Steve Horn

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Steve Horn is an Indianapolis, IN-based Research Fellow for DeSmogBlog and a freelance investigative journalist. He previously was a reporter and researcher at the Center for Media and Democracy. In his free time, Steve is a competitive runner and marathoner, with a personal best time of 2:43:04. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, majoring in political science and legal studies, his writing has appeared in Al Jazeera America, The Guardian, Vice News, The Intercept, The Nation, Wisconsin Watch, Truth-Out, AlterNet, NUVO, Isthmus and elsewhere.

Donald Trump's Top Energy Aide Could Profit From GOP-Promised Keystone XL Permit

Harold Hamm — founder and CEO of Continental Resources, top energy aide for Republican Party presidential nominee Donald Trump and Trump's possible choice for energy secretary — may stand to gain from a cross-border permit of TransCananda's Keystone XL pipeline. 

Continental Resources has been dubbed the “King of the Bakken” because of the vast amount of acreage the company owns in North Dakota's Bakken Shale basin, while Hamm also served as energy adviser in 2012 for Republican Party presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Handing TransCanada a permit for Keystone XL receives an explicit mention in the Republican Party platform.

Did Industry Ties Lead Democratic Party Platform Committee to Nix Fracking Ban?

Hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) — the controversial horizontal drilling technique used to extract oil and gas in shale basins around the U.S. and the world — has sat at the center of the debate over the Democratic Party's draft platform set for a vote at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) convention in Philadelphia July 25-28.

That platform was drafted and debated by a 15-member committee, with four members chosen by DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, five by Bernie Sanders and six by presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton. After a fracking moratorium clause failed in a 7-6 vote at the DNC Platform Committee meeting held in St. Louis, Missouri from June 24-25, an amendment calling for President Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan not to incentivize fracked gas power plants also did not pass at the July 8-9 DNC Platform Committee meeting held in Orlando, Florida.

A DeSmog investigation has revealed that two members of the committee chosen by Hillary Clinton work for a consulting, lobbying and investment firm with a financial stake in fracking. Those members — Carol Browner and Wendy Sherman — work for Albright Stonebridge Group. Clinton campaign energy policy adviser Trevor Houser, who introduced a regulate fracking amendment (introduced as a counter to the one calling for a ban) also has industry ties via his now-defunct fellowship* at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.  

Exxon Increases Funding to Energy Think-Tank Run By Former Top Obama Energy Aide

According to ExxonMobil's 2015 annual worldwide giving report, the company has upped the ante and increased its funding of Columbia University's influential Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP) to the tune of $50,000 for that year. 

That's an increase over the $25,000 the “private empire” gave to CGEP in 2014, as we reported in December. Run and founded by Jason Bordoff, President Obama's former Senior Director for Energy and Climate Change on the Staff of the National Security Council, CGEP also features other big names: Carlos Pascual, former head of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's Bureau of Energy Resources and Global Shale Gas Initiative; Keith Benes, former Obama Administration State Department attorney-adviser; Jim Rogers, former CEO of coal giant Duke Energy and many others. 

Fracked Gas LNG Exports Were Centerpiece In Promotion of Panama Canal Expansion, Documents Reveal

After nearly a decade of engineering work on the project, the Panama Canal's expansion opened for business on June 26. 

At the center of that business, a DeSmog investigation has demonstrated, is a fast-track export lane for gas obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in the United States. The expanded Canal in both depth and width equates to a shortened voyage to Asia and also means the vast majority of liquefied natural gas (LNG) tankers — 9-percent before versus 88-percent now — can now fit through it. 

Emails and documents obtained under open records law show that LNG exports have, for the past several years, served as a centerpiece for promotion of the Canal's expansion by the U.S. Gulf of Mexico-based Port of Lake Charles.

And the oil and gas industry, while awaiting the Canal expansion project's completion, lobbied for and achieved passage of a federal bill that expanded the water depth of a key Gulf-based port set to feed the fracked gas export boom.

Obama Admin Approved Over 1,500 Offshore Fracking Permits in Gulf of Mexico and Mainstream Media Has Ignored It

On June 24, the independent news website TruthOut broke a doozy of a story: the Obama Administration has secretly approved over 1,500 instances of offshore hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in the Gulf of Mexico, including during the Deepwater Horizon offshore spill disaster. 

Albeit released on a Friday, a day where many mainstream media reporters head out of the office early and venture to late-afternoon and early-evening Happy Hour specials at the bars, the TruthOut story has received deafening silence by the corporate-owned media apparatus.

Google News, Factiva and LexisNexis searches reveal that not a single mainstream media outlet has covered the story. 

How IOGCC Spawned the Lawsuit That Just Overturned BLM Fracking Regulations on Public Lands

In a ruling on the Obama Administration's proposed regulations of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) on U.S. public lands, U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming Judge Scott Skavdahl — a President Obama appointee — struck down the rules as an illegal violation of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. 

Filed in March 2015 by first the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) and Western Energy Alliance and then the State of Wyoming (soon joined by North Dakota, Utah and Colorado), the industry and state lawsuits would soon thereafter merge into a single lawsuit. The merger symbolizes the origins of the lawsuit — the 2014 Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC) annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio.

Exxon, Koch Ties May Help Explain Rep. Lamar Smith's Probing Request of "Exxon Knew" Environmental Groups

U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith recently caused a ruckus by targeting environmental groups that are pushing for ExxonMobil to be held accountable for funding climate change denial despite their deep internal corporate knowledge of the role of fossil fuel pollution in global warming. Rep. Smith penned letters to several environmental groups and foundations requesting all of their communications about the ongoing “Exxon Knew” campaign.

Some of the groups and foundations have issued public responses refusing to provide the materials to Smith, who heads up the U.S. House Science, Space, and Technology Committee.

Not yet reported, though, are the extensive ties — monetary and personnel — binding Smith to the crucial corporate funders of climate denial: ExxonMobil and Koch Industries

According to Oil Change International's Dirty Energy Money database, Smith has taken $22,270 in campaign contributions from Exxon since 1998. And OpenSecrets.org data reveals that $19,500 of the Exxon money has flowed to Smith's campaign since 2008 alone. 

OpenSecrets.org data reviewed by DeSmog also shows that Smith has taken $52,000 in campaign contributions from Koch Industries — another key node of the climate denial machine — since 2006.

All told, Lamar Smith — a climate change denier — has received $675,597 from the oil and gas industry since 1998.

TransMexico? Keystone XL Owner TransCanada Wins Bid For Underwater Gas Pipeline Across Gulf of Mexico

TransCanada, owner of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline currently being contested in federal court and in front of a North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) legal panel, has won a $2.1 billion joint venture bid with Sempra Energy for a pipeline to shuttle gas obtained from hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in Texas' Eagle Ford Shale basin across the Gulf of Mexico and into Mexico.

The 500-mile long Sur de Texas-Tuxpan pipeline, as reported on previously by DeSmog, is part of an extensive pipeline empire TransCanada is building from the U.S. to Mexico. The pipeline network is longer than the currently operating southern leg of the Keystone pipeline (now dubbed the Gulf Coast Pipeline).  Unlike Keystone XL, though, these piecemeal pipeline section bid wins have garnered little media attention or scrutiny beyond the business and financial press. 

Internal Documents Reveal How MSNBC Show Worked To Promote Fracking

Cable TV network MSNBC has made headlines in recent days for apparently moving away from its “Lean Forward” progressive brand, catering instead to a more center-to-right-leaning crowd. 

People might start accusing us of leaning too far to the right,” the station says in a new advertisement featuring MSNBC's conservative personalities — an array of Republican identities such as Michael Steele, Steve Schmidt and Ben Ginsberg. 

But on the issue of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for shale oil and gas, documents from 2011 obtained under Oklahoma's Open Records Act demonstrate that the network saw itself as a promoter of both the controversial drilling method and natural gas vehicles. 

NBCUniversal, at the time, was owned on a 49-percent basis by the natural gas utility and electricity company General Electric (GE) and is now wholly owned by Comcast.

Fox in Hen House: Online Auctions For Oil and Gas Leases On Public Lands May Be Industry-Owned and Run

If the recent past serves as prologue, then online leasing of oil and gas on U.S. federal lands may resemble the proverbial fox guarding the hen house, with one eBay-like company in particular standing to profiteer from the industry's proposed e-bidding scheme.

That company, EnergyNet Inc., ran the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM)'s online oil and gas bidding pilot program back in 2009. The Amarillo, Texas-based corporation also hosts online oil and gas bids for Texas, North Dakota, Utah and Colorado, effectively shutting out citizens of those states from the bidding process altogether.  

Online bidding, as opposed to BLM's current process of holding oral auctions at locations open for the public to attend (or protest outside), has been proposed by the industry-funded advocacy group Western Energy Alliance (WEA) as a reaction to the most recent set of actions held in early-May in Denver, Colorado by the Keep It In The Ground movement as a way to “end the circus.”

John Klee — vice president of corporate business development for EnergyNet — formerly served on WEA's board, and Ryan P. Dobbs, the company's business development manager for the western U.S., is a WEA member according to EnergyNet's website.

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