Many are trying to answer the question of what the UK’s energy and climate change policy might look like if we leave the EU. So, what do those...
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has spent countless taxpayer dollars and man-hours over the last few years investigating the environmental threats posed by hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in many regions across the United States. And when their draft reports showed that the practice was poisoning water supplies, the gas industry stepped in and immediately put a halt to the studies.
According to a new report by ProPublica, the EPA has halted several investigations into the safety of fracking operations in places like Texas, Pennsylvania, and Wyoming.
Most recently, the EPA halted a study on the environmental impact of fracking in Pavillion, Wyoming. The draft report of the study had been finished, but the gas industry intervened and questioned the validity of the study, so the EPA decided to back off and hand over the task of completing the study to the state of Wyoming. The state will finish the investigation, but the funding will come from the natural gas drilling company EnCana. Incidentally, EnCana is responsible for the pollution that the EPA was testing.
And it wasn’t that the EPA didn’t find anything that citizens should be concerned about; quite the opposite is true. In spite of halting the study, the agency still told residents that they should not drink the water coming out of their taps, nor should they use it to bathe because of the chemicals that were found in the tap water.
Friends of the Earth-U.S. (FOE) has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. State Department for failing to expedite its April 2013 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking communications between TransCanada Keystone XL tar sands export pipeline's influence peddlers and the agency tasked to make the final decision on KXL's northern half.
FOE's request seeks records of communications between State - which FOE has yet to hear back from since the April expedition request denial - and a cadre of powerful lobbyists.
The most well-connected of the group is Anita Dunn, a principal at SDKnickberbocker, a senior advisor to Obama's 2012 reelection campaign and former communications director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee under then-Senator Kerry. Dunn - who had over 100 private meetings with the Obama Admininistration between 2009 and 2012 according to a New York Times investigation - now does public relations on behalf of TransCanada at SDKnickberbocker.
Dunn's husband Robert “Bob” Bauer - President Obama's personal attorney, former White House Counsel for Obama, Counsel for the Democratic National Committee and election law attorney for Obama's 2012 reelection campaign - works at a law firm that does legal work on behalf of another TransCanada-owned pipeline, Alaska's South Central LNG.
DeSmogBlog submitted a FOIA request to the White House for the financial disclosure forms of Dunn and Bauer on July 5.
When you combine the lobbies of electric utilities (representing the coal industry) and the lobbies of oil and gas interests, there is no industry that puts more money into buying politicians and influence from year to year than the fossil fuel industry. So far this year, the utilities and the oil and gas industry combined have already pumped a staggering $75.7 million into lobbying activities, and we still have more than five months left until the end of the year.
But that amount is a mere pittance when compared to the $285 million the two groups spent lobbying during 2012, or the $295 million they spent the year before. Again, when taken together, no industry outspends the dirty energy industry in Washington, D.C.
Like any savvy investor, the industry puts its money wherever they believe they can get the highest return on investment. And nowhere is that return higher than in the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives.
Just last month, Republicans in the House, joined by only 16 Democrats, passed a bill that, if signed into law, will force the Obama administration to come up with a five year plan on how best to expand drilling activities in America. The bill would require the President and his administration to vastly increase the amount of offshore areas available for oil drilling, giving the oil industry free rein over our coastal waterways.
In President Barack Obama's Climate Action Plan address, he stated that TransCanada's Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would only receive State Department approval “if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.”
As it stands, that means Keystone XL - which if built to full capacity would pipe diluted bitumen, or “dilbit” from the Alberta tar sands down to Port Arthur, TX refineries for shipment to the global export market - may likely receive Obama's approval.
That's because Obama's State Dept. - assigned to make a final decision on KXL because it crosses the international border - contracted its Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Study (SEIS) out to Environmental Resources Management, Inc. (ERM Group).
ERM Group is a dues-paying member of the American Petroleum Institute (API), as is TransCanada.
The SEIS concluded KXL's “approval or denial” - misleading because its southern half is already 75-percent complete via an Obama March 2012 Executive Order - “is unlikely to have a substantial impact on the rate of development” of the tar sands. Therefore, it will also have little impact on climate change, according to ERM's SEIS.
It's important to remember that ERM was chosen on behalf of State by TransCanada itself. Futher, one of the ERM employees tasked to conduct the SEIS, as exposed in a Mother Jones investigation, is a former TransCanada employee.
A DeSmog investigation also reveals that API has spent $22.03 million dollars lobbying at the federal level on Keystone XL and/or tar sands issues since the pipeline was initially proposed in June 2008. Further, some of those oil lobbyists have direct ties to both President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, the two men who have the final say on KXL.
Recently, Canadian Oil Sands Chief Executive Officer Marcel Coutu explained to Bloomberg why he and other big shot oil executives have been lobbying U.S. politicians so hard for the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would ferry more than 800,000 barrels of tar sands crude to the Gulf Coast. Coutu had participated in a Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) lobbying junket in February, and another trip is being planned for this month.
The first reason is money. The Keystone XL pipeline is a vital component of the tar sands industry’s plans. Without it, it will be hard for Big Oil to double production of tar sands crude by 2020. With no way to transport the extra crude to markets in the U.S. and beyond, there would be no point in spending all that money to turn bitumen into a crude form of oil. This, Coutu said, has had a chilling effect on investment and share prices.
Canadian Oil Sands shares have risen just two per cent this year, while Cenovus’ have fallen seven percent and Imperial Oil’s are down 6.2 percent. Keystone XL, says Todd Kepler, a Calgary-based oil and gas analyst at Cormark Securities, would increase share prices for oil producers by as much as 20 per cent.
That's a big deal worth millions of dollars.
Ryan Lance, CEO of oil giant ConocoPhillips, issued a dire warning to colleagues at an energy conference earlier this month. According to Lance, “misinformation and fear” could easily derail the current financial boom that is taking place within the shale gas industry.
Industry groups contend that concerns about fracking have been badly overstated and say the method is safe.
Lance accused critics of “creating fear” and touted steps he said the industry is taking on water conservation, disclosure of chemicals and other areas.
To address Lance’s first claim (fear and misinformation), the only misinformation being pushed out related to the safety of fracking is coming from the industry. The best available research tells us that natural gas fracking activities have been linked to increased seismic activity, groundwater pollution, and abnormally higher concentrations of air pollution near fracking well sites. The full list of dangers from fracking can be found in DeSmogBlog’s “Fracking The Future” report.
But focusing on Lance’s claim that “misinformation and fear” are thwarting fracking operations misses another important statement from the CEO. He also said that he and his colleagues in the industry are taking the initiative in being more transparent in disclosing the chemical cocktails being injected into the ground, as well as improvements in “other areas.”
Lance’s claim is at odds with the truth. In fact, his company, ConocoPhillips, has helped lead the charge to prevent any form of disclosure. While they have complied with state regulations that are beginning to require disclosure from shale gas companies, they have done only the bare minimum of reporting, and the majority of wells operated by both Conoco and the rest of the industry continue to skirt disclosure requirements.
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) - known by its critics as a “corporate bill mill” - has hit the ground running in 2013, pushing “models bills” mandating the teaching of climate change denial in public school systems.
January hasn't even ended, yet ALEC has already planted its ”Environmental Literacy Improvement Act” - which mandates a “balanced” teaching of climate science in K-12 classrooms - in the state legislatures of Oklahoma, Colorado, and Arizona so far this year.
In the past five years since 2008, among the hottest years in U.S. history, ALEC has introduced its “Environmental Literacy Improvement Act” in 11 states, or over one-fifth of the statehouses nationwide. The bill has passed in four states, an undeniable form of “big government” this “free market” organization decries in its own literature.
ALEC's “model bills” are written by and for corporate lobbyists alongside conservative legislators at its annual meetings. ALEC raises much of its corporate funding from the fossil fuel industry, which in turn utilizes ALEC as a key - though far from the only - vehicle to ram through its legislative agenda through in the states.
According to a document obtained by Greenpeace Canada through an Access to Information request, the current overhaul of Canada's environmental protections doesn't just look like a gift to the oil and gas industry.
A letter dated December 12, 2011 reveals the oil and gas industry made an appeal to Environment Minister Peter Kent and Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver requesting they reconsider certain environmental laws in light of “both economic growth and environmental performance.”
It looks like islands aren't the only thing Enbridge overlooks these days.