A recent investigation has uncovered that the Harvard environmental law professor, who is currently under scrutiny for her ties to the fossil fuel industry, has lobbied the regulator on behalf of the oil and gas company that pays her more than $350,000 per year.
This new information adds to the conflict-of-interest concerns surrounding the professor’s role as a board member of ConocoPhillips and her position at Harvard University.
The investigation sheds light on the potential influence the professor may have had on regulatory decisions related to the fossil fuel industry, further calling into question her ability to fulfill her role at the university without bias.
Professor Freeman also co-chairs Harvard’s presidential committee on sustainability and was recently awarded funding by the university’s new Salata Institute for Climate and Sustainability to lead research on corporate net zero targets. Colleagues say Freeman’s fossil fuel ties raises serious questions about a conflict of interest, while threatening to damage the university’s climate credentials.
A letter by the Harvard Faculty Divest steering committee—a diverse group of professors who advocate for an end to fossil fuels—to the president-elect of the Ivy league school sets out the conflict between Freeman’s fiduciary responsibility to ConocoPhillips and Harvard’s own climate commitments.
Who is Environmental law professor Jody Freeman?
Jody Freeman, the Archibald Cox Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, is a renowned expert in administrative and environmental law.
She served as Counselor for Energy and Climate Change during the Obama administration and was instrumental in designing the groundbreaking agreement between the U.S. auto industry and President Obama to double fuel efficiency standards. Freeman was also a key contributor to the Biden administration’s climate action plan.
Professor Freeman has authored numerous articles and books on climate change, environmental regulation, presidential power, and judicial review. Her co-edited book, Global Climate Change and U.S. Law, is a seminal work in the field and was updated with a new edition in 2023.
Freeman founded the Environmental and Energy Law Program at Harvard Law School, which is a leading research center focused on climate and energy law and policy. She also established the Law School’s first environmental law clinic and co-chairs the Presidential Committee on Sustainability at Harvard.
Freeman serves as an independent director on the board of directors of ConocoPhillips, where she provides valuable guidance on climate change and the energy transition.
She also serves on the climate advisory board of NBIM, Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, and has advised the electricity industry on technology gaps as a member of the Advisory Council of the Electric Power Research Institute.
Freeman is a highly sought-after speaker and has contributed to several prominent media outlets, including NPR, MSNBC, CNN, and the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Guardian, Los Angeles Times, Politico, Vox, and Foreign Affairs
Freeman’s ties to ConocoPhillips
Emails obtained by The Guardian and The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) reveal that Jody Freeman, a Harvard Law School professor and board member of ConocoPhillips, lobbied the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on behalf of the oil and gas company.
Freeman also signed off on the emails as a Harvard law professor, but did not disclose her paid position on the ConocoPhillips board. The emails are said to violate Harvard’s policy regarding individuals with financial conflicts of interest.
Freeman maintains that she is compliant with the university’s conflict of interest rules and that Coates, another Harvard law professor, was aware of her affiliation with ConocoPhillips before the emails were exchanged.
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