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West Virginia Candidate Ousted From Hearing for Reading Industry Donors. But Bill She Opposed Just Passed in House.

Read time: 4 mins
Lissa Lucas being removed from the West Virginia Senate hearing on HB 4268

On Friday, February 9, Lissa Lucas — a Democratic Party candidate for West Virginia's House of Delegates — was forcibly removed from a Senate hearing for calling out how many thousands of dollars legislators backing a pro-oil and gas industry bill have received from that very industry.

The video of Lucas's public comment and removal has gone viral and served as a launching pad for her campaign, which has raised more than $46,000 since the incident. Previously, she had raised just over $4,000. Coincidentally, Lucas supports a publicly funded campaign finance system. 

The bill (HB 4268) she opposed, however, has passed in the West Virginia House of Delegates.

That law, “forced pooling” legislation which makes it easier for the oil and gas industry to obtain mineral rights from private landowners as a precursor to drilling, has the support of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association. It enables oil and gas companies to perform more hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) on private land in the state by mandating that, rather than securing land lease contracts from all landowners, companies only need 75 percent of those living in an area to sign leases and are granted the remaining 25 percent by default.

California City Files Lawsuit Against Chevron, Others For Climate Damages

Read time: 3 mins
Chevron logo on gas truck

The city of Richmond, California is the home of oil giant Chevron’s domestic headquarters. It also happen to be the ninth city in the United States to file a lawsuit against fossil fuel companies for their contributions to global climate change.

The lawsuit filed by the city lists Chevron as the lead defendant, but 28 other oil, gas, and coal companies are listed in the suit as co-defendants. Richmond joins eight other municipalities in the United States in filing similar climate-related charges against fossil fuel companies. All but one of the communities are in the state of California.

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

Read time: 8 mins
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.

Fossil Fuel Industry Steps in to Help Save Paris Climate Deal for All the Wrong Reasons

Read time: 3 mins
Money clenched in a person's hand

In May of 2016, six months before the U.S. presidential election, then-candidate Donald Trump said that he would “cancel” the United States’ involvement in the Paris climate accord. Immediately following his election, however, Trump appeared to back-track slightly, saying he had “an open mind” about the agreement. And just this week, his administration canceled a much-hyped meeting to discuss the deal’s future in the U.S.

The back and forth from the administration likely stems from the fact that officials within it are split, with people like senior adviser Stephen Bannon and Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt urging the president to withdraw from the deal, and people like Secretary of State Rex Tillerson saying that the U.S. should remain in it.

Pressure to stay in the Paris agreement isn’t just coming from members of the White House, either. Polls show that 71 percent of the American public supports the deal, so pulling out would prove to be highly unpopular with American voters. But another faction is begging the president to keep the deal in place: American businesses and fossil fuel companies.

Architect of Energy Secretary Rick Perry's Political Comeback Now Lobbies for Dakota Access Owner

Read time: 3 mins
Rick Perry

Federal lobbying disclosure forms for the first quarter of 2017 show that Jeff Miller, campaign manager for U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry's 2016 Republican presidential bid, now lobbies for the company which owns the Dakota Access pipeline.

The forms show that Miller is lobbying on behalf of Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) on “Issues associated with pipeline infrastructure development, midstream sector environmental compliance, and pipeline safety. Issues associated with partnership taxation.” Perry, after bowing out of the 2016 race, was named to ETP's Board of Directors. He stepped down from that role after being nominated by President Donald Trump as Energy Secretary.

Miller — formerly a lobbyist in California and adviser to both former California Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger and current Republican House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy — is credited as the architect of Perry's political comeback and foray into the national political scene. After serving as the longest-tenured governor of Texas from 2000–2014, Perry was indicted by a grand jury in August 2014 on corruptions charges in Travis County, Texas, for abuse of power. Those charges were dismissed by the Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas in February 2016. 

Carter Page, Trump Aide With Russia Ties, Is Also an Energy Scholar: Here's What He's Written

Read time: 7 mins
Carter Page

Carter Page, a foreign policy adviser for Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign, has been mentioned repeatedly in news coverage about the ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign's alleged ties to Russia.  

Page owns the New York City firm Global Energy Capital LLC, located right next to Trump Tower, and lived and worked in Russia for a few years. Beyond that, however, he comes across as somewhat of an enigma, with little known about his past. Yet his own scholarly writings on the topics of geopolitics, energy, and climate, along with other career details, reviewed by DeSmog, may offer deeper insight into who Page is and how he came to assume the role of a Trump foreign policy adviser.

Page left the campaign in September 2016 after it was revealed he had visited Moscow, Russia in early July to give a speech at the New Economic School titled, “The Evolution of the World Economy: Trends and Potential,” just weeks before the Republican National Convention (RNC). Page eventually confirmed he had met with Russia's ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, at the RNC, but says it was a brief conversation and one among many he had with various ambassadors.

Have Oil Majors Changed Their Tune on Climate Change?

Read time: 6 mins
Oil rig by wind turbines

This is the biggest challenge as we have at the moment as a company,” Ben van Beurden, chief executive of oil giant Shell, said recently. “The fact that societal acceptance of the energy system as we have it is just disappearing.”

Speaking at the annual CERAWeek energy conference in Houston on March 9, van Beurden described the growing tensions between his industry, which has created our fossil fuel dependent energy system, and the public, which is demanding a switch to clean energy: “I do think trust has been eroded to the point where it starts to become a serious issue for our long-term future.”

The world’s largest oil companies are increasingly faced with public pressure to do something about their impact on climate change. And increasingly we’re seeing their chief executives responding. The question is though, how much is for real and what's just greenwash?

Congressional Energy and Climate Committees Are Loaded with Ex-Fossil Fuel Lobbyists

Read time: 8 mins
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. 

Chevron, Aera Energy Sue to Block Monterey County, California’s Voter-Approved Ban on Fracking

Read time: 6 mins
Anti-fracking protest in front of California state house

Last November, voters of Monterey County, California, passed a fracking ban known as Measure Z with 56 percent of the vote, despite being outspent 30-to-1 by the industry-backed group, Monterey County Citizens for Energy Independence

Passing Measure Z makes Monterey the sixth California county to ban fracking, but the first to face a serious legal challenge. 

In December, Chevron and Aera Energy, the two biggest companies drilling in Central California’s San Ardo fields, both filed lawsuits against Monterey County to block implementation of Measure Z, alleging that it restricts how they can use their property.

What Do Louisiana Pipeline Explosion and Dakota Access Pipeline Have in Common? Phillips 66

Read time: 4 mins

The day after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gave the owners of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) the final permit it needed to build its line across Lake Oahe, which connects to the Missouri River, a natural gas liquids pipeline owned by one of the DAPL co-owners exploded and erupted in flames in Paradis, Louisiana.  Paradis is located 22 miles away from New Orleans.

That line, the VP Pipeline/EP Pipeline, was purchased from Chevron in August 2016 by DAPL co-owner Phillips 66. One employee of Phillips 66 is presumed dead as a result of the explosion and two were injured.

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