Steve Horn

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Steve Horn is an San Diego, CA-based Research Fellow for DeSmogBlog and a freelance investigative journalist. He previously was a reporter and researcher at the Center for Media and Democracy. In his free time, Steve is a competitive runner and marathoner, with a personal best time of 2:43:04. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, majoring in political science and legal studies, his writing has appeared in Al Jazeera America, The Guardian, The Intercept, Vice News, TYT Investigates, Vocativ, Wisconsin Watch, Truth-Out, AlterNet, NUVO, Isthmus and elsewhere.

India May Ban Petcoke, One of Dirtiest Fossil Fuels Exported by Koch Brothers

Petcoke stockpiles

While U.S. power plants have considered petroleum coke or “petcoke to be too dirty to burn, India, on the other hand, has been importing this coal by-product of tar sands refining for years. However, it may be seeing its last days in the country which has served as its biggest importer.

In the aftermath of an Associated Press investigation published on December 1, India's Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan has said the country is formulating plans to phase out petcoke imports. The AP investigation, filed from New Delhi, revealed that citizens who live near petcoke refining facilities have come down with a range of air pollution-related illnesses in recent months and years.

The AP also points out that among the largest exporters of U.S. petcoke are Koch Industries subsidiary Koch Carbon and Oxbow Carbon, the latter of which is owned by the twin brother of David Koch, Bill Koch. The advocacy group Oil Change International referred to petcoke as “the coal hiding in the tar sands” in a 2013 report documenting the carbon footprint of petcoke production and combustion.

Climate Denier Lamar Smith Holds Rare Congressional Hearing on Geoengineering

Rep. Lamar Smith

Geoengineering, hailed in some circles as a potential technofix to the climate change crisis, has taken a step closer to going mainstream.  

The U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held a rare joint subcommittee hearing on November 8, only the second ever congressional hearing of its kind on the topic (the first was held in 2009). The committee invited expert witnesses to discuss the status of geoengineering research and development. Geoengineering is a broad term encompassing sophisticated scientific techniques meant to reverse the impacts of climate change or pull greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere. 

Ironically, the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology is chaired by U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith — a climate science denier who has received tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from ExxonMobil throughout his political career. In fact, Smith actually mentioned “climate change” in his opening remarks for the hearing, in discussing his interest in geoengineering.

Congress Works with Big Oil on Letter Suggesting Anti-Pipeline Activists Face Terrorism Charges

Five anti-tar sands activists who shut down tar sands pipelines into the U.S.

On October 23, 84 Congressional representatives made a splash when they published a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions asking if those engaged in activism disrupting or damaging pipeline operations should face criminal prosecution as an act of terrorism under the USA PATRIOT ACT

Spearheaded by U.S. Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) and co-signed by dozens of other, primarily Republican, representatives, the letter pays homage to the First Amendment, while also noting that “violence toward individuals and destruction of property are both illegal and potentially fatal.” The letter, covered by several media outlets, was championed by the industry lobbying and trade association, the American Petroleum Institute (API), which said it “welcomed” the letter.

But according to a DeSmog review, API and other industry groups were a key part of bolstering the letter itself. API, along with the Association of Oil Pipe Lines (AOPL) and the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA), is listed as among the “supporting groups” on the website DearColleague.us, which tracks congressional letters and their backers.

These Unsigned Comments Supporting a Gas Exports Rule Are Recycled Industry Copy-Pastes

Copy machine

A review of the comments submitted to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) on its proposed rule to fast-track the export of small-scale liquefied natural gas (LNG) shows that roughly two dozen of of the 89 comments were directly copy-pasted from either industry itself or else pro-industry materials written by the DOE or Congress.

Furthermore, all of those copy-pasted comments are anonymous, a hint that the oil and gas industry may be behind an astroturf-style comment-submitting campaign for this rule. Only one letter favoring the proposed rule, written by the American Petroleum Institute and the Center for Liquefied Natural Gas, has the industry's name on it. Three other comments supporting the rule have actual names of individuals, a law school student, a college student, and an individual who DeSmog confirmed wrote the comment out of personal interest and for a public policy course at his university. 

7 Reasons Why Jeff Flake Is Awful on Climate Change and Energy Justice

Jeff Flake

This week, U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) made national headlines by dramatically announcing his retirement on the U.S. Senate floor. Flake focused his speech on the erratic behavior of President Donald Trump and the nationalistic, anti-immigration turn taken by some Republican Party politicians in recent years. 

“I have decided that I will be better able to represent the people of Arizona and to better serve my country and my conscience by freeing myself from the political considerations that consume far too much bandwidth and would cause me to compromise far too many principles,” said Flake. “To that end, I am announcing today that my service in the Senate will conclude at the end of my term in early January 2019.”

Beyond taking a stance in favor of corporate-backed free trade and “limited government and free markets,” Flake's speech mostly stayed away from policy. But it did include the word “behavior” eight times, pointing to that of President Trump without explicitly mentioning the president by name.

GOP Senators, Fueled by Industry Cash, Propose Bill to Expedite Small Scale LNG Exports

LNG tanker

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) have introduced a bill to fast-track the regulatory process for the export of small-scale liquefied natural gas (LNG).

The bill, titled “Small Scale LNG Access Act,” was introduced on October 18 and calls for amending the “Natural Gas Act to expedite approval of exports of small volumes of natural gas.” The proposed legislation follows in the footsteps of the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) proposed rule which would assume that all U.S. small-scale exports of LNG, with the gas mostly obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), is in the “public interest” as defined by the Natural Gas Act.   

Former Head of Energy, Environment at ALEC, Todd Wynn, Hired by Trump Interior Department

Todd Wynn

Todd Wynn, former Director of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)'s Energy Environmental and Agriculture Task Force, was recently hired by President Donald Trump to work as a senior-ranking official in the U.S. Department of the Interior. 

DeSmog discovered the hire via LinkedIn, and Wynn says on his profile page that he began at Interior in October.

Wynn worked at ALEC from 2011 to 2013 and then became Director of External Affairs for Edison Electric Institute (EEI), a trade association representing electric utility companies nationwide. Prior to his position at ALEC, Wynn served as Vice President of the Cascade Policy Institute, a part of the State Policy Network (SPN), a national chain of state-level conservative and corporate-funded think-tanks which was started as an ALEC offshoot.

ALEC's critics have described the organization, a national consortium of mostly Republican Party state legislators and corporate lobbyists, as a “corporate bill mill.” That's because its lobbyist members convene several times a year with legislators to produce what it calls “model bills” which have ended up as actual legislation thousands of times since the organization's founding in 1973.

Company Behind Gas Rig Explosion in Louisiana Was Sued for Degrading Coast

Natural gas rig in the Gulf

Clovelly Oil is not quite a household name, as far as oil and natural gas companies go, though it recently gained attention when its oil and natural gas storage rig exploded on October 15 in Louisiana.

Located on Lake Pontchartrain near New Orleans, Clovelly's storage facility erupted at about 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, injuring seven. Timothy Morrison, 44, of Katy, Texas, remains missing. The search for him has been suspended by the U.S. Coast Guard. 

What do we know about this company and its history in the state? Clovelly previously made headlines in 2013 when the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority sued it along with over 100 other companies for their role in eroding and degrading the Louisiana coast. 

Trump Names Climate Denier Kathleen Hartnett White to Head White House Environmental Council

President Donald Trump, as first reported by EnergyWire's Hannah Northey‏ on Twitter and as stated in a White House press release, has named Kathleen Hartnett White to chair the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). 

Hartnett White, as previously reported by DeSmog, is a prominent climate change denier and former Chairman and Commissioner of the Texas Council on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) under then-Texas Governor Rick Perry. Perry now heads up the U.S. Department of Energy and is reported to have advocated for her to run CEQ. She is also an outspoken advocate of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) and of exporting oil and gas to the global market.

Long seen as the presumptive front-runner to take the CEQ role, Hartnett White also worked on President Trump's presidential campaign on his Economic Advisory Team. And her name was once floated to head up the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as well, currently led by Scott Pruitt.

This Law Firm Is Both Representing Dakota Access Owner and Suing Its Security Firm

A police officer stands near protesters with signs against Dakota Access blocking the entrance to an Army Corps building

Energy Transfer Partners, owner of the Dakota Access pipeline, has filed a federal lawsuit against Greenpeace and others for alleged racketeering in their anti-pipeline activism related to Standing Rock. The company’s legal support comes from the firm Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP, whose attorneys also represent President Donald Trump in the ongoing Russia-U.S. election investigation.  

However, federal court rules require that, in addition to the New York-based team at Kasowitz, Energy Transfer Partners must retain local legal counsel in North Dakota, where the lawsuit was filed. The bottom of the 187-page legal complaint filed on August 22 reveals that the corporation chose Vogel Law Firm, with offices in both Minnesota and North Dakota, for that job.

However, by serving as a law firm for Energy Transfer Partners, Vogel may have a potential conflict of interest. That's because, at the same time, the firm is representing the North Dakota Private Investigation and Security Board in its ongoing lawsuit against TigerSwan. This private security firm worked on behalf of Dakota Access during the months-long protest movement at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in Cannon Ball, North Dakota.

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