Conflicts of Interest

Zinke's Shrinking of National Monuments and Meetings With Halliburton Could Be Center of DOJ Investigation

Read time: 3 mins
Ryan Zinke in Yosemite

By Olivia Rosane, EcoWatch. Reposted with permission from EcoWatch.

One of the Department of Interior's (DOI) internal watchdog investigations into Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's behavior while in office has been referred to the Justice Department, which only happens when investigators determine there might have been a criminal violation, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.

Two sources familiar with the investigation broke the news to the press, but did not specify which of the probes into Zinke's actions was involved. A senior White House official only told The Washington Post that the investigation revolved around whether Zinke “used his office to help himself.”

Trump’s Pick to Lead Energy Tech Innovation Program Is Invested in Gas Utilities and Pipeline Companies

Read time: 4 mins
Lane Genatowski at his Senate hearing

A nominee to head a cutting-edge research program in the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is personally invested in various natural gas-based utilities and gas pipeline companies.

In July, the Trump administration announced the nomination of Lane Genatowski to head the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), which tries to bridge the gap between basic research and the commercialization of breakthrough energy technologies and is modeled after the Department of Defense program that led to the Internet and GPS.

5 Virginia Officials Involved in Regulating Dominion Energy Are Invested in the Company

Read time: 7 mins
Dominion's Chesterfield Power Station

Five employees of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) have financial interests in Dominion, the state’s largest utility and energy company. The officials are involved, in one way or another, in permitting or overseeing the company’s activities, ranging from water discharges to emissions controls on power plants.

According to financial disclosures filed with the state’s ethics council, four of them directly own stock in the company, while the wife of a fifth official works for Dominion.

FERC Allowed Chairman McIntyre to Participate in Decisions Concerning his Former Clients

Read time: 3 mins
FERC's McIntyre and Glick

Ethics officials at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) — the agency responsible for approving energy infrastructure such as interstate oil and gas pipelines and overseeing utilities — recently gave the OK for its new chairman, Kevin McIntyre, to be involved in decisions concerning two of his former clients and previous firm, DeSmog has found.

Pennsylvania Lawmaker Advancing Pro-Fracking Legislation Profits from Leasing his Land to Drillers

Read time: 4 mins
Eugene Yaw

A Pennsylvania state senator, who is responsible for a slew of legislation favoring the oil and gas industry, leases his own land to fracking companies, recent disclosure documents show. Last year, veteran lawmaker Gene Yaw of Lycoming County profited from royalties he received from several different drillers.  

Growing Pressure for Lobbying Transparency in Climate Talks

Read time: 5 mins

This week at the U.N. climate treaty talks, governments are poised to hash out the details needed to bring the Paris Agreement from concept to reality. The meeting is about agreeing on the process, the detail and the rulebook.

One item high on their agenda will be how the UNFCCC and its member governments address the growing problem of the fossil fuel industry’s corrosive interference and disinformation in climate policymaking.

Growing pressure from a big coalition of civil society and environmental groups is mounting to make the process transparent and democratic.

Top Trump Official for Pipeline Safety Profits from Selling Oil Spill Equipment

Read time: 5 mins
Drue Pearce

A newly appointed federal regulator charged with overseeing pipeline safety personally profits from oil spill responses, a DeSmog investigation has found.

Drue Pearce is the acting administrator for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), an agency in the Department of Transportation responsible for ensuring oil and gas pipeline integrity. However, she is also associated with a company specializing in the sale of oil spill equipment.

Virginia Agency May Not Have Properly Vetted Contractor Reviewing Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Read time: 4 mins
Virginia Department of Environmental Quality building

At the end of June, DeSmog revealed that a contractor hired by the state of Virginia to review elements of the proposed Atlantic Coast gas pipeline is currently working for Dominion, the company leading the pipeline project. Recently obtained documents and emails from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) indicate that, prior to DeSmog’s reporting, the agency was not aware of this relationship between the contractor, EEE Consulting, and Dominion, despite a contract with strict stipulations intended to avoid conflicts of interest.

History Shows That Stacking Federal Science Advisory Committees Doesn't Work

Read time: 6 mins
Deepwater Horizon oil rig on fire

By Donald Boesch, University of Maryland

Scientists are busy people, but every year thousands donate many hours of their time without payment to advise Congress and federal government agencies. They provide input on all kinds of issues, from antibiotic resistance to mapping the world’s oceans in three dimensions.

The Trump administration has raised alarms by signaling that it is determined to replace scientific advisers who are not in line with its political philosophy. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is replacing most of the members of EPA’s Board of Scientific Counselors and, very likely, its Science Advisory Board. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has suspended the activities of numerous advisory panels, including many scientific committees, pending review of their purpose and composition.

Will Trump Cabinet members really be able to shift the scientific advice on which their agencies rely? And how should scientists respond?

While Reviewing Enbridge’s Line 5 for Michigan, Contractor Worked for Same Pipeline Company in Minnesota

Read time: 7 mins
Workers remove Enbridge oil pipeline section in Michigan in 2010

A private contractor hired by the state of Michigan to assess an Enbridge oil pipeline running under the Great Lakes was working simultaneously for the company on a related pipeline, a DeSmog investigation has found.

The contractor, Dynamic Risk Assessment Systems Inc., is leading one of two studies commissioned last year by Michigan to provide a risk assessment for Enbridge’s 64-year old Line 5 pipeline, which crosses the Straits of Mackinac where Lake Huron and Lake Michigan meet.

These revelations come two weeks after Michigan terminated the work of the contractor conducting the second study after discovering that one of its team members was working at the same time for Enbridge on a different project.

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