David Koch

As Trump Unfurls Infrastructure Plan, Iowa Bill Seeks to Criminalize Pipeline Protests

People rally at Standing Rock to protest the Dakota Access pipeline in December 2016

The Iowa Senate has advanced a bill which critics say could lead to the criminalization of pipeline protests, which are being cast as “terrorist activities.” Dakota Access pipeline owner Energy Transfer Partners and other companies have lobbied for the bill, Senate Study Bill 3062, which opens up the possibility of prison time and a hefty fine for those who commit “sabotage” of critical infrastructure, such as oil and gas pipelines.

This bill, carrying a criminal punishment of up to 25 years in prison and $100,000 in fines, resembles the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act, a “model” bill recently passed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). That ALEC bill, intended as a template for state and federal legislation, was based on Oklahoma's HB 1123, which calls for citizens to receive a felony sentencing, $100,000 fine, and/or 10 years in prison if their actions “willfully damage, destroy, vandalize, deface, or tamper with equipment in a critical infrastructure facility.”

According to disclosure records, corporations lobbying for the Iowa bill include not only Energy Transfer Partners, but also Koch Industries, the American Petroleum Institute, Valero Energy, Magellan Midstream, and others. The Iowa State Police Association has also come out in support of the bill, while the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Iowa is against it. The bill has passed out of subcommittee and next goes in front of the state Senate Judiciary Committee.

Congressional Committee Members Pushing LNG Exports Bills Have Deep Financial, Revolving Door Ties

Revolving doors

Last week the U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Energy and Commerce held a subcommittee hearing on two bills to expedite permitting for exports of natural gas. Domestic production of this fossil fuel has been booming in recent years, mainly thanks to hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) opening up vast reserves in shale formations.

Several former and present committee staffers have either taken oil and gas industry-sponsored trips as staffers or spun through the government-industry revolving door between Congress and the lobbying sector. And all of the politicians backing the two bills under consideration have taken tens of thousands of dollars in contributions from the oil and gas industry for their 2018 mid-term election campaigns.

Anti-Regulation Law, Favored by Kochs, Used to Sue Wisconsin Education Agency

Caricature of Koch brothers and Gov. Scott Walker

The conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILLhas sued Wisconsin State Superintendent Tony Evers for what it alleges was a state education agency's violation of an anti-regulatory law — long pushed by the petrochemical billionaire Koch brothers — known as the REINS Act.

Wisconsin's version of REINS, or Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny, is a piece of legislation heavily lobbied and advocated in favor of for over half a decade by Americans for Prosperity, a policy and electioneering advocacy front group founded and funded by the Koch Family Foundations and Koch Industries. The bill, which has a federal equivalent in Congress, has long been seen as the crown jewel of the Koch network. It essentially gives legislative bodies full veto power over regulations, including proposed environmental safeguards, which have been proposed by executive agencies — even when those regulations are mandated by laws legislatures have passed.

WILL's November 20 lawsuit, if successful, would be the first time the REINS Act is used to halt a proposed regulation. 

India May Ban Petcoke, One of Dirtiest Fossil Fuels Exported by Koch Brothers

Petcoke stockpiles

While U.S. power plants have considered petroleum coke or “petcoke to be too dirty to burn, India, on the other hand, has been importing this coal by-product of tar sands refining for years. However, it may be seeing its last days in the country which has served as its biggest importer.

In the aftermath of an Associated Press investigation published on December 1, India's Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan has said the country is formulating plans to phase out petcoke imports. The AP investigation, filed from New Delhi, revealed that citizens who live near petcoke refining facilities have come down with a range of air pollution-related illnesses in recent months and years.

The AP also points out that among the largest exporters of U.S. petcoke are Koch Industries subsidiary Koch Carbon and Oxbow Carbon, the latter of which is owned by the twin brother of David Koch, Bill Koch. The advocacy group Oil Change International referred to petcoke as “the coal hiding in the tar sands” in a 2013 report documenting the carbon footprint of petcoke production and combustion.

5 Facts About Mike Pence's Close Ties to the Koch Brothers Not Included in Jane Mayer’s New Yorker Article

This is a guest post by Scott Peterson from Checks and Balances Project.

If you’ve read Jane Mayer’s deep dive into the ties between the Koch Bros. and the Vice President, “The Danger of President Pence,” you’ll understand why it’s the high-water mark of reporting about their relationship. 

Yet there are several facts that aren’t included in the New Yorker article. Here are five facts worth knowing in addition to her excellent work.

Neil deGrasse Tyson Laments Climate Science Denial But Billionaire Deniers Fund His Museum

Neil deGrasse Tyson

There’s no real way to scientifically establish just how cool, adored, or respected a person is among certain groups.

But a good start might include the number of t-shirts with the person's face on them, the frequency of memes created with their quotes, or the amount of coffee drunk from mugs bearing their likeness.

On all these important and absolutely non-trivial measures, the astrophysicist, author, and educator Neil deGrasse Tyson looks to be winning.

Tyson is an American superstar of science communication. When primetime networks go looking for an articulate and respected scientist who can speak to the masses, Tyson is a go-to guy.

A few days ahead of the historic March for Science, Tyson released a four-minute video he said contained “what may be the most important words I have ever spoken.”

Conservative Groups Pushing Trump To Exit Paris Climate Deal Have Taken Millions From Koch Brothers, Exxon

The “conservative groups” urging President Donald Trump to withdraw from the Paris climate change agreement have accepted tens of millions of dollars from groups linked to the billionaire petrochemical brothers Charles and David Koch, ExxonMobil, and the Mercer family.

More than 40 groups have co-signed an open letter urging Trump to keep his campaign promise and “withdraw fully from the Paris Climate Treaty.”

The groups, including the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), The Heartland Institute, and the Heritage Foundation, claim failing to withdraw from the treaty could put Trump’s policy agenda of promoting fossil fuels at risk.

Pass a Regulation, Repeal Another: House Approves Provision Tied to Koch Industries

B.C. Minister of Finance Colin Hansen and Laura Jones cut ceremonial red tape

On January 5, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the REINS (Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny) Act of 2017 in a 237-187 vote, a bill pushed for years by Koch Industries-funded entities, which will make it harder for federal agencies to enact regulations. 

Passing mostly along party lines, the bill also included an amendment introduced by U.S. Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN) and passed by the House, which states that for every federal regulation created, another must be amended or retired. In announcing the amendment on the House floor, Messer said Canada has a similar law on the books.

GOP Congress, Trump Already Pushing Koch Industries' Bill to Hobble Regulatory Agencies

Kochtopus

One of the first orders of business for the freshly convened 115th Congress — now that it's no longer attempting to gut an independent ethics office  — is to pass a bill which could weaken the ability of federal regulatory agencies to do their jobs. 

That law, the REINS (Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny) Act of 2017, has long been a legislative priority for Koch Industries, Koch-funded advocacy groups such as Americans for Prosperity, and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Its latest iteration, H.R. 26*, has the backing of Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) and 159 co-sponsors (five Democrats and 154 Republicans) and has reached full debate on the House floor.***

REINS dictates that a “major rule shall not take effect unless the Congress enacts a joint resolution of approval” and won't become law if Congress does not pass that resolution by “70 session days or legislative days, as applicable.”

The Trump Administration Is Filling Up With Koch Allies

Koch Ties Trump Administration

On the campaign trail, President-elect Donald Trump boasted that he had no need for the Koch brothers, claiming to have rejected meetings with them and calling his Republican primary opponents “puppets” for meeting with the Kochs.

Yet, today, Trump's transition team and Cabinet are quickly filling with a number of Koch affiliates, confidantes, and business associates.

Politico has called it Trump's Koch administration. Talking Points Memo noted that “Behind Make America Great, the Koch agenda has returned with a vengeance.” Others have called Trump an unwitting “puppet” of the Koch brothers.

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