Trump Administration

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.

Tillerson Scraps US Climate Envoy Position Ahead of UN Talks

Pershing

With the next round of United Nations climate talks scheduled for November, eyes will be trained on how the United States chooses to engage — or not — now that President Donald Trump is withdrawing the country from the landmark Paris Climate Agreement. Yesterday, Secretary of State and former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson indicated that this process will not happen through the State Department’s Special Envoy for Climate Change, because, well, he’s scrapping the position.

In a letter to Senate Foreign Relations chair Bob Corker (R-TN), Tillerson wrote, “I believe that the Department will be able to better execute its mission by integrating certain envoys and special representative offices within the regional and functional bureaus, and eliminating those that have accomplished or outlived their original purpose.”

Trump's Rejection of National Climate Report Would Do More Damage Than Exiting the Paris Agreement

People in and around a boat in floodwaters

By Gary W. Yohe, Wesleyan University

A scientific report done every four years has been thrust into the spotlight because its findings directly contradict statements from the president and various Cabinet officials.

If the Trump administration chooses to reject the pending national Climate Science Special Report, it would be more damaging than pulling the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement. Full stop. This is a bold claim, but as an economist and scientist who was a vice chair of the committee that shepherded the last national climate assessment report to its completion, I can explain why this is the case.

In First 6 Months Under Trump, Polluters Already Paying Lower Fines to EPA

EPA flag in front of headquarters

It hasn't taken long for Donald Trump to make his mark (well, many marks) on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In the first six months in office, his EPA under Scott Pruitt has already seen a precipitous drop in enforcement for violators of major environmental laws, such as the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act.

So far, the Trump administration has collected 60 percent less in fines for civil lawsuits against polluters on average, compared to the previous three administrations.

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.

History Shows That Stacking Federal Science Advisory Committees Doesn't Work

Deepwater Horizon oil rig on fire

By Donald Boesch, University of Maryland

Scientists are busy people, but every year thousands donate many hours of their time without payment to advise Congress and federal government agencies. They provide input on all kinds of issues, from antibiotic resistance to mapping the world’s oceans in three dimensions.

The Trump administration has raised alarms by signaling that it is determined to replace scientific advisers who are not in line with its political philosophy. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is replacing most of the members of EPA’s Board of Scientific Counselors and, very likely, its Science Advisory Board. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has suspended the activities of numerous advisory panels, including many scientific committees, pending review of their purpose and composition.

Will Trump Cabinet members really be able to shift the scientific advice on which their agencies rely? And how should scientists respond?

Trump To Tap Jeff Holmstead for EPA? Swamp Alert!

As part of President Donald Trump’s effort to “drain the swamp” directly into his cabinet, a revolving door coal lobbyist is now poised to take a top position at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the second time in his career.

According to Axios, President Trump is expected to appoint Jeffrey Holmstead to second-in-command at the EPA, where he will be in charge of overseeing the coal companies that he spent the last decade lobbying for.

Goldman Sachs-backed Firm Invests Big in Shipping Tar Sands by Train Along Keystone XL Route

Oil train tank cars

USD Partners, a rail terminal operator owned in part by Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs, has signed a nearly three year deal to facilitate moving tar sands by train from where it is extracted in Alberta, Canada, to an offloading terminal in Stoud, Oklahoma, in a route mirroring that of the Keystone XL pipeline.

From Stroud, the heavy oil can be sent via pipeline to the nearby oil storage hub in Cushing, Oklahoma. USD's announcement, which said the company could transport up to 70,000 barrels per day of tar sands in rail cars, came in a June 2 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The deal, centering around the purchase of the Stroud terminal, also included the acquisition of 300,000 barrels of storage space in Cushing, a town known by oil and gas industry observers as the “pipeline crossroads of the world.” 

Ryan Zinke

Ryan Zinke

Credentials

  • M.S. Global Leadership,  University of San Diego (2003). [1]
  • M.B.A., National University (1991). [1]
  • B.S. Geology, University of Oregon (1984). [2]

Background

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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