hydraulic fracturing

Former Head of Energy, Environment at ALEC, Todd Wynn, Hired by Trump Interior Department

Todd Wynn

Todd Wynn, former Director of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)'s Energy Environmental and Agriculture Task Force, was recently hired by President Donald Trump to work as a senior-ranking official in the U.S. Department of the Interior. 

DeSmog discovered the hire via LinkedIn, and Wynn says on his profile page that he began at Interior in October.

Wynn worked at ALEC from 2011 to 2013 and then became Director of External Affairs for Edison Electric Institute (EEI), a trade association representing electric utility companies nationwide. Prior to his position at ALEC, Wynn served as Vice President of the Cascade Policy Institute, a part of the State Policy Network (SPN), a national chain of state-level conservative and corporate-funded think-tanks which was started as an ALEC offshoot.

ALEC's critics have described the organization, a national consortium of mostly Republican Party state legislators and corporate lobbyists, as a “corporate bill mill.” That's because its lobbyist members convene several times a year with legislators to produce what it calls “model bills” which have ended up as actual legislation thousands of times since the organization's founding in 1973.

Trump Names Climate Denier Kathleen Hartnett-White to Head White House Environmental Council

President Donald Trump, as first reported by EnergyWire's Hannah Northey‏ on Twitter and as stated in a White House press release, has named Kathleen Hartnett-White to chair the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). 

Hartnett-White, as previously reported by DeSmog, is a prominent climate change denier and former Chairman and Commissioner of the Texas Council on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) under then-Texas Governor Rick Perry. Perry now heads up the U.S. Department of Energy and is reported to have advocated for her to run CEQ. She is also an outspoken advocate of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) and of exporting oil and gas to the global market.

Long seen as the presumptive front-runner to take the CEQ role, Hartnett-White also worked on President Trump's presidential campaign on his Economic Advisory Team. And her name was once floated to head up the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as well, currently led by Scott Pruitt.

Sean Spicer's Next Act? Fracking Industry's Chosen Keynote Speaker

Sean Spicer at Shale Insight 2017

Sean Spicer might be among the least trusted public figures in the U.S.

After he lost his job as White House press secretary, all five major TV news networks — including both Fox News and CNN, as well as CBS News, ABC News, and NBC News — declined to hire Spicer as a paid contributor, with network insiders reportedly telling NBC News, Spicer had a “lack of credibility.”

His attempt to rehabilitate his reputation with a September 17 Emmys appearance earned him a massive backlash.

Less than two weeks later, Spicer made another, somewhat less-reported public appearance — as the keynote for the Marcellus Shale Coalition's 2017 Shale Insight conference.

Trump Admin Quietly Pushing 'Small Scale' LNG Exports That Avoid Environmental Reviews

LNG tanker

By Steve Horn and Joshua Frank

The Trump administration proposed regulations to expedite the permitting process for natural gas exports from “small-scale” facilities on the Friday before Labor Day.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) had proposed an alteration of the rules for the export of “small-scale” liquefied natural gas (LNG) under the Natural Gas Act. The proposal will now be open to a public commenting period set to end October 16.

The Trump Administration is focused on finding ways to unleash American energy and providing a reliable and environmentally friendly fuel to our trading partners who face unique energy infrastructure challenges. The Department of Energy and this Administration are wholeheartedly committed to strengthening the energy security of the United States and our allies,” Rick Perry, U.S. Secretary of Energy, said in a press release.

As US Coal Exports Swell, Trump Admin Facilitates Major Deal with Ukraine

U.S. Embassy in Ukraine

Export levels of coal produced in the U.S. shot up earlier this year, as President Donald Trump assumed the White House, in what his administration has dubbed the age of “energy dominance.”

For the first quarter of 2017, export levels grew 58 percent compared to the same quarter last year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The news comes as the Trump administration recently helped broker a major coal export deal between Pennsylvania-based coal production company Xcoal Energy and Ukranian company Centrenergo PJSC

That deal, which will see 700,000 tons of thermal coal shipped from XCoal's mines to Centrenergo power plants in Ukraine, was applauded by both U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.

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

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.

This Is the Drilling Method for Most US Oil But Regulators Offer Almost No Oversight

Oil pump jacks drilling in California

Hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) and offshore drilling garner a lot of news headlines when it comes to oil and gas issues in America, but they're far from the only game in town, with those two drilling techniques not even constituting the majority of U.S. oil and gas production.

For that, look to enhanced oil recovery (EOR), an under-regulated drilling method that has been around for over a century and could be threatening drinking water sources — if only regulators and the public had enough information to determine that danger, according to a new 63 page report published this week. Environmental group Clean Water Action, with graduate students from Johns Hopkins University, plumbed the academic and professional literature on EOR and its associated regulatory issues in order to lay out the potential environmental and public health risks posed by EOR. They also detail how the drilling method came to be handled with such a light touch by regulators at both the state and federal level.

The report details that the almost non-existent regulatory treatment for EOR, which makes up 60 percent of U.S. oil and gas production, may be further watered down due to proposed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) budget cuts by the Trump administration. In addition, oil, gas, and coal companies are pushing for two Senate bills offering tax incentives for this drilling technique which cast it as a supposed climate change solution.

Emails Show Iraq War PR Alums Led Attempt to Discredit Dakota Access Protesters

militarized police presence lined up in North Dakota against Dakota Access pipeline protesters

By Steve Horn and Curtis Waltman, MuckRock

Behind the scenes, as law enforcement officials tried to stem protests against the Dakota Access pipeline, alumni from the George W. Bush White House were leading a crisis communications effort to discredit pipeline protesters.

Emails show that the firms Delve and Off the Record Strategies, apparently working on contract with the National Sheriffs’ Association, worked in secret on talking points, media outreach, and communications training for law enforcement dealing with Dakota Access opponents mobilized at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in Cannon Ball, North Dakota. This revelation comes from documents obtained via an open records request from the Laramie County Sheriff's Department in Wyoming.

Here's the PR Firm Behind 'Your Energy America' Front Group Pushing Atlantic Coast Pipeline

rows of pipeline segments

Your Energy America” is a newly formed front group pushing Dominion Energy's Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline. By tracing hosting information for the group's website, DeSmog has found evidence pointing to the PR firm behind the group: DDC Advocacy, which has known ties to the Republican Party. 

Short for Democracy, Data & Communications, DDC's founding partner, chairman, and CEOB.R. McConnon in the past “has acted as a key contact and spokesperson for [National Federation for Independent Business],” according to his LinkedIn. NFIB takes funding from Koch Industries and other major corporate interests, and McConnon began his career as a policy analyst for the Koch-founded Citizens for a Sound Economy, the precursor to Americans for Prosperity

“Your Energy” was launched in the heat of the Virginia gubernatorial primary races and is run by the American Gas Association. The race for Virginia's highest office recently saw Democratic Party candidate Ralph Northam and GOP candidate Ed Gillespie come out ahead as their parties' nominees for the looming November election.

Federal Research Has Been Stoking Oil, Gas Interest in Bears Ears Monument for Years

Bluff formations in Bears Ears Monument

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke is considering revoking the protected status from Bears Ears National Monument, a culturally and archaeologically significant area spanning 1.35 million acres in Utah and protected by then-President Barack Obama under the Antiquities Act of 1906 during his last weeks in office.

While numerous Native American tribes claim ties and sacred sites within its borders, Bears Ears is also of considerable interest to the fossil fuel industry for its close proximity to oil and gas deposits, one of several reasons for pushback against the monument designation. According to a map published by WildEarth Guardians, a group calling for protection of Bears Ears, hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) powerhouses EOG Resources and Whiting Petroleum are already drilling near the area. Soon, however, there may be much more activity.

A DeSmog review of Utah state records shows that the drilling company Wesco Operating has obtained permits to drill in oil fields near Bears Ears, fields which are part of a larger shale basin extending under the monument. Furthermore, the federal government has been stoking interest in developing that shale basin to the tune of nearly three quarters of a million dollars invested in feasibility research.

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