Steve Horn

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Steve Horn is an Indianapolis, IN-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, Vice News, The Intercept, Vocativ, Wisconsin Watch, Truth-Out, AlterNet, NUVO, Isthmus and elsewhere.

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.

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.

‘Poison’ PR Campaign Has Biased Jury Pool, Say Dakota Access Protester's Lawyers

The defendant, Red Fawn Fallis, right, at her mother's memorial.

By Steve Horn and Curtis Waltman

As tensions rose at Standing Rock last fall, Red Fawn Fallis was one of many arrested at the scene of the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) protests near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. However, her charges stood apart: Attempted murder of police officers, an indictment later dropped for lesser charges.

Still, the claim that Fallis shot at police has stuck in the minds of North Dakotans who may have to judge her culpability and is one reason she could not get a fair trial in the area, her lawyers argueAttorneys for Fallis, a 38-year-old Oglala Lakota Sioux woman from Colorado, have posited that the case should be moved to a different federal court district.

Their argument, made in a pair of recent pre-trial motions for a venue change, revolves around the public relations campaign waged by law enforcement, private security, and public relations firms hired by Dakota Access owner, Energy Transfer Partners. That campaign was headed by firms such as TigerSwan, the National Sheriffs' Association, Delve and Off the Record Strategies, as reported by The Intercept and DeSmog.

The recent motions pushing for a venue shift cite as exhibits multiple documents and emails previously obtained and published by DeSmog and The Intercept, along with other law enforcement communications and media efforts. 

Trump Attorney Sues Greenpeace Over Dakota Access in $300 Million Racketeering Case

Protesters in San Francisco march in support of indigenous efforts against the Dakota Access pipeline

Energy Transfer Partners, owner of the Dakota Access pipeline, has filed a $300 million Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) lawsuit against Greenpeace and other environmental groups for their activism against the long-contested North Dakota-to-Illinois project.

In its 187-page complaint, Energy Transfer alleges that “putative not-for-profits and rogue eco-terrorist groups who employ patterns of criminal activity and campaigns of misinformation to target legitimate companies and industries with fabricated environmental claims and other purported misconduct” caused the company to lose “billions of dollars.” 

In the case, Energy Transfer is represented by lawyers from the firm Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP, one of the namesakes of which is Marc Kasowitz. Kasowitz is a member of the legal team representing President Donald Trump in the ongoing congressional and special counsel investigation of his 2016 presidential campaign's alleged ties and potential collusion with Russian state actors. The press release announcing the filing of the lawsuit details that Kasowitz attorney Michael J. Bowe is leading what the firm describes as an ongoing probe into the environmental groups' “campaign and practices.”

As US Coal Exports Swell, Trump Admin Facilitates Major Deal with Ukraine

U.S. Embassy in Ukraine

Export levels of coal produced in the U.S. shot up earlier this year, as President Donald Trump assumed the White House, in what his administration has dubbed the age of “energy dominance.”

For the first quarter of 2017, export levels grew 58 percent compared to the same quarter last year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The news comes as the Trump administration recently helped broker a major coal export deal between Pennsylvania-based coal production company Xcoal Energy and Ukranian company Centrenergo PJSC

That deal, which will see 700,000 tons of thermal coal shipped from XCoal's mines to Centrenergo power plants in Ukraine, was applauded by both U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.

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.

Montana Eased Regulations for Keystone XL After Lobbying by TransCanada

TransCanada oil pipelines visible above ground with a sign

As President Trump's State Department took steps to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, the project's owner, TransCanada, lobbied on two bills in Montana which will ease the company's regulatory burden in the state. 

Those bills, HB 365 and SB 109, moved along in the state's legislature with no media coverage despite the state being the first crossed in the pipeline's proposed journey from Alberta, Canada to Steele City, Nebraska. HB 365, which passed in May, will allow TransCanada to escape civil liability for any potential damages suffered by its contracted land surveyors. Meanwhile, SB 109 would have required environmental reviews for infrastructure projects in Montana to consider impacts beyond state lines, but failed to pass.

Keystone XL Pipeline Gets New Push From Revolving Door Team of Lobbyists

Keystone XL pipeline under construction

A changing of the guard in the White House, with President Donald Trump taking the helm, has spawned a hiring spree of new lobbyists to advocate for TransCanada's long-contested Keystone XL pipeline.

In the forefront, TransCanada has hired the firm CGCN Group — former employer of Trump's top White House energy adviser, Mike Catanzaro — to lobby for Keystone with a two-person team. TransCanada has also hired a duo of in-house lobbyists, one who worked as a Democratic congressional staffer and another who worked for a Republican, to make the case for the pipeline.

TransCanada's new team of lobbyists serves as a departure from recent years, in which teams of lobbyists and public relations professionals tied to the Democratic Party and President Barack Obama went to bat for Keystone. Keystone XL landed its long-desired presidential permit from President Trump in January, but now faces the specter of a lack of sufficient market demand for oil from the Alberta tar sands.

Emails Show Iraq War PR Alums Led Attempt to Discredit Dakota Access Protesters

militarized police presence lined up in North Dakota against Dakota Access pipeline protesters

By Steve Horn and Curtis Waltman, MuckRock

Behind the scenes, as law enforcement officials tried to stem protests against the Dakota Access pipeline, alumni from the George W. Bush White House were leading a crisis communications effort to discredit pipeline protesters.

Emails show that the firms Delve and Off the Record Strategies, apparently working on contract with the National Sheriffs’ Association, worked in secret on talking points, media outreach, and communications training for law enforcement dealing with Dakota Access opponents mobilized at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in Cannon Ball, North Dakota. This revelation comes from documents obtained via an open records request from the Laramie County Sheriff's Department in Wyoming.

New Film "Little Warriors" Features Youth Climate Fight in Unlikely Place: Indiana

Climate change will impact future generations and the current youth more than anyone else, so perhaps it's no surprise that kids have increasingly become the face of the modern U.S. climate movement.

At the center of that movement is the ongoing lawsuit filed by the group Our Children's Trust against the federal government for failing to act on climate change despite its intense study for decades by climate scientists, many of them on the payroll of the U.S. government. That case, barring any pretrial negotiations between the two parties, will head to trial in February. Further, 13 “Youth Climate Intervenors” all under the age of 25 were allowed in as legal Intervenors in an ongoing lawsuit filed by environmental groups against the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission for its green-lighting of the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline.

Flying under the radar, though, has been the seemingly unlikely ascendancy of a youth-led movement in Indiana led by the group Earth Charter Indiana. Indiana is hardly a state known for its deep green consciousness and was formerly a major natural extraction hub and is still a major coal extraction state.

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