The global movement it inspired threatened the fossil fuel industry, which responded with violence and retaliatory litigation in new and unprecedented ways. To this day, the industry refers to, and attempts to mitigate risks of “getting Standing Rocked” referring to the collective power of local and global movements that collaborate across legal, financial, political and media strategies.

Grantees: Water Protector Legal Collective, Mazaska Talks, NDN Collective, Pipeline Fighters Hub/Bold Alliance, Center for Protest Law and Litigation

Enbridge Line 3 Tar Sands Pipeline (MN)

Like its infamous cousin KXL, this is a major tar sands pipeline that Bill McKibben calls a “fuse to the largest carbon bomb on the planet,” the Athabasca tar sands. After the outgoing Trump administration fast-tracked construction in late 2020, Line 3 became a monumental struggle along the route with arrests and actions on a weekly basis, led by indigenous water protectors of the Anishinaabe nations in northern Minnesota. Misleadingly billed by the company as a replacement project, most of the route in fact follows a new corridor, and the new Line 3 would have twice the capacity of the old Line 3. The new route crosses unique wild rice growing areas that are legally protected territories of the region’s tribal nations.

Grantees: Honor the Earth, Giniw Collective, MN350, Friends of the Headwaters, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, Center for Protest Law and Litigation, Pipeline Fighters Hub, Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light, EarthRights International, Native Roots Radio.

Byhalia Pipeline (TN)

The proposed 49-mile 24” pipeline route has a suspicious horseshoe shape, rather than a straight line. While the straight, direct route would run through relatively wealthy white communities, the horseshoe shape circumvents them, instead passing through predominantly Black communities. More research is required to confirm whether the planned route is, as it appears, due to racist siting (as opposed to water sources, as the company claims). Nevertheless, historical injustices and a passion for protecting their community have the frontlines organizing and agitating against the pipeline. This campaign is in the early stages but is getting some national attention, including an appearance by Vice President Al Gore. At least a dozen landowners have retained legal representation in the eminent domain cases.

Mountain Valley Pipeline and Southgate Extension Fracked Gas Pipeline (VA, WV, and NC)

Mountain Valley Fracked Gas Pipeline (MVP) is reputed to be the last major fracked gas pipeline proposal in the eastern US. The route is 303 miles from the Utica and Marcellus shale to the Virginia-North Carolina border, with a possible 75-mile extension deep into North Carolina. The pipeline’s route involves water crossing, steep slopes and rugged terrain making it an unusually difficult engineering challenge and a threat to one of the most diverse and productive temperate forests in the world.

Enbridge Line 5 (MI)

Enbridge’s Line 5 was constructed in 1953 and has operated under a Presidential Permit for 68 years. But between 2010-2015, investigations by the MI Dept. of Natural Resources and others uncovered damage in the form of anchor strikes, missing supports, and lost protective coating that have increased concerns about corrosion and potential leaks on underwater segments of the twinned pipeline in the fragile Straits of Mackinac connecting Lake Michigan to Lake Huron. Enbridge reached a deal in 2018 with former Republican Gov. Rick Snyder to build a new tunnel to house Line 5 where it runs underwater through the Straits of Mackinac and is still seeking federal and state permits for the tunnel project.

Building Power: Movement Infrastructure Grants

While many fossil fuel infrastructure fights will win or lose based on local conditions, they share obstacles and solutions and must meet the power of the industry with the strength of state and national campaigns reinforcing them. Our funding also supports the movement infrastructure reinforcing the frontlines and pulling on the levers of power that have historically given the industry the upper hand: law, media, finance, and political will. 

We work with a national network of allies in identifying our grantee partners, building trust and carefully evaluating need and priorities to make high impact grants with a special emphasis on funding the BIPOC-led and focused organizations impacted first and worst by fossil fuel projects.  We ensure that funds in this area get directly to the frontlines which often requires unconventional investment like seed money, technical support, and rapid response grants. 

Financial Power: Shifting Risks, Benefits, and the Bottom Line

Many parts of the financial sector are still funding, insuring and investing in the oil and gas industry. In effect, they are financing and profiting from the future warming of the planet. Meanwhile, the fossil fuel industry is also the recipient of a disproportionate number of subsidies, tax breaks, and bailouts, particularly in the context of the COVID crisis.

To undercut this support, the Equation Campaign was one of the early investors in the Stop the Money Pipeline campaign, pressuring institutions to stop financing and underwriting the expansion of oil and gas in the US and beyond. We have also funded Mazaska Talks and Giniw Collective, the Action Center on Race and the Economy (ACRE) and the Hip Hop Caucus – all BIPOC-led groups that play leadership roles in these campaigns. Through our finance-focused grantmaking and associated media investments, we elevate the actual and perceived risks, including to brand and reputation, of funding fossil fuels. 

In addition to supporting efforts to target the biggest national banks, investors and underwriters like JP Morgan Chase, Blackrock and Liberty Mutual, our grants aim to expose the links between specific projects and their financiers. For example, the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe’s advocacy is targeting the three banks supporting the Brownsville LNG terminals: BNP Paribas (successfully withdrawn), Societe Generale, and Macquarie Capital.  

And finally, in the wake of the historic mobilization around the Movement for Black Lives, we also made a series of grants to investigate, analyze and expose the links between some of the largest fossil fuel corporations, financiers and insurers—Chevron, JP Morgan Chase, and Blackrock—and their funding of powerful police groups in major US cities.  These grants aim not only to follow the money and connect the dots between climate and racial injustice, but to build collective power and solidarity between the climate movement and the Movement for Black lives around shared targets and a common adversary. 

Media Power: Rewriting the Narrative

The media is as ubiquitous as the air we breathe in the United States and we are increasingly living in dangerously distinct ecosystems on the right and the left. The oil and gas industry orchestrated decades of deliberate misinformation about climate change, challenging the very assertion that humans burning carbon was the cause of global warming. These companies and their legal, marketing, and financial enablers, need to be understood to be as toxic as their products, akin to the tobacco and opioid industries whose playbooks they have shared.  

To counter this trend, we helped launch Fossil Free Media, a nonprofit communications lab countering the lies of the oil and gas industry’s multi billion-dollar public relations machine and providing free media support and capacity to frontline fights and to the supply side movement to end fossil fuel expansion. We have also supported Season 4 of Drilled and Inequality Media’s explainer video on The Solutions to the Climate Crisis No One is Talking About to educate and activate new audiences that care about economic inequality, corporate power and racial justice, but don’t yet see the climate links to “their” issues.  

Upcoming grants will feature communications strategies that elevate stories from the frontlines. Our grantees will center the lived experience of people most directly impacted by oil and gas expansion, particularly BIPOC, poor and marginalized communities living where pipelines and refineries are being planned, built or expanded. And they will highlight youth voices decrying the injustice of climate change which they did not cause but will suffer from for generations to come. Our communications portfolio aims to amplify a new climate story, shifting the narrative from framing around “parts per million,” “metric tonnes” and other (critical) scientific and policy information, to narratives of real people fighting for the health and safety of the children, communities and homelands that they love. Ultimately, our grantee partners will speak their truths to power, countering industry disinformation regarding “meeting consumer demand” with potent, personal, and moving stories about asthma, pollution, desecration of ancestral lands, wildfires, and the destruction of our children’s future.

Legal Power: Changing the Rules

Oil and gas companies have had the law on their side for too long. They already have undue influence as a result of their political contributions and access, with hundreds of lobbyists advocating for the most lucrative and permissive environment possible for continued expansion. Since 2017, industry executives and former lobbyists have taken over the EPA and dramatically rolled back dozens of industry regulations aimed at protecting air, water and the climate. They are also increasingly weaponizing law and litigation, drafting and advocating for so-called “Critical Infrastructure” laws that criminalize protest, or filing crippling “SLAPP Suits” (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) against individuals and organizations that threaten them. 

The movement must prepare and become more resilient to the growing backlash.  The Equation Campaign has therefore established a Climate Legal Defense Fund to support a standing army of lawyers to strengthen legal efforts to stop new or expanded oil and gas projects, and to defend activists facing legal repression and retaliation from the industry. In our first year, we have provided seed funding for the new Center for Protest Law and Litigation to represent climate activists and others demanding racial, social and environmental justice, supported the Thurgood Marshall Center for Civil Rights at Howard Law School to track and analyze the nation’s critical infrastructure laws, and have several other planned investments in legal organizations which can offer both proactive and reactive legal expertise.  

In the future, we will continue to support public interest lawyers who can assist local organizations and activists with legal strategies for resisting oil and gas expansion; mount affirmative challenges to laws that suppress free speech and association and deploy rapid response grants to activists and organizations on the receiving end of industry intimidation.

Political Power: Building the Movement

All three of the above strategies which are core to our Theory of Change – financial, legal and media – rely on the momentum and power of a movement to demand and achieve rapid transformation. And growing a movement requires funding local organizations and communities hit hardest by the human rights, health and environmental abuses of the fossil fuel industry. We believe those closest to the harms are closest to the solutions, and hold as yet untapped power to achieve the results that we all need.  

Two powerful new constituencies have burst onto the climate scene, and The Equation Campaign has responded with innovative programs to meet their unique needs. In our work with the parents and youth movements, we funded Polluters Out’s Fossil Free University and catalyzed a new Parents Fellowship program to train, network and fund these new leaders. Similarly, we dispatched urgent support during the COVID19 pandemic to remote indigenous and rural landowner organizations, including groups within the NDN Collective and the Promise to Protect coalition, to reinforce their opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline. We helped establish the Pipeline Fighters Hub, which provides legal, technical and organizing expertise to local communities fighting oil and gas infrastructure across the country.  

We support the rights and strategies of free speech and protest, citizen engagement and advocacy, and mass campaigns that raise public awareness and use the levers of law, finance and politics to counterbalance the industry’s grip on power that keeps us locked into the vicious self-interested cycle it has created. 

We are working to fight the power of the oil and gas industry by exposing its deception, inspiring people and institutions to divest and demand an end to bailouts and subsidies; and by countering the might of the industry in the halls of government, in courts of law, and the court of public opinion.

Even as they are mobilizing to fight power, defenders build power and shift power away from vested corporate and political interests determined to keep on extracting fossil fuels, and towards social movements and individuals united in ending the vicious cycle that we know is threatening sensitive ecosystems and the survival of the human race. 

Meet all our grantees

As a community, we know exactly how to avert the worst impacts of the climate crisis. We have the science, we have the data, we have the money, and we have the technology to shift course right now. We have everything we need to transform our future, except for one thing: the power to make it happen, quickly. We have seen how the Movement for Black Lives has led to rapid and transformational change in narrative, law and policy, and how the resistance at Standing Rock focused global attention on the myriad injustices of the fossil fuel industry, inspiring a new generation of climate and social justice activists. In the way they shift power, frontline movements can change this equation. Our Frontline EJ Fund supports those groups demanding the transformational change required, in the time science demands.

Water protectors gather for a press conference in northern Minnesota at the site where Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline will carry tar sands oil through sacred lands, unique ecosystems, and the headwaters of the Mississippi River.