Checks and Balances Project

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

Read time: 6 mins

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.

Exposed: ExxonMobil Funding Influential Columbia University Center on Global Energy Policy

Read time: 3 mins

In a sentence buried at the very bottom of a story making headlines nationwide, Politico revealed for the first time one of the funders of Columbia University's influential Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP).

The funder: ExxonMobil, the company embroiled in a New York state Attorney General investigation for its extensive internal knowledge of the impacts of climate change since the 1970s, followed by Exxon's funding of climate change denial campaigns to the tune of $31 million. Politico got its numbers from ExxonMobil's 2014 Worldwide Contributions and Community Investments report.

On 10th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina Former New Orleans Resident Questions African-American Leaders Siding With Climate Deniers

Read time: 4 mins
c Julie Dermansky

This is a guest post by Evlondo Cooper, senior fellow with the Checks and Balances Project, cross-posted with permission. 

New Orleans has many nicknames: The Crescent City, The Birthplace of Jazz, and The Big Easy. It’s also my hometown but Hurricane Katrina cast me out. In 2005, I was an investigator for the New Orleans district attorney’s office who was invested in making a great city even better. Along with hundreds of thousands of others, I had to flee New Orleans.

This month is the 10-year anniversary of Katrina and its devastating punch, which we now know was made far worse by pollution-driven climate change. I juxtapose its devastation with the potential solutions as this month marks the release of President Obama’s signature Clean Power Plan, which would cut the very pollution that made Katrina so much worse.

Breaking: Obama EPA Shut Down Weatherford, TX Shale Gas Water Contamination Study

Read time: 5 mins

The Associated Press has a breaking investigative story out today revealing that the Obama Administration's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) censored a smoking gun scientific report in March 2012 that it had contracted out to a scientist who conducted field data on 32 water samples in Weatherford, TX.

That report, according to the AP, would have explicitly linked methane migration to hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in Weatherford, a city with 25,000+ citizens located in the heart of the Barnett Shale geologic formation 30 minutes from Dallas.

It was authored by Geoffrey Thyne, a geologist formerly on the faculty of the Colorado School of Mines and University of Wyoming before departing from the latter for a job in the private sector working for Interralogic Inc. in Ft Collins, CO

This isn't the first time Thyne's scientific research has been shoved aside, either. Thyne wrote two landmark studies on groundwater contamination in Garfield County, CO, the first showing that it existed, the second confirming that the contamination was directly linked to fracking in the area.

It's the second study that got him in trouble.

“Thyne says he was told to cease his research by higher-ups. He didn’t,” The Checks and Balances Project explained. “And when it came to renew his contract, Thyne was cut loose.”

ALEC to Attack North Carolina Renewable Energy Initiatives

Read time: 3 mins

Renewable energy is under attack in the Tar Heel State. That's the word from Greenpeace USA's Connor Gibson today in a report that implicates King Coal powerhouse, Duke Energy and the fossil fuel industry at-large. 

The vehicle Duke Energy is utilizing for this attack is one whose profile has grown in infamy in recent years: the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

ALEC is described as a “corporate bill mill” by its critics. It's earned such a description because it passes “model bills” written by corporate lobbyists and to boot, the lobbyists typically do so behind closed doors at ALEC's annual meetings. 

Fossil-Fuel Funded Operatives Litter the Mainstream Media, Despite Simple Fix

Read time: 4 mins

Have you ever found yourself reading a news article or op-ed in which an “expert” from a distinguished-sounding “think tank” or “institute” seeks to distort or attack climate change science or, alternately, decries public investment in clean energy solutions, and wonder in whose interest this individual and their organization is operating?

Who is funding the proliferation of the anti-renewables, pro-status-quo perspective in all these mainstream media outlets? And why is the media providing them a platform at all, let alone without disclosing the fossil fuel funding behind their misinformation efforts?

Well, today the Checks and Balances Project released a report revealing the extent of this problem in the mainstream media. 

The Checks and Balances report, Fossil Fuel Front Groups on the Front Page, concludes that 58 of the largest mainstream newspapers and publications have quoted or given op-ed space to a fossil-fuel-funded “expert” every other day for the past five years, on average.

“Despite having received millions of dollars from fossil fuel interests, such as ExxonMobil and Koch Industries, these groups’ financial ties to the fossil fuel industry are rarely mentioned,” according to the report.

Checks and Balances writes that it “uncovered the extent of this deception by focusing on the 10 most prominent fossil fuel front groups’ traction [in] 58 of the largest daily newspapers, the Associated Press and Politico. This analysis does not include mentions in broadcast, radio or online publications for these 10 advocacy groups.  As a result, this report only scratches the surface on these fossil fuel-funded groups’ influence on the energy debate.”

The report has received a chilly response from some of the very “experts” often quoted without any disclosure of their fossil fuel funding.  Steven “Junk Man” Milloy was so peeved that he tapped out a quick post attacking the messenger, a typical tactic of the fossil-fuel-funded echo chamber.

Milloy knows the tobacco playbook well. As Connor Gibson points out over at PolluterWatch,  “Steve Milloy has been a central climate denier, who was paid to shill for tobacco company Phillip Morris and oil giant Exxon before work for the Cato Institute and starting the climate denial website “JunkScience.” 

Coal Polluter Lobbyist Jeffrey Holmstead Confronted at Energy Event

Read time: 4 mins

This is a guest post by Connor Gibson, originally published at Polluterwatch.

At a well-attended energy forum hosted by Politico on Thursday, I shed some light on the role of coal lobbyist Jeffrey Holmstead in blocking pollution reductions for his coal utility and mining clients after he said we can't “regulate our way to clean energy.” Here's the video:

(Click for transcript of interruption)

UPDATE 11/16: Holmstead was later confronted on camera by Gabe Elsner of the Checks and Balances Project after the disruption at the Politico forum. Watch Holmstead re-write the history of his attacks on mercury pollution laws:

Coalition Calls On Duke Energy To Dump American Legislative Exchange Council

Read time: 3 mins

A coalition of environmental, civil rights and democracy reform groups today called upon Duke Energy to join the 38 other companies that have left the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. In their letter sent to Duke CEO Jim Rogers this morning, the coalition requests that Duke Energy “disassociate and stop funding ALEC immediately.”

“We collectively call upon Duke Energy to drop all financial and staff support to ALEC due not only to their role in blocking clean energy implementation and solutions to global warming, but due to their direct attacks on democracy and our civil rights.”

As Greenpeace's Connor Gibson points out in his blog about the effort,

“Duke Energy has distinguished itself from other polluters with rhetorical commitments to tackling global warming and implementing clean energy, but stops short of meaningful action. By dumping ALEC, Duke would take a step in the right direction toward the potential it has to become a cleaner energy company.”
 

Here is the full-text of the letter to Jim Rogers:

Does Red Leaf's "EcoShale" Technology Greenwash Oil Shale Extraction?

Read time: 4 mins

At the Clinton Global Initiative in 2008, former Vice President Al Gore called the possibility of fossil fuel corporations extracting oil shaleutter insanity.” 

Insanity, though, doesn't serve as a hinderance for deeply entrenched and powerful fossil fuel interests.

Oil shale, also known as kerogen, should not be confused with shale gas or shale oil, two fossil fuels best known from Josh Fox's “Gasland.” As explained in a report by the Checks and Balances Project,

Oil shale itself is a misnomer. It is actually rock containing an organic substance called kerogen. The rocks haven’t been in the ground for enough time or under enough pressure to become oil. Oil companies need to recreate geological forces to produce any energy from it. Ideas for developing oil shale have included baking acres of land at 700 degrees for three to four years and even detonating an atomic bomb underground.

The really “insane” part of the equation: oil shale production, which has yet to begin, would be ecologically destructive to the extreme.

“Because oil shale is a rock, commercial production would release 25% to 75% more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional oil,” wrote the Western Resource Advocates. Furthermore, like tar sands production and shale oil/gas production, oil shale production is a water-intensive process.

Adding insult to injury, in the 100 years of attempted commercial production of oil shale, the fossil fuel industry has yet to seal the deal, motivating an April 2012 report by Checks and Balances titled “A Century of Failure.”

The Guardian Exposes Fossil Funded Groups Coordinating Renewable Energy Attacks

Read time: 3 mins

Ever wonder why a blooming green energy industry has faced such harsh opposition? Now, as the old adage goes, “the cat's out of the bag.”

The Guardian today revealed the network of fossil-funded groups coordinating the ongoing onslaught of attacks on renewable energy, particularly wind power. A memorandum passed to The Guardian from the Checks and Balances Project details the organizations and personnel acting as ringleaders to build an astroturf echo chamber of clean energy critics.

Guardian reporter Suzanne Goldenberg writes in “Conservative thinktanks step up attacks against Obama's clean energy strategy,” 


“A number of rightwing organisations, including Americans for Prosperity, which is funded by the billionaire Koch brothers, are attacking Obama for his support for solar and wind power. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which also has financial links to the Kochs, has drafted bills to overturn state laws promoting wind energy.”

A confidential memo seen by The Guardian and obtained by DeSmogBlog “advises using 'subversion' to build a national movement of wind farm protesters,” explained Goldenberg.

That memo was crafted by John Droz, a Senior Fellow at the American Tradition Institute (ATI).*(see update below)* ATI was the right-wing think-tank behind the lawsuit to obtain University of Virginia climatologist Michael Mann's “ClimateGate” emails. 

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