Steve Horn's blog

Exxon, Peabody Coal Lobby for Bill Poised to Load EPA Science Board With Polluters

A scientist looks through a microscope

A bill which would prohibit scientists who had received research grants from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from serving on its Science Advisory Board (SAB) and potentially welcome more industry and corporate representatives to the board has passed through the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

The SAB is an independent council charged with reviewing the science EPA uses as the foundation for regulations, in addition to providing other scientific advice and expertise. Congressional Republicans have been taking aim at changing how SAB members are chosen for several years. The bill was first introduced in 2014, re-introduced again in 2015, and has taken its latest form as H.R.1431

Critics of the bill say it will give a seat at the table to corporate executives who would benefit from weakening EPA regulations and shut the door to many qualified researchers. And it has powerful corporations pushing it, including coal giant Peabody Energy, ExxonMobil, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and others, according to lobbying disclosure forms reviewed by DeSmog.

Former Koch Agents, Fossil Fuel Industry Hired Guns Now Staffing Trump's Federal Agencies

Obama and Trump officials meet in the White House

On March 8, ProPublica obtained “beachhead team” rosters with the names of hundreds of temporary staffers the Trump administration has installed in federal agencies, including the Department of Interior (DOI), Department of Energy (DOE), the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and others. 

A DeSmog investigation shows that this list of staffers, largely undisclosed before this week, includes former operatives allied with Koch Industries, oil and coal industry employees, a former employee of a prominent climate denial group, and an advocate for a pro-trophy hunting organization funded by oil and gas. The background and connections of these staffers may serve as a preview to potential priorities these agencies may take on related to energy, climate, and environment under Donald Trump.

Congressional Energy and Climate Committees Are Loaded with Ex-Fossil Fuel Lobbyists

U.S. Capitol building

Though the U.S. Congress has been in session for two months, much of the policy action which has taken place since Donald Trump assumed the presidency on January 20 has centered around his Executive Orders.

As some have pointed out, Trump's first speech in front of a joint session of Congress on February 28 can be seen as a reset moment, with the clock ticking on Republicans to deliver on promises made to voters in the 2016 election. In the energy and environment sphere, those efforts will likely center around gutting climate and environmental protections, and much of it will be carried out by congressional committee staffers. 

A DeSmog investigation has revealed that many Republican staff members on key committees are former fossil fuel industry lobbyists, which could help fast-track the industry's legislative agenda in the weeks and months ahead. In total, 15 staffers on the eight main energy and environment congressional committees previously worked as industry lobbyists on behalf of oil, gas, mining, coal, petrochemical, and electric utility interests. 

Behind Trump’s Push for "American Steel" in Pipelines, Another Russian Company with Putin Ties Stands to Benefit

In his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) last week, President Donald Trump commemorated the one-month anniversary of his executive orders calling for the approval of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, as well as one calling for U.S. pipelines to get their line pipe steel from U.S. facilities.

“I said, who makes the pipes for the pipeline?” Trump told the CPAC crowd. “If they want a pipeline in the United States, they're going to use pipe that's made in the United States, do we agree?”

But while the pipe may be made in the U.S., as DeSmog has shown in previous investigations, ownership tells a different story. Enter: TMK IPSCO, a massive producer of steel for U.S. oil country tubular goods (OCTG) and line pipe, and a subsidiary of TMK Group. A DeSmog investigation has found ties between TMK Group's Board of Directors and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Before Becoming Trump's Top Energy Aide, Mike Catanzaro Peddled Climate Change Denial as a Writer

Mike Catanzaro

Mike Catanzaro, President Donald Trump's recently minted top energy aide, has officially begun his first week on the job at the White House. He was hired to move policy measures through federal energy and environmental agencies in a synergistic way.

A long-time oil and gas industry lobbyist who has spent his career passing in and out of the government-industry revolving door, Catanzaro actually got his start as a writer. Working for the conservative newspapers Human Events and Evans-Novak Political Report, Catanzaro's views on climate change — and climate denial — were on full display in articles published during his formative years as an up-and-coming conservative star.

DeSmog has reviewed articles found in the Human Events archives, no longer found on the publication's website, and they shed new light on Catanzaro and his views as Trump's right-hand man on climate, energy, and environmental policy.

Thousands of Emails from Oklahoma Office of Trump EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt Published

By Steve Horn, Sharon Kelly and Graham Readfearn

The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) has published thousands of emails obtained from the office of former Oklahoma Attorney General, Scott Pruitt, who was recently sworn in as the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the Trump Administration. 

Housed online in searchable form by CMD, the emails cover Pruitt's time spent as the Sooner State's lead legal advocate, and in particular show a “close and friendly relationship between Scott Pruitt’s office and the fossil fuel industry,” CMD said in a press release. CMD was forced to go to court in Oklahoma to secure the release of the emails, which had sat in a queue for two years after the organization had filed an open records request.

Among other things, the emails show extensive communication with hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) giant Devon Energy, with Pruitt's office not only involved in discussions with Devon about energy-related issues like proposed U.S. Bureau of Land Management fracking rules, but also more tangential matters like how a proposed airline merger might affect Devon's international travel costs. They also show a close relationship with groups such as the Koch Industries-funded Americans for Prosperity and the Oklahoma Public Policy Council, the latter a member of the influential conservative State Policy Network (SPN).

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