The long-form investigation by Joel Dyer — based on thousands of documents obtained by Greenpeace USA — exposes the ongoing partnership between the University of Colorado-Boulder's Leeds School of Business and the Common Sense Policy Roundtable (CSPR), the latter an oil and gas industry front group. The investigation reveals connections to Koch Industries, American Petroleum Institute, and Encana, among others.
As the mid-term elections in the United States continue to heat up, a new report released Wednesday shows that Canadian corporations have registered at least $15.3 million USD in spending on direct lobbying of the U.S. federal government in the first nine months of 2014.
That includes $2.87 million by Canadian National Railway Company in the face of increasing regulatory attention to the rail transport industry on both sides of the border, said the report — Are Canadian corporations spending to influence the U.S. political process?
Written by The Shareholder Association for Research and Education (SHARE), the 13-page report noted that the TransCanada Corporation, well aware that the controversial Keystone pipeline project is up for approval at the federal level, spent $1.07 million on political lobbying from January to September.
The author of the report, Kevin Thomas, SHARE’s Director of Shareholder Engagement, said in a telephone interview that Canadian companies are clearly involved in political spending in the U.S.
“The problem is there’s no real requirement for disclosure on either side of the border that can quantify the extent of that spending,” Thomas said.
Canadian oil and gas companies could be liable for billions of dollars of damages per year for their contribution to climate change caused by toxic greenhouse gas emissions, according to a study published Thursday.
The study looked at five oil and gas companies currently trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange — Encana, Suncor, Canadian Natural Resources, Talisman, and Husky — and found they could presently be incurring a global liability as high as $2.4 billion annually.
“Climate change is increasingly discussed not as some far-off threat but in terms of current realities,” said the 62-page study — Payback Time? What the internationalization of climate litigation could mean for Canadian oil and gas companies.
Published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and West Coast Environmental Law (WCEL), the study found data showing the global financial cost of private and public property and other damage associated with climate change in 2010 has been estimated at $591 billion, rising to $4.2 trillion in 2030.
A funny thing happened when Idaho Dept. of Lands Oil and Gas Program Manager Robert Johnson stepped to the microphone at a public hearing this past fall. He said something that many have long suspected, but few officials have actually been willing to say bluntly and publicly.
He said that the oil and gas industry was responsible for the contaminated groundwater in Pavillion, Wyoming — referring to a high-profile case where environmentalists have alleged oil and gas drilling and fracking caused a town’s water supplies to go bad.
“Everybody's heard of Pavillion, Wyoming,” Mr. Johnson said. “OK. Pavillion was a leaking above ground pit that was not lined.”
“Did the industry cause it?” Mr. Johnson said. “Yes they did.”
Later in his talk, Mr. Johnson also pointed to a faulty cement casing in a natural gas well as another factor in the case, describing EPA data showing pollution was caused “by a bad cement job on an Encana well that was drilled in 1985.”
His statement is noteworthy because, before coming to Idaho, Mr. Johnson was directly involved with the Pavillion investigation. He worked for the groundwater division of the Wyoming State Engineer’s Office, which has taken the lead role in the contamination investigation.
The comments, which were recorded by county officials and distributed by anti-drilling advocates, were also significant because they were so candid and because the state of Wyoming maintains that more study is needed before blame can be assigned. The state is currently investigating the Pavillion incident and expects to publish a report in September of this year.
Asked about the comments, Idaho state officials said that the remarks about wastewater pits were intended “to illustrate that the State of Idaho requires lined pits to avoid surface contamination,” adding that Mr. Johnson, an Idaho official, was not speaking on behalf of the State of Wyoming. Mr. Johnson worked for the oil and gas industry before joining the Wyoming State Engineer’s Office.
Alongside releasing its controversial findings on fugitive methane emissions caused by hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) on September 16, University of Texas-Austin also unveiled an industry-stacked Steering Committee roster for the study it conducted in concert with Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).
Stacked with former and current oil industry lobbyists, policy professionals and business executives, the Steering Committee is proof positive of the conflicts of interest evident in the roster of people and funding behind the “frackademia” study.
Only two out of the 11 members of the Steering Committee besides lead author and UT-Austin Professor David Allen have a science background relevant to onshore fracking.
That study found fugitive methane emissions at the well pad to be 2%-4% lower than discovered by the non-industry funded groundbreaking April 2011 Cornell University study co-authored by Anthony Ingraffea and Robert Howarth.
The Cornell study concluded fracking is worse for the climate than coal combustion when measured over its entire lifecycle.
Webster's Dictionary defines a Steering Committee as “a committee, especially of a deliberative or legislative body, that prepares the agenda of a session.”
In the case of the EDF study - based on the oddly rosy findings - it seems plausible the industry-stacked Committee drove the report in a direction beneficial to oil industry profits rather than science.
With the school year starting for many this week, it's another year of academia for professors across the United States - and another year of “frackademia” for an increasingly large swath of “frackademics” under federal law.
“Frackademia” is best defined as flawed but seemingly legitimate science and economic studies on the controversial oil and gas horizontal drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), but done with industry funding and/or industry-tied academics (“frackademics”).
While the “frackademia” phenomenon has received much media coverage, a critical piece missing from the discussion is the role played by Section 999 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Although merely ten pages out of the massive 551-page bill, Section 999 created the U.S. Department of Energy-run Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America (RPSEA), a “non-profit corporation formed by a consortium of premier U.S. energy research universities, industry and independent research organizations.”
Under the Energy Policy Act of 2005, RPSEA receives $1 billion of funding - $100 million per year - between 2007 and 2016. On top of that, Section 999 creates an “Oil and Gas Lease Income” fund “from any Federal royalties, rents, and bonuses derived from Federal onshore and offshore oil and gas leases.” The federal government put $50 million in the latter pot to get the ball rolling.
The Energy Policy Act of 2005's ”Halliburton Loophole” - which created an enforcement exemption from the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act for fracking, and made the chemicals found within fracking fluid a “trade secret” - is by far the bill's most notorious legacy for close followers of fracking.
These provisions were helped along by then-Vice President Dick Cheney's Energy Policy Task Force, which entailed countless meetings between Big Oil lobbyists and executives and members of President George W. Bush's cabinet. Together, these lobbyists and appointees hammered out the details behind closed doors of what became the Energy Policy Act of 2005, a bill receiving a “yes” vote by then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama.
Several years ago, Utah public health officials realized they had a big problem on their hands – one with national implications as other states were racing to increase oil and gas drilling. Smog levels in the state’s rural Uintah basin were rivaling those found in Los Angeles or Houston on their worst days.
The culprit, an EPA report concluded earlier this year: oil and gas operations. The industry was responsible for roughly 99 percent of the volatile organic compounds found in the basin, which mixed under sunlight with nitrogen oxides – at least 57% of which also came from oil and gas development – to form the choking smog, so thick that the nearby Salt Lake City airport was forced to divert flights when the smog was at its worst.
But the haze over the Uintah isn’t the most dangerous air pollutant coming from the oil and gas fields in the valley.
A string of studies by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration show that the core ingredient in natural gas, methane, is leaking at rates far higher than previously suspected. This methane has climate change impacts that, on a pound-for-pound basis, will be far more powerful over the next two decades than the carbon dioxide emissions that have been the focus of most climate change discussions.
The smog problem is especially pronounced in Utah. But a growing body of research nationwide suggests that methane is leaking from the natural gas industry at levels far higher than previously known.
In Washington D.C., pressure is mounting to ignore these methane leaks. The oil and gas industry says there is no time to waste. We must proceed immediately with the “all-of-the-above” national energy strategy they say, code for “drill baby drill”. This pressure is coming not only from the natural gas industry itself, but also from a surprising ally: the Environmental Defense Fund, which has supported natural gas development as a “bridge” from coal to renewables.
This position has drawn renewed accusations that the EDF is “greenwashing” for the natural gas industry.
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.
The oil and gas industry has just been handed an opportunity to walk the walk when it comes to 'best practices' for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking for unconventional gas. BaseTrace is a cutting-edge technology that uses resiliant DNA tracers to give a unique fingerprint to fracturing fluid blends. Conflicts over water contamination often boil down to one point: was the contamination pre-existing or naturally occurring as drilling companies on the defense often claim? Or was it the industry's fault?
A technology like BaseTrace would give a definitive answer to regulators, communities, industry and policymakers alike.
For those concerned about the future of shale gas development in the U.S., water contamination present in a monitoring well in Wyoming is about to become the lynchpin in the debate over unconventional gas production and the threat fracking poses to drinking water.
EPA’s analysis of samples taken from the Agency’s deep monitoring wells in the aquifer indicates detection of synthetic chemicals, like glycols and alcohols consistent with gas production and hydraulic fracturing fluids, benzene concentrations well above Safe Drinking Water Act standards and high methane levels. Given the area’s complex geology and the proximity of drinking water wells to ground water contamination, EPA is concerned about the movement of contaminants within the aquifer and the safety of drinking water wells over time.