Department of Energy

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

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?

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"

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.

Jeff Sessions, Trump's Attorney General Pick, Introduced First Bill to Exempt Fracking from Drinking Water Rules

Jeff Sessions

U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for U.S. Attorney General, introduced the first so-called “Halliburton Loophole” bill back in 1999 before it was ever known as such.

Sessions co-sponsored the bill (S.724) with the climate change-denying Senator James Inhofe (R-OK). The bill called for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to exempt enforcement of the Safe Drinking Water Act as it relates to hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”).

The bill's language eventually became a provision in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, known today as the “Halliburton Loophole” because the company's ex-CEO and then-Vice President Dick Cheney headed up the industry-loaded Energy Policy Task Force which helped pen the bill's language.

Donald Trump's Swamp: Meet Ten Potential Energy and Climate Cabinet Picks and the Pickers

One of President-elect Donald Trump's most pressing current tasks is selecting who will serve in his new administration, especially his transition team and cabinet, though there are over 4,000 political appointees to hire for federal jobs in all.

Much of the mainstream media attention so far has centered around Trump's choices of Republican National Committee head Reince Priebus as White House chief of staff and former Breitbart News CEO Steve Bannon as chief strategist and senior counselor. Congressional Democrats have called for Bannon to be banned from the White House, citing his personal bigotry and the bigotry often on display on Breitbart.com. Meanwhile, Bannon's hire was praised by the American Nazi Party and KKK.

Yet, perhaps just as troubling is the army of climate change deniers and fossil fuel industry lobbyists helping to pick or court a spot on Trump's future climate and energy team.

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.

Documents: How IOGCC Created Loophole Ushering in Frackquakes and Allowing Methane Leakage

Earthquakes caused by injection of shale oil and gas production wastes — and methane leakage from shale gas pipelines — have proliferated in recent years, with both issues well-studied in the scientific literature and grabbing headlines in newspapers nationwide.

Lesser-mentioned, though perhaps at the root of both problems, is a key exemption won by the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact (IOGCC) via a concerted lobbying effort in the 1980's. That is, classifying oil and gas wastes as something other than “hazardous” or “solid wastes” under Subtitles C and D of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), thus exempting the industry from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enforcement. 

Emails: US Government Facilitated LNG Business Deals Before Terminals Got Required Federal Permits

Emails and documents obtained by DeSmog reveal that the U.S. International Trade Administration has actively promoted and facilitated  business deals for the liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry and export terminal owners, even before some of the terminals have the federal regulatory agency permits needed to open for business. 

This release of the documents coincides with the imminent opening of the first ever LNG export terminal in the U.S. hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) era, owned by Cheniere. 

The documents 
came via an open records request filed by DeSmog with the Port of Lake Charles. The request centered around the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) the Port signed with the Panama Canal Authority in January 2015.

Obama Administration Approves Pipeline Expansion Set to Feed First Ever Fracked Gas LNG Export Terminal

The Obama Administration has quietly approved expansion of a major pipeline carrying fracked gas destined for the global export market.

The Gulf Trace pipeline, owned by The Williams Companies, is set to feed into Cheniere Energy's Sabine Pass LNG export terminal in Louisiana. As first reported by Reuters, LNG tankers loaded with super-chilled liquefied natural gas obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) will set sail for the first time from Sabine Pass in January 2016.

EPA Moves to Require Gas Processing Plants, for First Time, to Make Hazardous Emissions Public

This week, the Environmental Protection Agency announced plans to require natural gas processing plants to start complying with federal toxic chemical disclosure laws, in response to a lawsuit and petition filed by a collection of environmental and transparency advocates.

A record-setting 19 trillion cubic feet of gas was processed by these plants — over 550 of which dot the country — last year, representing a rise in volume of 32 percent over the past decade, according to the U.S. Energy Department. The EPA now estimates that over half of these plants release more than 10,000 pounds of toxic chemicals each year, making their pollution substantial enough to require federal attention.

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