Steve Horn en MSNBC Show Worked to Promote Fracking, Internal Documents Reveal (Video) <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Host Dylan Ratigan was hostile to anti-fracking activist Josh Fox, while giving a warm reception to oil and gas industry hedge fund tycoon T. Boone Pickens, now a fundraiser for Donald Trump.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/2803054321_e4d09ee8bf_z.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Cable TV network MSNBC has made headlines in recent days for apparently moving away from its “Lean Forward” progressive brand, catering instead to a more center-to-right-leaning crowd. </p><p>“<a href="" target="_blank">People might start accusing us of leaning too far to the right</a>,” the station says in a new advertisement featuring MSNBC's conservative personalities — an array of Republican identities such as Michael Steele, Steve Schmidt and Ben Ginsberg. </p><p>But on the issue of <a href="" target="_blank">hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”)</a> for shale oil and gas, <a href="" target="_blank">documents</a> from 2011 obtained under Oklahoma's Open Records Act demonstrate that the network saw itself as a promoter of both the controversial drilling method and natural gas vehicles. </p><p>NBC Universal, at the time, was owned on a 49-percent basis by the natural gas utility and electricity company General Electric (GE) and is now wholly owned by Comcast.</p><p>The documents, obtained from Oklahoma State University (OSU), relate to the filming of an episode of “The Dylan Ratigan Show” on the OSU campus in April 2011. The episode came two and a half years before the network announced in late-2013 that its <a href="" target="_blank">website would run native advertisements</a> (content that looks like original news) on behalf of fracking lobbying group America's Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA). ANGA is now <a href="" target="_blank">part of</a> the <a href="" target="_blank">American Petroleum Institute</a> (API). </p><p><a href="" target="_blank">That episode of Ratigan's show</a> featured oil and gas industry hedge fund tycoon T. Boone Pickens, who now <a href="" target="_blank">serves as a fundraiser</a> for Republican Party presidential candidate Donald Trump, and who was stumping at the time for his pro-fracking “<a href="" target="_blank">Pickens Plan</a>.” The emails offer a rare look inside the making of an episode of a popular MSNBC show and a glimpse into a future business relationship, too.</p><p><strong>“Steel on Wheels”</strong></p><p>The April 2011 episode of Ratigan was part of a broader “Steel on Wheels” tour MSNBC pushed at the time featuring Ratigan, whose show is no longer on-air. The tour, conducted on a bus and <a href="" target="_blank">catching media attention</a> for being a sponsored partnership with steel company Nucor, <a href="" target="_blank">looked to find</a> “solutions to the most pressing problems facing America today.”</p><p>“I am committed to getting this country back on track for the benefit of all Americans, and ‘Steel on Wheels’ is the perfect vehicle to show how we can make that happen,” Ratigan said in a statement announcing the partnership between Nucor and MSNBC. “There is no better partner for this than Nucor and their visionary CEO Dan DiMicco, a man who is as dedicated to his own extraordinary employees as he is to helping get all of America working again.”</p><p>The relationship between Nucor and MSNBC was described at the time by Ad Week as “a first of its kind partnership.” Mediaite, a media outlet that covers the U.S. media apparatus, <a href="" target="_blank">described</a> one on-air segment of the tour as something which “easily could have been confused for a human resources video to boost Nucor employee morale.”</p><p><strong>“Not Josh Fox”</strong></p><p>“Steel on Wheels” focused on <a href="" target="_blank">finding solutions</a> to many problems ailing the U.S., including health care, education, manufacturing, public works and energy.</p><p>At the center of the energy portion sat T. Boone Pickens, the Pickens Plan, Clean Energy Fuels and promotion of natural gas vehicles. Days after the three-day (March 30-April 1) energy portion of the “Steel on Wheels” tour ended,<a href="" target="_blank">Congress introduced the Pickens-promoted NAT GAS Act</a> on April 6, which offered subsidies to the industry to produce gas-powered automobiles and <a href="" target="_blank">ended up not passing</a>. </p><p>A planning document for the three-day energy segment shows that anti-fracking voices, such as that of Josh Fox — director and producer of the two “Gasland” documentaries and of the forthcoming film “How to Let Go of the World: and Love All the Things Climate Can't Change” — would not have a slot on the three days of energy-focused episodes. Natural gas receives an explicit mention as a “solution.”</p><p>Though Josh Fox gets mentioned as a potential guest who will not receive an invitation, prospective guests listed on the document included <a href="" target="_blank">climate change denier and U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK)</a>, former Shell North America CEO John Hoffmeister and Pickens.</p><p>Fox ended up as a guest on the show on March 31, 2011. But he was treated in a hostile manner by Ratigan when Fox pointed out that Pickens had money riding on the fracking boom and that the fracking boom could lead to global climate change chaos, water impacts and human health impacts. </p><p>“I get it, you believe that natural gas will ruin the universe and can't be solved,” Ratigan exclaimed to Fox in closing out the segment. “I want to have a conversation to solve the problem with you. I'm not looking to have a propaganda speech from you more than I am from Boone Pickens or anybody else.”</p><p>Pickens though, interviewed the day before Fox on Ratigan's show, received a much friendlier reception.</p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" style="width: 600px; height: 437px;"><img alt="" class="media-image" style="width: 600px; height: 437px;" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/screen_shot_2016-06-04_at_11.44.40_pm.png" width="1316" height="958" /></div><p><em>Image Credit: <a href="" target="_blank">Oklahoma State University</a></em></p><p>“The goal of the Steel on Wheels Energy Summit is to capitalize on the emerging opportunity to address America's energy problem,” the document reads. “[With] [s]ignificant disruptions in the Middle East and unprecedented opportunities here in the U.S., <em>Free America </em>would culminate its quest to find jobs and solutions for America by highlighting ENERGY as a trillion-dollar problem that we CAN solve and in the process create jobs, capture trillions of value, and create lasting nation (sic) security — and it is (sic) problem both businesses and politicians are ready to tackle.”</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="420"></iframe></p><p><strong>“Our Cause”</strong></p><p>On March 24, 2011, MSNBC public relations employee Tanya Hayre emailed Jay Rosser — vice president of public affairs for BP Capital, a hedge fund owned by Pickens — to introduce herself and get the ball rolling on logistics for the following week's episodes and the events surrounding them. In that email, she referred to the need to “drum up press” in service to “further promot[ing] our cause/discussion” and then asked if Pickens could speak with reporters in order to complete that task.</p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" style="width: 600px; height: 487px;"><img alt="" class="media-image" style="width: 600px; height: 487px;" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/screen_shot_2016-06-05_at_1.10.13_am.png" width="1050" height="852" /></div><p><em>Image Credit: <a href="" target="_blank">Oklahoma State University</a></em></p><p>GE's business interests in natural gas and gas-powered vehicles went unmentioned in the segment, an interview between Ratigan and Pickens, which took place at OSU. OSU's football stadium is named after Pickens and he is a <a href="" target="_blank">major donor to the university</a>.</p><p>In that interview, Ratigan showered praise on Pickens and called him a “patriot” while not mentioning where Pickens makes his money: from both investing in the natural gas industry and owning a major natural gas vehicles fueling station company, Clean Energy Fuels Corporation, that was <a href=";filingID=F88230F3-0A1A-48CE-BF40-FC6AE38AE979&amp;filingTypeID=51" target="_blank">actively</a> <a href=";filingID=1DC47DAB-F75E-4962-8F87-12AB72F90B2D&amp;filingTypeID=60" target="_blank">lobbying</a> <a href=";filingID=33564B8F-C84A-4E2F-AFED-E8B2853A90E1&amp;filingTypeID=78" target="_blank">for</a> the NAT GAS Act at the time.</p><p>Visit for <a href="" target="_blank">breaking news</a>, <a href="" target="_blank">world news</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">news about the economy</a></p><p>“My recollection is that I was approached by Dylan’s team wanting to factor energy into one of their town halls,” Rosser said via email. “I connected them with OSU, Boone’s alma mater [but] didn't have any meaningful input into the program outside of Boone’s direct participation (i.e., speaking format, etc.).”</p><p>In November 2012, a year and a half after Ratigan's shale gas-promoting stint at OSU, Pickens' gas fueling station company Clean Energy Fuels Corporation <a href="" target="_blank">bought</a> some of GE's natural gas vehicle fueling equipment as part of its “<a href="" target="_blank">America’s Natural Gas Highway</a>” marketing effort.</p><p>“GE is proud to be partnering with Clean Energy Fuels to develop natural gas infrastructure in the U.S. Clean Energy is an industry leader in pioneering a new way for America to fuel its vehicles and to further gain energy independence,” GE chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt <a href="" target="_blank">said in a press release</a> announcing the deal. “With an abundance of cleaner, more affordable natural gas here in the U.S., this is an important opportunity for GE to join Clean Energy in changing the way America drives.”</p><p>The two companies would later sign <a href="" target="_blank">another business deal</a> in October 2013, linking them in the effort to beef up the number of natural gas-powered trucks on U.S. highways. GE also promotes its “<a href="" target="_blank">CNG in a Box</a>” (compressed natural gas) vehicles fueling station equipment on its website.</p><p><strong>Lean Right: “They Already Do”</strong></p><p>Cenk Uygur, founder and show host of the popular YouTube-based The Young Turks Network and former MSNBC show host, reacted to the news of MSNBC's looming rightward shift by giving a contrarian take on the announcement. In the past, Uygur said he left MSNBC when he was <a href="" target="_blank">told</a> by CEO Phil Griffin that “we’re the establishment, and it would be cool to be like outsiders, but we’re not, we’re insiders, and we have to act like it.”</p><p> </p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p dir="ltr" lang="en" xml:lang="en">New <a href="">@MSNBC</a> ad says, "People Might Start Accusing Us Of Leaning Too Far To The Right." I got bad news for you, they already do. <a href="">#LeanBack</a></p>— Cenk Uygur (@cenkuygur) <a href="">June 1, 2016</a></blockquote><script async="" src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p> </p><p>Right-wing in the Fox News sense of the term? Not quite.</p><p>But right-leaning in terms of being a corporate-owned media outlet with business interests that often converge with the stories they cover? As the case of T. Boone Pickens, Dylan Ratigan and OSU shows, without a doubt. </p><p>“MSNBC is a good case study on the parameters of mainstream media. There are certain lines you can't cross and when people do, there's consequences,” Michael Arria, author of the book “Medium Blue: The Politics of MSNBC,” said in an email. “Everyone I researched for my book seemed extremely earnest about what they're doing. Someone like Maddow seems genuinely convinced she can do any story she wants.”</p><p><twitterwidget data-tweet-id="738112150028222464" id="twitter-widget-2"></twitterwidget></p><p>Ratigan did not respond to multiple requests for comment. </p> Tue, 14 Jun 2016 14:33:00 -0700 Steve Horn, DeSmogBlog 1058280 at Environment Environment Fracking Media fracking oil gas fossil fuel pickens ratigan msnbc josh fox During Paris Climate Summit, Obama Signed Exxon, Koch-Backed Bill Expediting Pipeline Permits <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The legal and conceptual framework for the fast-tracking provision on pipeline permitting arose during the fight over the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_346203635.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Just over a week before the U.S. signed the Paris climate agreement at the conclusion of the COP21 United Nations summit, President Barack Obama signed a bill into law with a provision that expedites permitting of oil and gas pipelines in the United States.</p><p>The legal and conceptual framework for the fast-tracking provision on pipeline permitting arose during the fight over TransCanada’s Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. President Barack Obama <a href="" target="_blank">initially codified that concept</a> via <a href="" target="_blank">Executive Order 13604</a> — signed the <a href="" target="_blank">same day as he signed an Executive Order</a> to fast-track construction of <a href="" target="_blank">Keystone XL</a>‘s southern leg — and this provision “builds on the permit streamlining project launched by” Obama <a href="" target="_blank">according to corporate law firm Holland &amp; Knight</a>.</p><p>That 60-page streamlining provision falls on page 1,141 of the broader 1,301-page <a href="" target="_blank">FAST (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation) Act (H.R.22 and S. 1647)</a>, known in policy wonk circles as the highway bill. The provision is located in a section titled, “Federal Permitting Improvement.”</p><p>Explaining what types of projects the provision cover, <a href="" target="_blank">the bill reads</a>,</p><blockquote><p>…any activity in the United States that requires authorization or environmental review by a Federal agency involving construction of infrastructure for renewable or conventional energy production, electricity transmission, surface transportation, aviation, ports and waterways, water resource projects, broadband, pipelines, manufacturing, or any other sector as determined by a majority vote of the Council that is subject to [the National Environmental Policy Act] NEPA[and] is likely to require a total investment of more than $200,000,000.</p></blockquote><p>The provision also sets a specific timeline as to how long environmental reviews should take, setting the limit to just under half a year.</p><p>It dictates that “any decision by an agency on an environmental review or authorization must be issued not later than 180 days after the date on which all information needed to complete the review or authorization (including any hearing that an agency holds on the matter) is in the possession of the agency.”</p><p>Further, the bill vastly shortens the number of years of the statute of limitations under which legal teams can bring NEPAlawsuits in Section 41003.</p><p>“The new legislation also includes litigation reforms that reduce the NEPA statute of limitations from six years to two years generally – and 150 days for transportation projects – and requires courts to consider the effects on jobs,” <a href="" target="_blank">explains Holland&amp; Knight in a blog post</a>.</p><p>Legal scholars refer to NEPA as the “<a href="" target="_blank">Magna Carta of environmental law</a>,” somewhat akin to the First Amendment as it relates to free speech.</p><p>NEPA allows for a robust public commenting and public hearings period and environmental groups have argued on numerous instances in federal courts in recent years that the Obama Administration has <a href="" target="_blank">usurped the conventional NEPAprocess</a> in order to green-light numerous tar sands pipelines built in the years since the Keystone XLdebate began five years ago.</p><p>The bill further mandates that the Permitting Dashboard, which tracks streamlined projects’ progress under the legal auspices of Executive Order 13604, continue to exist on the website <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. It also creates a Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council, which will have an executive director appointed by the president and consist of those working for executive agencies who deal with infrastructure project permitting as part of their day-to-day duties.</p><p>Exxon, Koch Lobbying</p><p><a href=";filingID=113AD5FD-87C1-4A79-B684-548246D30869&amp;filingTypeID=69" target="_blank">ExxonMobil</a>, <a href=";filingID=F595661F-6D81-4B40-AFC1-7CB6322BE352&amp;filingTypeID=69" target="_blank">BP</a>, <a href=";filingID=4613350F-4606-4199-AC3E-935E0F1686EB&amp;filingTypeID=69" target="_blank">Shell</a>, <a href=";filingID=201D9248-6424-42CB-9C95-B0103C78CA44&amp;filingTypeID=69" target="_blank">America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA)</a>, <a href=";filingID=F675A3D5-31F3-45F5-BC71-D5BF7DD8111D&amp;filingTypeID=69" target="_blank">American Petroleum Institute (API)</a>, <a href=";filingID=C2070218-95AC-4356-93DC-EF40A8FD22F5&amp;filingTypeID=69" target="_blank">Koch Industries</a>, <a href=";filingID=FBB47C40-E65C-49D9-8F5A-AE9196A183A1&amp;filingTypeID=69" target="_blank">U.S.Chamber of Commerce</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">many</a> <a href="" target="_blank">others</a> lobbied for the FAST Act’s passage.</p><p>The highway bill subsection <a href="" target="_blank">formerly sat as a stand-alone bill</a>, the <a href="" target="_blank">Federal Permitting Improvement Act of 2015 (S.280)</a>, sponsored by U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH). A review of the list of those who lobbied for that piece of legislation by DeSmog reveals that <a href=";filingID=4B1D403D-A57A-4F2F-AAA8-CBE4D8AF7B4E&amp;filingTypeID=60" target="_blank">ExxonMobil</a>, <a href=";filingID=B728F9D2-46F7-426B-B06E-CCB30ECC1603&amp;filingTypeID=69" target="_blank">Shell</a>, <a href=";filingID=16B5385B-BF20-408E-9F23-B22124800BFC&amp;filingTypeID=69" target="_blank">Anerican Association of Oil Pipelines (AAOP)</a>, the <a href=";filingID=FD71E10E-5801-4C3A-B5BD-533C8F45EFB0&amp;filingTypeID=69" target="_blank">Gas Processors Association</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">others</a> all pushed for its passage.</p><p>Campaign finance data reviewed by DeSmog shows that Portman, up for re-election in 2016, has <a href=";cid=N00003682&amp;type=I" target="_blank">received $483,900</a> from the oil, gas and utility industry sectors (individuals and PACs, combined) so far in the campaign cycle. Portman’s campaign donors <a href=";cid=N00003682&amp;sector=E&amp;seclong=Energy+%26+Natural+Resources&amp;cat=E01&amp;induslong=Oil+%26+Gas&amp;newMem=N" target="_blank">overlap with those who lobbied for the bill</a> such as ExxonMobil, API, ANGA, Koch Industries and Shell.</p><p>Chamber of Commerce Runs Show</p><p>When the highway bill provision passed, Portman <a href="" target="_blank">issued a press release</a> featuring quotes from high-ranking building trades union officials, the National Association of Manufacturers — and probably most importantly in this case, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.</p><p>“The U.S. business community also applauds the permit streamlining provisions included in the FAST Act to coordinate and speed up the review and approval of permitting for significant infrastructure and manufacturing projects,” U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Donohue <a href="" target="_blank">stated in the Portman press release</a>. “Improving the permitting process to make our system swift but safe – one of the Chamber’s longstanding regulatory and legislative priorities – is essential for investment, development, and growth of the American economy.”</p><p>Portman has received more than any other candidate so far, <a href=";cmte=C00082040" target="_blank">to the tune of $10,000</a> so far during the election cycle, from theU.S.Chamber of Commerce and the <a href=";filingID=FBB47C40-E65C-49D9-8F5A-AE9196A183A1&amp;filingTypeID=69" target="_blank">Chamber lobbied for H.R. 22</a>. His office did not respond to repeated requests for comment sent by DeSmog.</p><p>It also appears that the Chamber of Commerce spearheaded the submission of a <a href="" target="_blank">multi-industry letter of support</a> sent to U.S.Senate members on May 4. The May 4 letter has much of the same language, verbatim, as a <a href="" target="_blank">March 3 letter</a> submitted to the Senate by the Chamber.</p><p>Including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 169 Chamber groups signed the May 4 letter, out of the 300 groups and companies signing on in total.</p><p>Metadata from the May 4 letter shows that <a href="" target="_blank">Marc Freedman</a>, executive director of Labor Law Policy and <a href=";year=2015" target="_blank">registered lobbyist</a>for the U.S.Chamber of Commerce, authored it. Before coming to work at the Chamber, Freedman served as legal regulatory counsel for the U.S.Senate Small Business Committee.</p><p>The Chamber has played the long game on this legislation, beginning its push back in 2009 by creating the website “Project No Project,” which documents energy infrastructure projects held up by “NIMBY” (not in my backyard) activists on a state-by-state basis.</p><p>“These ‘Not In My Back Yard’ folks, or NIMBYs as they are called, block energy projects by organizing local opposition, changing zoning laws, opposing permits, filing lawsuits, and bleeding projects dry of their financing,” <a href="" target="_blank">reads a website description from 2009</a>. “Through Project No Project, the U.S. Chamber seeks to provide the cold, hard truth about NIMBY and radical environmental activism, and make our leaders finally pay attention to this growing problem.”</p><p>In March 2011, the Chamber followed up on the creation of the “Project No Project” website by releasing a report titled, “<a href="" target="_blank">Progress Denied: A Study on the Potential Economic Impact of Permitting Challenges Facing Proposed Energy Projects</a>.”</p><p>Years later, it appears, the Chamber has landed what it asked for: streamlining of domestic pipelines and energy infrastructure projects, enshrined by both congressional legislation and a presidential executive order.</p><p>GE, Obama Jobs Council</p><p>In his <a href="" target="_blank">press release announcing the provision’s passage</a> in the highway bill, Portman pointed out that the recommendation to streamline permitting for pipelines and other related energy infrastructure came not only from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s report, but also from President Obama’s <a href="" target="_blank">2011 Year-End Report</a> published by his <a href="" target="_blank">Jobs Council</a>.</p><p>That report concluded that the U.S. government should go “all in” to expedite building pipelines and other fossil fuel-related projects:</p><blockquote><p>The Council recognizes that providing access to more areas for drilling, mining and renewable energy development is controversial, but, given the current economic situation, we believe it’s necessary to tap America’s assets in a safe and responsible manner. Additionally, policies that facilitate the safe, thoughtful and timely development of pipeline, transmission and distribution projects are necessary to facilitate the delivery of America’s fuel and electricity and maintain the reliability of our nation’s energy system. Over the long term, we expect that innovation and technological advancements will greatly reduce America’s reliance on fossil fuels. Until then, however, we need to be all in.</p></blockquote><p>That section of the report then ends on a thankful note:</p><p><a href="" target="_blank">Jeffrey Immelt</a>, Chairman and CEO of General Electric (GE), heads up the Jobs Council and in turn, <a href=";cid=N00003682&amp;sector=E&amp;seclong=Energy+%26+Natural+Resources&amp;cat=E07&amp;induslong=Misc+Energy&amp;newMem=N" target="_blank">GE has donated $6,000</a> so far to Portman’s U.S. Senate race run for office. GE also paid a <a href=";filingID=AC4BE8B8-2987-44B7-93FB-F8D50755C525&amp;filingTypeID=69" target="_blank">legion</a> of <a href=";filingID=65A3DEAD-150D-4929-9B00-7E00407D50CC&amp;filingTypeID=69" target="_blank">lobbyists</a> to advocate for H.R. 22.</p><p>“Keystone-ization” Nullified?</p><p>Speaking to USA Today in May 2015, <a href="" target="_blank">Martin Durbin</a> — nephew of U.S.Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and head lobbyist for the<a href="" target="_blank">hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”)</a> industry lobbying group ANGA — expressed his concern that gas pipeline projects could experience a Keystone XL redux.</p><p>“These are things that pipeline developers have had to deal with for a long time,” <a href="" target="_blank">Durbin told USA Today</a>. “But we’ve seen a change in the debate. I hesitate to put it this way, but call it the Keystone-ization of every pipeline project that’s out there, that if you can stop one permit, you can stop the development of fossil fuels. That’s changing the way we have to manage these projects.”</p><p>In the months that followed, ANGA, API (the two groups have since <a href="" target="_blank">merged into a single entity</a>) and several other oil and gas companies lobbied for and succeeded in making such a regulatory change, culminating in the passage of the FAST Act.</p><p>So is the age of “Keystone-ization” a done deal? Not everyone thinks so.</p><p>“Industry may get many things on its short-term wish list this political season, but the destruction of petrochemical NIMBY-ism as a whole is a pipe dream,” Ramsey Sprague, president of the <a href="" target="_blank">Mobile Environmental Justice Action Coalition</a> told DeSmog.</p><p>“Blockadia is rising. We are seeing more and more examples of frontline communities rising to exercise their agency over their collective futures in pursuit of environmental justice, and the season of decentralized environmental solidarity is only just beginning.”</p> Mon, 04 Jan 2016 09:00:00 -0800 Steve Horn, DeSmogBlog 1048347 at Environment Environment obama environment permit oil health TransCanada's Next Move After Keystone XL: Flood Mexico With Fracked Gas — With State Department Help <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">With the help of the U.S. State Department, TransCanada won a bid to build a 155-mile pipeline carrying gas from American fracking sites to Mexico&#039;s electricity grid. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_310423325.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>TransCanada, the owner of the recently-nixed northern leg of the Keystone <span class="caps">XL</span> tar sands pipeline, has <a href="" target="_blank">won a bid from Mexico's government</a> to build a 155-mile pipeline carrying gas from <a href="" target="_blank">hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”)</a> in the United States to Mexico's electricity grid. </p><p>The company has benefited from <a href="" target="_blank">Mexico's energy sector privatization promoted by the <span class="caps">U.S.</span> State Department</a>, the same agency that denied a permit to the U.S.-Canada border-crossing Keystone <span class="caps">XL</span>. TransCanada said in a press release that <a href="" target="_blank">construction on the $500 million line will begin in 2016</a> and it will be called the Tuxpan-Tula Pipeline. </p><p>This is not the first pipeline system TransCanada will oversee in Mexico. The company <a href="" target="_blank">already owns four other systems</a>, with two operational and two under construction. But it is the first pipeline the company will own during Mexico's energy sector privatization era, a policy in place due to <a href="" target="_blank">constitutional amendments passed in 2013</a>.</p><p>“By 2018, with the Tuxpan-Tula Pipeline, TransCanada will have five major pipeline systems, with approximately <span class="caps">US</span>$3 billion invested in Mexico,” <a href="" target="_blank">TransCanada stated in a press release</a>. “We will continue to pursue additional opportunities for new energy infrastructure projects in Mexico going forward.”</p><p><span style="line-height: 17.6px;">Tuxpan-Tula connects to a series of pipelines <a href="" target="_blank">originating in Nueces, Texas</a> and eventually crossing the U.S.-Mexico border via the </span><span style="line-height: 1.1em;"><a href="" target="_blank">Sur de Texas–Tuxpan gas pipeline</a>, a $3.1 billion project slated to cross <a href="" target="_blank">underwater through the Gulf of Mexico</a>. The set of pipelines will move <a href="" target="_blank">gas obtained from fracking in Texas' Eagle Ford Shale</a> to Mexico's electricity grid.</span></p><p>The lines are part of a <a href=";cd=23&amp;hl=en&amp;ct=clnk&amp;gl=us" target="_blank">broader package of 12 gas pipelines and infrastructure projects</a> worth $10 billion planned by the Mexican government, which, if all built, will total <a href=";cd=21&amp;hl=en&amp;ct=clnk&amp;gl=us" target="_blank">more than 3,100 miles of pipelines</a>. </p><p>Though the <a href="" target="_blank">Mexican government publicly denied</a> the <span class="caps">U.S.</span> had any involvement in helping to usher in privatization of Mexico's energy sector, <a href="" target="_blank">as first revealed by DeSmog</a>, it appears the State Department has tracked gas pipeline developments in Mexico closely.</p><p>In the June 2015 edition of the State Department's Overseas Business Insights newsletter, an article titled “<a href="" target="_blank">Mexico: Pipeline and Electricity Tenders</a>” read:</p><blockquote><p>The natural gas pipeline project tenders will enable Mexico to import more natural gas from the United States via onshore and offshore pipelines. Mexico’s current natural gas production is 6.6 billion cubic feet per day (bcf/d), while imports from the United States in 2015 average approximately 1.2 bcf/d.</p></blockquote><p>The State Department also published an <a href="" target="_blank">article about the status of Mexico's energy grid privatization efforts</a> in the July 2015 edition of <span style="line-height: 17.6px;">Overseas Business Insights. </span></p><p><span style="line-height: 17.6px;"><strong>Global Shale Gas Initiative</strong></span></p><p>As Bloomberg explained in a November 10 article, Mexico's consumption of <span class="caps">U.S.</span> fracked gas will keep the <span class="caps">U.S.</span> shale gas industry and fracking afloat during a time of depressed prices on the market. </p><p><span class="dquo">“</span>That’s the sleeper story,” Richard Ennis, head of natural resources at <span class="caps">ING</span> Capital <span class="caps">LLC</span>, <a href="" target="_blank">told Bloomberg</a>. “In Mexico, if you look at how much natural gas they use, it’s tiny. All these new pipelines are going to triple their daily use. It’s pretty dramatic.”</p><p>The State Department's push to privatize Mexico's energy and electricity sector and the flooding of Mexico with <span class="caps">U.S.</span> shale gas fits under the broader umbrella of its <a href="" target="_blank">Unconventional Gas Technical Engagement Program</a>, formerly <a href="" target="_blank">known as the Global Shale Gas Initiative</a>.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560"></iframe></p><p><strong>RELATED STORIES</strong></p><p><strong><a href="">David Beating Goliath: Long Battle Fought for Keystone XL Rejection</a></strong></p><p><strong><a href="">The Keystone XL Pipeline Debate Is Over, but Our Infrastructure Needs Are Not</a></strong></p><p><strong><a href="">Obama Rejects Keystone XL Pipeline in Victory for Environmental Activists</a></strong></p><p><strong><a href="">FBI Violated Its Own Rules While Spying on Keystone XL Opponents</a></strong></p><p><em>Keep up to date with important environment news and opinion; <a href="">sign up</a> to receive AlterNet's weekly environment newsletter.</em></p> Thu, 12 Nov 2015 10:28:00 -0800 Steve Horn, DeSmogBlog 1045683 at Environment Environment Fracking Video World fracking transcanada mexico natural gas fossil fuel pipeline energy electricity Greenwash: Shell May Remove "Oil" From Name as It Moves to Tap Arctic, Gulf of Mexico <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Marvin Odum, president of Shell Oil Company, said the name Shell Oil “is a little old-fashioned.&quot;</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_170607611.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Shell Oil</a> has announced it may take a page out of the <a href="" target="_blank">BP “Beyond Petroleum”</a> greenwashing book, <a href="" target="_blank">rebranding itself as something other than an oil company</a> for its United States-based unit.</p><p><a href="" target="_blank">Marvin Odum</a>, director of Shell Oil's upstream subsidiary companies in the Americas, <a href="" target="_blank">told Bloomberg</a> the name Shell Oil “is a little old-fashioned, I’d say, and at one point we’ll probably do something about that” <a href="" target="_blank">during a luncheon interview with Bloomberg News co-founder Matt Winkler</a> (beginning at 8:22) at the recently-completed <a href="" target="_blank">Shell-sponsored Toronto Global Forum</a>.<br /><br />“Oil,” said Odum, could at some point in the near future be removed from the name.</p><p>Odum's comments come as Shell has moved aggressively to drill for <a href="" target="_blank">offshore oil in the Arctic</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">deep offshore in the Gulf of Mexico</a>, while also maintaining a heavy footprint in <a href="" target="_blank">Alberta's tar sands oil patch</a>.</p><p><strong>RELATED: <a href="" target="_blank">Shell CEO Admitted He's Not Familiar with Company's Arctic Oil Spill Response Plan</a></strong></p><p><a href="" target="_blank">Shell also recently acquired BG (British Gas) Group</a>, a company that owns numerous assets in the global <a href="" target="_blank">liquefied natural gas (LNG)</a> industry, transforming the company into what Forbes hailed as a “<a href="" target="_blank">world LNG giant</a>.” </p><p>Winkler quipped in Toronto that due to this major asset purchase, it might be more accurate to call Shell Oil, “Shell Gas.”</p><p>In October 2011, <a href="" target="_blank">BG Group signed a major contract</a> with the U.S.-based LNG giant <a href="" target="_blank">Cheniere</a> to ship its gas product obtained via <a href="" target="_blank">hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”)</a> to the global market. That LNG will begin to flow <a href="" target="_blank">by the end of the year</a>.</p><p><strong>RELATED: <a href="" target="_blank">Shell’s U.S. Arctic Drilling Will Harass Thousands of Whales and Seals</a></strong></p><p>Just a week before Odum told Winkler that Shell may take “oil” out its company name, he <a href="" target="_blank">appeared on Bloomberg News</a> on the sidelines of the Aspen Ideas Festival to boast about his company's big plans — <a href="" target="_blank">plans to drill for oil in the deep offshore Gulf of Mexico Appomattox field</a>. At Aspen, Odum called Appomattox a “world class oil and gas project.” </p><p><strong>“Shell Candy Company”</strong></p><p>Those fighting against Shell's plans to drill in the Arctic responded with anger to Odum's comments. </p><p>“They can call themselves Shell Candy Company for all anyone cares, but the point is that they are still making a product that is toxic and destructive and people are going to see that,” Karthik Ganapathy, the U.S. communications manager for, <a href="" target="_blank">told VICE News</a>. “Companies don't want to be associated with words like petroleum and oil anymore. They want to window dress it so they can hide what they are doing.”</p><p><strong>RELATED: <a href="" target="_blank">Battling the Death Star: Seattle Kayaktivists Slow Arctic-Bound Shell Oil Rig as Fight Goes On</a></strong></p><p>Shell says for now that the company hasn't officially begun the rebranding.</p><p>“No action has been taken on this. It was really a hypothetical question and answer,” Kelly op de Weegh, head of Shell's U.S. media relations, told VICE News.</p><p><strong>YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE</strong></p><p><strong><a href="">Shell Accused of Strategy Risking Catastrophic Climate Change</a></strong></p><p><strong><a href="">Shell to Resume Arctic Drilling Off Alaska as Green Groups Warn of Disaster</a></strong></p><p><strong><a href="">See How Close Oil Drilling Will Get to Arctic Whales This Summer</a></strong></p><p><strong><a href="">BP Agrees to Pay Largest Environment Settlement in U.S. History for Gulf Oil Spill</a></strong></p><p><strong><a href="">Why a Brave College Student Chained Herself to an Oil Ship for Three Days</a></strong></p><p><strong><a href="">Why We Shouldn't Be Surprised by the Santa Barbara Oil Spill</a></strong></p><p> </p> Tue, 14 Jul 2015 09:08:00 -0700 Steve Horn, DeSmogBlog 1039303 at Environment Environment Fracking shell oil oil bp greenwash greenwashing Marvin Odum Toronto Global Forum DeSmogBlog arctic offshore oil drilling oil drilling gulf of mexico liquefied natural gas lng BG Group alberta tar sands canada toronto Cheniere fracking hydraulic fracking Appomattox Keystone XL South Approval Ruled Legal by Appeals Court <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Sierra Club had argued that by issuing a permit, the Army Corps helped TransCanada dodge more rigorous National Environmental Policy Act process, thus violating the law.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/6323728892_302582e34e_z.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>In a 3-0 vote, the U.S. Appeals Court for the Tenth Circuit has <a href="" target="_blank">ruled</a> that the southern leg of TransCanada's <a href="" target="_blank">Keystone XL</a> pipeline was permitted in a lawful manner by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. </p><p><a href="" target="_blank">Keystone XL South</a> was approved via a controversial <a href="" target="_blank">Army Corps Nationwide Permit 12</a> and an accompanying <a href="" target="_blank">March 2012 Executive Order from President Barack Obama</a>. The pipeline, <a href="" target="_blank">open for business since January 2014</a>, will now carry <a href="" target="_blank">tar sands</a> crude from Cushing, Oklahoma to Port Arthur, Texas without the cloud of the legal challenge hanging over its head since 2012.</p><p>The Sierra Club and co-plaintiffs already <a href="" target="_blank">lost their Appeals Court legal challenge</a> to impose an injunction and stop <a href="" target="_blank">diluted bitumen (“dilbit”)</a> from flowing through Keystone XL South back in October 2013. Now that same Court, albeit different judges, have ruled that the pipeline approval process itself was also legally acceptable.</p><p><strong>Blame the victim</strong></p><p>At its core, the case centered around legal issues pertaining to the March 2012 Obama White House Executive Order and accompanying Army Corps' Nationwide Permit 12 issued to <a href="" target="_blank">TransCanada</a> to build Keystone XL South. Sierra Club and co-plaintiffs had argued that by issuing a Nationwide Permit 12, the Army Corps helped TransCanada dodge the more rigorous <a href="" target="_blank">National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)</a> process, thus violating NEPA.</p><p>The judges begged to differ, saying no violation of NEPA transpired because Sierra Club never mentioned concerns during the public commenting period, such as potential oil spills. In turn, argued one judge, that was not something “obvious” the Corps should have examined. </p><p><a href="" target="_blank">Judge Robert E. Bacharach</a>, an <a href="" target="_blank">Obama-appointee</a>, wrote:</p><blockquote><p>We may assume, for the sake of argument, that the Corps knew that issuance of the nationwide permit could lead to installation of oil pipelines, which in turn could create environmental risks from oil spills … Regardless of whether that view was correct, it went unchallenged in the public comments for theissuance of Nationwide Permit 12 and the State Department’s consideration of the Keystone XL Pipeline.</p></blockquote><p>Not mentioned by Bacharach: the Nationwide Permit 12 process, unlike a NEPA review, does not allow for public comment. Nor does it have public hearings. For example, at a June 2012 press conference, Texas-based landowner David Daniel <a href="" target="_blank">decried the lack of chances to comment publicly</a> on Keystone XL South.</p><p>Despite lack of an opportunity to submit public comments to the Corps on Keystone XL South, another judge used the same argument to side with TransCanada and the Army Corps.</p><p>“I conclude that Sierra Club’s argument that the Corps improperly deferred portions of its NEPA analysis to the verification stage was not made to the agency during the reissuance process and is therefore waived,” wrote <a href="" target="_blank">Judge Carolyn McHugh</a>, another <a href="" target="_blank">Obama-appointee</a>. “Sierra Club has pointed to no part of the record in which any commenter objected to the Corps’ decision to defer parts of its NEPA analysis to the district engineers or prospective lead agency.”</p><p>McHugh made that conclusion even though she sided with the Sierra Club's argument that the Corps' review was ultimately inadequate in its scope.</p><p>“To be sure, accounting in advance for the broad range of possible impacts resulting from the wide variety of utility lines authorized under NWP 12 is a daunting task,” she wrote. “But compliance with NEPA is not excused simply because compliance is difficult.”</p><p><strong>No NEPA, no problem</strong></p><p>A federal court ruling came to an <a href="" target="_blank">analogous conclusion</a> in August 2014 for Enbridge's <a href="" target="_blank">Flanagan South</a> pipeline, also permitted via the Army Corps' Nationwide Permit 12 process.</p><p>A <a href="" target="_blank">similar case remains on the docket</a> for the U.S. District for the District of Minnesota as it pertains to what environmental groups have called an “illegal scheme” that avoided a NEPA review. The “scheme” was used to permit Enbridge's <a href="" target="_blank">Alberta Clipper</a> expansion project.</p><p>Those <a href="" target="_blank">Enbridge</a> dilbit-carrying pipelines are two of the three pieces of what DeSmog has coined the “<a href="" target="_blank">Keystone XL Clone</a>,” which like the <a href="" target="_blank">Keystone Pipeline System</a>, brings Alberta's tar sands crude down to Gulf coast refineries and <a href="" target="_blank">in small quantities, for now, onto the global export market</a>.</p><p>No NEPA review for tar sands-carrying pipelines that cross the borders of many states and in the case of Alberta Clipper, the U.S.-Canada border? At least for now, federal courts and the Obama Administration have made clear, no problem.</p> Tue, 02 Jun 2015 02:41:00 -0700 Steve Horn, DeSmogBlog 1037232 at Environment Environment News & Politics keystone xl pipeline nepa army corps transcanada Fed Court Says Deadly 'Bomb Train' Cars Can Continue to Roll <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Despite disturbing safety risks, volatile crude oil will continue to speed through communities. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_1373180785546-2-0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>A U.S. federal <a href="">court has ordered a halt</a> in proceedings until May in a case centering around <a href="">oil-by-rail</a> tankers pitting the Sierra Club and ForestEthics against the U.S.Department of Transportation (DOT). As a result, potentially explosive DOT-111 oil tank cars, dubbed “bomb trains” by activists, can continue to roll through towns and cities across the U.S. indefinitely.  </p><p>“The briefing schedule previously established by the court is vacated,” wrote Chris Goelz, a mediator for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. “This appeal is stayed until May 12, 2015, or pending publication in the Federal Register of the final tank car standards and phase out of DOT-111 tank cars, whichever occurs first.”</p><p><a href=" Shot 2015-01-22 at 5.36.32 PM.png"><img alt="Order to Delay DOT-111 Bomb Trains Case" src="" style="height: 632px; width: 630px;" /></a><br />Image Credit: <a href="">U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit</a></p><p>Filing its <a href="">initial petition for review on December 2</a>, the Sierra Club/ForestEthics lawsuit had barely gotten off the ground before being delayed.</p><p>That initial petition called for a judicial review of the DOT's denial of a <a href="" target="_blank">July 15, 2014 Petition to Issue an Emergency Order Prohibiting the Shipment of Bakken Crude Oil in Unsafe Tank Cars</a> written by EarthJustice on behalf of the two groups. On November 7, <a href="">DOT denied Earthjustice's petition</a>, leading the groups to file the lawsuit.</p><p>Initially, DOT told the public it would <a href="" target="_blank">release its draft updated oil-by-rail regulations by March 31</a>, but now will wait until May 12 to do so. As reported by The Journal News, the delay came in the aftermath of pressure from Big Oil and Big Rail.</p><p>“In a joint filing, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) and the American Petroleum Institute (API) contend the tank car industry doesn’t have the capacity to retrofit the estimated 143,000 tank cars that would need to be modernized to meet the new specifications,” <a href="" target="_blank">wrote The Journal News</a>. “Nor can manufacturers build new tank cars fast enough, they say.” </p><p>The “<a href="">bomb trains</a>” carrying volatile crude oil obtained via <a href="">hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”)</a>from the <a href="">Bakken Shale</a>, then, will continue to roll unimpeded for the foreseeable future. They will do so in the same <a href="">DOT-111</a> rail cars that put the fracked oil-by-rail safety issue on the map to begin with — the <a href="" target="_blank">July 2013 deadly explosion in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec</a>.</p><p>And as DeSmogBlog has reported, <a href="">industry promises to phase-out DOT-111s on a voluntary basis have rung hollow</a>.</p><p>“The courts and the administration are dragging their feet on common sense safety steps that will take the most dangerous oil tanker cars off the tracks, slow down these trains, and help emergency responders prepare for accidents,” Eddie Scher, communications director for ForestEthics, told DeSmogBlog.</p><p>“We filed our lawsuit because the DOT is not moving fast enough on safety. This court's decision ignored the imminent threat to the <a href="" target="_blank">25 million Americans who live in the blast zone</a> and the communities around the nation that don't have the luxury of waiting for DOTand the rail and oil industry lobbyists to finish their rule.”</p> Fri, 23 Jan 2015 06:15:00 -0800 Steve Horn, DeSmogBlog 1030741 at Environment Fracking bakken crude DOT-111 bomb trains 'Darn! I Hate That Oil's Dropping,' Declares Mississippi Governor <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Worried that it could hurt the fracking industry, Phil Bryant says low fuel prices are a mixed blessing. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/governor_phil_bryant.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Outgoing <a href="" target="_blank">Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC)</a> chairman <a href="" target="_blank">Phil Bryant</a> — Mississippi's Republican Governor — started his farewell address with a college football joke at IOGCC's recent annual conference in Columbus, Ohio.</p><p>“As you know, I love SEC football. Number one in the nation Mississippi State, number three in the nation Ole Miss, got a lot of energy behind those two teams,” Bryant said in opening his October 21 speech. “I try to go to a lot of ball games. It's a tough job, but somebody's gotta do it and somebody's gotta be there.”</p><p>Seconds later, things got more serious, as Bryant spoke to an audience of oil and gas industry executives and lobbyists, as well as state-level regulators. </p><p>At the <a href="" target="_blank">industry-sponsored convening</a>, which I attended on behalf of DeSmogBlog, it was hard to tell the difference between industry lobbyists and regulators. The <a href="" target="_blank">more money pledged by corporations, the more lobbyists invited </a>into IOGCC's meeting.</p><p>Perhaps this is why Bryant framed <a href="" target="_blank">his presentation</a> around “where we are headed as an industry,” even though officially a statesman and not an industrialist, before turning to his more stern remarks.</p><p>“I know it's a mixed blessing, but if you look at some of the pumps in Mississippi, gasoline is about $2.68 and people are amazed that it's below $3 per gallon,” he said.</p><p>“And it's a good thing for industry, it's a good thing for truckers, it's a good thing for those who move goods and services and products across the waters and across the lands and we're excited about where that's headed.”</p><p>Bryant then discussed the flip side of the “mixed blessing” coin.</p><p>“Of course the <a href="">Tuscaloosa Marine Shale</a> has a little problem with that, so as with most things in life, it's a give and take,” <a href="">Bryant stated</a>. “It's very good at one point and it's helping a lot of people, but on the other side there's a part of me that goes, 'Darn! I hate that oil's dropping, I hate that it's going down.' I don't say that out-loud, but just to those in this room.”</p><p>Tuscaloosa Marine Shale's “little problem” reflects a big problem the oil and gas industry faces — particularly smaller operators involved with <a href="">hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) </a>— going forward.</p><p>That is, fracking is expensive and relies on a high global price of oil. A plummeting price of oil could portend the plummetting of many smaller oil and gas companies, particularly those of the sort operating in the Tuscaloosa Marine.</p> Wed, 26 Nov 2014 05:37:00 -0800 Steve Horn, DeSmogBlog 1027704 at Fracking Economy Environment Fracking The Right Wing Frackng mississippi Drilling Deeper: New Report Casts Doubt on Fracking Production Numbers <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The future of fracking is not nearly as bright as industry cheerleaders suggest. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/process_of_mixing_water_with_fracking_fluids_to_be_injected_into_the_ground.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p><a href="" target="_blank">Post Carbon Institute</a> has published a report calling into question the production statistics touted by promoters of <a href="">hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”)</a>. By calculating the production numbers on a well-by-well basis for shale gas and tight oil fields throughout the U.S., Post Carbon concludes that the future of fracking is not nearly as bright as industry cheerleaders suggest. </p><p>The report, “<a href="" target="_blank">Drilling Deeper: A Reality Check on U.S. Government Forecasts for a Lasting Tight Oil &amp; Shale Gas Boom</a>,” authored by Post Carbon fellow <a href="" target="_blank">J. David Hughes</a>, updates an earlier report<a href="" target="_blank"> he authored for Post Carbon in 2012</a>.</p><p>Hughes analyzed the production stats for seven tight oil basins and seven gas basins, which account for 88-percent and 89-percent of current shale gas production.</p><p>Among the key findings: </p><p>-By 2040, production rates from the <a href="">Bakken Shale</a> and <a href="">Eagle Ford Shale</a> will be less than a tenth of that projected by the Energy Department. For the top three shale gas fields — the <a href="">Marcellus Shale</a>, Eagle Ford and Bakken — production rates from these plays will be about a third of the EIA forecast.</p><p>-The three year average well decline rates for the seven shale oil basins measured for the report range from an astounding 60-percent to 91-percent. That means over those three years, the amount of oil coming out of the wells decreases by that percentage. This translates to 43-percent to 64-percent of their estimated ultimate recovery dug out during the first three years of the well's existence.</p><p>-Four of the seven shale gas basins are already in terminal decline in terms of their well productivity: the <a href="">Haynesville Shale</a>, <a href="">Fayetteville Shale</a>, <a href="">Woodford Shale</a>and <a href="">Barnett Shale</a>.</p><p>-The three year average well decline rates for the seven shale gas basins measured for the report ranges between 74-percent to 82-percent. </p><p>-The average annual decline rates in the seven shale gas basins examined equals between 23-percent and 49-percent. Translation: between one-quarter and one-half of all production in each basin must be replaced annually just to keep running at the same pace on the drilling treadmill and keep getting the same amount of gas out of the earth.</p><p>The report’s findings differ vastly from the forward-looking projections published by the <a href="http://energy%20information%20agency/" target="_blank">U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA)</a>, a statistical sub-unit of the <a href="">U.S.Department of Energy (DOE)</a>.</p><p>The findings also come just days after Houston Chronicle reporter <a href="" target="_blank">Jennifer Dlouhy</a> reported that in a briefing over the summer, EIA Administrator <a href="">Adam Sieminski</a> told her it was EIA’s job to “tell the industry story” about tight oil and shale gas production. </p><p>“We want to be able to tell, in a sense, the industry story,” <a href="" target="_blank">Sieminski told Dlouhy, as reported in the Chronicle</a>. “This is a huge success story in many ways for the companies and the nation, and having that kind of lag in such a rapidly moving area just simply isn't allowing that full story to be told.” </p><p>The independent story, though, opens up a window to tell a different tale. </p><p>“The Department of Energy’s forecasts—the ones everyone is relying on to guide our energy policy and planning—are overly optimistic based on what the actual well data are telling us,” Hughes — a geoscientist who formerly analyzed energy resources for over three decades for the Geological Survey of Canada — said in a press release about the reporting’s findings. </p><p>“By asking the right questions you soon realize that if the future of U.S. oil and natural gas production depends on resources in the country’s deep shale deposits…we are in for a big disappointment in the longer term.”</p><p><strong>“Sweet Spots” and the “Drilling Treadmill”</strong></p><p>According to Hughes’ number-crunching, four of the top seven shale gas fields have already peaked: the Haynesville, Barnett, Woodford and Fayetteville. But three of those are actually doing the opposite and increasing their production: the Marcellus, Eagle Ford and Bakken, though the latter two are primarily fracked oil fields. </p><p><span style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; letter-spacing: 0.03em; line-height: 1.5em;">Further, the report </span>points to the phenomenon first discussed in the original Post Carbon report back in 2012: that of the “drilling treadmill,” or having to drill more and more wells just to keep production levels flat. The report argues that drillers hit the “sweet spots” first to maximize their production, do so for a few years until production begins to decline terminally, and then start drilling in spaces with less rich oil and gas bounties. </p><p>A case in point: Post Carbon projects the Bakken and Eagle Ford Shale basins — the two most productive oil plays — will produce 730,000 barrels of oil per day in 2040. EIA, meanwhile, says 1.04 million barrels per day of oil will be pumped from the ground at that point.</p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 1em; padding: 0px; color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Verdana, 'Helvetica Neue', helvetica, Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; letter-spacing: 0.389999985694885px; line-height: 19.5px;"><img alt="" src="" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; width: 450px; height: 334px;" /><br style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px;" /><em style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; letter-spacing: 0.389999985694885px; font-size: 11px;">Graphic Credit: <a href="" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; color: rgb(51, 153, 204); text-decoration: none;" target="_blank">Post Carbon Institute</a></em></p><p>“One of the keys to the so-called ‘shale revolution’ is supposed to be technological innovation, making plays ever-more productive in the face of the steep well decline rates and the move from ‘sweet spots’ to lower quality parts of plays,” <a href="" target="_blank">wrote Post Carbon in an introduction to the report for members of the media</a>. “But despite years of concerted efforts, average well productivity has gone flat in all the major shale gas plays except the Marcellus.”</p><p>The Bakken and Eagle Ford serve as Exhibit A and Exhibit B of the mechanics of how the “sweet spot” phenomenon works in action.</p><p>“Field declines from the Bakken and Eagle Ford are 45% and 38% per year, respectively,” <a href="" target="_blank">wrote Hughes</a> in the executive summary. “This is the amount of production that must be replaced each year with more drilling in order to maintain production at current levels.”</p><p>For gas, it’s the same story, centering around “sweet spots” and the “drilling treadmill.”</p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 1em; padding: 0px; color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Verdana, 'Helvetica Neue', helvetica, Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; letter-spacing: 0.389999985694885px; line-height: 19.5px;"><img alt="" src="" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; width: 450px; height: 298px;" /><br style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px;" /><em style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; font-size: 11px; letter-spacing: 0.389999985694885px;">Graphic Credit: <a href="" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; color: rgb(51, 153, 204); text-decoration: none;" target="_blank">Post Carbon Institute</a></em></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 1em; padding: 0px; color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Verdana, 'Helvetica Neue', helvetica, Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; letter-spacing: 0.389999985694885px; line-height: 19.5px;"><strong><em style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; font-size: 11px; letter-spacing: 0.389999985694885px;"></em><span style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;">EIA Guessing at Numbers and Figures?</span></strong></p><p>So where do the EIA’s rosy statistics originate? Post Carbon Institute <a href="" target="_blank">posed its own questions directly to the EIA</a>, while also saying one has to look at the difference between proven and unproven reserves to understand EIA's data. </p><p>“Shale gas producers and the EIA report ‘proved reserves,’ a definition with legal weight describing hydrocarbon deposits recoverable with current technology under current economic conditions,” <a href="" target="_blank">they write</a>. “The EIA also estimates ‘unproved technically recoverable resources’ which have loose geological constraints and no implied price required for extraction, and hence are uncertain.”</p><p>Also implicit in the rosy numbers and figures is that cash will continue to be injected into capital-intensive shale gas and oil production operations. </p><p>So far, the industry and its financiers have received a blessing from the U.S.Federal Reserve: <a href="" target="_blank">zero-percent interest rates</a> to obtain <a href="" target="_blank">junk debt bonds to finance fracking since 2008</a>. But with the <a href="" target="_blank">Federal Reserve considering hiking rates</a>, economics could change quickly on the feasibility of continued unfettered shale oil and gas extraction. </p><p>Hughes said his findings are based on “best case scenarios” and rule out external conditions that could reverse the drilling treadmill, including hiked interest rates. </p><p>“Other factors that could limit production are public pushback as a result of health and environmental concerns, and capital constraints that could result from lower oil or gas prices or higher interest rates,” he wrote. “As such factors have not been included in this analysis, the findings of this report represent a ‘best case’ scenario for market, capital, and political conditions.”</p><p><strong>False Premises, False Promises</strong></p><p>The Obama Administration’s climate and energy policy rides on the assumption of decades more domestic oil and gas obtained from fracking.</p><p>Indeed, the shale boom has created a revolution of sorts for corporate interests across the supply chain from the world of plastics to manufacturing to the pipeline business and far beyond, creating something akin to a “complex.” </p><p>Asher Miller, executive director for Post Carbon Institute, said the enthusiasm in what to some may seem like a nearly infinite future of shale oil and gas is a “false premise” that has manufactured “<a href="" target="_blank">false promises</a>.” Hughes echoed these sentiments in the report's conclusion.</p><p>“The assumption that natural gas will be cheap and abundant for the foreseeable future has prompted fuel switching from coal to gas, along with investment in new generation and gas distribution infrastructure, investment in new North American manufacturing infrastructure, and calls for exporting the shale gas bounty to higher-priced markets in Europe and Asia,” he wrote.</p><p>“Given these assumptions—and the investments being made and planned because of them—it is important to understand the long-term supply limitations of U.S.shale gas,” Hughes suggests. </p> Mon, 27 Oct 2014 09:35:00 -0700 Steve Horn, DeSmogBlog 1024795 at Environment Fracking News & Politics fracking oil drilling energy Navy SEAL Chief Behind bin Laden Raid: Keystone XL Would Be a Terror Target <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Security report says that operational security vulnerabilities have been overlooked by the Feds. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_2184538.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Dave Cooper, Command Master Chief SEAL(Retired) for the <a href="" target="_blank">Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU)</a>, has <a href="">authored a threat assessment </a>concluding<a href="">TransCanada</a>'s Keystone XL <a href="">tar sands</a> pipeline is potentially at-risk of a terrorism attack. </p><p>In the report, Cooper concluded operational security vulnerabilities for the pipeline have been overlooked by the U.S.government. Cooper —  <a href="" target="_blank">most famous for overseeing the Abbottabad, Pakistan Osama Bin Laden raid</a> as the commander of Navy SEAL Team Six — wrote the report as a consultant for billionaire <a href="">Tom Steyer</a>'s advocacy group <a href="">NextGen Climate Action</a>. </p><p>“The very nature of Keystone XL’s newsworthiness, should it ever be built, increases its attractiveness as a target to terrorists: Keystone XL, aside from being a 'soft' target just like any other pipeline, has a built-in emotional impact that can’t be denied or wished away,” he wrote in the report's introduction.</p><p>“That simple fact, a newsworthy proposal that engenders strong passions, should clue in pipeline owners and government officials to the very real possibility of intentional attack.”</p><p>For the report, Cooper utilized a <a href="" target="_blank">“red cell” methodology</a>, parlance for U.S. special operations forces performing pre-mission reconnaissance, using open source data readily available to terrorists on the internet. In so doing, the special operations forces snuff out operational security (“OpSec” in military lingo) weaknesses, which they use as actionable intelligence in defense missions.</p><p>In the report, Cooper explained he “designed [the methodology this way] to showcase weaknesses in the current reality by exploiting the same information to which an outside terrorist group would have access.”</p><p>Cooper's probe included a due diligence trip out to the Sand Hills region of Nebraska, where<a href="" target="_blank">Phase I</a> of the <a href="" target="_blank">Keystone Pipeline System</a> is currently operational (the northern leg of<a href="">Keystone XL</a> is <a href="" target="_blank">Phase IV</a>). Going out into the field, Cooper came away shocked by his discoveries.</p><p>His findings raise a troubling question: have real Keystone XL terrorism threats been ignored, while <a href="">non-violent activists have been labeled potential eco-terrorists</a>? Cooper offered his take on this question to DeSmogBlog.</p><h3>“No Sight” of Active Security Program</h3><p>Cooper said he mapped out his entire Nebraska trip by using a maps of the Keystone Pipeline System he found online. </p><p>“In military parlance, the site visit at [redacted] was a 'cold shot,' done with no advance preparation or planning, using only information and intelligence gathered from publicly available sources,” wrote Cooper.</p><p><img alt="" src="" style="float: right;" /><br />TransCanada Keystone Pipeline System; Image Credit: <a href="" target="_blank">Wikimedia Commons</a></p><p>“[redacted] was selected because it has both a valve and pumping station for the operational Keystone 1, it is somewhat near Keystone XL’s route, and it is roughly similar to the proposed Keystone XL – with presumably the same level of security as the proposed pipeline.”</p><p>Once on the ground, Cooper found absolutely nothing indicating an active security program. </p><p>“I was able to freely approach, then stand at a Keystone 1 pump station for over 15 minutes snapping photos,” he wrote. “I was not approached, questioned or even noticed at any point.”</p><p>Cooper concluded that in a worst case scenario, a dozen terrorists could cause a seven million gallon spill by attacking the pipeline at three points. And that's if TransCanada were to have perfect execution of shut-down protocol.</p><h3>KXL and FBI/DHS Fusion Centers</h3><p>In concluding his report, Cooper pays homage to domestic intelligence agencies for practicing <a href="" target="_blank">predictive policing</a>. </p><p>“This assessment also cannot speak for the innumerable and valiant efforts of our intelligence agencies, those who strive daily to defeat terrorists 'upstream' before they can actually act on their designs,” wrote Cooper. “Their persistent actions in our defense could very well thwart any such pipeline attack during the terrorists’ observation, orientation and decision phases.”</p><p>DeSmogBlog has reported on these predictive policing efforts as it pertains to KeystoneXL. And the results, put mildly, haven't been pretty. </p><p><a href="">Documents obtained by Bold Nebraska and reported on here</a> in June 2013 revealed TransCanada and the Nebraska-based Department of Homeland Security (DHS)/U.S.Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Fusion Center <a href="">labeled non-violent activists as possible candidates for terrorism charges</a> and other serious criminal charges.</p><p><img alt="" src="" /></p><p>This tension existing between protecting national security and protecting civil liberties brings ire to <a href="" target="_blank">Shahid Buttar</a>, executive director for the <a href="" target="_blank">Bill of Rights Defense Committee</a>.</p><p>“Throughout the 1990s, the principal targets of US counter-terror investigations were environmental activists who planned non-violent acts,” he told DeSmogBlog. </p><p>“If the northern leg of Keystone XL pipeline becomes operational, the security concerns of fossil fuel companies could be used once again, <a href="" target="_blank">like they were in Pennsylvania only a few years ago</a>, to justify government intelligence agencies undermining the constitutional rights of environmentalists to peacefully organize and dissent.”</p><p>Asked about these concerns by DeSmogBlog, Cooper agreed with Buttar.</p><p>“The focus on protesters and activists is somewhat shortsighted,” he said. “It's not like activism is a gateway drug to terrorism and it amounts to profiling (like racial profiling). Just following around protesters or activists isn't the answer. What you see is all there is.”</p><p>“An activist's intentions typically revolve around disobedience in all its forms. While most might get arrested, it's typically for stuff like trespassing. A real mean bunch!”</p><p>A recent historical case study and parallel is also instructive and sobering.</p><p><img alt="" src="" style="float: right;" /><br />Boston Marathon bombers Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Tamerlan Tsarnaev; Photo Credit: <a href="" target="_blank">Wikimedia Commons</a></p><p>The Boston-based FBI/DHS Fusion Center poured <a href="" target="_blank">massive amounts of resources into monitoring Occupy Boston activists rather than the would-be Boston Marathon bombers</a>, as revealed in a May 2013 investigative report published by NBC News.</p><h3>Mr. Cooper Goes to Washington</h3><p>According to an <a href="" target="_blank">article appearing in National Journal</a>, Cooper has already presented his findings to both U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM). </p><p>NextGen spokesman Mike Casey told DeSmogBlog that NextGen also delivered a copy of the report to <a href="" target="_blank">Carlos Pascual</a>, Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs for the U.S. State Department.</p><p><img alt="" src="" style="float: left;" /><br />Carlos Pascual, U.S. State Department Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs; Photo Credit: <a href="" target="_blank">U.S. State Department</a></p><p>The letter delivery — as opposed to an actual meeting — took place after Pascual canceled a meeting they had set late on the afternoon of Friday, May 30. They had planned to meet the following Monday.</p><p>NextGen has provided DeSmogBlog with a copy of that tersely-crafted email.</p><p><img alt="" src="" style="height: 393px; width: 622px;" /></p><p>According to Casey, the State Department told NextGen the next opening it had for a meeting was in mid-August. </p><p>“The State Department’s review of the Presidential Permit application for the proposed project – and the ultimate determination of whether granting a permit serves the national interest – will take a number of factors into consideration, including the national security of the United States,” <a href="" target="_blank">the State Department told The Huffington Post</a>.</p><h3>“Serious National Conversation”</h3><p>Cooper concluded the threat assessment by highlighting why he took on the study. </p><p>“My goal in releasing this version of the assessment is to provide federal officials and the public with the information on this vulnerability to take it into account – and take steps to address it,” <a href="">he said in a press release</a> provided to DeSmogBlog. “We need a serious national conversation about what we do to head off an attack.”</p><p>But this is also a tale about where best to pool resources — and where not to — in the name of national security. Cooper has opened a new chapter in the ongoing saga that is the debate over Keystone XL's northern leg.</p> Fri, 06 Jun 2014 06:51:00 -0700 Steve Horn, DeSmogBlog 1000078 at Environment Environment Fracking World keystone xl fracking climate change terrorism Obama Delaying Keystone XL Decision Until After 2014 Election <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Is the Obama administration playing politics with the timing of the decision, inoculating Democrats in congressional races from voter backlash? </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_26209717.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p><a href="" target="">Reuters</a> and <a href="" target="">Politico</a> broke a major story today that <a href="">TransCanada</a>'s northern leg of the <a href="">Keystone XL</a> <a href="">tar sands</a> pipeline will not be decided on until after the 2014 mid-term elections.</p><p>“The U.S. State Department will…extend the government comment period on the KeystoneXL pipeline, likely postponing a final decision on the controversial project until after the November 4 midterm elections,” <a href="" target="">Reuters explained</a>.</p><p>Secretary of State John Kerry and President Barack Obama have final say over whether the pipeline will be built because it crosses the U.S.-Canada border.</p><p>Reporters learned of the decision after a call between high-level congressional staff and State Department officials. </p><p>“The justification is the need to wait on continued litigation over a Nebraska court decision earlier this year, which threw part of the project’s route in doubt, two sources said today after a call between the State Department and congressional staff,” <a href="" target="">reported Politico</a>.</p><p>In the end, the decision came down to politics, according to Politico, though there are no shortage of climate change and ecological concerns for the prospective pipeline.</p><p>“A delay past November would spare Obama a politically difficult decision on whether to approve the pipeline, angering his green base and environmentally minded campaign donors — or reject it, endangering pro-pipeline Democrats,” <a href="" target="">they reported</a>.</p><p><strong>Proponents and Opponents Respond</strong></p><p>Twitter has been abuzz since rumors of the announcement started swirling and many prominent individuals with a stake in the fight have already chimed in.</p><p>“Keystone XL delay further proof that State Department has bungled this process and has no business overseeing environmental reviews,” <a href="" target="">tweeted</a> Friends of the Earth Senior Campaigner <a href="" target="">Ross Hammond</a>.</p><p><a href="" target="">Bill McKibben</a> — whose organization <a href=""></a> led the civil disobedience <a href="">Tar Sands Action</a> in summer 2011 that put the Keystone XL and <a href="">tar sands</a> on the map for many — also responded. </p><p>“It's as if our leaders simply don't understand that climate change is happening in real time–that it would require strong, fast action to do anything about it. While we're at it, the State Department should also request that physics delay heat-trapping operations for a while, and that the El Nino scheduled for later this spring be pushed back to after the midterms. One point is clear: without a broad and brave movement, DC would have permitted this dumb pipeline in 2011. So on we go.”<br /><br />Elijah Zarlin, CREDO's senior campaign manager, said: “It is deeply disappointing that Secretary Kerry and President Obama can’t yet muster the courage to stand up to the oil industry and reject Keystone XL. Still, this is yet another defeat for TransCanada, tar sands developers like the Koch Brothers, and oil-soaked politicians. No doubt, the nearly 100,000 people who have pledged to risk arrest to stop Keystone XL played a key role in pushing the administration to more accurately consider the full impact of this project - which must clearly result in rejection. No delays will diminish our commitment to stopping Keystone XL.”</p><p>On the other side, Fox News referred to the decision as a “<a href="http://friday%20news%20dump/" target="">Friday News Dump</a>” and the <a href="" target="">Koch Brothers-funded American Energy Alliance</a> (AEA) <a href="" target="">tweeted</a>, “Most had never even heard of @justinbieber back when @TransCanada applied for #KeystoneXL permits,” alluding to the fact Keystone XL has now been up for debate for five years. </p><p>Industry-funded <a href="">Energy in Depth</a> spokesman <a href="" target="">Steve Everly</a> echoed AEA. </p><p>“It took the U.S. less than 4 years to win two theaters in World War II,” <a href="" target="">stated Everly</a>. “It's been five years and we can't approve a metal pipe.”</p><p>One thing's for certain: the prospective pipeline will likely become a major politico “hot potato” in the months leading up to the November 2014 elections. </p> Mon, 21 Apr 2014 04:56:00 -0700 Steve Horn, DeSmogBlog 983830 at Environment Election 2016 Environment Fracking News & Politics keystone xl barack obama Lake Michigan Oil Spill: Did Toxic Tar Sands Pour Into One of Our Largest Fresh-Water Resources? <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">BP is not revealing what kind of oil its Whiting refinery spilled into the lake, but all signs point to highly-toxic tar sands. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/whiting.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Is it conventional crude or <a href="">tar sands</a>? That is the question. And it's one with high stakes, to boot. </p><p>The BP Whiting refinery in Indiana <a href="">spilled between 470 and 1228 gallons of oil (or is it tar sands?) into Lake Michigan</a> on March 24 and four days later no one really knows for sure what type of crude it was. Most signs, however, point to tar sands. </p><p>The low-hanging fruit: the refinery was recently retooled as part of its “<a href="" target="_blank">modernization project</a>,” which will “provide Whiting with the capability of processing up to about 85% heavy crude, versus about 20% today.”</p><p>As <a href="" target="_blank">Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)</a> Midwest Program Director <a href="" target="_blank">Henry Henderson</a> explained in a 2010 article, “heavy crude [is] code for tar sands.”</p><p>Albeit, “heavy crude” is produced in places other than Alberta's tar sands, with Venezuela serving as the world's other tar sands-producing epicenter. So, in theory, if it's heavy crude that spilled into Lake Michigan, it could be from Venezuela.</p><p>But in practice, the facts on the ground tell a different story. As a <a href="" target="_blank">January 2014 article in Bloomberg</a> outlined, the combination of the U.S. <a href="">hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”)</a> boom and the Canadian tar sands boom has brought U.S. imports of Venezuelan oil to <a href="" target="_blank">28-year lows</a>.</p><p>Which brings us to the next question: how does the Canadian “heavy crude” get to BP's Whiting refinery to begin with? Enter: <a href="" target="_blank">Enbridge's Line 6A pipeline</a>.</p><h3>Alberta Clipper/Line 6A</h3><p><a href="">Dan Goldblatt, a spokesman for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management</a>, told DeSmogBlog he wasn't sure what type of oil was spilled into Lake Michigan from the BP Whiting refinery  — which goes back to why it's just being referred to as “oil” at this point by officials.</p><p>Goldblatt said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will be looking into it as part of its investigation.</p><p>“Right now they're more focused on recovery than on what type of oil it is,” Goldblatt said. “That's a little further down the line.”</p><p>When asked about which pipeline feeds the BP Whiting refinery beast, Goldblatt told DeSmogBlog it's Enbridge's Line 6A pipeline.</p><p><img alt="" src="" style="height: 374px; width: 612px;" /></p><p>Enbridge Line 6A; Map Credit: <a href="" target="_blank">Enbridge</a></p><p>Part of <a href=";tmi=1824&amp;tmt=5" target="_blank">Enbridge's “Lakehead System,”</a> Line 6A stretches from Superior, Wis., to Enbridge's Griffith/Hartsdale holding terminal in northwest Indiana.  </p><p>“Lakehead System serves all the major refining centers in the Great Lakes…through its connection with the affiliated Canadian pipeline,” <a href=";tmi=1824&amp;tmt=5" target="_blank">explains Enbridge's Lakehead System website</a>. “Total deliveries on the Lakehead System averaged 1.65 million [barrels per day] in 2009, meeting approximately…70 percent of the refinery capacity in the greater Chicago area.”</p><p><a href="" target="_blank">Enbridge's Line 67 (AKA Alberta Clipper)</a> pipeline <a href="" target="_blank">serves as the corridor</a> between Alberta's tar sands and Line 6A. Alberta Clipper <a href="" target="_blank">currently awaits a capacity expansion permit</a> from the U.S. State Department, which it applied for in November 2012 and needs because it's a U.S.-Canada border-crossing line.</p><p>It was <a href="" target="_blank">originally approved by President Barack Obama's State Department in August 2009</a>.</p><p>If approved, Line 67's expansion would morph it from a 450,000 barrels per day pipeline to a 570,000 barrels per day pipeline. Its “full design capacity is 880,000 [barrels per day] of heavy crude oil,” (emphasis mine) according to the <a href="" target="_blank">expansion application it submitted to the State Department</a>. </p><p><img alt="" src="" style="height: 381px; width: 612px;" /></p><p>Map Credit: <a href="" target="_blank">U.S. Department of State</a></p><p>Hydrocarbon Technologies, which <a href="" target="_blank">offers</a> “market insight tools covering all segments of the global hydrocarbons market,” also points to the ties that bind Alberta's tar sands, Enbridge's Line 6A and the BP Whiting refinery.</p><p>“Once the modernisation project is complete, BP aims to increase the use of Canadian crude from oil sands via the Enbridge [Line 6A] pipeline, which runs from Alberta to Illinois,” <a href="" target="_blank">explains Hydrocarbon Technologies</a>.</p><p>In 2010, Line 6A spilled in a major way in Romeoville, Ill., with <a href="" target="_blank">6,050 barrels of oil escaping</a>. An account in oil and gas industry trade publication PennEnergy explains the pipeline was carrying “heavy crude oil.”</p><p>“When the leak occurred, the Line 6A was transporting approximately 459,000 barrels per day of heavy crude oil,” <a href="" target="_blank">the reporter detailed</a>.</p><h3>The “Dilbit Disaster” Connection</h3><p>Line 6A is connected to the 2010 spill of over <a href="" target="_blank">843,000 gallons of tar sands into the Kalamazoo River</a>, a Lake Michigan tributary. Literally.</p><p>When oil arrives at Enbridge's Griffith, Ind., terminal from Line 6A, much of it <a href="" target="_blank">continues northeast on the connecting Line 6B pipeline</a>.</p><p><img alt="" src="" style="height: 320px; width: 612px;" /></p><p>Map Credit: <a href="" target="_blank">Enbridge</a></p><p>That line was the one responsible for the “<a href="" target="_blank">dilbit disaster</a>,” as coined by InsideClimate News, because it was carrying tar sands <a href="" target="_blank">diluted bitumen, or “dilbit.”</a> More than three years after that spill, <a href="" target="_blank">clean up efforts are still ongoing</a>.</p><h3>“Tar Sands Name Game”</h3><p>After the 2010 Kalamazoo River, the same debate over what type oil had spilled ensued. Chicago-based investigative journalist Kari Lydersen coined it the “<a href="" target="_blank">tar sands name game</a>.”</p><p>“[L]inguistic gymnastics around the definition of tar sands have a long history,” <a href="" target="_blank">she wrote</a>. “Industry officials have sought to avoid the increasingly negative connotations of tar sands extraction, which has a devastating effect on boreal forests and produces huge carbon emissions.”</p><p>And of course, it's called “heavy crude” for a reason: it's heavy. That means it can and will sink in freshwater sources like Lake Michigan or the Kalamazoo River. It <a href="" target="_blank">did just that in Kalamazoo, making it exceedingly difficult to clean up</a>.</p><p>With a drinking water source for seven million people at stake, this “tar sands name game” is one with high stakes indeed.</p> Fri, 28 Mar 2014 11:17:00 -0700 Steve Horn, DeSmogBlog 976100 at Environment Environment Fracking Water Lake Michigan oil spill Southern Half of Keystone XL Pipeline Set to Start Operations, But Report Says It's Not Safe <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Public Citizen has released a chilling report revealing the southern line is plagued by dents, faulty welding, exterior damage that was patched up poorly and misshapen bends, among other troubling anomalies.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/screen_shot_2013-11-12_at_10.43.41_am.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p><em>This <a href="">story</a> first appeared on <a href="">DeSmogBlog</a>.</em></p><p>The <a href="">southern half</a> of Transcanada's <a href="">Keystone XL</a> tar sands pipeline is supposed to begin pumping up to <a href="" target="_blank">700,000 barrels of diluted bitumen per day</a> through the Cushing, OK to Port Arthur, TX route within weeks. But is it ready to operate safely?<br /><br /><a href="" target="_blank">Public Citizen</a> has released a chilling report revealing that the 485-mile KXL southern line is plagued by dents, faulty welding, exterior damage that was patched up poorly and misshapen bends, among other troubling anomalies.</p><p>In conducting its investigative report, "<a href="">Construction Problems Raise Questions About the Integrity of the Pipeline</a>," Public Citizen worked on the ground to examine 250 miles of the 485 mile pipeline's route. The group<em> </em>and its citizen sources uncovered over 125 anomalies in that half of the line alone. These findings moved Public Citizen to conclude the southern half of the pipeline shouldn't begin service until the anomalies are taken care of, and ponders if the issues can ever be resolved sufficiently.</p><p>After President Barack Obama temporarily <a href="" target="_blank">denied a permit for Keystone XL's northern half in January 2012</a>, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers granted Keystone XL's south half a <a href="">legally dubious Nationwide Permit 12</a> to expedite construction. Soon after, President Obama issued <a href="" target="_blank">his own Executive Order in March 2012 calling for the expedited building of the south half</a> in de facto support of the Corps' permit. </p><p>An August report by industry intelligence firm Genscape said the pipeline, rebranded by Transcanada as the "<a href="" target="_blank">Gulf Coast Project</a>," will ship tar sands dilbit through the line beginning in the first quarter of 2014. Now, the race to build the south half literally looks like it could come with major costs and consequences.  </p>Photos: Keystone XL South Half Anomalies <p>The photos below of Keystone XL southern half's anomalies mostly speak for themselves, though Public Citizen's report gives them the extra context they deserve. Public Citizen has <a href="" target="_blank">placed additional photos up on Flickr</a>. </p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="298" width="396"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="298" width="396" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/screen_shot_2013-11-12_at_10.40.14_am.png" /></div><p>Pinholes in the applied coating can lead to exposing underlying pipe damage to leakage.</p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="291" width="392"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="291" width="392" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/screen_shot_2013-11-12_at_10.42.19_am.png" /></div><p>Multiple coating patches over new pipe about to be placed into the trench during initial construction.</p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="293" width="393"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="293" width="393" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/screen_shot_2013-11-12_at_10.43.41_am.png" /><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --><div class="field field-name-field-image-source field-type-text field-label-above"><div class="field-label">Photo Credit: </div><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Public Citizen</div></div></div> </div><p>Close up of section of Keystone XL southern half's pipe marked "junk" by TransCanada.</p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="312" width="393"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="312" width="393" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/screen_shot_2013-11-12_at_10.44.46_am.png" /></div><p>Front of a cut out section of pipe on citizen David Whatley's land marked "Dent Cut Out."</p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="292" width="396"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="292" width="396" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/screen_shot_2013-11-12_at_10.46.07_am.png" /></div><p>A dent anomaly on the exterior cut out section of pipe. The dent was about the size of a brick.</p><p> </p>Public Citizen Demands PHMSA, Congress, White House Weigh In<p>Public Citizen has called for a U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA) investigation into its findings. They have also called on Congress and the Obama White House to step up to the plate.</p><p>"Public Citizen...calls on Congress to hold oversight hearings to ensure that PHMSA investigates the anomalies [and] conducts a quality assurance review," the report says. </p><p>Further, Public Citizen states these Keystone XL southern half blunders coupled with the 12<a href="" target="_blank"> spills that took place</a> in the <a href="" target="_blank">original Transcanada Keystone</a> tar sands pipeline's first operational year must be part of the calculus for Keystone XL's northern half for the Obama State Department. And for the southern half, Public Citizen has called for a "time out."</p><p>“The government should investigate, and shouldn’t let crude flow until that is done,” <a href="" target="_blank">Tom Smith</a>, Director of Public Citizen’s Texas office said in a press statement. "Given the stakes – the potential for a catastrophic spill of hazardous crude along a pipeline that traverses hundreds of streams and rivers and comes within a few miles of some towns and cities – it would be irresponsible to allow the pipeline to start operating. </p><p>"TransCanada’s history with pipeline problems speaks for itself and I fear we could be looking at another pipeline whose integrity may be in question."</p><p>Photo Credit: <em>Public Citizen</em></p> Tue, 12 Nov 2013 10:38:00 -0800 Steve Horn, DeSmogBlog 922903 at Environment Environment kxl keystone tar sands Warren Buffett Invests Big Time in Tar Sands <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Tar sands is about to make one of President Obama&#039;s major campaign contributors a whole lot richer.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_74521771.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p><em><a href="">This story</a> first appeared on <a href="">DeSmog Blog</a>.</em></p><p>Warren Buffett - the <a href="" target="_blank">fourth richest man on the planet</a> and <a href="">major campaign contributor to President Barack Obama in 2008</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">2012</a> - may soon get a whole lot richer.</p><p>That's because <a href="" target="_blank">he just bought over half a billion bucks worth of Suncor Energy stock</a>: $524 million in the second quarter of 2013, to be precise, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings. <a href="" target="_blank">Suncor is a major producer</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">marketer of tar sands via its wholly owned subsidary Petro-Canada</a> (<a href="" target="_blank">formerly Sunoco</a>) and this latest development follows a trend of Buffett enriching himself through dirty investments and deal-making. </p><p>So far in 2013, Suncor (<a href="" target="_blank">formerly Sun Oil Company</a>) has produced 328,000 barrels per day of tar sands crude.</p><p>Though he receives far less negative press than the Koch Brothers, Buffett's no deep green ecologist. Not in the slightest. </p><p>Referred to as <a href="" target="_blank">one of 17 "Climate Killers"</a> by <em>Rolling Stone</em>'s Tim Dickinson in a January 2010 story, Buffett owns the behemoth holding company, Berkshire Hathway. It's through Berkshire that he's making a killing - while simultaneously killing the ecosystem - through one of its most profitable wholly-owned assets: Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF).</p><p>Buffett purchased BNSF for $26 billion and was "the largest acquisition of Buffett's storied career," Dickinson wrote.</p><p>BNSF <a href="" target="_blank">hauls around frac sand</a> for the controversial horizontal oil and gas drilling process known as "<a href="">fracking</a>." The rail company also moves fracked oil <a href="" target="_blank">from North Dakota's Bakken Shale basin</a>, tar sands <a href="">logistical equipment and tar sands crude itself</a> and <a href="">tons of coal</a>. And not only does Buffett's BNSF haul around ungodly amounts of coal, he actually owns coal-burning utility companies, too.</p><p>"BNSF is the nation's top hauler of coal, shipping some 300 million tons a year. That's enough to light up 10 percent of the nation's homes — many of which are powered by another Berkshire subsidiary, MidAmerican Energy," Dickinson explained. </p><p>Beyond MidAmerican Energy, Buffett also owns the coal-burning <a href="" target="_blank">PacifiCorp</a> and his BNSF freight trains are largely responsible for the coal export boom unfolding in the northwest corridor of the United States.</p><p>"PacifiCorp...owns the most coal plants in the West and recently unveiled a long-term energy plan that did not include a single wind project over the next ten years," explained a <a href="" target="_blank">recent blog post written by the <em>Sierra Club</em></a>. "And Warren Buffett is still involved with one of the biggest coal-burning schemes of all -- ongoing plans to export" </p><p>"Buffett's BNSF Railway would be the primary transporter of that coal, and the company has tried to get the coal export terminals approved over the objections of thousands of activists across the Pacific Northwest."</p><p>And as his slam dunk, Buffett also has <a href="" target="_blank">plans to convert BNSF's freight trains to utilize fracked shale gas</a>. He then plans to use those same shale gas-powered trains to transport fracked shale oil from North Dakota (<a href="" target="_blank">5-percent of BNSF's total shipments and 190,000 cars/week</a>), a win-win for Buffett and a <a href="">lose-lose for the ecosystem and the climate</a>. </p><p>"We have a couple locomotives we're experimenting with this year on it. The railroads are definitely experimenting with converting to natural gas," <a href="" target="_blank">he told CNBC's Jim Cramer in a March 2013 interview</a>. "[Y]ou've got to look at converting any kind of an engine to natural gas."</p><p>'Tis quite the list of "dirty deeds" by the man coined the "Oracle of Omaha." And relative to his uber-wealth - to cue up the <a href="" target="_blank">AC/DC - they're "done dirt cheap."</a></p> Mon, 19 Aug 2013 11:05:00 -0700 Steve Horn, DeSmogBlog 884597 at Environment Environment tar sands suncor warren buffet Arkansas Hires Notorious Private Contractor With History of Cover-Ups To Oversee Clean Up Mayflower Tar Sands Spill <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Witt O&#039;Brien&#039;s has had its hands in the botched clean-up efforts of almost every high-profile oil spill disaster in recent U.S. history.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_1357235477665-3-0_4.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p> </p><p>Arkansas' Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has contracted out the "independent analysis of the cleanup" of the <a href="">ExxonMobil Pegasus tar sands pipeline spill</a> to Witt O'Brien's, a firm with a history of oil spill cover-ups, a DeSmogBlog investigation reveals. </p><p>At his April 10 press conference about the Mayflower spill response, AG McDaniel confirmed that <a href="">Exxon had turned over 12,500 pages of documents</a>to his office resulting from a subpoena related to Exxon's response to the March 29 Pegasus disaster. A <a href="">22-foot gash</a> in the 65-year-old pipeline <a href="" target="_blank">spewed over 500,000 gallons</a> of <a href="" target="_blank">tar sands dilbit</a> through the streets of Mayflower, AR. </p><p>McDaniel also provided the media <a href="" target="_blank">with a presser explaining that his office had</a>"retained the assistance of Witt O’Brien’s, a firm whose experts will immediately begin an independent analysis of the cleanup process." </p><p>Witt O'Brien's <a href="" target="_blank">describes itself</a> as a "global leader in preparedness, crisis management and disaster response and recovery with the depth of experience and capability to provide services across the crisis and disaster life cycle."</p><p>But the firm's actual performance record isn't quite so glowing. <a href=";Post+generic=?tid=sm_twitter_washingtonpost" target="_blank">O'Brien's has had its hands</a> in the botched clean-up efforts of almost every high-profile oil spill disaster in recent U.S. history, including the Exxon Valdez spill, the BP Deepwater Horizon spill, the Enbridge tar sands pipeline spill into the Kalamazoo River, and Hurricane Sandy. </p><p>Most troubling of all, Witt O'Brien's won a "<a href="" target="_blank">$300k+ contract to develop a Canadian-US compliant Oil Spill Emergency Response Plan for TransCanada’s Keystone Oil Pipeline Project</a>" in Aug. 2008.</p><p>Thus, if the Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline inevitably suffered a major spill, Witt O'Brien's would presumably handle the cleanup. That should worry everyone along the proposed KXL route.</p><h3>From OOPS, Inc. to Witt O'Brien's</h3><p>In Dec. 2012, Witt Associates <a href="" target="_blank">merged with</a> O’Brien’s Response Management to form Witt O’Brien’s. The merger at-large is owned by Seacor Holdings.</p><p>O'Brien's was formed in the early 1980s by Jim O'Brien - a former U.S. Coast Guard officer - as <a href="" target="_blank">O'Brien Oil Pollution Service, otherwise known by OOPS, Inc</a>. That's not a joke, it was their actual name.<br /><br />OOPs, Inc. was acquired by Seacor Holdings Inc. under the auspices of Seacor Environmental Services division in 1997, later renamed The O'Brien's Group (TOG). TOG was later re-named O’Brien’s Response Management Inc. in Oct. 2008. </p><p>Importantly, in Dec. 2009, O'Brien's acquired a powerful public relations spin machine wing, as its <a href="" target="_blank">former website explains</a>:</p><blockquote><p>In December of 2009, O’Brien’s completed the successful acquisition of PIER (Public Information Emergency Response) Systems Inc., a crisis communications company that has developed the PIER software application, an all-in-one, web-based solution for communications management, public relations, media monitoring, employee notification, and business continuity.</p></blockquote><p>Witt Associates, meanwhile, was founded by <a href="" target="_blank">James Witt</a>, former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) under President Bill Clinton who also served Gov. Clinton in Arkansas as head of the state's Office of Emergency Services. He started <a href="" target="_blank">Witt Associates</a> upon leaving his Clinton Administration post.  </p><h3>Oil and Gas Industry Ties Run Deep at Witt O'Brien's</h3><p>Many of Witt O'Brien's clients are oil and gas industry giants and many of its employees formerly worked for the industry.</p><p>Tim O'Leary, its Vice President of Communications, <a href="" target="_blank">formerly worked for Shell Oil's Media Relations and Crisis Management team</a>. Don Costanzo, Senior Vice President Business Applications at Witt O'Brien's, formerly had a client list that included BP, ExxonMobil and Shell during his time spent as head of Renfroe &amp; Company,<a href=";cd=3&amp;hl=en&amp;ct=clnk&amp;gl=us" target="_blank">according to his LinkedIn page</a>.</p><p><a href="" target="_blank">Steve Candito, President and CEO of National Response Corporation</a> (NRC), is a former ExxonMobil employee, serving as a marine engineer aboard its domestic tanker fleet from 1980-1985. He is a "member of the Boards of Directors of various SEACOR Environmental Services entities (which owns Witt O'Brien's)," <a href="" target="_blank">according to his biographical sketch on the NRC webpage</a>. </p><p>A March 2011 version of the <a href="" target="_blank">O'Brien's Response Management website shows a client list</a> including ExxonMobil, BP and Transocean (of <a href="" target="_blank">Deepwater Horizon</a> infamy), ConocoPhillips and pipeline industry giant Kinder Morgan. </p><p>One of Witt Associates' <a href="" target="_blank">former clients is ICF International</a>, where Energy Secretary nominee <a href="">Ernest Moniz sits on ICF's Board of Directors</a>. ICF was one of the three oil and gas industry-tied consulting firms contracted out by the U.S. State Department<a href="" target="_blank">on behalf of TransCanada</a> to conduct the <a href="">Keystone XL Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement</a>.</p><h3>Enbridge Kalamazoo River Tar Sands Pipeline Spill: A Literal Cover-Up</h3><p>In July 2010, one of Enbridge's tar sands pipelines spilled over 1 million gallons of tar sands dilbit into the Kalamazoo River in an incident now known by close observers as the "<a href="">dilbit disaster</a>," the worst inland pipeline spill in U.S. history. </p><p>O'Brien's was hired for cleanup duties. A whistleblower later revealed that O'Brien's engaged in a literal cover-up on behalf of Enbridge. </p><p>An excerpt from the <a href="" target="_blank">three-part investigation by NRDC's OnEarth magazine explains it in a nutshell</a>:</p><blockquote><p>On...September 6, [2010], Jason Buford, a representative from O’Brien’s Response Management...called a meeting...[and] said that, if they were going to meet deadline now, they needed to stop wasting time with small oil-clogged areas. He directed [a] crew to go through the woods, thin out oily debris, and mix mud into the remaining oil so that the EPA would clear the site. </p></blockquote><p>The whistleblower was fired when he spoke out against O'Brien's demands to cover up oil and threatened to go to the press and government authorities.</p><p>“I want you to spread out the oil,” the <a href="" target="_blank">whistleblower's attorney said to OnEarth in explaining O'Brien's demands</a> in April 2012. “Rake it into the soil. Cover it with grass. Cover it with leaves. I want you to hide it -- to dupe the EPA and the (Michigan Department of Natural Resources).”</p><h3>BP Deepwater Horizon Dispersant Cover-Up and Exxon Valdez</h3><p>Witt O'Brien's was also involved in the cleanup effort for the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, the worst oil spill in U.S. history, as well as for the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the second worst in U.S. history.</p><p>Seacor Environmental Services, which owns Witt O'Brien's, was one of the <a href="" target="_blank">parties responsible for spraying</a> the <a href="" target="_blank">toxic chemical oil dispersant Corexit</a> into the Gulf of Mexico during the BP Deepwater Horizon blowout, according to an Aug. 2010 story in The Wall Street Journal. </p><p>Anne Landman, writing for PR Watch, explained that <a href="" target="_blank">Corexit does not actually clean up oceanic spills</a>.</p><blockquote><p>BP's Web site gives the impression that dispersants "clean and control" ocean oil spills by putting the oil in a state where "it becomes a feast for the naturally-occurring microbes that inhabit the ocean." But dispersants do not clean the water, nor do they remove oil at all, but rather re-arrange where it exists, and change where it goes. </p></blockquote><p>BP applied roughly 1.1. million gallons of surface dispersant in the Gulf and over 720,000 gallons of subsea dispersant. It is a "<a href="" target="_blank">science experiment</a>" - as Aaron Viles of the Gulf Restoration Network put it - whose impacts are still unknown on water, on water-based animals, and on water-based animals when converted into consumable food. </p><p>Corexit was also applied during the Exxon Valdez oil spill, a <a href="" target="_blank">disaster response O'Brien's helped oversee</a>, according to its website. </p><p>O'Brien's also helped with the damage control in the form of PR spin for the Deepwater Horizon disaster. </p><p>Brad Johnson, then writing for Think Progress, explained that Witt O'Brien's PIER Systems was "being used by Unified Command for media and public information management” during the Deepwater Horizon spill in an article titled, "<a href="" target="_blank">BP’s Secret Army Of Oil Disaster Contractors</a>." <a href="" target="_blank">BP was listed as one of PIER's clients</a> in a 2008 version of its website. </p><p>Former Bush Administration FEMA head of External Affairs, <a href="" target="_blank">John "Pat" Philbin, got a gig as Senior VP of PIER</a> upon leaving FEMA.  </p><h3>Jeb Bush in the Fray</h3><p>In Sept. 2011, Jeb Bush - brother of former President George W. Bush and former Republican Governor of Florida - <a href="" target="_blank">joined the O'Brien's team</a>.</p><p>"Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, through his firm Old Rhodes Holdings LLC, and O’Brien’s Response Management (O’Brien’s), a wholly owned subsidiary of SEACOR Holdings Inc. (NYSE: CKH), today announced a strategic partnership to facilitate O’Brien’s growth into new markets," <a href="" target="_blank">explained an O'Brien's press release</a>. </p><p>George W. Bush's first FEMA Director, Joe Allbaugh, called for privatization of FEMA's functions. </p><p>"Expectations of when the federal government should be involved and the degree of involvement may have ballooned beyond what is an appropriate level," <a href="" target="_blank">he once said</a>. "We must restore the predominant role of State and local response to most disasters."</p><p>2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney also <a href="" target="_blank">called for the full-privatization of FEMA</a> during one of the presidential debates.  </p><h3>Crisis Communications and Keystone XL: Spill Cleanup or Image Cleanup?</h3><p>Witt O'Brien's has been tasked by TransCanada to oversee spill response for its prospective Keystone XL tar sands pipeline that will bring the dilbit from Alberta to Port Arthur, TX, after which it will be <a href="" target="_blank">placed on the global export market</a>.</p><p>Yet its track record in Valdez, the Gulf of Mexico, Kalamazoo and now in Arkansas indicates that O'Brien's is more interested in PR damage control than spill cleanup. <a href="" target="_blank">Crisis management</a> is a <a href="" target="_blank">key aspect of Witt O'Brien's</a> client offerings, and its spin machine is currenly likely working just as hard as its actual spill clean-up team.</p><p>With <a href="" target="_blank">Lake Conway and its accompanying cove now contaminated</a> with tar sands dilbit, <a href="">22 households evacuated</a> in Mayflower, it's no wonder ExxonMobil is running the show both <a href="" target="_blank">by land</a> and <a href="">by air</a> there. Yet, Attorney General McDaniel is taking spill cleanup advice from a firm known for cover-up and not clean-up, all under the guise of a robust independent investigation of Exxon.</p><p>This can't end well, and begs the unpleasant question as to whether the same situation can be expected for the Keystone XL.</p> Sun, 14 Apr 2013 14:21:00 -0700 Steve Horn, DeSmogBlog 824589 at Environment Witt o'breins arkansas oil clean up Revealed: Obama's DOE Nominee Ernest Moniz Is Super Cozy With Tar Sands, Oil and Gas Industries <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">As Congress is set to review Moniz&#039;s nomination, here&#039;s what you should know.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/ap00051101494-296x300.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Congress will review the Obama Administration's <a href="" target="_blank">nomination of Ernest Moniz</a> for Secretary of the Department of Energy (DOE) in hearings that start<a href="" target="_blank"> today, April 9</a>.</p><p>Moniz has come under fire for his outspoken support of <a href=" at energy" target="_blank">nuclear power</a>,<a href="" target="_blank">hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") for shale gas</a> and the overarching "all-of-the-above" energy policy advocated by both <a href="" target="_blank">President Barack Obama</a> and his Republican opponent in the last election, <a href="" target="_blank">Mitt Romney</a>. </p><p>Watchdogs have also discovered that Moniz has worked as a <a href="" target="_blank">long-time corporate consultant for BP</a>. He has also received the "<a href="" target="_blank">frackademic</a>" label for his time spent at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). At his MIT job, Moniz regularly accepted millions of dollars from the oil and gas industry to sponsor studies under the auspices of <a href="" target="_blank">The MIT Energy Initiative</a>, which has received <a href="" target="_blank">over $145 million over its seven-year history</a> from the oil and gas industry. </p><p>MIT's "<a href="" target="_blank">The Future of Natural Gas</a>" report, covered by many mainstream media outlets without any effort to question who bankrolled it, was <a href="" target="_blank">funded</a> chiefly by the<a href="" target="_blank">American Clean Skies Foundation</a>, a front group for the shale gas industry's number two domestic producer, Chesapeake Energy. That report concluded that gas is a "bridge fuel" for a renewable energy future and said that shale gas exports were in the best economic interests of the United States, which should "<a href="" target="_blank">not erect barriers to natural gas imports and exports</a>." </p><p>As first revealed on DeSmogBlog, <a href="">Moniz is also on the Board of Directors of ICF International</a>, one of the three corporate consulting firms tasked to perform the Supplemental Environmental Impact Study (SEIS) for <a href="">TransCanada's Keystone XL (KXL) tar sands pipeline</a>. KXL is slated to bring tar sands - also known as <a href="" target="_blank">"diluted bitumen," or "dilbit"</a> - from Alberta to Port Arthur, TX, where it will be sold to the highest bidder on the <a href="" target="_blank">global export market</a>. </p><p>Moniz earned over $300,000 in financial compensation in his two years sitting on the Board at ICF, plus whatever money his <a href="" target="_blank">10,000+ shares of ICF stock</a> have earned him. </p>Moniz's American Petroleum Institute Ties to Shale Gas Export Advocacy<p>Another controversial oil and gas industry export plan exists for fracking.</p><p>In this arena, the DOE - via the consulting firm <a href="">National Economic Research Associates (NERA)</a>, a firm with <a href="">historical ties to Big Tobacco</a> - said exports of the U.S. shale gas bounty (LNG exports) were in the best economic interests of the U.S. in its long-awaited Dec. 2012 report.</p><p>In a <a href="" target="_blank">Feb. 2013 follow-up report</a> the American Petroleum Institute (API) sang the same tune, agreeing with the NERA assessment. In actuality, that report was not even done by API itself, but instead was <a href="" target="_blank">outsourced to ICF International</a>.<br /><br />If he receives congressional confirmation, this means Moniz will jump ship from his ICF Board of Directors position and have the final say over DOE LNG export decisions. </p><p>While heading the MIT Energy Initiative, Moniz also worked alongside <a href="" target="_blank">John Deutch</a>.</p><p>Deutch headed the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) under President Bill Clinton and now serves as head of the Board of Directors of Cheniere Energy, a corporation that <a href="" target="_blank">owns many proposed LNG export terminals along the Gulf coast</a>. </p><p>Cheniere was the <a href="">first corporation to sign a deal to export gas from its Sabine Pass terminal</a> and it recently filed a <a href="" target="_blank">request to the DOE to expand that terminal's holding capacity</a>. He also headed the <a href="">DOE fracking subcommittee</a> convened by President Obama in May 2011, which <a href="">consisted entirely of oil and gas industry insiders</a>.</p><p>Further, the <a href="">Vice President of ICF International is Karl Hausker</a>, the <a href="">husband of Kathleen "Katie" McGinty</a>, one of the members of the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Hydraulic Fracturing Advisory Panel and also a member of the DOE fracking subcommittee. She recently threw her name into the ring as a <a href="" target="_blank">Democratic Party gubernatorial candidate for the 2014 election in Pennsylvania</a>.</p><p><a href="">On top of her public sector appointments</a>, McGinty is also an Operating Partner alongside former PA Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell at Element Partners, a Philadelphia, PA-based firm that has capital investments in several firms operating in the Marcellus Shale. McGinty also serves on the Board of Directors of <a href="" target="_blank">NRG Energy</a>, an electric utility that owns natural gas-fired power plants (and coal and nuclear ones, too - aka "all of the above") throughout the U.S. </p>Obama's Binders Full of Conflicts-of-Interest on LNG ExportsOn top of the recent Cheniere proposal to the DOE to expand capacity of its Sabine Pass terminal (and therefore, its ability to export more gas to the global market), Dominion recently announced it will be <a href="" target="_blank">submitting a proposal to the DOE to expand the size of its proposed Lusby, MD-based Dominion Cove Point LNG export terminal</a>.  In other words, the gas industry isn't joking about its desires to export shale gas to the global market, despite paying homage to the necessity to frack for "<a href="" target="_blank">national security</a>" and domestic energy purposes.   Public Accountability Initiative's (PAI) report on Moniz, Deutch and the MIT Energy Initiative at-large titled, "<a href="" target="_blank">Industry Partner or Industry Puppet?</a>" raises the logical take-away question. It's one that at this point seems more rhetorical than Socratic in nature: "Will a similar team be installed at the Department of Energy under Moniz, and will it continue this advocacy for LNG exports from a new position of influence?" <a href="" target="_blank">Tyson Slocum</a>, head of the Energy Program at <a href="" target="_blank">Public Citizen</a> is also alarmed by these developments, and answered PAI's question bluntly.  "Moniz represents the status-quo, all of the above fossil energy approach at a time when we can’t afford the status quo," Slocum told DeSmogBlog.  Tue, 09 Apr 2013 10:05:00 -0700 Steve Horn, DeSmogBlog 822067 at Environment Environment Fracking News & Politics moniz oil gas tar sands doe obama Why Does Exxon Control the No-Fly Zone Over Arkansas Tar Sands Spill? <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">When will news media be allowed back into the designated no fly zone area? </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/exxon-pipeline-spill1-600x448.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)<a href="" target="_blank">has had a "no fly zone" in place in Mayflower, Arkansas since April 1 at 2:12 PM</a> and will be in place "<a href="" target="_blank">until further notice</a>," according to the FAA website and it's <a href="" target="_blank"><strong>being overseen by ExxonMobil itself</strong></a>. In other words, any media or independent observers who want to witness the tar sands spill disaster have to ask Exxon's permission.</p><p>Mayflower is the site of the <a href="">recent major March 29 ExxonMobil Pegagus tar sands pipeline spill</a>, which belched out an estimated <a href="" target="_blank">5,000 barrels</a> of tar sands <a href="">diluted bitumen ("dilbit")</a> into the small town's neighborhoods, causing the<a href="" target="_blank">evacuation of 22 homes</a>. </p><p>The rules of engagement for the no fly zone dictate that <a href="" target="_blank">no aircraft can fly within 1,000 feet of the ground in the five-mile radius</a> surrounding the <a href="">ExxonMobil Pegasus tar sands pipeline spill</a>. The area located within this radius includes the nearby <a href="" target="_blank">Pine Village Airport</a>.</p><p>The <em>Arkansas Democrat-Gazette </em>revealed that the FAA site noted earlier today that "only relief aircraft operations under direction of Tom Suhrhoff" were allowed within the designated no fly zone. </p><p>Suhrhoff is not an FAA employee: <a href="" target="_blank"><strong>he works for ExxonMobil as an "</strong></a><a href="" target="_blank"><strong>Aviation Advisor</strong></a><a href="" target="_blank"><strong>"</strong></a> and formerly worked as a U.S. Army pilot for 24 years, according to his <em>Linked</em><em>In </em>page. </p><p>Lynn Lunsford, an FAA spokesman, <a href="" target="_blank">told <em>Dow Jones </em>a no fly zone was issued because</a> "at least one" helicopter was needed to move clean-up crews around, as well as to spot oil that can't be seen from the ground.</p><p>"The pilot of the helicopter needs to be able to move about freely without potential conflicts with other aircraft," <a href="" target="_blank">he told <em>Dow Jones</em></a>.</p><p>This also means press is prohibited from the area, though Lunsford told <em>Dow Jones</em>that the FAA "is in the process of amending the restriction to allow news media aircraft into the area."</p><p>When will news media be allowed back into the designated no fly zone area? That portion of the question was either never asked by <em>Dow Jones</em> or never answered by Lunsford. </p><p>This comes one day after Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said his office would be <a href="" target="_blank">opening an investigation into the incident</a>. It also comes one day after<a href="" target="_blank">federal pipeline regulators barred ExxonMobil from restarting the pipeline</a> until it receives close inspection.</p><p>It appears the Pegasus spill is becoming<a href="" target="_blank"> the BP Gulf oil disaster</a> take two, with the<a href="" target="_blank">responsible polluter running every step of the show</a>. <br /><br />Here is a 5-minute clip of video taken (presumably before the no-fly-zone order took effect) by <a href="" target="_blank">videojournalist Adam Randall</a> over Mayfield on April 1, including footage of the impacted neighborhoods and surrounding areas (<a href="" target="_blank">H/T LeeCamp</a>)</p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image"><div class="media-youtube-outer-wrapper" id="media-youtube-1" style="width: 312px; height: 222px;"> <div class="media-youtube-preview-wrapper" id="media_youtube_3iIdWGGlBP8_1"> <object width="312" height="222"> <param name="movie" value="" /><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true" /><param name="wmode" value="transparent" /><embed src="" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="312" height="222" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object> <script type="text/javascript"><!--//--><![CDATA[// ><!-- if (Drupal.settings && Drupal.media_youtube) { Drupal.settings.media_youtube = Drupal.settings.media_youtube || {}; Drupal.settings.media_youtube["media_youtube_3iIdWGGlBP8_1"] = {}; Drupal.settings.media_youtube["media_youtube_3iIdWGGlBP8_1"].width = 312; Drupal.settings.media_youtube["media_youtube_3iIdWGGlBP8_1"].height = 222; Drupal.settings.media_youtube["media_youtube_3iIdWGGlBP8_1"].video_id = "3iIdWGGlBP8"; Drupal.settings.media_youtube["media_youtube_3iIdWGGlBP8_1"].fullscreen = true; Drupal.settings.media_youtube["media_youtube_3iIdWGGlBP8_1"].id = "media_youtube_3iIdWGGlBP8_1_iframe"; Drupal.settings.media_youtube["media_youtube_3iIdWGGlBP8_1"].options = { autoplay: 0 }; Drupal.media_youtube.insertEmbed("media_youtube_3iIdWGGlBP8_1"); } //--><!]]> </script></div> </div> </div> Thu, 04 Apr 2013 10:31:00 -0700 Steve Horn, DeSmogBlog 819785 at Environment Environment News & Politics Water exxon tar sands oil spill mayflower arkansas NY Fracking Scandal: Seven Groups Demand Conflict of Interest Investigation of Cuomo Administration <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Cuomo&#039;s chief-of-staff actually has a direct financial interest in fracking going forward in New York state. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/blind_business_man_0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>New York could soon become the newest state in the union to allow <a href="">hydraulic fracturing (fracking)</a>, the controversial technique used to enable shale oil and gas extraction. The green light from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo could transpire in as little as "<a href="" target="_blank">a couple of weeks</a>," according to journalist and author <a href="" target="_blank">Tom Wilber</a>.  </p><p>That timeline, of course, assumes things don't take any crazy twists or turns. </p><p>Enter a press conference today in Albany, where seven groups, including <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Public Citizen</em></a>, <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Food and Water Watch</em></a>, <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Frack Action</em></a>, <a href="" target="_blank"><em>United for Action</em></a>, <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy</em></a>, and <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Capital District Against Fracking</em></a>, called for an Albany County District Attorney General investigation of the Cuomo Administration.</p><p><a href="">They are asking</a> "whether Lawrence Schwartz, Secretary to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, has a conflict of interest between his stock investments and his involvement in the state’s decision on whether to allow high-volume hydraulic fracturing for shale gas."</p><p>Schwartz - dubbed "<a href="" target="_blank">the ringleader</a>" of Governor Cuomo's administration - potentially has what these groups describe as a legal conflict-of-interest. A months-long <em>DeSmogBlog</em> investigation reveals that Cuomo's chief-of-staff actually has a direct financial interest in fracking going forward in New York state, potentially falling under the sphere of insider trading.  </p><p>Above and beyond Schwartz's annual oil and gas industry stock holdings in corporations ranging from Occidental Petroleum, Williams Companies, ExxonMobil/XTO, and General Electric (GE) for the past decade, the Cuomo Administration has also held numerous meetings with lobbyists representing some of these same corporations dating back to when Cuomo assumed office in Jan. 2011, records obtained under New York's Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) by DeSmogBlog reveal. </p>Dirty Details: Oil/Gas Industry Stock Holdings, Meetings with Lobbyists from Same Corporations<p>The details are dirty, both figuratively and literally. </p><p>A September 2012 investigation by the <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Environmental Working Group </em>(EWG)</a> examined <a href="" target="_blank">Schwartz's past three financial disclosure forms</a>. That probe revealed that he had stock holdings of $1,000+ each in Occidental, Williams, Exxon/XTO, and GE in both <a href="" target="_blank">2010</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">2011</a>, respectively. All four of these corporations possess a financial stake in Cuomo approving fracking in New York.</p><p><a href="" target="_blank">2009 saw much of the same</a>, a year in which Schwartz had $1,000+ in his stock portfolio invested in GE, Williams, and Burlington Resources (<a href="" target="_blank">purchasd as a subsidiary by ConocoPhillips in 2005</a>).</p><p><em>DeSmogBlog </em>followed in the footsteps of the EWG investigation by filing both an Executive Chamber FOIL request, as well a FOIL request to Schwartz's former employer, the Westchester County Executive Office, asking for his financial disclosure forms dating back to 2002.</p><p>That latter request revealed that Schwartz has had stock holdings in the oil and gas industry dating back to 2002. At that time he was working as chief-of-staff to then-Westchester County Executive, <a href="" target="_blank">Andrew J. Spano</a>.</p><p>In <a href="">2002</a> and <a href="">2003</a>, Schwartz had over $1,000 in stock holdings in Chevron and GE. Until 2001, Texaco - <a href="" target="_blank">purchased in 2000 as a subsidiary by Chevron</a> - was <a href="" target="_blank">headquarted in Westchester</a>. The Westchester County Executive Chamber did not possess Schwartz's forms for 2004 or 2005. </p><p>His <a href="">2006 filings</a> reveal $1,000 or more in his stock portfolio invested in Burlington Resources, GE, and Williams Companies. </p><p><a href="">Records obtained from Cuomo's Executive Chamber</a> also revealed that lobbyists from the very corporations Schwartz has thousands of dollars of stock holdings in have earned the ear of Cuomo in the form of exclusive meetings with his high-level aides.  </p><p>One case in point: Both in April 2012 and in Sept. 2012, <a href="">Williams Companies lobbyists had meetings with Cuomo aides</a> on the status of its proposed <a href="" target="_blank">C</a><a href="" target="_blank">onstitution Pipeline</a>, a joint venture between Cabot Oil and Gas, Piedmont Natural Gas and Williams Companies. That 120-mile long, 30-inch prospective pipeline, if approved, will carry gas produced in NY's section of the Marcellus Shale to <a href="" target="_blank">markets throughout the northeastern U.S.</a></p><p><a href="">The latter meeting</a> was held between two Williams' lobbyists - Tonio Burgos and John Charlson - and upper level Cuomo aides.</p><p>Charlson is a former public information officer for the New York State Division of Lottery who was fired in Jan. 2009 for not getting along with fellow employees. In retaliation for his firing, he illegally "eavesdropped on a confidential lottery conference call" and "trespassed via computer to get 16 lottery e-mails," <a href="" target="_blank">the <em>Post Star</em> explained</a>, summarizing a <a href="" target="_blank">New York Inspector General report</a>.</p><p>Charlson's next job was serving as a corporate lobbyist with <em><a href="" target="_blank">Tonio Burgos and Associates</a></em>, New York's Joint Commission on Public Ethics database reveals.</p><p>One of Charlson's 14 current clients at the Burgos firm is <a href="" target="_blank">United Water, Inc.</a>, "the second-largest private operator of municipal water systems in the United States," <a href="" target="_blank">according to a 2010 </a><em><a href="" target="_blank">Food and Water Watch</a> </em><a href="" target="_blank">report</a>. United Water is a subsidiary of global water privatizing giant <a href="" target="_blank">Suez Environnement</a>, the second largest water service corporation in the world.</p><p><em>Food and Water Watch</em> explained in a March 2012 report that <a href="" target="_blank">fracking on a global scale will almost certainly serve as a progenitor of a global water crisis</a>. Another December 2011 FWW report revealed that water privatization corporations - which stand to gain economically if and when water ends up becoming a scarce global commodity - <a href="" target="_blank">are hedging their bets on shale gas production</a>.     </p><p>Burgos, the principal of <em><a href="" target="_blank">Tonio Burgos and Associates</a> </em>and <a href="" target="_blank">former aide </a>to Andrew Cuomo's father, Gov. Mario Cuomo (described by the <em>Chicago Tribune </em>in 1993 as his "<a href="" target="_blank">patronage chief</a>"), was identified in Jan. 2012 by <em>The Wall Street Journal</em> as "<a href="" target="_blank">one of Mr. Cuomo's closest outside advisers and top fund-raisers</a>." Like Charlson, Burgos also <a href=";y=0&amp;s=NY#NY" target="_blank">lobbies on behalf of United Water, Inc.</a></p><p>Burgos has <a href=";d=1215939155" target="_blank">already given</a> $93,500 towards Cuomo's <a href=";d=1215939072" target="_blank">2014 re-election campaign</a>, according to the <em>National Institute on Money in State Politics</em>' campaign finance database. Burgos' firm also doles out big money to the Democratic Governors' Association, <a href="" target="_blank">forking over $110,000</a> between 2006 and 2012.</p><p>The records also reveal that the Cuomo Administration held <a href="">several meetings with lobbyists working on behalf of ExxonMobil</a>, another corporation in which Schwartz holds stock. </p>NY Fracking Scandal: Conflict-of-Interest or Insider Trading?<p>The seven "fracktivist" groups signing onto the <a href="">letter requesting the investigation</a> concluded that under New York state law, Schwartz - and by extension the Cuomo Administration - may have a conflict-of-interest in the looming fracking decision.</p><p>In so doing, <a href="">they cited N.Y. Pub. Off. § 74(3)(g)</a>, a law mandating that public officials must not make financial investments that would “create substantial conflict between his duty in the public interest and his private interest.” Cutting to the heart of the matter, the groups are seeking a thorough investigation as to whether the Cuomo Administration is breaking this law.</p><p>An issue that goes unraised in this letter: whether Schwartz is defying the spirit of the federal law that bans insider trading - the STOCK (Stop on Congressional Knowledge) Act - passed by the U.S. Congress and<a href="" target="_blank">signed into law by President Barack Obama in April 2012.</a></p><p>“The powerful shouldn’t get to create one set of rules for themselves and one set of rules for everyone else," <a href="" target="_blank">Obama said while signing the bill</a>.</p><p>In New York, though, that appears to be the case, with <a href="" target="_blank">2016 Democratic Party presidential hopeful Andrew Cuomo</a> and his administration playing by a different set of rules that may threaten the health and water supplies of New York citizens. </p><p>This dreary picture has prompted the launch of a new website dedicated to chronicling the ongoing and growing scandal: <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.</p><p>" serves to put all of the worst offenses in the state's review of fracking in one place. When you put it all together, it paints a pretty bad picture," <a href="">said Frack Action Executive Director, Julia Walsh in a press release</a>. </p><p>Some believe the scandal warrants a redux of the entire review process into whether or not fracking should be permitted in the Empire State.  </p><p>"New Yorkers must be assured that policy decisions are made on merit - and not because of the possibility of personal financial gain," Tyson Slocum, Director of the <em>Public Citizen</em> Energy Program told <em>DeSmogBlog</em>. "Given these financial holdings by key Cuomo decisionmakers, New York ought to review all aspects of the fracking review."</p><br /><br /> Mon, 11 Feb 2013 12:43:00 -0800 Steve Horn, DeSmogBlog 792897 at Environment Environment Fracking News & Politics fracking new york cuomo How the Right-Wing's Infamous ALEC Is Attacking Renewable Energy Initiatives <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">An ALEC-backed bill, the &quot;Electricity Freedom Act,&quot; calls for the nullification of any given state&#039;s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_77617081.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Renewable energy is under attack in the Tar Heel State. That's the word from Greenpeace USA's Connor Gibson today in a <a href="" target="_blank">report that implicates King Coal powerhouse, Duke Energy</a> and the fossil fuel industry at-large. </p><p>The vehicle <a href="" target="_blank">Duke Energy</a> is utilizing for this attack is one whose profile has grown in infamy in recent years: the <a href="">American Legislative Exchange Council</a> (ALEC).</p><p>ALEC is described as a "<a href="" target="_blank">corporate bill mill</a>" by its critics. It's earned such a description because it passes "<a href="" target="_blank">model bills</a>" written by corporate lobbyists and to boot, the lobbyists typically do so <a href="" target="_blank">behind closed doors</a> at ALEC's annual meetings. </p>The ALEC-Duke Alernative Energy Attack<p>Gibson <a href="" target="_blank">puts it bluntly in his exposé</a>, explaning that <a href="" target="_blank">North Carolina Republican Rep. Mike Hager</a> "says he is confident that he has the votes needed to weaken or undo his state's [renewable] energy requirements during his second term." </p><p>Hager is a former Duke employee, where he <a href="" target="_blank">worked as an engineer</a>. Duke maintains its corporate headquarters in Charlotte, NC. </p><p>The model bill Hager appears likely to push is called the "<a href="" target="_blank">Electricity Freedom Act</a>," a piece of legislation calling for the nullification of any given state's <a href="" target="_blank">Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards</a> (REPS). <a href="" target="_blank">Passed in October 2012</a> by ALEC, the bill was actually co-written with the fossil fuel-funded think tank, the <a href="">Heartland Institute</a> (of "<a href="">Heartland Exposed</a>" fame). </p><p>"We wrote the model legislation and I presented it. I didn’t have to give that much of a case for it," James Taylor of Heartland told The Washington Post in a <a href="" target="_blank">November 2012 investigative report</a>.</p><p>Taylor's claims are backed by economic analyses of a sort.</p><p>That is, the sort one would expect from a <a href="" target="_blank">group heavily funded by the fossil fuel industry</a> (Heartland) teaming up with a group <a href="" target="_blank">receiving 98 percent of its funding from corporate interests</a>(ALEC). As The Post <a href="" target="_blank">explained back in November</a>:</p><blockquote><p>As part of its effort to roll back renewable standards, ALEC is citing economic analyses of state policies co-published by Suffolk University’s Beacon Hill Institute and the State Policy Network. Both groups have received donations from foundations funded by the Koch brothers.</p></blockquote><p>Gabe Elsner of the Checks and Balances Project described ALEC's game plan as a deceptive "<a href="" target="_blank">one-two punch</a>" against renewable energy to The Post. </p><p>“You push the legislation to state legislators and then you fund reports to support the argument and convince state lawmakers and all without any transparency or disclosure about the sources of this funding,”<a href="" target="_blank">he said back in November</a>. </p><p>North Carolina's GOP (which according to the Center for Media and Democracy's (CMD)  SourceWatch <a href="" target="_blank">has 45 ALEC members</a>) appears set to go on the offensive against the state's existing renewable energy standards. </p>More to Come?<p>There's far more of this to come in the weeks and months ahead in statehouses nationwide.</p><p>As Gibson <a href="" target="_blank">explains</a>, "According to its own documents, ALEC spent the last couple years monitoring states attempting to introduce state-level renewable energy portfolio standards in West Virginia, Vermont and Virginia as well as legislative attacks on REPS laws in New Hampshire and in Ohio."</p><p>Renewable energy is under attack. That is, of course, unless its advocates fight back. </p><br /><p><a href="">Desmogblog</a> (<a href=""></a>)</p> Tue, 15 Jan 2013 12:53:00 -0800 Steve Horn, DeSmogBlog 777540 at Environment Environment alec koch energy duke renewable energy A New Low: Shale Gas Industry Targets College Campuses, K-12 Schools <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Schools facing budget cuts are getting desperate for money, but fracking on school grounds is coming under fire.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_104729948.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <!--rpuEmbedStart--><p>In Pennsylvania - a state that sits in the heart of the <a href="" target="_blank">Marcellus Shale basin</a> - the concept of "<a href="">frackademia</a>" and "<a href="">frackademics</a>" has taken on an entirely new meaning.</p><p>On Sept. 27, the PA House of Representatives - in a 136-62 vote - <a href="" target="_blank">passed a bill</a> that allows <a href="">hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking"</a> to take place on the campuses of public universities. Its Senate copycat version passed in June in a 46-3 vote and Republican Gov. Tom Corbett <a href=";sind=0&amp;body=S&amp;type=B&amp;bn=367" target="_blank">signed it into law as Act 147 on Oct. 8</a>.</p><p>The bill is colloquially referred to as the <a href="" target="_blank">Indigenous Mineral Resources Development Act</a>. It was <a href=";sind=0&amp;body=S&amp;type=B&amp;bn=367" target="_blank">sponsored by Republican Sen. Don White</a>, one of the state's top recipients of oil and gas industry funding between 2000-April 2012, pulling in $94,150 during that time frame, according to a <a href="" target="_blank">recent report</a> published by <em>Common Cause PA</em> and <em>Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania</em>. Corbett has <a href="" target="_blank">taken over $1.8 million from the oil and gas industry</a> since his time serving as the state's Attorney General in 2004. </p><p>The Corbett Administration has <a href="" target="_blank">made</a> higher education budget <a href="" target="_blank">cuts</a> totaling over $460 million in the past two consecutive PA state budgets. The oil and gas industry has <a href="" target="_blank">offered fracking as a new fundraising stream</a> at universities starved for cash and looking to fill that massive cash void, as <a href="" target="_blank">explained by <em>The</em> <em>Philadelphia Inquirer</em></a>:</p><blockquote><p>Half of the fees and royalties generated by leases of State System of Higher Education lands would be retained by the university where the resources are located. Thirty-five percent would be allocated to other state universities. The remaining 15 percent would be used for tuition assistance at all 14 schools.</p></blockquote>Some professors aren't exactly thrilled with this notion.  <p>"I've become extremely concerned, disturbed, and disgusted by the environmental consequences of fracking," a professor at Lock Haven University <a href="" target="_blank">told <em>Mother Jones</em> in a recent article</a>. "They've had explosions, tens of thousands of gallons of chemicals spilled. And we're going to put this on campus?"</p><p><em>Mother Jones</em>' Sydney Brownstone also explained that Pennsylvania isn't the only state playing this game, <a href="" target="_blank">writing</a>, </p><blockquote><p>A couple of colleges in West Virginia have leased their land to fracking companies, and Ohio has a similar law to Pennsylvania's. The University of Texas also makes money from natural gas well pads on its land, and even installed one 400 feet away from a daycare center at its Arlington campus.</p></blockquote><p>Yet even these details are merely the tip of the iceberg, as fracking has occured close to K-12 schoolyards for years, with accompanying devastating health consequences.</p>From Campuses to Schoolyards in TX, NY, and CO<p>As with fracking directly on campus, the gas industry knows no geographical bounds when deciding to extract shale gas close to K-12 schools. Three states serve as case studies.</p><p><strong><em>New York</em></strong></p><p>Perhaps the most tragic state of affairs can be found in <a href=",_New_York" target="_blank">Le Roy, New York</a>, a city with roughly 7,600 citizens, at Le Roy Middle School and High School. <em>CNN </em><a href="" target="_blank">reported</a> on Le Roy in Feb. 2012:</p><blockquote><p>There are six natural gas wells on school grounds...Two of these wells spilled liquid onto the ground killing trees and vegetation right in the area of the wellheads...It's where every day, students play, do sports, practice their sports, right there on school grounds...This is definitely of concern to experts and parents I've been talking to.</p></blockquote><p>By March of that year, there were 18 documented cases of <a href="" target="_blank">Tourette Syndrome</a>, the plot <a href="" target="_blank">serving as the centerpiece for a cover story</a> in an issue of <em>The New York Times Magazine</em>.</p><p>Susan Dominus of <em>The Times</em> <a href="" target="_blank">wrote</a>, "Teachers shut their classroom doors when they heard a din of outbursts, one cry triggering another, sending the increasingly familiar sounds ricocheting through the halls. Within a few months, as the camera crews continued to descend, the community barely seemed to recognize itself."</p><p><a href="" target="_blank">Erin Brockovich</a>, the attorney and <a href="" target="_blank">movie namesake</a> famous for <a href="" target="_blank">winning a class action lawsuit against Pacific Gas and Electric for over $300 million in the 1990's</a> for contaminating groundwater with hexavalent chromium - a <a href="" target="_blank">known carcinogen</a> according to the <em>Centers for Disease Control</em> - has <a href="" target="_blank">decided to take up this case</a>, as well. "We don't have all the answers, but we are suspicious," <a href="" target="_blank">she told <em>USA Today</em></a>. "The community asked us to help and this is what we do."</p><p><strong><em>Texas</em></strong></p><p>In Feb. 2011, the gas industry made an offer to put several wells <a href="" target="_blank">a few blocks away from a school</a> located in the Fort Worth Independent School District. The Fort Worth League of Neighborhoods proceeded with a <a href="" target="_blank">counter-offer of its own</a>, demanding wells stay at least a mile from K-12 schools.</p><p>Studies showed "high levels of carbon disulfide found near three FWISD schools," explained a <a href="" target="_blank">report by <em>CBS Dallas-Fort Worth</em> in Feb. 2011</a>. "Carbon disulfide is a colorless, volatile liquid linked to respiratory, gastrointestinal and cardiovascular problems."</p><p>Further, Argyle, TX has approved 36 fracking wells, all of them <a href="" target="_blank">sitting smack dab in the middle</a> of the tiny city's (<a href=",_Texas" target="_blank">population 3,282</a>) elementary school, middle school and high school. Drilling rigs sit<a href="" target="_blank"> right across the street from Cotulla High School</a> in Cotulla, TX and three sit <a href="" target="_blank">behind the Selwyn School</a> in Denton, TX, <a href="" target="_blank">right next to a playground</a>.</p><p><strong><em>Colorado</em></strong></p><p>In a <a href="">June article</a>, <em>DeSmogBlog</em> described Erie, CO as a key hub of the anti-fracking battle. EnCana Oil and Gas Corporation, <a href="">we explained</a>, plans to frack for shale gas near three local schools and a childcare center in Erie: Red Hawk Elementary, Erie Elementary, Erie Middle School and Exploring Minds Childcare Center.</p><p>Erie has welcomed EnCana with open arms.</p><p>"This encroachment of residential areas has really woken up a grassroots revolt of regular Coloradans who are standing up and saying don't come in my backyard," Sam Schabacker, Mountain West Region Director for <em>Food and Water Watch</em> <a href="">told us in an interview back in June</a>. "And that's really what's going on in Erie. This is Exhibit A of how the gas industry has cavelierly expanded into residential areas against the wishes of local governments and regular Coloradans."</p><p>Erie serves as a case study of an epidemic in Colorado. One <a href="" target="_blank">study conducted by the <em>Western Resources Advocates</em></a> found almost 200 wells within 2,000 feet of a public school.</p><p>By contrast, <a href="" target="_blank">explained the <em>Advocates</em></a>, "it is illegal in Colorado to idle a vehicle for more than 5 minutes within 1,000 feet of a school -- but you can drill for oil and gas, spewing potentially toxic chemicals into the air, as long as you aren't closer than 350 feet."</p><p>A <a href="" target="_blank">University of Colorado School of Public Health study</a> published in March demonstrated the grave risks associated with spending most of one's time near fracking operations, as <a href="" target="_blank">explained by the <em>Advocates</em></a>: </p><blockquote><p>People living within a half-mile of oil and gas fracking operations were exposed to air pollutants at a level that is five times higher than the federal hazard standard. Researchers found a number of potentially toxic chemicals in the air near the wells, including benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene and xylene. The chemicals could lead to neurological or respiratory effects that include eye irritation, headaches, sore throat and difficulty breathing.</p></blockquote><p>These realities, at least thus far, haven't slowed the industry's gas rush nor have they served as a red flag for the Colorado government enabling these activities.</p>Fracking With "Reckless" Abandon, No Known Boundaries<p>In an Oct. 15 press release, John Armstrong, Statewide Grassroots Coordinator at <em>Frack Action</em>, <a href="" target="_blank">stated</a>, </p><blockquote><p>Fracking proponents continue their reckless and irresponsible push to frack even in the face of an overwhelming body of science showing that fracking poses serious risks to health and the environment and consensus among experts and government agencies that we need more scientific study on fracking. Our water, air and health are priceless.</p></blockquote><p>Given the state of play across the country for the gas industry, it's hard to disagree.</p><p> </p> Mon, 22 Oct 2012 12:07:00 -0700 Steve Horn, DeSmogBlog 729576 at Fracking Education Environment Fracking Water fracking schools education pennsylvania corbett gas drilling Court Strikes Down Parts of Pennsylvania's Act 13, a Law Deemed "The Worst Corporate Giveaway" <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> The bill would have stripped away local zoning laws, eliminated the legal concept of a Home Rule Charter, limited private property rights, and in the process, completely disempowered municipal governments.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_63140332.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p> </p><p>On July 26, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruled against <a href="" target="_blank">PA Act 13</a>. The bill would have stripped away local zoning laws, eliminated the legal concept of a <a href="" target="_blank">Home Rule Charter</a>, limited private property rights, and in the process, completely disempowered town, city, municipal and county governments, particularly when it comes to shale gas development.<br /><br />The Court <a href="" target="_blank">ruled</a> that Act 13 "…violates substantive due process because it does not protect the interests of neighboring property owners from harm, alters the character of neighborhoods and makes irrational classifications – irrational because it requires municipalities to allow all zones, drilling operations and impoundments, gas compressor stations, storage and use of explosives in all zoning districts, and applies industrial criteria to restrictions on height of structures, screening and fencing, lighting and noise."</p><p>Act 13 — pejoratively referred to as "<a href="" target="_blank">the Nation's Worst Corporate Giveaway</a>" by AlterNet reporter Steven Rosenfeld — would have <a href="" target="_blank">ended local democracy as we know it</a> in Pennsylvania.</p><p>"It’s absolutely crushing of local self-government," Ben Price, project director for the <a href="" target="_blank">Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund </a>(CELDF), <a href="" target="_blank">told Rosenfeld</a>. "It’s a complete capitulation of the rights of the people and their right to self-government. They are handing it over to the industry to let them govern us. It is the corporate state. That is how we look at it."</p><p>Where could the idea for such a bill come from in the first place? Rosenfeld <a href="" target="_blank">pointed to the oil and gas industry</a> in his piece.</p><p>That's half of the answer. Pennsylvania is the epicenter of the ongoing fracking boom in the United States, and by and large, is a state seemingly <a href="">bought off by the oil and gas industry</a>.</p><p>The other half of the question left unanswered, though, is who do oil and gas industry lobbyists feed anti-democratic, state-level legislation to?</p><p>The answer, in a word: ALEC.</p><p><b>PA Act 13, Originally an ALEC Model Bill </b></p><p>The <a href="" target="_blank">American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)</a> is in the midst of hosting its <a href="" target="_blank">39th Annual Meeting</a> this week in Salt Lake City, Utah. ALEC is appropriately described as an ideologically conservative, Republican Party-centric "<a href="" target="_blank">corporate bill mill</a>" by the <a href="" target="_blank">Center for Media and Democracy</a>, the overseer of the <a href="" target="_blank">ALEC Exposed</a> project. <a href="" target="_blank">98 percent of ALEC's funding comes from corporations</a>, according to CMD**.</p><p>ALEC's meetings bring together corporate lobbyists and state legislators to schmooze, and then vote on what it calls "<a href="" target="_blank">model bills</a>." Lobbyists have a "<a href="" target="_blank">voice and a vote in shaping policy</a>," CMD explains. They have de facto veto power over whether their prospective bills become "models" that will be distributed to the offices of politicians in statehouses nationwide.</p><p>A close examination suggests that an ALEC model bill is quite similar to the recently overturned Act 13. </p><p>It is likely modeled after and inspired by an ALEC bill titled, "<a href="" target="_blank">An Act Granting the Authority of Rural Counties to Transition to Decentralized Land Use Regulation</a>." This Act was passed by ALEC's <a href=",_Environment_and_Agriculture_Task_Force" target="_blank">Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force</a> at its Annual Meeting in August 2010 in San Diego, CA. </p><p>The <a href="" target="_blank">model bill</a> opens by saying that "…the planning and zoning authority granted to rural counties may encourage land use regulation which is overly centralized, intrusive and politicized." The <a href="" target="_blank">model bill</a>'s central purpose is to "grant rural counties the legal authority to abandon their planning and zoning authority in order to transition to decentralized land use regulation…"</p><p>The key legal substance of the bill <a href="" target="_blank">reads</a>, "The local law shall require the county to repeal or modify any land use restriction stemming from the county’s exercise of its planning or zoning authority, which prohibits or conditionally restricts the peaceful or highest and best uses of private property…"</p><p>In short, like Act 13, this ALEC model bill turns local democractic protections on their head. Act 13, to be fair, is a far meatier bill, running <a href=";sessYr=2011&amp;sessInd=0&amp;billBody=H&amp;billTyp=B&amp;billNbr=1950&amp;pn=3048" target="_blank">174 pages in length</a>. What likely happened: Pennsylvania legislators and the oil and gas industry lobbyists they serve took the key concepts found in ALEC's bill, ran with them, and made an even more extreme and specific piece of legislation to strip away Pennsylvania citizens' rights.</p><p>There were many shale gas industry <a href="" target="_blank">lobbyists and those affiliated with like-minded think-tanks in the house</a> for the Dec. 2010 San Diego Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force Meeting where this prospective ALEC model bill became an official ALEC model bill. They included Daren Bakst of the <a href="" target="_blank">John Locke Foundation</a> (heavily funded by the Kochs), Russel Harding of the <a href="" target="_blank">Mackinac Center for Public Policy</a> (also heavily funded by the Koch Family Fortune), Kathleen Hartnett White of the <a href="" target="_blank">Texas Public Policy Foundation</a> (again, heavily funded by the Kochs), Mike McGraw of Occidental Petroleum, and Todd Myers of the<a href="">Washington Policy Center</a> (a think tank that sits under the umbrella of the Koch Foundation-funded <a href="" target="_blank">State Policy Network</a>).</p><p><b>A Model That's Been Passed and Proposed Elsewhere</b></p><p>The <a href="" target="_blank">Act Granting the Authority of Rural Counties to Transition to Decentralized Land Use Regulation </a>model bill has made a tour to statehouses nationwide, popping up in Ohio, Idaho, Colorado, and Texas. The model passed in some states, while failing to pass in others.<br /><br />Here is a rundown of similar bills that DeSmogBlog has identified so far:</p><p><em>Ohio HB 278</em></p><p>Long before the ALEC model bill was enacted in 2010, Ohio passed a similar bill in 2004, <a href="" target="_blank">HB 278</a>, which gives exclusive well-permitting, zoning, and regulatory authority to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). Ohio is home to the <a href="" target="_blank">Utica Shale basin</a>.</p><p>Mirroring ALEC's model, HB 278 <a href="" target="_blank">gives</a> the "…Division of Mineral Resources Management in the Department of Natural Resources…exclusive authority to regulate the permitting, location, and spacing of oil and gas wells in the state.."</p><p>Could it be that the ALEC model bill was actually inspired by HB 278? It's very possible, based on recent history.</p><p>As was the case with ALEC's <a href="">hydraulic fracturing chemical fluid "disclosure" model bill</a> (actually <a href="">rife with loopholes </a>ensuring chemicals will never be disclosed), ALEC <a href="">adopted legislation passed in the Texas state legislature as its own</a> at its December 2011 conference.</p><p><em>Idaho HB 464 </em></p><p>Idaho's House of Representatives <a href="" target="_blank">passed HB 464 in February 2012</a> in a 54-13-3 roll call vote. A month later, the bill <a href="" target="_blank">passed in the Senate</a> in a 24-10-1 roll call vote. Days later, Republican Gov. Butch Otter <a href="" target="_blank">signed the bill into law</a>.</p><p>Key language from HB 464 <a href="" target="_blank">reads</a>, </p><blockquote><p>It is declared to be in the public interest…to provide for uniformity and consistency in the regulation of the production of oil and gas throughout the state of Idaho…[,] to authorize and to provide for the operations and development of oil and gas properties in such a manner that a greater ultimate recovery of oil and gas may be obtained.  (Snip)</p><p>It is the intent of the legislature to occupy the field of the regulation of oil and gas exploration and production with the limited exception of the exercise of planning and zoning authority granted cities and counties…</p></blockquote><p>The Democratic Party State Senate Minority Office was outraged about the bill's passage. </p><p>"[HB] 464 establishes Idaho law governing oil and gas exploration and development including limits to local control over the location of wells, drilling processes, water rights and the injection of waste materials into the ground," <a href="" target="_blank">reads a press release</a> by the Idaho State Senate Minority Office. "[HB 464] preempts local land-use planning statute dating back to 1975. Counties will have little input in the permitting process whereby well sites are selected (or restricted) and no role in planning and zoning."</p><p>Sound familiar? Like PA Act 13 and the ALEC model? It should.</p><p>Full-scale fracking has yet to take place <a href="" target="_blank">in Idaho</a>, though the race is on, with Idahoans <a href="" target="_blank">signing more and more leases with each passing day</a>. Thanks to gas industry lobbyists' use of ALEC's model bill process, the industry will have far fewer hurdles to clear in the state when the race begins. </p><p><em>Colorado SB 88</em></p><p>The Demoratic Party-controlled Colorado State Senate <a href="" target="_blank">struck down</a> an ALEC copycat bill, <a href=";file=088_01.pdf" target="_blank">SB 88</a>, in February 2012.</p><p>The Bill Summary portion of SB 88 <a href=";file=088_01.pdf" target="_blank">explains the bill concisely</a>, mirroring, once again, PA Act 13 and the ALEC Model Bill: "…the Colorado oil and gas conservation commission has exclusive jurisdiction to regulate oil and gas operations, and local regulation of oil and gas operations is preempted by state law."</p><p>Colorado sits atop the <a href="" target="_blank">Niobrara Shale basin</a>. <a href="" target="_blank">Like Pennsylvania</a>, it has seen many cities successfully move to ban fracking, making the goal of a bill of this nature all the more obvious.</p><p>“From Colorado Springs to Boulder County, cities and counties across Colorado have passed measures against fracking,” Sam Schabacker of Food and Water Watch <a href="" target="_blank">told the Colorado Independent</a> at the time SB 88 was struck down. “This bill is an attempt by the oil and gas industry to strip local governments of what little power they have to protect their citizens and water resources from the harms posed by fracking.” </p><p>Far from a completed debate, as covered in a <a href="" target="_blank">June 2012 follow-up story by the Colorado Independent</a>, things are just getting underway on this one in The Centennial State.  </p><p>“I don’t know where it goes from here. I suspect there is a happy medium and there is a compromise that can be reached,” Democratic Party State Senate President Brandon Shaffer <a href="" target="_blank">told the Independent</a>. “I also suspect next year additional legislation will come forward on both sides of the spectrum. Ultimately I think the determination will be made based on the composition of each of the chambers. If the Democrats are in control of the House and Senate, there will be more emphasis on local control.”  </p><p><a href="" target="_blank">Former Sen. Mike Kopp (R)</a> was <a href="" target="_blank">one of the public sector attendees</a> at the Dec. 2010 Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force Meeting where the ALEC model bill passed. </p><p><em>Texas HB 3105 and SB 875</em></p><p>In May 2011, TX SB 875 <a href="" target="_blank">passed almost unanimously</a>. The bill essentially calls for the elimination, in one fell swoop, of the <a href="" target="_blank">common law of private nuisance</a> in Texas.</p><p>SB 875's key operative paragraph <a href="" target="_blank">explains</a>,</p><blockquote><p>[Entities] subject to an administrative, civil, or criminal action brought under this chapter for nuisance or trespass arising from greenhouse gas emissions [have] an affirmative defense to that action if the person's actions that resulted in the alleged nuisance or trespass were authorized by a rule, permit, order, license, certificate, registration, approval, or other form of authorization issued by the commission or the federal government or an agency of the federal government…</p></blockquote><p>Texas — home to the <a href="" target="_blank">Barnett Shale basin</a> and the <a href="" target="_blank">Eagle Ford Shale basin</a> — played a dirty trick here, but what else would one expect from the government of a Petro State?</p><p>The <a href="" target="_blank">ALEC model bill</a> calls for a transition from centralized power by local governments to individual property rights under the <a href="" target="_blank">common law of private nuisance</a>, a civil suit that allows those whose private property has been damaged to file a legal complaint with proper authorities. Now, under the dictates of SB 875, even these rights have been eviscerated.</p><p>Perhaps Texas exemplifies a realization of the oil and gas industries' ideal world: legal rights for no one except themselves.</p><p>"This [bill allows] the willful trespass onto private property of chemicals and or nuisances, thus destroying the peaceful enjoyment of private property, which someone may have put their life savings into," <a href="" target="_blank">Calvin Tillman, former Mayor of Dish</a>, Texas and <a href="" target="_blank">one of the stars</a> of Josh Fox's Academy Award-nominated documentary film, "<a href="" target="_blank">Gasland</a>," wrote in a <a href="" target="_blank">letter</a>. "Therefore, private citizens would have no protection for their private property if this amendment was added."</p><p>HB 3105's <a href="" target="_blank">key language</a>, meanwhile, makes the following illicit (emphases mine): </p><blockquote><p>…the adoption or issuance of an ordinance, rule, regulatory requirement, resolution, policy, guideline, or similar measure…by a municipality that..has effect in the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the municipality, excluding annexation, and that enacts or enforces an ordinance, rule, regulation, or plan that does not impose identical requirements or restrictions in the entire extraterritorial jurisdiction of the municipality…or damages, destroys, impairs, or prohibits development of a mineral interest…</p></blockquote><p>This bill, unlike SB 875, <a href="" target="_blank">never passed</a>, though if it did, it would do basically the same thing as PA Act 13 and the ALEC model. If it ever does pass, however, it would mean that Texans would have literally no legal standing to sue the oil and gas industry for wrongdoing in their state.</p><p><b>ALEC's Bifurcated Attack: Erode Local Democracy, Strip Federal Regs,</b></p><p>Coming full circle, though PA Act 13 was struck down, for now, as constitutional, that doesn't necessarily mean ALEC copycat versions like it won't start popping up in other statehouses nationwide. </p><p>Sleep on this for awhile. There's more to come.</p><p>Part two of DeSmog's investigation on ALEC's dirty energy agenda will show that, along with pushing for the erosion of local democracy as we know it today, ALEC has also succeeded in promulgating legislation that would eliminate Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions - another Big Business giveaway of epic proportions.</p><p>If anything is clear, it's this: statehouses have become a favorite clearinghouse for polluters to install the "<a href="" target="_blank">Corporate Playbook</a>" in place of democracy.</p><p>Stay tuned for Part Two of DeSmog's investigation, coming soon.</p><p><em>(**Full Disclosure: Steve Horn is a former employee of CMD and worked on the ALEC Exposed project)</em></p><br /><p><a href=""><img src="" />Desmogblog</a> (<a href=""></a>)</p> Fri, 27 Jul 2012 07:17:00 -0700 Steve Horn, DeSmogBlog 681915 at Environment Environment Fracking News & Politics Water fracking pennsylvania pa13 alec gas drilling oil How ALEC is Destroying the Teaching of Climate Change Science, One State at a Time <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Tennessee just became the fourth state in the nation to include climate change denial in their science education curriculum. Who&#039;s behind this crafty legislation? You guessed it.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/images/managed/storyimages_1332430491_shutterstock46134457.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>The month of March has seen <a href="">unprecedented heat and temperatures</a>. A rational thinking, scientifically-grounded individual could only posit, "Well, hmm, I bet climate change has something to do with the fact that in Madison, WI, it is 80 degrees in mid-March. Sometimes it's 60 or 70 degrees colder than this!"</p> <p>While that individual would be positing something that is the well-accepted scientific consensus, in some states, under law, that is only a "controversial theory among other theories."</p> <p>Welcome to Tennessee, which on March 19th became the fourth state with a legal mandate to incorporate climate change denial as part of the science education curriculum when discussing climate change.</p> <p>First it was <a href=";billid=SB733&amp;doctype=ALL">Louisiana, back in 2009</a>, then <a href="">Texas in 2009</a>, <a href="">South Dakota in 2010</a> and now Tennessee has joined the club, bringing the total to four U.S. states that have mandated climate change denial in K-12 "science" education. </p> <p>Many other states could follow in their footsteps as well, given that, <a href="">as DeSmogBlog exposed in late-January</a>, this is an <a href="">American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)</a> model bill, a near miror image of its <a href="">Orwellian</a>-titled <a href="">"Environmental Literacy Improvement Act."</a>[PDF]</p> <p>The machinations of ALEC are best explained by the <a href="">Center for Media and Demoracy</a>'s "<a href="">ALEC Exposed</a>" project.</p> <p>The ALEC bill passed as <a href="">H.B. 368</a> and <a href="">S.B. 893</a>, with <a href=";BillNumber=HB0368&amp;ga=107">70-23</a> and <a href=";BillNumber=SB0893&amp;ga=107">24-8</a> roll call votes, respectively. Tennesse Republican Governor <a href="">Bill Haslam</a> is likely to sign the bill into law soon.</p> <p><strong>The ALEC Model Bill</strong></p> <p>As DeSmogBlog <a href="">reported</a>in January, the Tennessee bill is based on an ALEC model bill passed in May 2000. We explained at the time,</p> <p>"The bill's opening clause <a href="">reads</a>[PDF], 'The purpose of this act is to enhance and improve the environmental literacy of students and citizens in the state by requiring that all environmental education programs and activities conducted by schools, universities, and agencies shall…'</p> <ul><li>Provide a range of perspectives presented in a balanced manner.</li> <li>Provide instruction in critical thinking so that students will be able to fairly and objectively evaluate scientific and economic controversies.</li> <li>Be presented in language appropriate for education rather than for propagandizing.</li> <li>Encourage students to explore different perspectives and form their own opinions.</li> <li>Encourage an atmosphere of respect for different opinions and open-mindedness to new ideas.</li> <li>Not be designed to change student behavior, attitudes or values.</li> <li>Not include instruction in political action skills nor encourage political action activities."</li> </ul><p>To summarize, under this model bill and its relatives, global warming will be taught as a "theory" among other "credible theories," including those unscientific "theories" peddled by the well-paid "<a href="">merchants of doubt</a>." </p> <p>This, of course, flies in the face of the well-accepted scientific consensus, which has proven global warming as the <a href="">harsh reality</a>, time and time again. The science speaks for itself, and the <a href="">fossil fuel money funding climate change deniers speaks for itself</a>.  </p> <p><strong>The Tennessee Bill</strong></p> <p>Key portions of the <a href="">Tennessee bills</a> are as follows (emphases mine):</p> <ul><li><strong>"The teaching of some scientific subjects, including</strong>, but not limited to,biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, <strong>global warming</strong>, and humancloning, <strong>can cause controversy</strong>."</li> <li>"The state board of education, public elementary and secondary school governing authorities, directors of schools, school system administrators, and public elementary and secondary school principals and administrators shall endeavor to<strong>create an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that encourages students to…respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues."</strong></li> <li>Neither the state board of education, nor any public elementary or secondary school governing authority, director of schools, school system administrator, or any public elementary or secondary school principal or administrator shall prohibit any teacher in a public school system of this state from<strong>helping students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught."</strong></li> </ul><p>Look familar? It should. </p> <p>The bill was opposed by a <a href="">broad-based coalition</a>, including the National Association of Biology Teachers, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, the American Institute for Biological Sciences, the Knoxville News Sentinel, the Nashville Tennessean, the National Association of Geoscience Teachers, the National Earth Science Teachers Association, the Tennessee Science Teachers Association, and all eight Tennessee members of the National Academy of Sciences.</p> <p>These voices of reason were no opposition to ALEC, its corporate backers, and the politicians who serve them, which saw the bill pass with little opposition whatsoever. </p> <p><strong>A Review: Bill Written By and For Corporate Polluters</strong></p> <p>We wrote this back in January:</p> <p>"The money paper trail for this ALEC model bill runs deep, to put it bluntly. </p> <p>When the ALEC model bill was adopted in 2000 by ALEC's Natural Resources Task Force, the head of that committee was <a href="">Sandy Liddy Bourne</a>, who after that stint, became Director of Legislation and Policy for ALEC. She is now with the <a href="">Heartland Institute</a> as vice-president for policy strategy. In <a href="">Sandy Liddy Bourne's bio on the Heartland website</a>, she boasts that "Under her leadership, 20 percent of ALEC model bills were enacted by one state or more, up from 11 percent." </p> <p><a href="">SourceWatch</a> states that Liddy Bourne '…is the daughter of former Nixon aide and convicted Watergate criminal G. Gordon Liddy, who spent more than 52 months in prison for his part in the Watergate burglary…[and her] speech at the Heartland Institute's 2008 International Conference on Climate Change was titled, '<a href="">The Kyoto Legacy; The Progeny of a Carbon Cartel in the States</a>.'</p> <p>The <a href="">Heartland Institute</a> (of <a href="">Heartland Exposed</a> infamy) was formerly heavily funded by <a href="">ExxonMobil</a>and <a href="">Koch Industries</a>, just <a href="">like ALEC</a> was at the time that Liddy Bourne's committee devised the '<a href="">Environmental Literacy Improvement Act.</a>' These two corporations are infamous for their funding of climate change "skeptic" think tanks and front groups.  </p> <p>Today, the <a href=",_Environment_and_Agriculture_Task_Force#Corporate.2C_Trade_or_Other_Group_Members">corporate polluter members</a> of ALEC's <a href=",_Environment_and_Agriculture_Task_Force#Corporate.2C_Trade_or_Other_Group_Members">Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force</a> include representatives from <a href="">American Electric Power</a>, the <a href="">Fraser Institute</a>, the <a href="">Cato Institute</a>, the <a href="">Competitive Enterprise Institute</a>, the <a href="">Institute for Energy Research</a>, the <a href="">Mackinac Center for Public Policy</a>, the <a href="">Heartland Institute</a>, and the <a href="">American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity</a>, to name several."</p> <p><strong>Getting Them While They're Young: A Cynical Maneuver </strong></p> <p>DeSmogBlog stands by what it wrote in January:</p> <p>"Maneuvering to dupe schoolchildren is about as cynical as it gets. Neuroscience explains that young brains are <a href="">like sponges</a>, ready to soak in knowledge (and disinformation, for that matter), and thus, youth are an ideal target for the "<a href="">merchants of doubt</a>."</p> <p>The corporations behind the writing and dissemination of this ALEC model bill, who are among the largest polluters in the world, would benefit handsomly from a legislative mandate to sow the seeds of confusion on climate science among schoolchildren."</p> <p>Looks like its four down, 46 states to go for ALEC.</p> <p>The fight has only just begun.</p> <p> </p> <p> </p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Steve Horn is a Researcher and Writer for DeSmogBlog, focusing primarily on domestic and international natural gas drilling operations and its interplay with international geopolitics. He lives in Madison, WI. </div></div></div> Thu, 22 Mar 2012 11:00:01 -0700 Steve Horn, DeSmogBlog 670009 at News & Politics Environment Education environment education science global warming climate change alec curriculum k-12 Has Obama Just Kicked Off Another Oil War -- This Time in Africa? <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Here&#039;s what is likely behind Obama&#039;s decision to send special forces to Uganda.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>On Friday, October 14, President Barack Obama announced he would be sending 100 Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) forces to Uganda to "remove from the battlefield" (meaning capture or kill) the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), Joseph Kony. "I believe that deploying these U.S. Armed Forces furthers U.S. national security interests and foreign policy and will be a significant contribution toward counter-LRA efforts in central Africa," wrote Obama in a letter to U.S. House Majority Leader, John Boehner, R-OH.</p> <p>The LRA, whose horrific deeds have been have been well-documented by scores of <a href="">human rights reports</a> and the documentary film, <em><a href="">Invisible Children</a></em>, can best be described as a Christian cult militia engaged in violent armed rebellion against the Ugandan government, located primarily in northern Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South Sudan. An <a href="">arrest warrant</a> was issued in 2005 by the International Criminal Court against the LRA leadership for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Kony, the LRA ringleader, possibly has over <a href="">80 wives</a> (i.e. <a href="">sex slaves</a>), according to a 2009 story by the <em>Guardian</em>, and has fathered over <a href="">40 children</a>.</p> <p>It gets worse.</p> <p>According to a May 2009 article in <a href="">Newsweek</a>, "[H]e and the hundreds of forcibly conscripted children who serve as his killing squads are feared throughout the region for their horrific levels of brutality and the butchery of tens of thousands of defenseless civilians. Their swath of destruction has displaced well over 2 million people. Kony has forced new male recruits to rape their mothers and kill their parents. Former LRA members say the rebels sometimes cook and eat their victims."</p> <p>The mainstream media, at least those who have covered this new U.S. military adventure, have taken the Obama administration at face value on its stated claim that JSOC troops are necessary in Uganda and neighboring countries, for the purpose of murdering the elusive and brutal war criminal-at-large, Joseph Kony.</p> <p>But is this the true motive for sending JSOC troops into the region? A probe into the last several years of geopolitical posturing in Africa by the United States reveals another tale. It is the tale of a 21st century "<a href="">scramble for Africa</a>" for the procurement of oil, using imperial tools, such as drones, mercenaries and military bases, in a desperate effort to gain control of this valuable commodity.</p> <p><strong>An African Scramble for Oil</strong></p> <p>In October 2008, AFRICOM, the United States Africa Command, became the U.S. military's sixth regional Unified Combatant Command center, joining those already housed in South America (SOUTHCOM), North America (NORTHCOM), Europe (EUCOM), the Middle East (CENTCOM), and the Pacific (USPACOM). The Unified Combatant Command centers serve as regional strategic hubs for the U.S. military planners to plot and implement the ways in which the U.S. will dominate these various regions for whatever it might deem to be in line with the national interest or national security purposes. </p> <p>AFRICOM, though, did not come out of the blue and was years in the making before its realization. Not long after 9/11, in early January 2002, a key symposium titled "African Oil: A Priority for U.S. National Security and African Development" took place in Washington, DC; it was hosted by the neoconservative think-tank, the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies (IASPS).</p> <p>IASPS is most famous for its authorship of a paper called "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm," a 1996 paper that, among other things, called for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, foreshadowing the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the neoconservative-lead Bush administration foreign policy team. </p> <p>At the symposium, then Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Walter Kantsteiner III, stated, "African oil is a national strategic interest...[and] it's people like you who will...bring the oil home." </p> <p>Later, in May 2004, Kantsteiner chaired a congressionally funded Africa Policy Advisory Panel report titled, "Rising U.S. States in Africa," in which he stated, "African oil is of national strategic interest to us, and it will increase and become more important as we go forward."</p> <p>In the midst of these summits, the U.S. set up crucial military bases -- in spring 2003 in Djibouti, a base called Camp Lemmonier, and in 2004 at Entebbe International Airport in Uganda.</p> <p>The U.S. was now firmly implanted in the region to begin an African safari, featuring, most prominently, tours of prospective and already existing oil rigs and pipelines spanning every contour of the continent.</p> <p><strong>Oil Safari to Uganda</strong></p> <p>Not long after AFRICOM became a reality, multinational corporations also flocked into Uganda to search for oil. </p> <p>The search was a flaming success story, with 2.5 billion barrels of oil now having been discovered, but still to this date, not yet procured. The royalties accompanying the oil's usage could reach up to $2 billion a year by 2015, reported the <em>Economist</em> in May 2010.</p> <p>This oil is located off of Lake Albert in northwest Uganda, a lake shared by both Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). </p> <p>Multinational corporations are required to sign something known as a Production Sharing Agreement (PSA) with the Ugandan government in order to drill for Uganda's oil. In essence, a PSA is a contractual agreement between a foreign corporation benefiting from a country's resources and the government of a country whose resources are being benefited from. </p> <p>In October 2006, according to a WikiLeaks cable, Tullow Oil, a British company, and Heritage Oil, a Canadian company, signed a PSA with the Ugandan government, led by President Yoweri Musveni. This particular PSA, though, was no ordinary one, and indeed, could serve, in part, as an explanation for the logic of Obama's October 14 announcement. </p> <p>For the first three years the PSA was signed, the details were kept secret from everyone but upper-level Tullow and Heritage executives and Museveni's inner circle. A February 2010 report written by PLATFORM, a British nonprofit organization, titled, "Contracts Curse: Uganda's oil agreements place profit before people," explains the PSA best and for the first time, made public its content.</p> <p>The PSA, PLATFORM explained, "contain[s] no clauses covering security provision[s]...There is no public agreement setting out the relationship between the oil companies and the military or police forces. Thus it is unclear what promises and guarantees the Ugandan government has made to ensure security and what rights the oil companies have been awarded."</p> <p>This raised numerous vital questions for PLATFORM, including, "Do oil company security or private military contractors have the right or authority to arrest, injure or kill those they perceive as a threat?" and "Is the Ugandan government incentivised to prioritise security interests over the human rights of local populations?" </p> <p>That same report also included revelations by PLATFORM that the Ugandan government had constructed a "new military base on ten square miles" near Lake Albert, where the oil was located. The report also disclosed that Museveni had created something called an Oil Wells Protection Unit (OWPU), which amounted to his own security forces, or mercenaries, guarding oil rigs.</p> <p>Concerned about the OWPU, PLATFORM wrote, "Apparently its mandate is 'to provide physical security for the oil and gas industry' and 'conduct strategic intelligence activities in all areas where oil will be processed and marketed.' However, the OWPU has no Web site and no clearly known structure or chain of command...In this context, the OWPU could easily be misused to repress opposition to oil extraction activities, further political gains by the government and commit human rights abuses without accountability." </p> <p><strong>Enter Heritage Oil and Ties to Private Mercenary Armies</strong></p> <p>Possibly the most crucial fact about the undisclosed clauses concerning security provisions in the PSA, was this vital detail: The Canadian oil company Heritage, which is owned by Tony Buckingham, who many credit for being the first innovator behind the modern-day private military corporation (PMC) (think Blackwater USA, now known as Xe Services), was formerly the main stakeholder in the Albertine Basin.</p> <p>In 2010, Heritage sold its stake in the project to the British company Tullow Oil for $1.5 billion. Though Heritage is no longer exploring for oil in the hopes of drilling for it in Uganda, Buckingham's background and business connections are still crucial to grasp.</p> <p>Buckingham is a former officer of the British Special Air Service (SAS) -- a parallel to the U.S. JSOC forces sent into Uganda by Obama -- according to a 1997 story. In 1992 Buckingham became the founder and CEO of Heritage Oil. A year later, in 1993, Buckingham founded a PMC called Executive Outcomes (EO). EO officially closed shop in 1998, but during its time of existence, it consistently followed in the footsteps of the locations that Buckingham took Heritage's oil rigs. And Buckingham's close ties to mercenary armies did not terminate with EO's fall. Instead, he formed a special relationship with a key figure, the half-brother of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, Salim Saleh.</p> <p>The special relationship between Saleh and Buckingham also goes a long way toward explaining the Obama decision to invade Uganda.</p> <p><strong>Salim Saleh, Erik Prince, and Guns-For-Hire in the Horn of Africa</strong></p> <p>Upon the eclipse of EO in 1998, rather than decay into oblivion, it instead morphed into a multi-tentacled machine of various PMC split-offs, the most crucial of which, at least as far as Uganda is concerned, is Saracen International. </p> <p>Salim Saleh owns a 25-percent stake in Saracen. "[Saracen International] was formed with the remnants of Executive Outcomes, a private mercenary firm composed largely of former South African special operations troops who worked throughout Africa in the 1990s," explained the <em>New York Times</em> in a January 2011 article.</p> <p>Saleh, now Museveni's military adviser, is a former high-ranking official for the <a href="'s_Defence_Force">Uganda People's Defence Force</a>, the military of the Ugandan government. He is also a well-connected mercenary, as seen through his ownership stake in Saracen. </p> <p>Saracen, in turns out, also maintains an important relationship with Blackwater USA founder and CEO, Erik Prince.</p> <p>The same article that revealed the ties between EO and Saracen International also revealed that Prince possesses an ownership stake in Saracen. The <em>Times</em> wrote, "According to a Jan. 12 confidential report by the African Union, Mr. Prince 'is at the top of the management chain of Saracen and provided seed money for the Saracen contract.'"</p> <p>Blackwater, under Prince's leadership, has been involved in the game of guns-for-hire in the Horn of Africa since February 2009, according to a WikiLeaks cable. The cable reveals that Blackwater won a contract to operate an armed ship, called <em>McArthur</em>, from a port in Djibouti, the country which is also home of the U.S. military's Camp Lemonnier base. </p> <p>The cable also reveals that <em>McArthur</em> "will have an unarmed UAV" (Unarmed Vehicle, aka a drone), "will likely engage...Kenya in the future," and that Blackwater "has briefed AFRICOM, CENTCOM, and Embassy Nairobi officials." In other words, this means the Prince and Blackwater mission had the blessing of top-level U.S. military and diplomatic officials. </p> <p>Could Prince's and Saleh's guns-for-hire be teaming up with JSOC forces in the Albertine basin to guard oil rigs? History provides some highly relavant precedent.</p> <p><strong>Erik Prince, Blackwater USA and Oil: History Repeating Itself?</strong></p> <p>Prince's Blackwater has been involved in such engagements before. Rewind to Azerbaijan and Iraq, where Blackwater was tasked with guarding crucial oil pipelines and oil wells for the world's wealthiest oil and natural gas corporations.</p> <p>Investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill, in his book <em>Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army</em>, revealed that "Blackwater USA was hired by the deploy in Azerbaijan, where Blackwater would be tasked with establishing and training an elite...force modeled after the U.S. Navy SEALs that would ultimately protect the interests of the United States and its allies in a hostile region.</p> <p>"Blackwater joined a U.S. corporate landscape [in the region] that included...corporations such as Bechtel, Halliburton, Chevron-Texaco, Unocal and ExxonMobil ... Instead of sending in battalions of active U.S. military to Azerbaijan, the Pentagon deployed...Blackwater...that would serve a dual purpose: protecting the West's new profitable oil and gas exploitation in a region historically dominated by Russia and Iran, and possibly laying the groundwork for an important forward operating base for an attack against Iran," Scahill continued.</p> <p>Azerbaijan, like Uganda, is home to a vast array of oil and natural gas, and also a key pipeline, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which, after reaching its respective coastal homes in Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, ends up on the global export market.</p> <p>In Iraq, as revealed by the<em> Guardian</em> in a March 2004 article, Blackwater, via a Pentagon contract, recruited Chilean "commandos, other soldiers and seamen, paying them up to $4,000 a month to guard oil wells against attack by insurgents...many of [them] had trained under the military government of Augusto Pinochet." Pinochet, many will recall, was the brutal dictator who came to power after the CIA-initiated 1973 coup of Salvador Allende.</p> <p>Iraq, like Uganda and Azerbaijan, is home to vast amounts of oil. Major syndicates ranging from BP America, ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron and ConocoPhillips have all flocked to Iraq in the mad dash for Iraq's resources since the 2003 onset of the ongoing U.S. occupation of Iraq.</p> <p><strong>WikiLeaks Cables Reveal Ugandan Oil Bid Corruption</strong></p> <p>ExxonMobil, teaming up with Tullow Oil, as seen through the lens of important Wikileaks State Department diplomatic cables, has also shown great interest in the economic opportunities surrounding oil exploration off of Lake Albert, as well as great concern over governmental corruption in the nascent Ugandan oil industry.</p> <p>A key December 3, 2009 cable, titled, "Uganda: Corruption Allegations Accompany Arrival Of Major Oil Firms," reads, "Executives from ExxonMobil visited Uganda on November 18-19, and met with Ambassador (Jerry) Lanier (the U.S. ambassador to Uganda), Mission Officers, the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development (MEMD), Uganda's Petroleum Exploration and Production Department (PEPD), and Tullow (Oil)...ExxonMobil representatives who traveled to Kampala said they were 'very impressed' with...the Ugandan government oil representatives..."</p> <p>Roughly a month later, yet another important WikiLeaks-provided State Department diplomatic cable was produced on January 13, 2010, titled, "Uganda: Security Report Details Oil Sector Corruption," which discusses the impacts rampant corruption unfolding in the Ugandan oil industry would have on the U.S. if the ExxonMobil deal falls through. </p> <p>"A corrupt...agreement would undermine a potential multi-billion dollar deal between ExxonMobil and Tullow, and have serious long-term implications for Uganda in terms of...economic development," the cable reads.</p> <p>The State Department's diplomatic cables make it quite clear that ExxonMobil and its partner, Tullow Oil, were both deeply interested in the Ugandan oil industry, but also gravely concerned about corruption.</p> <p>Yet, Tullow and ExxonMobil had little to worry about, based on both Prince's ExxonMobil ties during his days at Blackwater USA, as well as a crucial March 2008 meeting between the Salim Saleh-led Ugandan military and high-level Tullow Oil officials, as exposed by Wikileaks.</p> <p><strong>Tullow's Mercenary Presence Long in the Making at Lake Albert Basin</strong></p> <p>Tullow, as revealed by State Department diplomatic cables leaked to Wikileaks, has been building up a mercenary army presence in the Lake Albert area for over three years.</p> <p>A March 2008 State Department diplomatic cable reads, "...Tullow Oil, one of the four exploration companies operating in western Uganda, said that as the oil activity on Lake Albert increased, a security presence would be vital."</p> <p>The cable also mentions that U.S. Ambassador to Uganda Steven Browning and Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa Rear Admiral Phillip Greene "met with representatives from Tullow Oil and the Ugandan People's Defense Force (UPDF), as well as local leaders...on March 4." The UPDF is lead by Salim Saleh, who also owns a 25-percent ownership stake in Saracen International, the private mercenary army also owned in part by Erik Prince.</p> <p>During the meeting it was also "noted that oil exploration and production would raise the profile of the area, which could lead to increased incidences of violence between Ugandan locals and security forces..." and the meeting concluded with a request for "an assessment provide the Ugandan military with an organizational, doctrinal, training, and equipment needs assessment for a future lake security force."</p> <p>Toss into the ring the ongoing great power politics rivalry between the U.S. and China, and things become even more complex.</p> <p><strong>Great Power Politics Posturing in the Works?</strong></p> <p>Though ExxonMobil and Tullow Oil lost out on the corrupt oil bid in late 2009, while exploration has been done, drilling has yet to occur in Uganda. In that vein, 100 U.S. JSOC troops, likely teaming up with Erik Prince, Salim Saleh and Yoweri Museveni-backed mercenaries, have swooped into the Lake Albert area to secure the prize, oil, before its rival does.</p> <p>The opponent? China.</p> <p>On October 24, Tullow sold $2.9 billion worth of its shares of oil to France's Total Oil and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), though it has yet to be approved by the Museveni government and requires his approval. </p> <p>Throughout all of this, it is vital to bear in mind the bigger picture, which is that the United States and China have been competing against one another in the new "African Scramble" for Africa's valuable oil resources. </p> <p>Serge Michel and Michel Beuret, in their 2009 book <em>China Safari: On the Trail of Beijing's Expansion in Africa</em>, write, "China's advances in Africa's oil-rich regions have been viewed with concern bordering on paranoia in the United States....[It] could...deteriorate into a a head-to-head clash between China and the United States, prompting the kind of open conflict that some see as inevitable by 2030."</p> <p>One has to wonder what will happen with regards to this recent oil deal, knowing the players involved, and seeing the geopolitical and resources maneuvering taking place in the Lake Albert region. </p> <p>If the United States and its well-connected guns-for-hire have any say, Tullow Oil, Heritage Oil, ExxonMobil will take home all the royalties, and CNOOC will be sent home packing.</p> <p><strong>Another Piece of the Puzzle: Senate Bill 1067 of 2009</strong></p> <p>It appears that since the Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009, Senate Bill 1067, a bill that called for, among other things, to "apprehend or remove Joseph Kony and his top commanders from the battlefield...and to disarm and demobilize the remaining Lord's Resistance Army fighters," the United States has Lake Albert targeted in its crosshairs. </p> <p>An important provision squeezed into the bill was a section mandating that an official strategy be written up to "disarm and demobilize" the LRA. </p> <p>"Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the President shall develop and submit to the appropriate committees of Congress a strategy to guide future United States support across the region," the bill reads. "The strategy shall include...a description of how this engagement will fit within the context of broader efforts and policy objectives in the Great Lakes Region."</p> <p>The Great Lakes Region includes Lake Albert and "broader efforts and policy objectives" translates into, based on State Department diplomatic cables and public statements made in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, the control of precious oil resources in the Albertine Basin. </p> <p>Signed into law by Obama in May 2009, it is crucial to put when the bill was written into proper historical context. </p> <p>As revealed by State Department diplomatic cables, this was roughly a year after the special meeting between Tullow Oil representatives; U.S. Ambassador to Uganda, Steven Browning; and then head of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, Rear Admiral Phillip Greene near Lake Albert. It was also roughly half a year after the launch of AFRICOM.</p> <p>Some may have been surprised by this latest announcement to invade another country by the Obama administration, but based on recent history, there are no real surprises here. Still, despite evidence that seems to fly in the face of the reason offered by Obama to send troops to Uganda, it is still worth scrutinizing his rationale.</p> <p><strong>Humanitarian Intervention for Kony?</strong></p> <p>If there is one thing that is nearly for certain, it is that the Lord's Resistance Army and Joseph Kony, as awful as they are, likely have nothing to do with this most recent U.S. military engagement in Uganda.</p> <p>In the end, it all comes back to oil, even if top-level U.S. officials maintain that this has "nothing to do with oil."</p> <p>For one, days before this incursion, it was announced that the "the Obama administration quietly waived restrictions on military aid to Chad, Yemen, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)--four countries with records of actively recruiting child soldiers...Any country even remotely close to the horn of Africa (like these distinguished four) is just too strategically important...So, for the time being, it's still guns for the kids," wrote <em>Mother Jones</em>. </p> <p>One of the rationales Obama gave for sending JSOC troops to Uganda, was that the LRA recruits and uses child soldiers, which, given this recent decision, made for the second consecutive year, is certainly not something high on the list of Obama's concerns.</p> <p>Furthermore, if human rights were actually the chief concern, why did the United States show interest in Kony only after the discovery of oil in the region? Not only that, but Kony, as many have made clear, is nowhere to be found in Uganda and is on the run or in hiding somewhere outside of the country. </p> <p>To top it all off, Yoweri Museveni and his brother, the gun-for-hire Salim Saleh, both have deplorable human rights records, and unlike the LRA, maintain state control over the people of Uganda. An article titled "Uganda's Tyrant," written in 2007 by the <em>Guardian</em>, sums up the human rights situation under Museveni:</p> <blockquote> <p>"President Museveni's...regime is a constitutional dictatorship, with a rubber stamp parliament, powerless judiciary, censored media and heavily militarised civil institutions...Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International...confirm the harassment of Museveni's political opponents, detention without trial, torture, extrajudicial killings, suppression of protests and homophobic witch-hunts."</p></blockquote> <p>Abhorrent as his human rights record may be, the United States sent a $45 million military aid package to the Museveni-lead government in July 2011, which included four drones. </p> <p>Do not be surprised if, months from now, ExxonMobil or another U.S. oil industry superpower walks away with drilling rights in the Lake Albert region and CNOOC, the current main possessor of Uganda's Lake Albert oil resources, is sent packing. </p> <p>Also don't be surprised if Erik Prince and Salim Saleh lead Saracen International, working alongside JSOC troops, who work closely with the Central Intelligence Agency, are working as "security forces" off of the Albertine oil basin. </p> <p>These are not only likely scenarios, but probable ones. Joseph Kony and his LRA allies might be taken down, but the people of Uganda, on the whole, will not benefit from this "humanitarian intervention." </p> <p>Things, unfortunately, will probably only worsen for the people of Uganda as time progresses.  </p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Steve Horn is a researcher and writer for DeSmogBlog. He lives in Madison, WI. </div></div></div> Tue, 08 Nov 2011 16:00:01 -0800 Steve Horn, AlterNet 668398 at Environment World Environment oil africa uganda Exposed: New Documentary About Gas Drilling Hailed as Indie and Balanced, But Here's Why It's Neither <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">&quot;Haynesville&quot; is making the indie film circuit, but its director is actually an oil and gas man in disguise.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>This weekend, the<em><a href="">Texas Tribune</a></em> will play host to the <a href="">Texas Tribune Festival</a>. According to the festival's <a href="">website</a>, the convening is designed "to bring together the state's most prominent thinkers, politicians and public servants for a weekend of debate, discussion and dialogue on the subjects that matter most to all Texans."</p> <p>Near the top of the agenda will be a slate of policy discussions pertaining to <a href="">energy and the environment</a>, include the screening of a documentary about natural gas drilling (no, not <a href=""><em>Gasland</em></a>). Texas is home to both the Eagle Ford and Barnett Shale basins, as well as a sliver of the Haynesville Shale, under all of which sits vast amounts of natural gas. The <a href="">Haynesville Shale</a>, mostly located in the northwest corner of Louisiana, as well as bit of southwest Arkansas and east Texas, underlies an area of about 9,000 square miles and possesses some 250 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas. It is the largest natural gas field in the United States.</p> <p>The festival's <a href="">sponsors</a> include some of the most powerful players in the natural gas arena: Apache Corporation, BP, El Paso Corp, Energy Future Holdings Corp, and <a href=";year=2011">America's Natural Gas Alliance</a> (ANGA) -- the largest natural gas industry lobbying consortium in the United States. ANGA spent over $3 million lobbying the U.S. Congress in 2010 and has already spent over $1 million lobbying Congress in 2011, according to <a href=""></a>.</p> <p>The speakers at the Energy and Environment forum are also among the friendliest promoters (and defenders) of the gas industry, including U.S. Sen. J<a href="">ohn Cornyn</a> (R-TX), who raised <a href=";cid=N00024852&amp;type=I">nearly $1 million</a> from the oil and gas industry in the run-up to his 2008 election, according to; and T. Boone Pickens, creator of Pickens Plan and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, as well as the main orchestrator behind U.S. House Bill 1380, the NAT GAS Act.</p> <p><a href="">Gregory Kallenberg</a>, a less well-known but increasingly influential figure in the natural gas "golden age," will also be there. He's currently best known for his role as director of the documentary film that's being shown: <a href=""><em>Haynesville: A Nation's Hunt for an Energy Future</em></a>.</p> <p>According to the film's <a href="">website</a>, <em>Haynesville</em> "follows the momentous discovery of the largest natural gas field in the United States (and maybe the world). The film examines the historic find (a formation called the 'Haynesville Shale') from the personal level as well as from the higher perspective of the current energy picture and pending energy future."</p> <p>Kallenberg's film will be featured at the Texas Tribune Festival, followed by a panel featuring Kallenberg and others, including Justin Furnace, a lobbyist from the Texas Independent Producers and Royalty Owners Association; David Blackmon, who simultaneously serves on the government affairs committee for America's Natural Gas Alliance and the U.S. Oil and Gas Association, sits on the Board of Directors of the Louisiana Oil &amp; Gas Association and the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers, and is the chief lobbyist for El Paso Corporation; and Ian Duncan, a professor of economic geology at the University of Texas at Austin.</p> <p>While <em>Haynesville</em> was recently described in a <a href="">story</a> on Minnesota Public Radio as portraying "both sides" of the natural gas battle royale, the film is actually much more one-sided than most people believe.</p> <p>A months-long investigation into the film has revealed that the film's director, Gregory Kallenberg, is actually a well-connected oil and natural gas man, with both a direct and familial financial stake in the ongoing domestic natural gas boom.</p> <p>In fact, the film, produced by Three Penny Productions, has served as a prolonged public relations and advertising campaign for the gas industry, cleverly disguised as a tour for a small up-and-coming independent film.</p> <p>It all began in November 2009 at the Sheffield Film Festival in England.</p> <p><strong>From England to Denmark to Texas -- an "Independent" Film Hits Prestigious Venues</strong></p> <p><em>Haynesville</em> started off with a splash unseen by most small, independent films.</p> <p>In November 2009, the film premiered at the prestigious Sheffield Film Festival in England. In a press release announcing the global premiere, director Gregory Kallenberg <a href="">stated</a>, "I was floored when I found out...The head programmer from the festival personally called to tell me how much he liked the film, and that Sheffield wanted it to premiere in their festival. In the film fest world, that kind of thing just doesn't happen."</p> <p>At the Sheffield Film Festival, <em>Haynesville</em> was one of the nominees for the prestigious Green Doc Award. (It did not win, but it's a bit ironic to think that a dirty gas industry propaganda film was even considered a candidate in a green documentary competition.)</p> <p>It was shortly thereafter featured at the December 2009 <a href="">United Nations Climate Change Conference</a> in Copenhagen, Denmark. In conjunction with the COP-15 conference itself, the U.N. sponsored the <a href="">Indigenous Voices on Climate Change Film Festival</a>. <em>Haynesville</em> was one of the 22 films screened, even though it has nothing to do with indigenous voices on climate change.</p> <p>Haynesville has also played in front of <a href="">other influential audiences</a>, ranging from the New Orleans Film Festival, the Aspen Ideas Festival this past summer and TEDx Austin, among others.</p> <p>The film made its national television premier in November 2010 on <a href="">CNBC</a>, a television channel owned by NBC/Universal, which is owned in part by General Electric (GE) -- GE, lo and behold, is a big player in the natural gas industry.</p> <p>GE created a device for <a href="">recycling the water</a> used during the controversial and toxic hydraulic fracturing (fracking) process. Furthermore, it maintains natural gas fueled <a href="">power plants</a>, and manufactures <a href="">natural gas-powered turbines</a>, having sold more than $1 billion worth of them in 2011 in the United States, according to <a href="">Reuters</a>. GE also recently made a <a href="">deal with Russia</a> to sell between $10 and $15 billion worth of turbines.</p> <p>"We're a massive player in gas exploration," <a href="">GE's Mark Vachon stated</a> in a July 2011 story.</p> <p>Since GE has a "massive" stake in the future of gas development, its NBC/Universal division is an ideal outlet for a national cable television premiere of a film highly favorable to increased natural gas production, to say the least.</p> <p><strong>The Truth About Three Penny Productions</strong></p> <p>The <a href="">Contact Us</a> section of the <em>Haynesville</em> website lists a Three Penny Productions studio. The name "Three Penny Productions" might evoke a small "mom and pop" independent movie studio to many folks, but the reality is to the contrary.</p> <p>The first red flag: Three Penny Productions is located in the heart of Shreveport's petroleum district. A Google Maps search of businesses and trade associations located in a two-block radius of Three Penny Productions includes the likes of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, Chesapeake Energy, Caddo Management, Inc., Phillips Energy Partners, the Shreveport Chamber of Commerce, Petrohawk Energy, the Petroleum Club of Shreveport, Goodrich Petroleum Corporation, and C.H. Fenstermaker and Associates.</p> <p>Red flag number two: Three Penny Productions is not listed on the directory of the building it is said to sit in on the <em>Haynesville</em> website, the <a href="">American Tower</a>, according to a <a href=";feature=player_embedded#!">YouTube video</a> produced by a source who lives in the Shreveport area. Those listed include Caddo Management and the influential lobbying firm, C.H. Fenstermaker and Associates, but no Three Penny Productions in sight. Furthermore, a photo of the production studio taken by the same source shows an empty office in the listed Suite 1007.</p> <p>C.H. Fenstermaker is a lobbying firm and the bulk of its <a href="">clients</a> are natural gas corporations.</p> <p>Red flag three: The YouTube video taken by the Shreveport source lists <em>Haynesville</em> director and producer, Gregory Kallenberg, as the vice president of investments and real estate for a company called Caddo Management, Inc. Also listed are his brothers, Jeffrey and <a href="">Randolph Kallenberg</a>, who serve as the vice president of exploration and the vice president of finance, respectively. Caddo is also listed as a <a href="">registered corporation</a> on the Louisiana Secretary of State website.</p> <p>The Louisiana Department of Natural Resources website <a href="">lists</a> Gregory Kallenberg as the vice president of business development for Caddo Management, Inc.</p> <p>So, what is Caddo Management, Inc.?</p> <p>Caddo is an oil and gas drilling corporation. It's listed as an active operator in Arksansas on the Arksansas Oil and Gas Commission website. It is also listed as the <a href="">primary driller</a> for Western Oil and Gas, JV Inc and a Louisiana Department of Natural Resources <a href="">document</a> shows that Caddo has applied for a drilling permit. Pipeline Association for Public Awareness lists Caddo as an excavator in a <a href="">2010 document</a>.</p> <p>Lastly, the Louisiana Office of Conservation, in a <a href="">February 2011 document</a>, lists Caddo as a Louisiana oil and gas operator, having recently purchased a land mass in Arnaudville, Louisiana, underneath which sits 197 barrels of oil.</p> <p>In short, Kallenberg is an oil and gas man through and through, though this goes undisclosed when he goes on tour with his movie, <em>Haynesville</em>.</p> <p><strong>Deep Familial History of Involvement in Oil and Gas Industry</strong></p> <p>Another vital tie exists between the Kallenberg family and the natural gas industry -- Phillips Energy Partners, currently owned by <a href="">Chris Phillips</a>.</p> <p>The Betty and Leonard Phillips Deaf Action Center website reveals that Gregory Kallenberg's grandmother is <a href="">Betty Phillips</a>, wife of Leonard Phillips, both of whom are the grandparents of Chris Phillips and his brother Collin, who also works for <a href="">Phillips Energy Partners</a>. Chris and Collin Phillips, and the Kallenbergs, are cousins and all oil and gas men.</p> <p>The Phillips family has been involved in the oil and gas industry for over 80 years, according to the Phillips Energy Partners' website and according to Betty Phillips' November 2010 <a href="">obituary</a>.</p> <p>The obituary also reveals that Betty Phillips' father, Sam Sklar, "was a pioneer in the early Shreveport oil and gas industry." Sklar Exploration Company, LLC, still exists to this very day and is run by <a href="">CEO Howard Sklar</a>.</p> <p>The company history page reveals that what is now called Sklar Exploration Company formerly went by the name <a href="">Sklar &amp; Phillips Oil Co</a>.</p> <p>"Sklar's exploration and production activities center on the hydrocarbon-rich Lower Gulf Coast basins, primarily in South Texas, and in the Interior Gulf Coast basins of East Texas, North Louisiana, South Arkansas, South Mississippi and South Alabama," states the <a href="">Sklar website</a>.</p> <p>Howard Sklar and Gregory Kallenberg both formerly sat on the Board of Directors of B'nai Zion Congregation, which is located in Shreveport, according to a June 2008 Congregation newsletter.</p> <p>According to the <a href="">Phillips website</a>, "Phillips Energy Partners was founded in 2006 in partnership with Encap Investments to grow a royalty portfolio of long life oil and gas assets...PEP's Acquisition Profile focuses primarily on Royalties, Overriding Royalty Interests and Non-Producing Mineral Interests throughout the United States. PEP presently has mineral holdings in 11 states and is actively acquiring each day."</p> <p>Phillips is focused primarily on buying up the mineral rights in shale plays throughout the United States, and then selling them to natural gas corporations that make the highest bid.</p> <p>Its <a href="">website says</a> Phillips possesses "mineral holdings in Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Nebraska, New Mexico, California, Montana, North Dakota, and Michigan," and that it is "actively seeking interests in New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Wyoming, Utah and Colorado."</p> <p>Phillips, according to the Company Overview, maintains a partnership with EnCap Investments, L.P. EnCap, according to its <a href="">website</a>, is the "leading provider of private equity to the independent sector of the U.S. oil &amp; gas industry. The firm has raised 15 institutional oil and gas investment funds totaling approximately $11 billion and currently manages capital on behalf of over 200 U.S. and International investors."</p> <p>Both Phillips Energy Partners website and <em>Haynesville's</em> website were created by the <a href="">same man</a>, David Eleuterius.</p> <p>Phillips Energy Partners' office and the Caddo Management, Inc. office sit roughly two blocks apart from one another.</p> <p><strong>The Movie's Promotional and "Educational" Tour</strong></p> <p>When Gregory Kallenberg goes on tour with the film, he does not reveal that he is an oil and natural gas man, and that he comes from a family with deep historical industry roots. Instead, he portrays himself as an "independent filmmaker" who cannot believe the success his film has had thus far.</p> <p>A June <a href="">2009 article</a> in the <em>Shreveport Times</em> about <em>Haynesville</em> describes the film as "lean-and-mean," "locally funded," and an "indie" documentary.</p> <p>Producer Mark Bullard described the film as "a small, independently produced documentary with big aspirations," in a <a href="">press release</a>.</p> <p>That press release also stated that Three Penny Productions "is an independent production company specializing in small to medium budget documentary and narrative works with extraordinarily high production value and amazing content." It said that Three Penny Productions maintains studios in Texas and New York, in addition to their Louisiana office.</p> <p>A December 2009 <em><a href="">Houston Chronicle</a></em> interview of Gregory Kallenberg introduces the interview by saying, "Gregory Kallenberg was sitting in a Shreveport diner early last year the first time he heard about the massive Haynesville natural gas find from a fellow patron. 'It was like the crazy miner who comes in from the hills saying he has found gold,' said Kallenberg."</p> <p>In that same interview, he said, "My background is journalism, and being a journalist I was always taught to present things in a balanced way and let the reader pick through the facts and decide what they thought about the story. I approached this film in the very same way."</p> <p>He also said in that interview, "I was very careful to do this as an independent project with no industry money."</p> <p>The quotes in this <em>Houston Chronicle</em> interview, based on his oil and natural gas industry ties, could not be further from the truth. He did not need to hunt for "industry money" because<em></em>he is in the industry; nor was the Haynesville Shale something he randomly stumbled upon one day while sitting in a cafe.</p> <p><strong>Kallenberg Promotes His Own Natural Gas Interests Through the Film Tour</strong></p> <p>The main premise of <em>Haynesville</em> is double-tiered.</p> <p>First, it portrays, through the tale of three individuals, how the people living in the Haynesville Shale region have been economically uplifted thanks to the sale of their mineral rights to natural gas corporations. "60 Minutes" referred to this process as people becoming "<a href="">Shaleionaires</a>," while a more critical documentary referred to it as citizens possessing a "split estate."</p> <p>Second, it talks about shale gas utilization as a "bridge fuel" toward greener alternative energy sources.</p> <p>Important to note is the primary focus on the film, not on how many jobs the natural gas industry has created, but instead, how much money it has earned the citizens on whose land natural gas drilling has occurred, with regards to their minerals being purchased by natural gas corporations -- think Phillips Energy Partners, a mineral rights' purchasing organization.</p> <p>Also, the film does not touch on the <a href="">ecological hazards</a> inherent in the natural gas drilling process, which start with the <a href="">sand mining</a> for fracking sand process, continue with leasing of mineral rights process, proceed with<a href="">toxic hydraulic fracturing</a> for natural gas process, and eventually end with the final product of a <a href="">dirty fossil fuel</a>.</p> <p>The "bridge fuel" theory, to date, has been thoroughly debunked in meticulous studies by both the <a href="">Post Carbon Institute</a> and the <a href="">National Center for Atmospheric Research</a>. Both studies showed that switching from coal to natural gas will do very little, if anything, to put a damper on global warming.</p> <p>To date, not a single journalist has connected any of these dots -- particularly ironic, since the next pit stop for <em>Haynesville</em> is a newspaper's festival.</p> <p><strong>The Jig's Up on <em>Haynesville</em></strong></p> <p>Gregory Kallenberg, on the insert for "Updated Extended Version" of <em>Haynesville</em> wrote, "<em>Haynesville</em> still proudly stands as the only independly produced, balanced film that looks at the challenges of our current energy sources and attempt sto sort out a pathway to a clean energy future...Unfortunately, the current energy discussion ahs been polarized and, we believe, been taken over by the extreme sides of the issue...<em>Haynesville</em> as created to speak to the 'rational middle,' those people who don't stand on the extreme ends."</p> <p>Kallenberg has gotten away with touring the country, pretending as if he and his film represents this "vast rational middle" on the natural gas debate.</p> <p>Until now.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Steve Horn is a researcher and writer for DeSmogBlog. He lives in Madison, WI. </div></div></div> Fri, 23 Sep 2011 09:00:01 -0700 Steve Horn, AlterNet 667844 at Environment Water Media Investigations Environment Fracking texas oil gas water drilling fracking haynesville