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Mon, 2011-10-03 11:56Brendan DeMelle
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State Department Emails Reveal Cozy Relationship With TransCanada Lobbyist

Friends of the Earth today released “deeply disturbing” emails obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request illustrating “pro-pipeline bias and complicity at the State Department‚” over the controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

The 200 pages of new documents [PDF] show that TransCanada lobbyist Paul Elliott, who served as deputy national campaign director and chief of delegate selection to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign, exchanged troubling emails with Marja Verloop, a State Department official who works on energy and environmental issues at the U.S. embassy in Ottawa.

In one email, Verloop offers comforting words to Elliott, assuring him that “at the end of the day it's precisely because you have connections that you're sought after and hired.” [PDF]

Friends of the Earth recently called for the Justice Department to investigate Paul Elliott, who appears to have lobbied the Obama administration to approve the Keystone XL pipeline for more than a year without registering as a lobbyist.

Tue, 2011-09-27 18:56Brendan DeMelle
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Friends of the Earth Asks Justice Department To Investigate TransCanada lobbyist Paul Elliott

Friends of the Earth today filed a request with the U.S. Department of Justice [PDF] asking the DOJ to investigate whether Paul Elliott, the notorious TransCanada tar sands lobbyist with deep ties to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, failed to disclose his foreign agent status when lobbying the State Department about the controversial Keystone XL pipeline

FOE requests that DOJ take a close look at whether Elliott violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), a matter of increasing interest in the wake of FOE's earlier release of documents revealing that Elliott tried to exploit relationships he made while working on Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign in order to promote the Keystone XL for his new employer, TransCanada. 

As the Washington Post reported earlier this month, the documents that FOE obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) - after having to file a lawsuit to compel the State Department to release them - also show that Elliott lobbied the State Department on TransCanada's behalf for more than a year before officially registering as a lobbyist. 

Thu, 2011-06-02 12:32Bill McKibben
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President Obama Must Say No To Dirty Energy's Wish List

Originally published at TomDispatch.

In our globalized world, old-fashioned geography is not supposed to count for much: mountain ranges, deep-water ports, railroad grades – those seem so nineteenth century. The earth is flat, or so I remember somebody saying.

But those nostalgic for an earlier day, take heart. The Obama administration is making its biggest decisions yet on our energy future and those decisions are intimately tied to this continent’s geography. Remember those old maps from your high-school textbooks that showed each state and province’s prime economic activities? A sheaf of wheat for farm country? A little steel mill for manufacturing? These days in North America what you want to look for are the pickaxes that mean mining, and the derricks that stand for oil.

There’s a pickaxe in the Powder River Basin of Montana and Wyoming, one of the world’s richest deposits of coal. If we’re going to have any hope of slowing climate change, that coal – and so all that future carbon dioxide – needs to stay in the ground.  In precisely the way we hope Brazil guards the Amazon rainforest, that massive sponge for carbon dioxide absorption, we need to stand sentinel over all that coal.

Wed, 2011-05-18 14:05Brendan DeMelle
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Hillary Clinton's State Department Sued Over Failure To Reveal Contacts With TransCanada Tar Sands Lobbyist

Friends of the Earth, Corporate Ethics International, and the Center for International Environmental Law just filed a lawsuit against the U.S. State Department and Hillary Clinton (Friends of the Earth v. State Department) over the agency’s controversial handling of the Keystone XL pipeline proposal.

The suit follows an extensive effort by the environmental groups to seek information via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) about contacts between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Paul Elliott, a lobbyist for TransCanada Pipelines - the company seeking to build the disastrous Keystone XL pipeline to carry dirty tar sands crude from Alberta to Gulf Coast refineries in Texas. Secretary Clinton’s State Department is mulling whether to grant a thumbs up or down to TransCanada’s request for a presidential permit to build and operate the 1,959-mile tar sands pipeline.

Elliott was the national deputy director of Hillary Clinton’s presidential run, assisting her efforts to win support of delegates and strengthening her ties with influential Democratic governors to win endorsements.

In his current role as a registered lobbyist for TransCanada, Elliott would obviously be in a good position to reach out to Secretary Clinton’s office to lobby for the Keystone XL pipeline. 

Fri, 2011-05-06 03:05Carol Linnitt
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Fracking the Future: How Unconventional Gas Threatens Our Water, Health and Climate - Report

The United States is at the center of a high profile controversy over the threats posed by unconventional gas drilling, particularly surrounding the industry’s hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and horizontal drilling techniques. Amidst the dirty energy industry’s rush to drill the last of America’s dwindling fossil fuel reserves, a growing number of independent scientists, politicians, environmental organizations and impacted citizens are urging the nation’s lawmakers to adopt a more cautious and informed approach to the fracked gas boom.

The oil and gas industry, however, is fighting back against calls for caution, suggesting that it has everything under control – much like it did prior to BP’s offshore drilling disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

In a new report released today, “Fracking the Future: How Unconventional Gas Threatens Water, Health, and Climate,” DeSmogBlog details the concerns that scientists, cancer specialists, ecologists, investigative journalists and others have raised about the unconventional gas boom. Featuring original interviews and unpublicized reports, “Fracking The Future” delves into many of the key issues in the unconventional gas debate.

DeSmogBlog is calling for a nationwide moratorium on fracking, citing the fact that the potential impacts on water, health, and climate appear greater than previously understood. A moratorium is necessary to protect the public while fracking is studied much more thoroughly in order to determine if the risks of this practice outweigh the benefits. 

Thu, 2011-03-24 10:56Emma Pullman
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Koch Brothers Set Up Shop in Tar Sands Territory

The Koch Brothers, architects of the Tea Party and bankrollers of climate-change denial, have recently set up shop to lobby the Alberta government, according to the Edmonton Journal.

Alberta’s lobbyist registry shows that on March 15, 2011, Koch Industries signed up to lobby the province on energy and resource development policy issues, as well as taxation and economic development.  The registry shows the company’s lobbying activities started March 3, with no fixed end date.

Koch Industries spokeswoman Melissa Cohlmia did not say what the company’s objectives are in lobbying the Alberta government, but her one-sentence statement noted that, “Koch companies want to add value by providing quality services and products our customers desire and value in a way that is compliant with all laws and regulations”.

“Compliant with all laws and regulations” seems a bit dubious given the pro-industry and anti-environment lobbying connections to Koch’s Alberta activities we uncovered. 

Wed, 2010-12-22 13:00Brendan DeMelle
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Coal Lobbyist Grinches Stole 2010 As Obama Transparency Initiative Falters

Despite President Obama’s campaign pledges of government transparency and limiting the influence of K Street lobbyists on policymaking, coal industry lobbyists got their stockings stuffed with wishes this year in Washington.  Climate and energy legislation is dead, the Environmental Protection Agency is entering its 21st year of failing to regulate mercury emissions from coal plants, coal ash regulations are delayed indefinitely, mountaintop removal mining continues, and the myth of “clean coal” is alive and well thanks to continuing praise by President Obama and Vice President Biden.

Happy Holidays!  Here’s a lump of coal, no two, and some coal ash slurry to wash it down with.  Don’t worry, it’s “clean coal!”

The Coal Grinches aren’t here to steal Christmas gifts from Whoville residents.  They’re here to steal a safe climate, clean water and breathable air from every American man, woman and child. And we won’t know when they’ve come and gone, thanks to the White House’s apparent neglect (or shutdown?) of the “open government” records of its meetings with lobbyists.

Thu, 2010-11-04 14:02Brendan DeMelle
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Special Interests Enabled By 'Citizens United' Spent $186 Million To Influence U.S. Midterm Races

The success of GOP and Tea Party-backed candidates in the 2010 U.S. midterm elections was enabled by a massive influx of secretive spending thanks to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. FEC.

A new analysis by the Sunlight Foundation identified $126 million in unrestricted funds spent during this midterm without any disclosure of whose money it was. That figure represents more than a quarter of the total $450 million spent by outside groups on the midterms.

Sunlight Foundation notes that:

“Add the $60 million spent by groups that were allowed to raise unlimited money, but still had to disclose, to the undisclosed money and the total amount of outside money made possible by the Citizens United ruling reaches $186 million or 40 percent of the total spent by outside groups.”


The two leading GOP shadow groups, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS - both founded and guided by GOP veterans Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie - are reportedly “gloating” over their influence on the elections. The two groups spent more than $38 million on attack ads and misinformation campaigns to defeat Democratic candidates.

NBC News reports that “a substantial portion of Crossroads GPS’ money came from a small circle of extremely wealthy Wall Street hedge fund and private equity moguls.”

Wed, 2010-10-27 12:44Brendan DeMelle
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Coal Lobbyists Wooed White House Staff To Influence Coal Ash Regulations Long Before Public Hearings

While the final EPA hearing is happening today in Tennessee to solicit public input on federal proposals to regulate toxic coal ash, a new report [PDF] from DeSmogBlog and PolluterWatch shows that coal industry lobbyists held dozens of secretive meetings with the White House to peddle their influence long before the Obama administration opened the process to the public.  

The coal industry’s influence on the process was largely peddled behind the scenes, beginning over a year ago, when lobbyists representing coal ash producers and users started swarming the White House to protect the coal industry from full responsibility for the potential health and water threats posed by coal ash waste.  

The lobbyists’ ability to quickly and easily gain access and influence over the White House’s review of this critical environmental regulation calls into serious question President Obama’s campaign pledge to limit the role of lobbyists in federal decision-making.

Fri, 2010-08-27 16:04Brendan DeMelle
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Toxic Coal Ash Threatens At Least 137 Sites In 34 States

A new study by three top environmental groups reveals another 39 coal ash threats in 21 states, bringing the total number of known coal ash threats to 137 in 34 states.  

The report by the Environmental Integrity Project, Earthjustice, and the Sierra Club details the newly identified slurry ponds and impoundments filled with toxic coal ash that threaten drinking water supplies and public health at sites around the country.  

Earlier this year the groups identified 31 coal ash disposal sites in 14 states, adding to the 67 sites already identified by the Environmental Protection Agency.  The latest report brings the total number to 137 sites where coal ash threatens public health and water supplies. 

The U.S. EPA is currently grappling with how to regulate the toxic coal ash threat, which is now checked only by individual state laws that have failed to adequately protect the public from this growing problem.

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