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Ties That Bind: Ernest Moniz, Keystone XL Contractor, American Petroleum Institute and Fracked Gas Exports

Congress will review the Obama Administration's nomination of Ernest Moniz for Secretary of the Department of Energy (DOE) in hearings that start today, April 9.

Moniz has come under fire for his outspoken support of nuclear power, hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for shale gas and the overarching “all-of-the-above” energy policy advocated by both President Barack Obama and his Republican opponent in the last election, Mitt Romney

Watchdogs have also discovered that Moniz has worked as a long-time corporate consultant for BP. He has also received the “frackademic” 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 The MIT Energy Initiative, which has received over $145 million over its seven-year history from the oil and gas industry. 

MIT's “The Future of Natural Gas” report, covered by many mainstream media outlets without any effort to question who bankrolled it, was funded chiefly by the American Clean Skies Foundation, 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 “not erect barriers to natural gas imports and exports.” 

As first revealed on DeSmogBlog, Moniz is also on the Board of Directors of ICF International, one of the three corporate consulting firms tasked to perform the Supplemental Environmental Impact Study (SEIS) for TransCanada's Keystone XL (KXL) tar sands pipeline. KXL is slated to bring tar sands - also known as “diluted bitumen,” or “dilbit” - from Alberta to Port Arthur, TX, where it will be sold to the highest bidder on the global export market

Moniz earned over $300,000 in financial compensation in his two years sitting on the Board at ICF, plus whatever money his 10,000+ shares of ICF stock have earned him. 

Exxon's Unfriendly Skies: Why Does Exxon Control the No-Fly Zone Over Arkansas Tar Sands Spill?

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has had a “no fly zone” in place in Mayflower, Arkansas since April 1 at 2:12 PM and will be in place “until further notice,” according to the FAA website and it's being overseen by ExxonMobil itself. In other words, any media or independent observers who want to witness the tar sands spill disaster have to ask Exxon's permission.

Mayflower is the site of the recent major March 29 ExxonMobil Pegagus tar sands pipeline spill, which belched out an estimated 5,000 barrels of tar sands diluted bitumen (“dilbit”) into the small town's neighborhoods, causing the evacuation of 22 homes

The rules of engagement for the no fly zone dictate that no aircraft can fly within 1,000 feet of the ground in the five-mile radius surrounding the ExxonMobil Pegasus tar sands pipeline spillThe area located within this radius includes the nearby Pine Village Airport.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette 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. 

Suhrhoff is not an FAA employee: he works for ExxonMobil as an “Aviation Advisor and formerly worked as a U.S. Army pilot for 24 years, according to his LinkedIn page. 

State Dept. Keystone XL Contractor ERM Also Green-Lighted Explosive, Faulty Peruvian Pipeline Project

Environmental Resources Management (ERM), the State Department consulting firm that claims TransCanada's proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline proposal is safe and sound, previously provided a similarly rosy approval for the expansion of a Peruvian natural gas project that has since racked up a disastrous track record. 

On March 1, the U.S. State Department declared KXL's proposed northern half environmentally safe and sound in its draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS), part of TransCanada's Presidential Permit application for the proposed tar sands pipeline. 

KXL is a 1,179-mile tube set to blast 800,000 barrels of tar sands crude a day - also known as diluted bitumen or “dilbit” - from Alberta down to Port Arthur, TX. After it reaches Port Arthur, the crude will be sold to the highest bidder on the global export market. “XL” is shorthand for “expansion line,” named such because it would expand the marketability of tar sands crude to foreign buyers.

Because the Obama State Dept. has the final say on the project due to its crossing the Canada-U.S. border, clearing State's EIS hurdle was crucial for TransCanada. Just days later, though, watchdogs revealed that State had outsourced the EIS out to oil and gas industry-tied consulting firms hand-picked by TransCanada itself

One of those firms - Environmental Resources Management (ERM) Group - has historical ties to Big Tobacco; published a study declaring “safe” a Caspian Sea pipeline that ended up spilling 70,000 barrels of oil; and has a client list that includes Koch Industries, ConocoPhilips and ExxonMobil - corporations all with skin in the tar sands game. ExxonMobil's Pegasus Pipeline recently spilled 189,000 gallons of tar sands crude into a Mayflower, Arkansas neighborhood. 

An examination into the historical annals shows that ERM Group also green-lighted a major pipeline and liquefied natural gas (LNG) expansion project akin to KXL in Peru. The project in a nutshell: a 253-mile-long, 34-inch pipeline carries gas obtained from Peru's Camisea field - located partly in the Amazon rainforest with the pipeline snaking through the Andes Mountains - to Peru's west coast. From there, it's exported primarily to the U.S. and Mexico.

Camisea - described by Amazon Watch as the “most damaging project in the Amazon Basin“ - has created a whole host of problems. These include displacing indigenous people, clear-cutting forests that serve as a key global carbon sink to make way for the project, and major pipeline spills, to name a few.

State Department's Keystone XL Contractor ERM Green-Lighted BP's Explosive Caspian Pipeline That Failed To Live Up to Jobs Hype

The more things change, the more they stay the same. 

Almost 11 years ago in June 2002, Environmental Resources Management (ERM) Group declared the controversial 1,300 mile-long Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan (BTC) Pipeline environmentally and socio-economically sound, a tube which brings oil and gas produced in the Caspian Sea to the export market.

On March 1, it said the same of the proposed 1,179 mile-long TransCanada Keystone XL (KXL) Pipeline on behalf of an Obama State Department that has the final say on whether the northern segment of the KXL pipeline becomes a reality. KXL would carry diluted bitumen or “dilbit” from the Alberta tar sands down to Port Arthur, Texas, after which it will be exported to the global market

Environmental Resources Management Group, a recent DeSmogBlog investigation revealed, has historical ties to Big Tobacco and its clients include ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips and Koch IndustriesMother Jones also revealed that ERM - the firm the State Dept. allowed TransCanada to choose on its behalf - has a key personnel tie to TransCanada

Unexamined thus far in the KXL scandal is ERM's past green-light report on the BTC Pipeline - hailed as the “Contract of the Century” - which has yet to be put into proper perspective.

ERM is a key player in what PLATFORM London describes as the “Carbon Web,” shorthand for “the network of relationships between oil and gas companies and the government departments, regulators, cultural institutions, banks and other institutions that surround them.”  

In the short time it has been on-line, the geostrategically important BTC pipeline - coined the “New Silk Road” by The Financial Times - has proven environmentally volatile. A full review of the costs and consequences of ERM's penchant for rubber-stamping troubling oil and gas infrastructure is in order.

Keystone XL Scandal: Obama State Dept. Hid Contractor's TransCanada Ties

Mother Jones has a breaking investigation out on another scandal pertaining to the Obama State Department's Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline. 

The skinny: the firm that DeSmogBlog revealed has historical ties to Big Tobacco and currently has a client list that includes Koch Industries, ConocoPhillips and BP, Environmental Resources Management (ERM) Group, also has a direct connection to TransCanada itself. ERM Group - DeSmog revealed - also rubber-stamped the controversial and environmentally hazardous Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan (BTC) Pipeline in 2003, which carries oil and gas produced in the Caspian Sea in Baku, Azerbaijan to Tbilisi, Georgia and eventually makes its way to Ceyhan, Turkey. 

Andy Kroll summed up Mother Jones' new discovery about ERM, writing,

ERM's second-in-command on the Keystone report, Andrew Bielakowski, had worked on three previous pipeline projects for TransCanada over seven years as an outside consultant. He also consulted on projects for ExxonMobil, BP, and ConocoPhillips, three of the Big Five oil companies that could benefit from the Keystone XL project and increased extraction of heavy crude oil taken from the Canadian tar sands. 

Embarassed by this act of blatant corruption, the State Department redacted the “biographies” portion of its EIS, an overt attempted cover-up. Mother Jones tracked down a non-redacted version, revealing the ties that bind the study to the corporation the EIS is technically supposed to stand independent of. 

Bielakowski's ties, coming full circle, are a logical next step in the story.

Brad Johnson, writing for Grist, revealed that the State Department actually allowed TransCanada to hire a contractor on its behalf. TransCanda, of course, went to a go-to-guy who can “deliver the goods.”

“Delivering the goods,” of course, has little to do with delivering good science and is yet another act of deploying the Tobacco Playbook: make a one-sided scientific debate a farcical two-sided one. 

"Frackademia" Strikes Again at USC with "Powering California" Study Release

Frackademia” - shorthand for bogus science, economics and other research results paid for by the oil and gas industry and often conducted by “frackademics” with direct ties to the oil and gas industry - has struck again in California.

It comes in the form of a major University of Southern California (USC) report on the potential economic impacts of a hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) boom in California's Monterey Shale basin that's hot off the presses, “Powering California: The Monterey Shale and California's Economic Future.”

California Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown recently gave his cautious support to fracking, the toxic process via which oil and gas embedded deep within shale rock basins made famous by the documentary film “Gasland,” currently a topic of contention in California. The new report gleefully says we could be witnessing 1849 all over again, the second-coming of a “Gold Rush,” a term the co-authors utilize 9 times in the Preface. 

The report, co-authored by a Los Angeles-based public relations firm, The Communications Institute (TCI), concludes that “development of the 1,750-square-mile formation in central California could generate half a million new jobs by 2015 and 2.8 million by 2020,” as reported by The Los Angeles Times, which blared the headline, “Tapping California shale oil could add millions of jobs, study says.”  

Given California's population of 37,683,933 people, this would mean 7.4 percent of the state's citizens can gain employment and economic uplift from the industry. It would also shrink the 20.3-percent unemployment rate in the Golden State down drastically, to 12.9 percent. 

“The Monterey shale would help stimulate the California economy to a significant extent,” USC professor and co-author Adam Rose told The Times. “It's not just a benefit to the oil industry. These impacts ripple throughout the economy.”  

While a nice sentiment, the age-old questions quickly arise: who are the authors and who funded this study? 

The answers to these questions, a DeSmogBlog investigation has revealed, paints an entirely different picture of the report's findings and how it came to such rosy conclusions. 

Florida Legislature Pushing ALEC, CSG Sham Fracking Chemical Disclosure Model Bill

Florida may soon become the fourth state with a law on the books enforcing hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) chemical disclosure. The Florida House of Representatives' Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee voted unanimously (11-0) on March 7 to require chemical disclosure from the fracking industry. For many, that is cause for celebration and applause. 

Fracking for oil and gas embedded in shale rock basins across the country and world involves the injection of a 99.5-percent cocktail of water and fine-grained sillica sand into a well that drops under the groundwater table 6,000-10,000 feet and then another 6,000-10,000 feet horizontally. The other .5 percent consists of a mixture of chemicals injected into the well, proprietary information and a “trade secret” under the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which current President Barack Obama voted “yes” on as a Senator.

That loophole is referred to by many as the “Halliburton Loophole” because Dick Cheney had left his position as CEO of Halliburton - one of the largest oil and gas services corporations in the world - to become Vice President and convene the Energy Task ForceThat Task Force consisted of the Secretaries of State, Treasury, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Transportation and Energy. One of its key actions was opening the floodgates for unfettered fracking nationwide.

Between 2001 and the bill's passage in 2005, the Task Force held over 300 meetings with oil and gas industry lobbyists and upper-level executives. The result was a slew of give-aways to the industry in this omnibus piece of legislation. On top of the “Halliburton Loophole,” the bill also contains an exemption for fracking from Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enforcement of the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act.   

The federal-level response to closing the “Halliburton Loophole” is the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals (FRAC) Act, a bill that never garnered more than a handful of co-sponsors. 

The state-level response, the story goes, is versions of the bill that recently passed onan 11-0 bipartisan basis in a Florida state house subcommittee.

State Department Keystone XL Study Done by Oil Industry-Connected Firm with Big Tobacco, Fracking Ties

On March 1, the U.S. State Department published its long-awaited Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the TransCanada Keystone XL (KXL) tar sands pipeline

The KXL is slated to bring tar sands crude - also known as diluted bitumen or “dilbit” - from Alberta, Canada to Port Arthur, TX. From Port Arthur, it will be refined and exported to the global market

Flying in the face of the slew of scientific studies both on the harms of burning tar sands and on the KXL itself, State determined that laying down the pipeline is environmentally sound. 

Unmentioned by State: the study was contracted out to firms with tar sands extraction clientele, as revealed by InsideClimate News

“EnSys Energy has worked with ExxonMobil, BP and Koch Industries, which own oil sands production facilities and refineries in the Midwest that process heavy Canadian crude oil. Imperial Oil, one of Canada's largest oil sands producers, is a subsidiary of Exxon,” InsideClimate News explained. “ICF International works with pipeline and oil companies but doesn't list specific clients on its website.”

Writing for Grist, Brad Johnson also revealed the name of a third contractor - Environmental Resources Management (ERM) Group - which TransCanada hired on behalf of the State Department to do the EIS

”(ERM) was paid an undisclosed amount under contract to TransCanada to write the statement, which is now an official government document,” Johnson explained. “The statement estimates, and then dismisses, the pipeline’s massive carbon footprint and other environmental impacts, because, it asserts, the mining and burning of the tar sands is unstoppable.”

ERM, a probe into the University of California-San Francisco (UCSF) Tobacco Archives reveals, has deep historical ties to Big Tobacco. Further, a key employee at ICF International - via familial ties - is tied to the future of whether hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for shale oil and gas becomes a reality in New York's portion of the Marcellus Shale.   

Breaking: NY Assembly Passes Two Year Fracking Moratorium, Senate Expected to Follow

In a roll call vote of 95-40, the New York State Assembly has passed a two-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), the toxic horizontal drilling process through which oil and gas is procured that's found within shale rock basins across the country and the world.

The bill, if passed by the Senate and signed off by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, would close the state's doors to the oil and gas industry's desire to begin operating in New York's portion of the Marcellus Shale basin until May 2015. New York has had a moratorium on the books since 2008. 

This is the third time the Assembly has passed such a bill, with similar moratorium bills passing in 2010 and 2011, but then dying a slow death in the Senate and never reaching the Governor's desk, meaning the de facto moratorium has remained in place

Could the third time be a charm in 2013 in the Empire State?

Signs point to “quite possibly,” because the bipartisan Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) bloc of the Senate - which shares control of the Senate with the Republicans - has come out in support of the bill's passage, according to the Associates Press (AP).

“We have to put science first. We have to put the health of New Yorkers first,” Sen. David Carlucci (D-38) and an IDC member told the AP.

ALEC Sham Chemical Disclosure Model Tucked Into Illinois Fracking Bill

Illinois is the next state on the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)'s target list for putting the oil industry's interests ahead of the public interest.

98 percent funded by multinational corporations, ALEC is described by its critics as a “corporate bill mill” and a lobbyist-legislator dating service. It brings together corporate lobbyists and right wing politicians to vote up or down on “model bills” written by lobbyists in service to their corporate clientele behind closed doors at its annual meetings.

These “models” snake their way into statehouses nationwide as proposed legislation and quite often become the law of the land. 

Illinois, nicknamed the “Land of Lincoln,” has transformed into the “Land of ALEC” when it comes to a hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) regulation bill - HB 2615, the Hydraulic Fracturing Regulation Act - currently under consideration by its House of Representatives. “Fracking” is the toxic horizontal drilling process via which unconventional gas and oil is obtained from shale rock basins across the country and the world.

HB 2615 - proposed on Feb. 21 with 26 co-sponsors - has an ALEC model bill roped within this lengthy piece of legislation: the loophole-ridden Disclosure of Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid Composition Act.

As covered here on DeSmogBlog, this model bill has been proposed and passed in numerous statehouses to dateIf the bill passes, Illinois' portion of the New Albany Shale basin will be opened up for unfettered fracking, costumed by its industry proponents as the “most comprehensive fracking legislation in the nation.“