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U.S. Gas Export Lobbyists Exploit DC's Revolving Door

lng lobbyists revolving door

This is a guest post by David Halperin, originally published at Republic Report.

Even as President Obama pursues an aggressive new public effort to fight global warming by regulating U.S. power plants, his administration is quietly advancing an energy policy — exporting America's liquid natural gas (LNG) — that may well raise the volume of climate-increasing greenhouse gases even more than emphasizing coal, while at the same time polluting U.S. communities through increased use of the controversial practice of hydraulic fracking. (The American Petroleum Institute notes that “a government-industry study found that up to 80 percent of natural gas wells drilled in the next decade will require hydraulic fracturing.”) Worse, the policy also could hurt U.S. consumers by raising energy prices.

As awareness of the harms of LNG exports has grown, public protests areincreasing. Senator Ed Markey (D-MAcharged last week that gas exports may be illegal. But the gas industry is using highly-paid revolving-door Washington lobbyists, Democrats and Republicans, to push policymakers to accelerate these bad decisions. They also are using the Ukraine conflict as a hook, arguing that U.S. exports can reduce Europe's dependence on Russia.

While the coal industry, once heavily bipartisan in its friendships, has increasingly deepened its love affair with the Republican Party, natural gas has become the Democrats' fossil fuel of choice. White House senior adviser John Podesta earlier this year defended the decision to emphasize natural gas as a more-climate friendly source of power generation. But there's a difference between producing gas for the U.S. market, which, despite all the environmental hazards, helps reduce energy prices for U.S. consumers and businesses, and shipping that gas overseas, which could produce a bonanza for big energy companies but potential harms to most everyone else in the U.S.

That doesn't seem to concern the Democrats and Republicans alike who are cashing in as paid advocates for this gas rush.

Regulators and Industry Swap Spots: Lobbyists Pushing Natural Gas Exports Swing Revolving Doors

Paula Gant and Christopher Smith LNG exports lobbyists

This is a guest post by Lee Fang originally published at Republic Report. 

Expanded natural gas exports have wide repercussions, ranging from increased costs to American consumers to greater incentives for drilling companies to use controversial fracking methods for extracting their product. As numerous reports have shown, the gas boom means more methane, a greenhouse gas that is exacerbating our climate crisis, in the atmosphere.

But the discussion in Washington has not focused on the climate and environmental impact of rapidly approving LNG export licenses, a process controlled by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Department of Energy. Instead, as Republic Report's David Halperin outlined last week, companies that stand to gain from building new terminals and engaging in the gas trade have hired an army of lobbyists to win regulatory approval. Heather Zichal, the former climate change adviser to the White House, recently left her government position to join the board of Cheniere, an LNG export company that won the first export license. As DeSmogBlog's Steve Horn reported, Zichal met with Cheniere executives last year.

How fair will the process be when the former regulators who until recently controlled the agencies at the center of the LNG debate are now working for industry, and the regulators in office are former industry staffers?

Republic Report worked with LittleSis to produce the following maps showing the nexus of influence. At the Department of Energy, for example, acting Assistant Secretary for Fossil Enerrgy Christopher Smith, who now oversees the LNG export license process, formerly worked for Chevron's natural gas trading unit. Paula Gant, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Oil and Natural Gas who works under Smith, is a former vice president at the American Gas Association, a lobbying group for the industry. See below:

National Gas Industry Hires Family Members of Leading Politicians

This is a guest post by Lee Fang.

In May of last year, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, now considered the favorite to win West Virginia’s open Senate seat, stood on a small platform in Charleston, behind a row of tiny trophies in the shape of drilling rigs.

She was there to congratulate the Energy Corporation of America, a major gas exploration and distribution company, on its plans to open a new building in the state capital.

The company needed new space to accommodate over a hundred new employees in coming years.

I am honored to attend the groundbreaking celebration of the ECA’s new eastern headquarters,” Capito told the crowd, according to an ECA press release. “This privately held company has brought economic growth to West Virginia.”

Though there’s no record of her having acknowledged it publicly, among those hired by the growing firm is her own son, Arch Moore Capito, who was retained as in-house counsel by ECA after his graduation from Washington & Lee University’s law school in 2011.

The hiring of Arch, named after Capito’s father, the late West Virginia governor Arch Moore, highlights a growing trend. Major players in the  gas industry, which faces major regulatory hurdles relating to its extraction and distribution infrastructure, exports, and environmental issues, have taken to hiring the relatives of powerful politicians.

David Suzuki: Northern Gateway Approval Flies in Face of Democracy and Global Warming

Enbridge Northern Gateway protest

This is a guest post by David Suzuki.

There was little doubt the federal government would approve the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project, regardless of public opposition or evidence presented against it. The prime minister indicated he wanted the pipeline built before the Joint Review Panel hearings even began. Ad campaigns, opponents demonized as foreign-funded radicals, gutted environmental laws and new pipeline and tanker regulations designed in part to mollify the B.C. government made the federal position even more clear.

Canadian resource policy is becoming increasingly divorced from democracy. Two infamous omnibus bills eviscerated hard-won legislation protecting Canada's water and waterways and eased obstacles for the joint review process, which recommended approval of the $7.9-billion project, subject to 209 conditions. The government has now agreed to that recommendation.

The time-consuming hearings and numerous stipulations surely influenced the government's decision to restrict public participation in future reviews, making it difficult for people to voice concerns about projects such as Kinder Morgan's plan to twin and increase capacity of its Trans Mountain heavy oil pipeline from Alberta to Burnaby from 300,000 to 900,000 barrels a day, with a corresponding increase in tanker traffic in and out of Vancouver.

And to keep democracy out of fossil fuel industry expansion, the government switched decision-making from the independent National Energy Board to the prime minister’s cabinet.

Why Are Pipeline Spills Good For the Economy?

oil spill

This is a guest post by David Suzuki.

Energy giant Kinder Morgan was recently called insensitive for pointing out that “Pipeline spills can have both positive and negative effects on local and regional economies, both in the short- and long-term.” The company wants to triple its shipping capacity from the Alberta tar sands to Burnaby, in part by twinning its current pipeline. Its National Energy Board submission states, “Spill response and cleanup creates business and employment opportunities for affected communities, regions, and cleanup service providers.”

It may seem insensitive, but it’s true. And that’s the problem. Destroying the environment is bad for the planet and all the life it supports, including us. But it’s often good for business. The 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico added billions to the U.S. gross domestic product! Even if a spill never occurred (a big “if”, considering the records of Kinder Morgan and other pipeline companies), increasing capacity from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels a day would go hand-in-hand with rapid tar sands expansion and more wasteful, destructive burning of fossil fuels — as would approval of Enbridge Northern Gateway and other pipeline projects, as well as increased oil shipments by rail.

Years of Living Dangerously Concludes with Obama Slamming Climate Deniers

This is a guest post by Brandon Baker, originally published on EcoWatch.

You’re not the only one who gets frustrated when John BoehnerMarco Rubio and others in Congress turn a blind eye to devastating, scientific evidence regarding climate change.

In an interview with Thomas L. Friedman scheduled to air tonight as part of the final episode of Years of Living Dangerously, President Barack Obama revealed that he’s really no different than many of us when it comes to climate deniers.

Does he ever just want to “go off” on those who ignore extreme weatherrainforests getting steadily less green and more, Friedman, an author and New York Times columnist, asked. Does he ever feel like asking, “What is wrong with you people?”

Absolutely,” Obama said with a smile. “Look, it’s frustrating when the science is right in front of us.” 

The president went on to challenge the leadership of deniers because they overlook reality.

Climate Sceptic Roger Helmer Hopes to Be First MP From UK Independence Party

This is a guest post by Andy Rowell, originally published at Oil Change International. 

The three main British political parties are still reeling from the success of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) at the recent local European elections.

For the first time ever, the anti-EU party, UKIP topped the British poll, recording 27.5% of the vote ahead of Labour and the Conservatives.  Nigel Farage, UKIP’s leader claimed the party had caused a political “earthquake” and is now targeting seats in the House of Commons at next year’s General Election.

The first test of UKIP’s growing popularity will come this Thursday at a by-election in the seat of Newark in the British Midlands. The seat was vacated after the incumbent MP, Patrick Mercer, resigned in a cash-for-questions lobbying scandal. The seat is traditionally seen as a safe one for the Conservatives, who polled 54 per cent at the last General Election, with UKIP polling just 4 per cent.

UKIP are fielding the veteran politician Roger Helmer who has been a member of the European Parliament for the East Midlands since the late nineties, first with the Tories and more latterly with UKIP. Helmer is currently UKIP’s spokesman on Energy and Industry.

The 70-year old is certainly controversial and has caused outrage for his recent opinions on rape, women and homosexuality. What has been less reported in the British press at least is that Helmer is a long-standing climate denier with deep ties to leading climate sceptic organisations in the US, such as ALEC, the Competitive Enterprise Institute and Heartland Institute. For the last few years, Helmer has been a key person fostering links between British and American sceptics.

In 2007, Helmer organised and chaired a Counter-Consensual Conference on Climate Change, whose speakers included the arch climate sceptics, Lord Lawson from the UK-based Global Warming Policy Foundation and Chris Horner from the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), amongst others. For years, the CEI received millions from Exxon to deny climate change.

Mounting Global Warming Evidence Underscores the Need to Act

This is a guest post by David Suzuki.

Because we enjoy relatively pure air, clean water and healthy food systems, Canadians sometimes take the environment for granted. Many scarcely blink if oil from a pipeline spills into a river, a forest is cleared for tar sands operations or agricultural land is fracked for gas. If Arctic ice melts and part of the Antarctic ice sheet collapses, well… they’re far away.

Some see climate change as a distant threat, if they see it as a threat at all. But the scientific evidence is overwhelming: climate change is here, and unless we curb behaviours that contribute to it, it will get worse, putting our food, air, water and security at risk. A recent White House report confirms the findings of this year’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment report, and concludes global warming is a clear and present danger to the U.S.

Climate change is not a distant threat, but is affecting the American people already,” says White House science adviser John Holdren in a video about the report. “Summers are longer and hotter, with longer periods of extended heat. Wildfires start earlier in the spring and continue later into the fall. Rain comes down in heavier downpours. People are experiencing changes in the length and severity of allergies. And climate disruptions to water resources and agriculture have been increasing.”

Recognizing the problem’s severity is a start, but whether the U.S. will actually do anything is another question. Action to curb climate change is constantly stalled — thanks to the powerful fossil fuel industry, political and media denial, extensive fossil fuel-based infrastructure and citizen complacency.

Should Chevron Pay For the Mountain Pine Beetle Epidemic?

Pine Beetle Damage

This is a guest post by Andrew Gage, staff lawyer with West Coast Environmental Law

According to the B.C. Government, the Mountain Pine Beetle epidemic – a direct result of climate change – cost British Columbia billions in lost timber value alone – not counting environmental and other damages. This reality has influenced the public consciousness of British Columbians about the cost of climate change, and it doesn’t seem a stretch to suggest that public awareness of climate change’s impacts in B.C. was influenced by the pine beetle epidemic, and therefore that the pine beetle played an important role in B.C. adopting its carbon tax in 2008 – the only jurisdiction in North America to date to do so.

I have suggested that awareness that climate change is costing us here and now may finally drive real climate action to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions (because as John Oliver says, we’ve proven that we “cannot be trusted with the future tense”). It may even prompt discussion about whether the taxpayer – or the polluter – should be the one paying for those costs

VIDEO: Heartland Institute's Joe Bast Reluctantly Stands by Denial of Cigarette Smoking Risks

This is a guest post by Lee Fang and Nick Surgey, originally published on Republic Report.

Before the Heartland Institute became famous for its leading role in climate change denial, the group spent many years working to defend the tobacco industry. Just as the group is now known for its over the top attacks on climate scientists, Heartland once played a large role in criticizing public health experts and others calling attention to the dangers of cigarette smoking.

At a mining conference in Denver earlier this month, Republic Report spoke to the Heartland president Joe Bast about his past support for the tobacco industry. In an opinion column titled “Five Lies About Tobacco,” Bast once repeatedly claimed that health concerns regarding cigarette smoking were overblown and worth ignoring. At first, Bast denied that he had ever dismissed concerns about smoking and disputed the quote we read to him.

“In 1998, you wrote in a Heartland op-ed that smoking cigarettes has little to no adverse health effects,” we noted. “Do you stand by that?”

“No, I never wrote that,” replied Bast. “Why would I have written something like that?” Bast asked to see the op-ed, and promised to “contest” it.

Later, Republic Report returned and read Bast's op-ed to him.

Watch the video below: