shale 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.

Chemical Plant Boom Spurred by Fracking Will Bring Smog, Plastic Glut, and Risks to Workers' Health, New Report Warns

Petrochemical plants in Texas

On the heels of the shale gas rush that's swept the U.S. for the past decade, another wave of fossil fuel-based projects is coming — a plastic and petrochemical manufacturing rush that environmentalists warn could make smog worse in communities already breathing air pollution from fracking, sicken workers, and expand the plastic trash gyres in the world's oceans.

“Thanks to abundant supplies of natural gas, the U.S. chemical industry is investing in new facilities and expanded production capacity, which tends to attract downstream industries that rely on petrochemical products,” the American Chemistry Council's President and CEO, Cal Dooley, said in a January press release. “As of this month, 281 chemical industry projects valued at $170 billion have been announced, about half of which are completed or under construction.”

A new Food and Water Watch report, How Fracking Supports the Plastic Industry, calls attention to the dark side of those plans, warning of air and water pollution and the risk to people's health, especially for those taking jobs in the plastics industry.

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.

'Biggest Oil Find' of 2016 Puts Crown Jewel Texas Oasis in Crosshairs for Fracking

Water birds land on Balmorhea Lake in West Texas

REEVES COUNTY, TEXAS — Travelers crossing the long stretch of arid desert spanning West Texas might stumble across an extraordinarily improbable sight — a tiny teeming wetlands, a sliver of marsh that seems like it should sit by the ocean but actually lays over 450 miles from the nearest coast.

This cienega, or desert-wetlands (an ecosystem so unusual that its name sounds like a contradiction), lies instead near a massive swimming pool and lake, all fed by clusters of freshwater springs that include the deepest underwater cave ever discovered in the U.S., stretching far under the desert's dry sands.

Famous as “the oasis of West Texas,” Balmorhea State Park now hosts over 150,000 visitors a year, drawn by the chance to swim in the cool waters of the park's crystal-blue pool, which is fed by up to 28 million gallons of water a day flowing from the San Solomon springs. The pool's steady 72 to 76 degree Fahrenheit temperatures make the waters temptingly cool in the hot Texas summer and surprisingly warm in the winter, locals say — part of the reason it's been called “the crown jewel of the desert.”

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.

Key Trump Donor Stands to Profit from Order to Approve Keystone XL, Dakota Access Pipelines

On January 24, President Donald Trump signed two executive orders calling for the approval of the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines, owned by Energy Transfer Partners and TransCanada, respectively. He also signed an order calling for expedited environmental reviews of domestic infrastructure projects, such as pipelines.

Fights against both pipelines have ignited nationwide grassroots movements for over the past five years and will almost assuredly sit at the epicenter of similar backlash moving forward. As DeSmog has reported, Donald Trump's top presidential campaign energy aide Harold Hamm stands to profit if both pipelines go through. 

Hamm, the founder and CEO of Continental Resources who sat in the VIP box at Trump's inauguration and was a major Trump campaign donor, would see his company's oil obtained from hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in the Bakken Shale flow through both lines. Kelcy Warren, CEO of Energy Transfer Partners, was also a major Trump donor.

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

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.”

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