Steve Horn

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Steve Horn is a former Research Fellow and writer for DeSmog and a freelance investigative journalist based in San Diego, CA. He currently works as an investigative journalist for the online publications and print magazines, Criminal Legal News and Prison Legal News, works as the Escondido/Vista/San Marcos beat reporter for The Coast News Inland Edition newspaper in northern San Diego County and does freelance work for DeSmog and other outlets.

Big Oil Cheers Trump's 'New NAFTA' But Mexico Could Complicate Things

Read time: 5 mins
NAFTA logo

While the oil and gas industry has lauded the new trade deal that may soon replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a provision added by Mexico, along with its new president's plan to ban fracking, could complicate the industry's rising ambitions there.

Milwaukee Bucks Owner Building LNG Export Fast Track on Rails in Florida

Read time: 8 mins
Liquefied natural gas (LNG) tanker

Although Wesley Edens is perhaps best known as the co-owner of the National Basketball Association (NBA) team, the Milwaukee Bucks, his company Fortress Investment Group is now taking up a decidedly different sport. Thanks in part to rule changes underway in the Trump administration, Fortress has quietly positioned itself to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) shipped via rail — in refrigerated, high-pressure tank cars — through heavily populated areas in Florida. 

A major Democratic donor, Edens founded New Fortress Energy, a subsidiary of Fortress Investment Group. Multiple news reports and documents reviewed by DeSmog confirm that New Fortress Energy formerly owned a rail line and currently owns a planned LNG export terminal which together would send so-called “small-scale” LNG tankers to the Caribbean.

In July Trump's Department of Energy (DOE) crafted a regulation which says all shipments of small-scale LNG export tankers from the U.S. automatically fall within the legal definition of the “public interest” under the Natural Gas Act, expediting their permitting. Similarly, the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) announced just two months earlier in May that it is reviewing a January 17, 2017 petition for rulemaking submitted by the Association of American Railroads (AAR) — just three days before President Donald Trump took office — which would allow shipping LNG by rail across the country.

Sempra Energy Plans to Export Fracked Gas on the West Coast — via Mexico

Read time: 15 mins
U.S. Consulate General in Tijuana Andrew S. E. Erickson visited the Costa Azul terminal in Ensenada in March 2013

By Steve Horn and Martha Pskowski

The Costa Azul liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal sits on an isolated stretch of the Pacific Coast north of Ensenada, Baja California, in Mexico. When Sempra and its Mexican affiliate IEnova sought to acquire the land in 2002, the site’s remoteness worked in their favor. It was only frequented by fishermen, a few surfers, and a handful of beach-front property owners.

That was the last stretch of coastline between Tijuana and Ensenada that was pristine and undeveloped,” Bill Powers, a San Diego-based energy engineer and founder of the Border Power Plant Working Group, told DeSmog. “There was just a little fishing village.”

After breaking ground in 2005, the Costa Azul LNG plant opened in 2008. Despite Sempra’s messaging strategy that the U.S. was running out of gas, the terminal has imported limited amounts of natural gas since. Now, San Diego-based Sempra hopes to build an LNG export facility at the same site.

Led by Sempra Energy, 'Global Natural Gas Coalition' Launched with Trump Admin and Labor Union in Fold

Read time: 8 mins
Arctic Lady LNG tanker

San Diego-based Sempra Energy has spearheaded the launch of a group called the Global Natural Gas Coalition to promote exports of gas obtained via fracking (hydraulic fracturing) to the global market. Sempra is a natural gas utility giant and liquefied natural gas (LNG) export and import company.

Announced at a June 25 gathering at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., the Global Natural Gas Coalition features other participants such as the American Petroleum Institute (API)LNG Allies, the American Gas Association, American Chemistry Council, and others, according to its event page on the website Eventbrite. The RSVP information for the Press Club event features the contact information for Paty Mitchell, a spokeswoman for Sempra, and the company's representatives consisted of eight out of the 78 attendees of that event, according to the Eventbrite page.  

Also attending the event were officials from several agencies in the Trump administration. They included Mark Menezes, Elise Atkins, Christine Harbin, Jessica Szymanski, and Sara Kinney of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE); Deaver Alexander, William Thompson, and Stephen Morel of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (a federal agency focused on helping “American businesses invest in emerging markets”); Scott Condren of the U.S. Export-Import Bank; and John McCarrick of the U.S. Department of State.

Newly Elected President of Mexico, Lopez Obrador, Vows to Ban Fracking

Read time: 5 mins
Andrés Manuel López Obrador

Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who won the election to become Mexico's President on July 1, stated in a press conference that he will ban the horizontal drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) upon assuming the office on December 1.

The announcement would be a devastating blow to the oil and gas industry, which had its eyes set on drilling in Mexico's northern frontier in an area known as the Burgos Basin. The Burgos is a southern extension of the Eagle Ford Shale, a prolific field situated in Texas. 

Mexico's New Populist President Considers Foreign Pipeline Plans Despite Indigenous Protests

Read time: 12 mins
Andrés Manuel López Obrador at a rally in Mexico in 2012

By Martha Pskowski and Steve Horn

Andrés Manuel López Obrador looked out at the crowd of reporters at a Mexico City Hilton Hotel the night of July 1. It was a moment that he had waited years for: his victory speech for the Mexican presidency.

To win in his third presidential campaign, López Obrador, a left-wing populist whose roots are in the oil-producing state of Tabasco, had to calm business leaders, who warned that foreign investment would flee the country if he took office. However, the candidate who once said he would overturn Mexico's 2013 reforms privatizing its energy sector — which opened the oil and gas industry to foreign investment and created a subsequent pipeline boom — struck a different tone on election night.

$83 Billion West Virginia Petrochemical Deal with China on Skids Due to Trade War, Corruption Probe

Read time: 9 mins
Brian Anderson, Woody Thrasher, Jim Justice

Last November, China and West Virginia signed an $83.7 billion dollar, 20-year agreement to build a massive petrochemical hub in the state but that deal may be on hiatus in the midst of a de facto trade war spurred by President Donald Trump and a corruption investigation unfolding in the Mountain State. 

The deal would be worth more than the total gross domestic product of West Virginia, which was $76.8 billion in 2017. China's sizable investment would create a sprawling petrochemical center in West Virginia, focused on storing and refining natural gas obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in the Marcellus Shale. Full details are sealed in a yet-to-be-released Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which was inked during a trade mission attended by Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping last fall in Beijing, China.

California Is Fighting Trump's Offshore Drilling Plan but Exxon, Koch Already Drill There.

Read time: 4 mins
Offshore oil platform

Public officials throughout the state of California have made headlines for loudly opposing Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke's decision to approve offshore drilling in California and throughout the Pacific Outer Continental Shelf region. 

This move is part of the Trump administration's broader plans to lease record amounts of offshore areas in the Gulf of Mexico and open up the Atlantic Ocean for drilling. Many city governments, county governments, the California AssemblyCalifornia Attorney General Xavier Becerra, and Governor Jerry Brown have all come out against Zinke's plan. Less discussed, though, is the fact that companies are already drilling offshore in southern California, an area perhaps better known for its popular beaches and oceanside resort cities.

Emails Reveal Trump Admin Mulling Big Oil Plan to Transfer Public Land to States

Read time: 8 mins
Gold Butte National Monument, Nevada

During its first year under Donald Trump, the U.S. Department of Interior has coordinated closely with the oil and gas industry to accomplish its priorities on the nation's expansive federal lands. Among them: considering a plan to transfer control of oil and gas development on public lands to the states. This revelation comes from emails and documents obtained by the Western Values Project through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The key coordinator of this plan has been Timothy Williams, who has served as the go-between for the oil and gas industry and Interior Department. Williams, deputy director of the agency's Office of External Affairs, formerly served as the field director of the Nevada state branch of Americans for Prosperity, a front group founded and funded by Koch Industries.

Why the Koch Network Took Credit for Dakota Access, Keystone XL, and REINS Act

Read time: 6 mins
Koch brothers

A leaked memorandum published by The Intercept and Documented Investigations shows that a Koch Industries' donors network, known as the Seminar Network, has taken credit for Donald Trump approving the permits for both the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines during the first months of his presidency. The memo also applauded efforts by the Koch network's Americans for Prosperity (AFP) chapter in Wisconsin to pass a deregulatory measure there known as the REINS Act. The Seminar Network, which meets secretly twice a year, is made up of donors who give at least $100,000 toward Koch-led political and philanthropic efforts.

Koch Industries has a business interest in both pipelines, though their approval has not been something its funded network has widely discussed. Quietly, though, Koch has advocated for the pair of pipelines in regulatory hearings in both Iowa for Dakota Access — as previously reported by DeSmog — as well as in Canada, as reported in 2012 by InsideClimate News.

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