Obama administration

All the Battles Being Waged Against Fossil Fuel Infrastructure Are Following a Single Strategy

Read time: 6 mins
Virginia Delegate Chris Hurst, a Democrat, at a Mountain Valley pipeline protest before he took office.
By Luis Hestres, The University of Texas at San Antonio

The activists holding a growing number of protests against oil pipelines and other fossil fuel infrastructure projects from coast to coast are winning some courtroom victories.

For example, a federal appeals court recently struck down two key decisions allowing a natural gas pipeline to cut through Virginia’s Jefferson National Forest, just days before a three-judge panel nixed two permits for another pipeline intended to transport natural gas in Virginia because it would compromise efforts to protect endangered wildlife. At the same time, Oregon’s Supreme Court declined to revisit a lower court ruling that let Portland’s prohibition of big fossil fuel export projects stand.

Just like when activists refuse to leave their treetop perches to stop oil companies from axing an old-growth forest or when they lock their bodies to bulldozers to prevent the machine from making way for a new coal mine, these legal challenges are part of a coordinated strategy I have studied for years while researching the movement to slow down and address climate change.

Who Needs Science Advice Anyway? Governments, for One

Read time: 6 mins
Molly Shoichet, former chief scientist of Ontario
By Jim Woodgett, University of Toronto

There has been much consternation within the Ontario research community since Premier Doug Ford summarily dismissed the province’s first chief scientist, Molly Shoichet, after she’d been in the job for only six months.

The new government, elected on a populist wave in June, quickly fired the esteemed scientist — widely lauded for her biomedical engineering expertise and skill at communicating science — only a few days after being sworn in. Yet the new government has promised to appoint a replacement.

The move raises the question: What is the role of a “chief scientist” within government?

'Keep It In the Ground' Approach to Fossil Fuels on US Public Lands Would Cut Climate Emissions, Study Confirms

Read time: 8 mins
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Limiting fossil fuel production on U.S. federal lands would reduce both global oil consumption and overall carbon emissions, according to a new study by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), a research organization focused on sustainable development. In the study, SEI researchers specifically examined the policies proposed in the “Keep It in the Ground Act,” which would ban new and renewed leases to extract oil, gas, and coal on all federal lands, and was introduced in Congress in 2015, 2016, and again in 2017.

Our models show that each barrel of U.S. oil left undeveloped leads to about a half-barrel drop in global oil consumption,” said Pete Erickson, SEI senior scientist and study co-author. “In the long term, the smart choice — for the climate and the economy — is to phase down oil and gas production, not ramp it up.”

Obama Alums Are Pushing Fracked Gas Exports. That’s Exactly What Trump Wants.

Read time: 12 mins
Obama speaking in front of pipeline parts in Cushing, Oklahoma

During his State of the Union address, President Donald Trump exclaimed that the “war on American Energy” had ended and that “we are now an exporter of energy to the world.”

What Trump did not say, though, is that several former senior energy officials from the Obama administration — the one Trump said had declared a “war on American Energy” — now either lobby or work as executives for companies making his “energy dominance” agenda possible. At least five of these Obama officials now work for natural gas export companies, four of them for Cheniere and another for Tellurian.

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. 

7 Reasons Why Jeff Flake Is Awful on Climate Change and Energy Justice

Read time: 12 mins
Jeff Flake

This week, U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) made national headlines by dramatically announcing his retirement on the U.S. Senate floor. Flake focused his speech on the erratic behavior of President Donald Trump and the nationalistic, anti-immigration turn taken by some Republican Party politicians in recent years. 

“I have decided that I will be better able to represent the people of Arizona and to better serve my country and my conscience by freeing myself from the political considerations that consume far too much bandwidth and would cause me to compromise far too many principles,” said Flake. “To that end, I am announcing today that my service in the Senate will conclude at the end of my term in early January 2019.”

Beyond taking a stance in favor of corporate-backed free trade and “limited government and free markets,” Flake's speech mostly stayed away from policy. But it did include the word “behavior” eight times, pointing to that of President Trump without explicitly mentioning the president by name.

Fracking Giant Cabot Sues Pennsylvania Water Contamination Victim for $5 Million

Read time: 7 mins
Ray Kemble

Cabot Oil and Gas Corporation has filed a $5 million civil lawsuit in county court against Dimock, Pennsylvania, resident Ray Kemble, who claims Cabot severely contaminated his water after drilling and hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) activity.

The company, scrutinized in the film Gasland and subject of an ongoing federal class action lawsuit since 2009, has also sued a handful of lawyers representing Kemble. Cabot’s lawsuit claims that Kemble harmed the fracking giant by attempting to “attract media attention” over pollution to his water, which the company claims breached an earlier 2012 settlement agreement as part of the ongoing federal class action lawsuit.

Trump’s White House Website Now Only Mentions "Climate" in His Plans to Ax Obama’s Policies

Read time: 3 mins

Today, the peaceful transition of power took place, with President Barack Obama passing the White House baton over to President Donald Trump. 

Behind the glitz and glamor and pomp and circumstance came another key White House transition: the Trump White House has gotten rid of the climate change section of the White House website. The URL www.whitehouse.gov/energy/climate-change now takes those surfing the internet to a page which “could not be found.”

Exxon, Qatar Petroleum Get OK to Export U.S. Fracked Gas Amidst Tangled Ties to Russia, ISIS

Read time: 6 mins
Saturday Night Live skit showing parody of Tillerson, Putin, and Trump

Just days before Christmas, the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) gave ExxonMobil a gift: a permit to export natural gas from its Golden Pass LNG (liquefied natural gas) facility located in Sabine Pass, Texas. 

Dubbed Golden Pass Products, the expansion of this LNG facility to export gas is a joint venture between Exxon (30 percent stake) and Qatar Petroleum (70 percent stake), the state-owned oil company. Golden Pass LNG is now the fourth LNG export facility, and third situated along the Gulf of Mexico, approved under the Obama administration.

This facility will continue to open up the global market to U.S. natural gas obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”)

The permit for Golden Pass comes shortly after Exxon's CEO, Rex Tillerson, was named Trump's nominee for U.S. Secretary of State and will likely face a tough Senate confirmation hearing in January, mainly due to his close ties to Russia.

Obama Banned Arctic and Atlantic Offshore Drilling and Big Oil Isn't Happy

Read time: 6 mins
Kayaktavists in Seattle in front of a drilling rig.

President Obama has announced what amounts to a ban of offshore drilling in huge swaths of continental shelf in both the Alaskan Arctic Ocean and Atlantic Ocean, a decision which came after years of pushing by environmental groups.

Using authority derived from Section 12(a) of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, the White House banned drilling in a 115 acre area making up 98 percent of federally owned lands in the Alaskan Arctic and a 3.8 million acre stretch of the Atlantic extending from Norfolk, Virginia, to the Canadian border. By taking this route, rather than issuing an Executive Order, Obama made it legally difficult for Republican President-elect Donald Trump's administration to reverse this action.

Environmental groups and Democratic senators have praised the decision, while Republican congressional members and industry groups have denounced it.

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