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This Is the Drilling Method for Most US Oil But Regulators Offer Almost No Oversight

Oil pump jacks drilling in California

Hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) and offshore drilling garner a lot of news headlines when it comes to oil and gas issues in America, but they're far from the only game in town, with those two drilling techniques not even constituting the majority of U.S. oil and gas production.

For that, look to enhanced oil recovery (EOR), an under-regulated drilling method that has been around for over a century and could be threatening drinking water sources — if only regulators and the public had enough information to determine that danger, according to a new 63 page report published this week. Environmental group Clean Water Action, with graduate students from Johns Hopkins University, plumbed the academic and professional literature on EOR and its associated regulatory issues in order to lay out the potential environmental and public health risks posed by EOR. They also detail how the drilling method came to be handled with such a light touch by regulators at both the state and federal level.

The report details that the almost non-existent regulatory treatment for EOR, which makes up 60 percent of U.S. oil and gas production, may be further watered down due to proposed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) budget cuts by the Trump administration. In addition, oil, gas, and coal companies are pushing for two Senate bills offering tax incentives for this drilling technique which cast it as a supposed climate change solution.

Montana Eased Regulations for Keystone XL After Lobbying by TransCanada

TransCanada oil pipelines visible above ground with a sign

As President Trump's State Department took steps to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, the project's owner, TransCanada, lobbied on two bills in Montana which will ease the company's regulatory burden in the state. 

Those bills, HB 365 and SB 109, moved along in the state's legislature with no media coverage despite the state being the first crossed in the pipeline's proposed journey from Alberta, Canada to Steele City, Nebraska. HB 365, which passed in May, will allow TransCanada to escape civil liability for any potential damages suffered by its contracted land surveyors. Meanwhile, SB 109 would have required environmental reviews for infrastructure projects in Montana to consider impacts beyond state lines, but failed to pass.

Keystone XL Pipeline Gets New Push From Revolving Door Team of Lobbyists

Keystone XL pipeline under construction

A changing of the guard in the White House, with President Donald Trump taking the helm, has spawned a hiring spree of new lobbyists to advocate for TransCanada's long-contested Keystone XL pipeline.

In the forefront, TransCanada has hired the firm CGCN Group — former employer of Trump's top White House energy adviser, Mike Catanzaro — to lobby for Keystone with a two-person team. TransCanada has also hired a duo of in-house lobbyists, one who worked as a Democratic congressional staffer and another who worked for a Republican, to make the case for the pipeline.

TransCanada's new team of lobbyists serves as a departure from recent years, in which teams of lobbyists and public relations professionals tied to the Democratic Party and President Barack Obama went to bat for Keystone. Keystone XL landed its long-desired presidential permit from President Trump in January, but now faces the specter of a lack of sufficient market demand for oil from the Alberta tar sands.

Emails Show Iraq War PR Alums Led Attempt to Discredit Dakota Access Protesters

militarized police presence lined up in North Dakota against Dakota Access pipeline protesters

By Steve Horn and Curtis Waltman, MuckRock

Behind the scenes, as law enforcement officials tried to stem protests against the Dakota Access pipeline, alumni from the George W. Bush White House were leading a crisis communications effort to discredit pipeline protesters.

Emails show that the firms Delve and Off the Record Strategies, apparently working on contract with the National Sheriffs’ Association, worked in secret on talking points, media outreach, and communications training for law enforcement dealing with Dakota Access opponents mobilized at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in Cannon Ball, North Dakota. This revelation comes from documents obtained via an open records request from the Laramie County Sheriff's Department in Wyoming.

New Film "Little Warriors" Features Youth Climate Fight in Unlikely Place: Indiana

Climate change will impact future generations and the current youth more than anyone else, so perhaps it's no surprise that kids have increasingly become the face of the modern U.S. climate movement.

At the center of that movement is the ongoing lawsuit filed by the group Our Children's Trust against the federal government for failing to act on climate change despite its intense study for decades by climate scientists, many of them on the payroll of the U.S. government. That case, barring any pretrial negotiations between the two parties, will head to trial in February. Further, 13 “Youth Climate Intervenors” all under the age of 25 were allowed in as legal Intervenors in an ongoing lawsuit filed by environmental groups against the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission for its green-lighting of the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline.

Flying under the radar, though, has been the seemingly unlikely ascendancy of a youth-led movement in Indiana led by the group Earth Charter Indiana. Indiana is hardly a state known for its deep green consciousness and was formerly a major natural extraction hub and is still a major coal extraction state.

Scott Walker Set to Sign Koch Anti-Regulations Bill in Wisconsin

Scott Walker as Koch Industries puppet

A bill with the potential to hobble government agencies' ability to propose regulations, known as the REINS (Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny) Act, has passed in both chambers of the Wisconsin Legislature and Republican Governor Scott Walker's office has told DeSmog he intends to sign it into law.

REINS has been pushed for years at the federal level by Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the conservative advocacy group funded and founded with money from Koch Industries, and a federal version of it currently awaits a U.S. Senate vote. The House bill, H.R. 26, passed on January 5 as one of the current Congress's first actions.

Wisconsin's version mandates that if a proposed regulation causes “$10 million or more in implementation and compliance costs” over a two year period, that rule must either be rewritten or go by the wayside. Known as Senate Bill 15, the Wisconsin bill passed the state Senate on a party-line vote, 62-34 and would be the first state-level REINS bill on the books in the country.

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