Ed Markey

Following DeSmog’s Revelations on Spectra Pipeline, MA Senators Demand More Answers from FERC on Alleged Conflict of Interest

In a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Massachusetts Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey demand new answers about an alleged conflict of interest in the environmental review of a proposed Spectra Energy natural gas pipeline project.

As DeSmog first reported, the Environmental Assessment (EA) for Spectra’s Atlantic Bridge project was carried out on FERC’s behalf by third-party contractor Natural Resource Group (NRG), which at the time was working directly for Spectra on a related pipeline, PennEast. Following these revelations, Sens. Warren and Markey demanded explanations from FERC Commissioner Norman Bay, urging him to issue a new and objective review for the project.

Lawmakers and Campaigners Fight Climate Science Denial in the Classroom

Last month, Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) and seven other Democrats introduced a bill to establish a nationwide climate science curriculum to teach high school students about man-made global warming.

The Climate Change Education Act mandates the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to create a climate science curriculum that would ensure students better understand “climate change and its effects on environmental, energy, social, and economic systems.”

The bill would “encourage and support statewide plans and programs for climate change education… to ensure that students graduate from high school climate literate, with a particular focus on programs that advance widespread State and local educational agency adoption of climate change education, including funding for State education agencies.”

Few think Markey’s bill stands a chance of passing in a Republican-led Congress. Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) introduced a similar bill in 2015 that died in committee.

Although positive action on climate change will likely have to wait for a new Congress to be seated, many advocates of climate science curricula in schools are not waiting.

Senators Demand New FERC Environmental Review for Spectra Energy Project After DeSmog Revelations

Two US Senators have demanded the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) cancel the environmental assessment of a natural gas project after DeSmog revealed a potential conflict of interest in the process.

In their letter, Massachusetts Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey urged FERC to conduct a new and objective review into Spectra Energy’s Atlantic Bridge project.

Residents and activists outraged about the potential impacts of the project had flooded both Warren's and Markey's offices with requests for intervention.

Writing to FERC Chairperson Norman Bay, Sens. Warren and Markey cite DeSmog’s findings at length and express serious concern over the integrity of Atlantic Bridge’s environmental assessment.

The Senators state that “this new information raises serious questions about the accuracy and objectivity” of the environmental assessment (EA).

The Atlantic Bridge project aims to expand Spectra’s existing Algonquin Gas Transmission Pipeline, which carries fracked gas from Pennsylvania to New York and New England.

Senators Introduce “Merchants of Doubt” Amendment Into Energy Bill, Call On Fossil Fuel Industry To End Climate Denial and Deception

Democratic U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), Ed Markey (MA) and Brian Schatz (HI) introduced an amendment into the energy bill yesterday intended to express Congress’s disapproval of the use of industry-funded think tanks and misinformation tactics aimed at sowing doubt about climate change science.

The amendment evokes the history of notorious anti-science efforts by the tobacco and lead industries to avoid accountability for the damage caused by their products, focusing similar ire on the fossil fuel industry’s decades-long climate cover-up.

Although it doesn’t name specific companies, the amendment is surely inspired by recent revelations about ExxonMobil’s early and advanced knowledge of the role of fossil fuels in driving climate change — which was followed by the company’s subsequent, unconscionable climate science denial efforts.

BLM's Coal Leasing Woes Continue: New GAO Report Coming This Month

More bad news is coming for the Interior Department’s coal leasing program. This month (or later, if the federal shutdown persists), the U.S. Government Accountability Office is expected to release findings from a year-long investigation into the Bureau of Land Management’s federal coal leasing program, which oversees the auction of coal tracts on publicly owned lands.

You’re forgiven if this sounds familiar. In July, another federal body – Interior’s own Inspector General – condemned the program, releasing a highly critical report that documented a number of flaws in the BLM’s Coal Management Program.

While we’ll have to wait for the GAO’s report to get into the details, it’s safe to assume that it will include serious criticism of the program that seems to be failing on every level. The Inspector General analysis examined specific lease auctions – in one case finding that the taxpaying public was stiffed about $52 million because the BLM was ill-equipped to figure out (or uninterested in figuring) “fair market value” for the coal in a particular tract – but this GAO report will look at the program as a whole, which was plagued by scandal in the early 1980s. Reforms were mandated as a result of a GAO report at the time, but two decades later, many of the changes demanded have still yet to be implemented.

Rep. Markey Raises Big Questions About Shell's Containment Dome Fail

Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass), has penned a letter to Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, looking for answers about a Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE:RDS.A) containment dome that “crushed like a beer can” in tests earlier this Fall.

Markey, who is the Ranking Member of the US House Committee on Natural Resources, is referring to a story first broken by Seattle radio station KUOW investigator John Ryan, revealing that in September Shell performed tests on a containment dome that was to be deployed as part of the company's controversial Arctic offshore oil drilling operations.

Congressional Report: Impacts of Climate Pollution "A Cocktail of Heat and Extreme Weather"

Ranking members of the House Committees on Natural Resources and on Energy and Climate released a joint report earlier this week that traces the imprints of climate change on recent extreme weather patterns.

With Going to Extremes: Climate Change and the Increasing Risk of Weather Disasters (pdf), Representatives Ed Markey (D-MA) and Henry Waxman (D-CA) continue to forge ahead in their roles as the most outspoken and honest members of the House when it comes to climate change. Unfortunately, they stand alone even in the critical committees on which they sit: the report includes a front page disclaimer that it “has not been officially adopted by the Committee on Natural Resources or the Committee on Energy and Commerce and may not necessarily reflect the views of its Members.” 

Going to Extremes opens with a quote by University of Arizona climatologist Dr. Jonathan Overpeck:

This is what global warming looks like at the regional or personal level. The extra heat increases the odds of worse heat waves, droughts, storms and wildfire. This is certainly what I and many other climate scientists have been warning about.”

It then proceeds to catalog the worst of the devastating weather trends of late, connecting the dots between these impacts and the greenhouse effect.

Documents Reveal USDA Risking Lawsuits by Ignoring Own Staff On Fracking Mortgages Review

A major storm is brewing over the USDA’s sudden about-face on fracking and environmental laws. On Tuesday, the head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture pulled a 180-degree U-turn and decided to reverse the call made by his staff specialists, who advised that the agency immediately stop giving special exemptions from environmental laws to people applying for federal mortgages on properties with oil and gas leases.

Now, environmentalists, members of Congress, and transparency groups are saying that something seems amiss and they are looking for answers.

It all started on Monday when The New York Times ran a story with emails showing that the USDA planned to tell its $165 billion dollar mortgage program to stop financing properties with drilling leases until an environmental review of the impact of drilling and fracking on homes backed by the agency could be completed.

The proposal by the Agriculture Department, which has signaled its intention in e-mails to Congress and landowners, reflects a growing concern that lending to owners of properties with drilling leases might violate the National Environmental Policy Act, known as NEPA, which requires environmental reviews before federal money is spent. Because that law covers all federal agencies, the department’s move raises questions about litigation risks for other agencies, legal experts said,” the Times story explained.

DeSmogBlog has obtained many of the emails and they make very clear that the staff specialists, whose job it is to interpret laws like NEPA, believe that environmental reviews are legally required and that the agency is vulnerable to litigation if it gives these mortgages a pass, called a “categorical exclusion.”

Signs of Action On Climategate Hacker Investigation: DOJ and UK Police Probe Denier Bloggers

Fantastic news for a change - the Guardian reports that the UK police are finally making some concerted attempts to identify the hacker behind the criminal invasion of the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit.

The Guardian reports:

On Wednesday, detectives from Norfolk Constabulary entered the home of Roger Tattersall, who writes a climate sceptic blog under the pseudonym TallBloke, and took away two laptops and a broadband router. A police spokeswoman confirmed on Thursday that Norfolk Constabulary had “executed a search warrant in West Yorkshire and seized computers”. She added: “No one was arrested. Investigations into the [UEA] data breach and publication [online of emails] continues. This is one line of enquiry in a Norfolk constabulary investigation which started in 2009.”

Tattersall posted on his own TallBloke's Talkshop blog that:

“I got the feeling something was on the go last night when WordPress [the internet host for his blog] forwarded a notice from the US Department of Justice.”

What excellent news to hear that the Justice Department is getting involved with this investigation, it's about time. Perhaps this came in response to the remarks by Rep Ed Markey (D-MA) last month?

Either way, it is reassuring to know that the investigation into the criminal hacking of climate scientists' emails is, in fact, ongoing.  Last month, we reported about troubling indications that the UK police effort seemed inadequate given the tiny expense reports divulged after a Freedom of Information request by a UK journalist. 

Talisman Energy Shelves "Friendly Fracosaurus" Coloring Book After Colbert Smackdown

Talisman Terry, the Friendly Fracosaurus, has been officially suspended from his duties as an unconventional gas mascot. The cartoon dinosaur was used to narrate Talisman Energy’s company coloring book which described the dangerous process of unconventional gas extraction as safe, clean and patriotic.

Talisman Energy decided to shelve the promotional material after numerous reports criticized the company for engaging in child-directed propaganda. The coloring book, called “Talisman Terry’s Energy Adventures,” portrays gas drilling processes in simplistic and euphoric terms, giving the impression that these controversial drilling techniques, which are connected to numerous instances of air pollution and water contamination, are environmentally beneficial. The 24-page book features images of drilling sites with smiling wildlife and overarching rainbows.

Talisman Energy has been cited for numerous environmental violations and has one of the worst drilling records in Pennsylvania, a fact the children’s book made no mention of.

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