natural gas

As Exxon Pushes Gulf Refinery During March Madness Ad Blitz, Facility Offered $1.4B Tax Break

ExxonMobil jobs commercial

ExxonMobil has engaged in a March advertising blitz, repeatedly airing a new commercial during national cable news channel breaks and prominently, during TV timeouts during the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I basketball tournament, better known as March Madness.

The commercial vaguely promotes what Exxon says is a new jobs initiative, which it claims will create 45,000 positions along the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, without specifying details about the source of the jobs. Yet far from Madison Avenue advertising firms, a local battle has taken place the past several months in Gulf Coast communities over the prospective siting of and tax breaks for a proposed Exxon refinery co-owned by the Saudi Arabian state-owned company, SABIC (Saudi Basic Industries Corporation).

A mere three weeks into the ad blitz, two Texas entities voted to give tax subsidies to the proposed facility, dubbed Gulf Coast Growth Ventures. Both representing San Patricio County, Texas, the San Patricio County Board of Commissioners and the Gregory-Portland Independent School District offered Growth Ventures over $1.4 billion in tax breaks for the $9.4 billion Exxon-SABIC plant

Study: Natural Gas Power Plants Emit up to 120 Times More Methane Than Previously Estimated

Natural gas power plant

Researchers at Purdue University and the Environmental Defense Fund have concluded in a recent study that natural gas power plants release 21–120 times more methane than earlier estimates. 

Published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, the study also found that for oil refineries, emission rates were 11–90 times more than initial estimates. Natural gas, long touted as a cleaner and more climate-friendly alternative to burning coal, is obtained in the U.S. mostly via the controversial horizontal drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”).

The scientists measured air emissions at three natural gas-fired power plants and three refineries in Utah, Indiana, and Illinois using Purdue's flying chemistry lab, the Airborne Laboratory for Atmospheric Research (ALAR). They compared their results to data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program.

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.

Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy Pushes Natural Gas as Climate Solution at Contentious Town Hall Meetings

Sen. Cassidy in front of a crowd at a public meeting

Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy's constituents packed emotionally charged town hall meetings across the state during Congress’ February break, a trend seen in other meetings with lawmakers around the country. 

At Sen. Cassidy’s first town hall in Denham Springs, which was ground zero for the 1,000 year flood that devastated parts of southern Louisiana last year, the senator focused on flood recovery efforts.

While Sen. Cassidy mentioned that lowering greenhouse gas emissions would “theoretically” be good for sea level rise, he failed to connect climate change to the region’s extreme floods. Instead, he praised President Donald Trump’s goals of bringing back manufacturing jobs to the United States, which could then be powered by the nation’s natural gas reserves.

Study Finds Connection Between Living Near Oil and Gas Development and Childhood Leukemia

oil derrick in a field in Colorado

With the rise of new technologies like fracking and horizontal drilling, oil and gas development in the United States has exploded over the past 15 years. As development expands, it’s also pushing ever closer into areas where people live. It’s been estimated that today more than 15 million Americans live within one mile of oil and gas development.

The drilling process, of course, has the potential to emit toxic substances, including the carcinogen benzene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and diesel exhaust, into the surrounding air and waterways. But researchers have long been trying to determine to what extent oil and gas drilling operations may threaten public health, particularly around cancer risk.

However, new research suggests that childen living in areas of high-density oil and gas development may face increased risk of health impacts, namely a certain type of leukemia, as a result of their exposure to pollutants associated with this activity.

California Residents and Lawmakers Fight Reopening of Aliso Canyon, Site of Huge Natural Gas Blowout

Protesters rally against the reopening of the Aliso Canyon facility with signs

It’s now a waiting game as California regulators decide whether to reopen the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility in Los Angeles County, the site of an October 2015 blowout that released an estimated 97,000 metric tons of methane over four months.

Trump Names Industry Lobbyist and Climate Science Denier Mike Catanzaro as Top White House Energy Aide

Mike Catanzaro

GreenWire has reported that climate change denier Mike Catanzaro — a lobbyist for oil and gas companies Noble Energy, Devon Energy, Encana Oil and GasAmerican Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), and Hess Corporation — will soon become a top energy policy aide for President Donald Trump

Catanzaro's lobbying disclosure forms for quarter four of 2016 serve as a potential preview of energy policy to come from the Trump White House. During that quarter, Catanzaro lobbied against U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) methane regulations, against U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement offshore drilling regulations, and for oil and gas development on U.S. public lands. 

As DeSmog has reported, Catanzaro served as a top energy aide during Trump's presidential campaign. According to GreenWire, he is expected to serve as special assistant to Trump for energy and environmental issues under the umbrella of the White House National Economic Council.

Congress Plans Back Door Tactic to Scrap Methane Pollution Rule — and These Are the Oil Companies That Will Benefit

Natural gas flare

Republican leaders in Congress say they’ll use an obscure rule called the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to roll back the Methane Waste and Prevention Rule as early as next week. The rule, finalized by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in November 2016, requires oil and gas companies to reduce methane leaks from operations on federal and tribal lands. 

An open records request from environmental group Friends of the Earth reveals the top three companies — ExxonMobil, Devon Energy, and Encana Energy — which will profit from the rule’s rollback.

Exxon’s Fracking Linked to 176 Official Complaints in Rural Pennsylvania

The investigative journalism outlet Public Herald documented that ExxonMobil subsidiary XTO Energy has been the subject of 176 citizen complaints in Pennsylvania, many of them drinking water-related. The state is home to the Marcellus Shale basin, the most prolific field for obtaining natural gas via hydraulic fracturing ('fracking”) in the U.S. and an early hotbed of debate on fracking's potential threats.

In its investigation, the Pennsylvania-based publication spent three years digging up complaints submitted by the state's citizens to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). With documents spanning from 2004–2016, the complaints previously have been concealed from the public, and Public Herald says they show “evidence of widespread and systemic impacts” of fracking on water in the state.

A DeSmog review of files housed on the investigation's document-hosting website, PublicFiles.org, shows dozens upon dozens of these wells were owned by XTO. The finding comes as President Donald Trump's nominees for U.S. Secretary of State, recently retired ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, Oklahoma Attorney General and EPA antagonist Scott Pruitt, await full U.S. Senate floor hearings and eventual confirmation votes.

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