FERC

As Dakota Access Protests Escalated, Obama Admin OK’d Same Company for Two Pipelines to Mexico

Left, Mexico's President Enrique Peña Nieto and right, U.S. President Barack Obama

On September 9, the Obama administration revoked authorization for construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) on federally controlled lands and asked the pipeline's owners, led by Energy Transfer Partners, to voluntarily halt construction on adjacent areas at the center of protests by Native Americans and supporters.

However, at the same time the pipeline and protests surrounding it were galvanizing an international swell of solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and its Sacred Stone Camp, another federal move on two key pipelines has flown under the radar.

In May, the federal government quietly approved permits for two Texas pipelines — the Trans-Pecos and Comanche Trail Pipelines — also owned by Energy Transfer Partners. This action and related moves will ensure that U.S. fracked gas will be flooding the energy grid in Mexico.

Revealed: Ex-FERC Commissioner’s Multiple Rulings Favored Energy Companies His Wife Lobbied For

Numerous rulings by a former Commissioner of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) favored energy companies his lobbyist wife worked for at the time, a DeSmog investigation can reveal.

Philip Moeller left FERC in late 2015 after nearly ten years on the Commission.

Throughout his entire tenure, Moeller’s wife, Elizabeth Moeller, was employed as a lawyer and lobbyist for the Washington DC-based firm Pillsbury, Winthrop, Shaw & Pittman LLP (Pillsbury Winthrop).

According to internal FERC documents obtained by DeSmog, the Commission’s counsel repeatedly authorized Moeller to rule on matters concerning companies represented by his wife or others at Pillsbury Winthrop.

Fracked Gas LNG Exports Were Centerpiece In Promotion of Panama Canal Expansion, Documents Reveal

After nearly a decade of engineering work on the project, the Panama Canal's expansion opened for business on June 26. 

At the center of that business, a DeSmog investigation has demonstrated, is a fast-track export lane for gas obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in the United States. The expanded Canal in both depth and width equates to a shortened voyage to Asia and also means the vast majority of liquefied natural gas (LNG) tankers — 9-percent before versus 88-percent now — can now fit through it. 

Emails and documents obtained under open records law show that LNG exports have, for the past several years, served as a centerpiece for promotion of the Canal's expansion by the U.S. Gulf of Mexico-based Port of Lake Charles.

And the oil and gas industry, while awaiting the Canal expansion project's completion, lobbied for and achieved passage of a federal bill that expanded the water depth of a key Gulf-based port set to feed the fracked gas export boom.

Former FERC Official Hired By Company With $1.8 Million Stake In Spectra Energy Pipeline Project He Had Reviewed

An engineering company with a $1.8 million stake in a Spectra Energy natural gas project hired a former top Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) official who had been managing the environmental review process for the same project.

Douglas Sipe, who served as Outreach Manager in the Office of Energy Projects at FERC, left the Commission in mid 2014 to work for Willbros, a large oil and gas engineering and construction firm based in Houston.

Following a 16-year career at FERC, Sipe was named Willbros’ Vice President of Regulatory & Public Affairs, a newly created position.

Before leaving FERC, Sipe served as the Environmental Project Manager for the pre-filing and early filing review processes of Spectra Energy’s then-proposed Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) pipeline project.

Emails: US Government Facilitated LNG Business Deals Before Terminals Got Required Federal Permits

Emails and documents obtained by DeSmog reveal that the U.S. International Trade Administration has actively promoted and facilitated  business deals for the liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry and export terminal owners, even before some of the terminals have the federal regulatory agency permits needed to open for business. 

This release of the documents coincides with the imminent opening of the first ever LNG export terminal in the U.S. hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) era, owned by Cheniere. 

The documents 
came via an open records request filed by DeSmog with the Port of Lake Charles. The request centered around the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) the Port signed with the Panama Canal Authority in January 2015.

Obama Administration Approves Pipeline Expansion Set to Feed First Ever Fracked Gas LNG Export Terminal

The Obama Administration has quietly approved expansion of a major pipeline carrying fracked gas destined for the global export market.

The Gulf Trace pipeline, owned by The Williams Companies, is set to feed into Cheniere Energy's Sabine Pass LNG export terminal in Louisiana. As first reported by Reuters, LNG tankers loaded with super-chilled liquefied natural gas obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) will set sail for the first time from Sabine Pass in January 2016.

Brother of Hillary Clinton's Top Campaign Aide Lobbied for Fracked Gas Export Terminal Co-Owned by Qatar

Anthony “Tony” Podesta began lobbying in late 2013 on behalf of a company co-owned by ExxonMobil and Qatar Petroleum aiming to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) to the global market. Tony is the brother of John Podesta, former top climate change adviser to President Barack Obama and current top campaign aide for Hillary Clinton's 2016 bid for president

In October 2012, Podesta Group began lobbying on behalf of the proposed ExxonMobil-Qatar Petroleum Golden Pass LNG facility in Sabine Pass, Texas, according to lobbying disclosure forms. The forms indicate that Tony Podesta himself, not just his staff, lobbied on behalf of the terminal beginning in quarter four of 2013.

"Carbon Copy": How Big Oil and King Coal Ghost Write Letters for Public Officials, Business Groups

The Billings Gazette has revealed that coal mining company Cloudpeak Energy ghost wrote protest letters to the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) on behalf of allied policymakers and business groups. 

Reporter Tom Lutey examined numerous letters written to DOI from Montana-based stakeholders and noticed something unusual: the language in every single letter was exactly the same. That is, the same except for a parenthetical note in one of them instructing the supposed writer of it to “insert name/group/entity.”

The “carbon copied” (pun credit goes to Lutey) letters requested for the DOI to give states a time extension to begin implementing new rules dictating the coal industry give states a “fair return” on mining leases granted to industry by the states. DOI ended up giving King Coal the 60-day extension.

“Last month, coal proponents scored a major victory by convincing the Department of Interior to hold off on its rule making for 60 days so that more people could respond,” Lutey wrote. “Members of the Montana Legislature, along with county commissioners and mayors from Montana and Wyoming communities put the weight of their political offices behind letters asking the DOI for more time. What they didn’t offer were their own words.”

Among those who submitted a “carbon copied” letter originally written by Cloudpeak Energy include the Montana Chamber of Commerce, Billings Chamber of Commerce, Montana Coal Council, Montana Sen. Debby Barrett and the Yellowstone County Board of Commissioners.  

Unlike others, the Montana Chamber of Commerce embarassingly forgot to take out the boilerplate “insert name/group/entity” language. 

Montana Chamber of Commerce Ghostwriting Coal Letter
Image Credit: Quit Coal

Cloud Peak responded by saying this was a “sample letter…included as part of…briefings,” but did not clarify if those allied stakeholders were supposed to send them to DOI in verbatim fashion, as did the Montana Chamber.

Former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's Warburg Pincus May Profit from Tar Sands Exports

Several environmental groups have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of State and Secretary John Kerry over the permitting of a controversial border-crossing northern leg of a pipeline system that DeSmogBlog has called Enbridge's “Keystone XL Clone.”

The Keystone XL Clone is designed to accomplish the same goal as TransCanada's Keystone XL: bringing Alberta's tar sands to Gulf coast refineries and export market. It consists of three legs: the Alberta Clipper expansion as the northern leg, the Flanagan South middle leg and the Seaway Twin southern leg.

Green groups have called the northern leg an “illegal scheme” because the Enbridge Alberta Clipper expansion proposal didn't go through the normal State Department approval process. Instead, State allowed Enbridge to add pressure pumps to two separate-but-connected pipelines on each side of the border and send Alberta's diluted bitumen (“dilbit”) to market.

Enbridge dodged a comprehensive State Department environmental review, which involves public hearings and public commenting periods. The groups say this is illegal under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and have demanded a re-do for Enbridge's application process.

“The only thing worse than dirty oil is dirty oil backed by dirty tricks. This is the fossil fuel equivalent of money laundering,” Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a press release announcing the lawsuit. “The Obama administration should be ashamed of itself for letting Enbridge illegally pump more dirty tar sands oil into the United States.”

The maneuver has a key beneficiary: former Obama Administration Secretary of the Treasury, Timothy Geithner, who now serves as President of the private equity giant Warburg Pincus.

Geithner's connection to the lawsuit not only adds intrigue, but also reveals the purpose of Enbridge's Keystone XL Clone: an export fast-track to the global market.

Labor Day News Dump: FERC Hands Enbridge Permit for Tar Sands by Rail Facility

On the Friday before Labor Day — in the form of an age-old “Friday News Dump“ — the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) handed a permit to Enbridge, the tar sands-carrying corporate pipeline giant, to open a tar sands-by-rail facility in Flanagan, Ill. by early-2016. 

With the capacity to accept 140,000 barrels of tar sands product per day, the company's rail facility serves as another step in the direction towards Enbridge's quiet creation of a “Keystone XL Clone.” That is, like TransCanada's Keystone Pipeline System sets out to do, sending Alberta's tar sands all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico's refinery row — and perhaps to the global export market.

Flanagan sits as the starting point of Enbridge's Flanagan South pipeline, which will take tar sands diluted bitumen (“dilbit”) from Flanagan to Cushing, Okla. beginning in October, according to a recent company earnings call. From there, Enbridge's Seaway Twin pipeline will bring dilbit to Port Arthur, Texas near the Gulf.

Enbridge made the prospect of a tar sands-by-rail terminal public for the first time during its quarter two investor call.

“In terms of the rail facility, one of the things we're looking at is – and the rail facility is really in relation to the situation in western Canada where there is growing crude oil volumes and not enough pipeline capacity to get it out of Alberta for a two or three year period,” Guy Jarvis, president of liquids pipelines for Enbridge, said on the call.

“So, one of the things we're looking at doing is constructing a rail unloading facility that would allow western Canadian crudes to go by rail to Flanagan, be offloaded, and then flow down the Flanagan South pipeline further into Seaway and to the Gulf.”

FERC has given Enbridge the permit it needs to make that happen.

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