Department of Energy

Critics Challenge 'Fundamental Flaws' in Energy Department LNG Export Study Draft

Read time: 5 mins
LNG tanker

The Department of Energy (DOE) missed the mark in its newly published draft Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) study, ignoring economic costs associated with climate change and the growth of the renewable energy industry, dozens of national and grassroots environmental groups said in public comments filed with the DOE on Friday.

In June, the DOE published a draft study that predicted expanding LNG exports worldwide could double American natural gas prices by 2040 — but that would carry relatively limited costs to the overall economy.

Another Renewable Energy Basher and Koch Network Alum Joins Trump's Department of Energy

Read time: 4 mins
Technicians on top of a Department of Energy NREL wind turbine

Until February, Christine Harbin spent much of this decade fighting against state and federal clean energy initiatives for organizations with close ties to the petrochemical billionaire Koch brothers. Now, however, she has joined the Trump administration as a senior adviser for external affairs in the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, which deals primarily with the electricity grid.

Before joining a number of other Koch network alum in the Trump administration, Harbin served as vice president of external affairs at Americans for Prosperity, a Koch-funded group with nearly three dozen active state chapters pushing for conservative legislation at the state and national levels. She had worked for Americans for Prosperity since 2012.

West Virginia Candidate Ousted From Hearing for Reading Industry Donors. But Bill She Opposed Just Passed in House.

Read time: 4 mins
Lissa Lucas being removed from the West Virginia Senate hearing on HB 4268

On Friday, February 9, Lissa Lucas — a Democratic Party candidate for West Virginia's House of Delegates — was forcibly removed from a Senate hearing for calling out how many thousands of dollars legislators backing a pro-oil and gas industry bill have received from that very industry.

The video of Lucas's public comment and removal has gone viral and served as a launching pad for her campaign, which has raised more than $46,000 since the incident. Previously, she had raised just over $4,000. Coincidentally, Lucas supports a publicly funded campaign finance system. 

The bill (HB 4268) she opposed, however, has passed in the West Virginia House of Delegates.

That law, “forced pooling” legislation which makes it easier for the oil and gas industry to obtain mineral rights from private landowners as a precursor to drilling, has the support of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association. It enables oil and gas companies to perform more hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) on private land in the state by mandating that, rather than securing land lease contracts from all landowners, companies only need 75 percent of those living in an area to sign leases and are granted the remaining 25 percent by default.

The Obscure Federal Agency That Soon Could Raise Your Electric Bill: 5 Questions Answered on FERC

Read time: 5 mins
Power lines

By Joshua D. Rhodes, University of Texas at Austin

Editor’s note: On or before Dec. 11, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is expected to take action on a controversial proposal by Energy Secretary Rick Perry that seeks to prevent noncompetitive coal and nuclear power plants from retiring prematurely. Depending on how such a rule is structured, analyses have estimated that it could cost ratepayers in affected regions up to several billion dollars yearly. Energy scholar Joshua Rhodes explains what FERC is and why it has so much power over energy markets and (indirectly) the prices consumers pay.

These Unsigned Comments Supporting a Gas Exports Rule Are Recycled Industry Copy-Pastes

Read time: 11 mins
Copy machine

A review of the comments submitted to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) on its proposed rule to fast-track the export of small-scale liquefied natural gas (LNG) shows that roughly two dozen of of the 89 comments were directly copy-pasted from either industry itself or else pro-industry materials written by the DOE or Congress.

Furthermore, all of those copy-pasted comments are anonymous, a hint that the oil and gas industry may be behind an astroturf-style comment-submitting campaign for this rule. Only one letter favoring the proposed rule, written by the American Petroleum Institute and the Center for Liquefied Natural Gas, has the industry's name on it. Three other comments supporting the rule have actual names of individuals, a law school student, a college student, and an individual who DeSmog confirmed wrote the comment out of personal interest and for a public policy course at his university. 

GOP Senators, Fueled by Industry Cash, Propose Bill to Expedite Small Scale LNG Exports

Read time: 7 mins
LNG tanker

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) have introduced a bill to fast-track the regulatory process for the export of small-scale liquefied natural gas (LNG).

The bill, titled “Small Scale LNG Access Act,” was introduced on October 18 and calls for amending the “Natural Gas Act to expedite approval of exports of small volumes of natural gas.” The proposed legislation follows in the footsteps of the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) proposed rule which would assume that all U.S. small-scale exports of LNG, with the gas mostly obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), is in the “public interest” as defined by the Natural Gas Act.   

Architect of Energy Secretary Rick Perry's Political Comeback Now Lobbies for Dakota Access Owner

Read time: 3 mins
Rick Perry

Federal lobbying disclosure forms for the first quarter of 2017 show that Jeff Miller, campaign manager for U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry's 2016 Republican presidential bid, now lobbies for the company which owns the Dakota Access pipeline.

The forms show that Miller is lobbying on behalf of Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) on “Issues associated with pipeline infrastructure development, midstream sector environmental compliance, and pipeline safety. Issues associated with partnership taxation.” Perry, after bowing out of the 2016 race, was named to ETP's Board of Directors. He stepped down from that role after being nominated by President Donald Trump as Energy Secretary.

Miller — formerly a lobbyist in California and adviser to both former California Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger and current Republican House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy — is credited as the architect of Perry's political comeback and foray into the national political scene. After serving as the longest-tenured governor of Texas from 2000–2014, Perry was indicted by a grand jury in August 2014 on corruptions charges in Travis County, Texas, for abuse of power. Those charges were dismissed by the Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas in February 2016. 

Fossil Fuel-Funded Think Tank Lays out Anti-Clean Energy Plan for New Energy Secretary Rick Perry

Read time: 5 mins
Rick Perry pointing up

Last week Rick Perry, the former Republican governor of Texas, became the Secretary of Energy. As head of the Department of Energy (DOE), he is now responsible for guarding the U.S. nuclear arsenal, cleaning up nuclear waste, directing federal energy research and development, and advancing domestic energy production, from nuclear and renewables to, yes, oil, gas, and coal. 

On March 2, the day Perry was confirmed, right-wing think tank the Heritage Foundation published a document laying out its goals for Perry in his new post. Like the Heritage Foundation, Perry has received considerable funding from oil and gas interests, creating potential conflicts of interest as DOE chief and suggesting he might be inclined to take Heritage’s advice.

Did Senators Rush Through Rick Perry’s Energy Dept Hearing to Attend Corporate-Sponsored Inaugural Lunch?

Read time: 6 mins
Rick Perry

Compared to many other Senate confirmation hearings for potential Cabinet members, the hearing for U.S. Energy Secretary proved much faster and less rocky for nominee and former Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry

Perry's hearing lasted about three and a half hours and included only two rounds of questioning. That was far shorter than either Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt's nearly six hour hearing for Environmental Protection Agency head, in which he faced four rounds of questions, or the eight and a half hour hearing for Secretary of State nominee and retired ExxonMobil CEO, Rex Tillerson. Before this hearing, Perry was on the record as an enthusiastic climate change denier who previously failed to come up with either the name or the functions of the agency he could soon run.

It seems unclear why Perry, a just-departed board member of Energy Transfer Partners — owner of the Dakota Access pipeline — skated through with far less turbulence than his peers. One potential explanation: some senators from the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources found themselves busy with another task, besides questioning Perry, today. That is, they were in a rush to get to the “Leadership Luncheon” put on by the Trump Inaugural Committee, the latter funded by major corporate sponsors, including Chevron, J.P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America, and others. 

Amid Concerns About Trump's Authoritarian Bent, Oil Executive Calls for "Strong Rule of Law"

Read time: 9 mins

Harold Hamm, America's richest energy billionaire and the CEO of shale driller Continental Resources,  spoke at the S&P Global Platts Global Energy Outlook Forum last Thursday with an unusual message.

“We've got a President coming in that understands the rule of law, that understands business,” Mr. Hamm said.

Mr. Trump's promoters often cite his business experience. Mr. Trump, however, has rarely been praised for his understanding of the rule of law — which is the fundamental concept that the rules apply to everyone, from the most to the least powerful, and that governments must respect people's rights.

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