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.

Exxon’s Fracking Linked to 176 Official Complaints in Rural Pennsylvania

The investigative journalism outlet Public Herald documented that ExxonMobil subsidiary XTO Energy has been the subject of 176 citizen complaints in Pennsylvania, many of them drinking water-related. The state is home to the Marcellus Shale basin, the most prolific field for obtaining natural gas via hydraulic fracturing ('fracking”) in the U.S. and an early hotbed of debate on fracking's potential threats.

In its investigation, the Pennsylvania-based publication spent three years digging up complaints submitted by the state's citizens to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). With documents spanning from 2004–2016, the complaints previously have been concealed from the public, and Public Herald says they show “evidence of widespread and systemic impacts” of fracking on water in the state.

A DeSmog review of files housed on the investigation's document-hosting website, PublicFiles.org, shows dozens upon dozens of these wells were owned by XTO. The finding comes as President Donald Trump's nominees for U.S. Secretary of State, recently retired ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, Oklahoma Attorney General and EPA antagonist Scott Pruitt, await full U.S. Senate floor hearings and eventual confirmation votes.

Trump's Mexico Border Wall Could Be Trojan Horse for Increasing US Oil Exports

Border fence between USA and Mexico in the Pacific Ocean

On January 25, President Donald Trump acted on his campaign promise to get the ball rolling on building what he often called a “big, beautiful, powerful wall” situated along the U.S.-Mexico border.

At his speech announcing the executive order at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Trump cited drugs pouring across the border, increasing crime, and other national security concerns as the rationale for its construction. The main questions center around who will fund it and if Trump can deliver on his promise to have Mexico pay for it, given Mexico's President Enrique Peña Nieto canceling a planned trip to the U.S. to meet with Trump in the aftermath of the announcement. Peña Nieto has said Mexico will not foot the bill.

Answering the question about funding, Trump's press secretary Sean Spicer has revealed that U.S. taxpayers will fork over the money at first, with Mexico paying for it over time through a 20 percent tax on Mexican imports. At least some of those fees, it turns out, could be generated by offering tax incentives to increase U.S. oil exports to Mexico and beyond.

Key Trump Donor Stands to Profit from Order to Approve Keystone XL, Dakota Access Pipelines

On January 24, President Donald Trump signed two executive orders calling for the approval of the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines, owned by Energy Transfer Partners and TransCanada, respectively. He also signed an order calling for expedited environmental reviews of domestic infrastructure projects, such as pipelines.

Fights against both pipelines have ignited nationwide grassroots movements for over the past five years and will almost assuredly sit at the epicenter of similar backlash moving forward. As DeSmog has reported, Donald Trump's top presidential campaign energy aide Harold Hamm stands to profit if both pipelines go through. 

Hamm, the founder and CEO of Continental Resources who sat in the VIP box at Trump's inauguration and was a major Trump campaign donor, would see his company's oil obtained from hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in the Bakken Shale flow through both lines. Kelcy Warren, CEO of Energy Transfer Partners, was also a major Trump donor.

Trump’s White House Website Now Only Mentions "Climate" in His Plans to Ax Obama’s Policies

Today, the peaceful transition of power took place, with President Barack Obama passing the White House baton over to President Donald Trump. 

Behind the glitz and glamor and pomp and circumstance came another key White House transition: the Trump White House has gotten rid of the climate change section of the White House website. The URL www.whitehouse.gov/energy/climate-change now takes those surfing the internet to a page which “could not be found.”

Did Senators Rush Through Rick Perry’s Energy Dept Hearing to Attend Corporate-Sponsored Inaugural Lunch?

Rick Perry

Compared to many other Senate confirmation hearings for potential Cabinet members, the hearing for U.S. Energy Secretary proved much faster and less rocky for nominee and former Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry. 

Perry's hearing lasted about three and a half hours and included only two rounds of questioning. That was far shorter than either Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt's nearly six hour hearing for Environmental Protection Agency head, in which he faced four rounds of questions, or the eight and a half hour hearing for Secretary of State nominee and retired ExxonMobil CEO, Rex Tillerson. Before this hearing, Perry was on the record as an enthusiastic climate change denier who previously failed to come up with either the name or the functions of the agency he could soon run.

It seems unclear why Perry, a just-departed board member of Energy Transfer Partners — owner of the Dakota Access pipeline — skated through with far less turbulence than his peers. One potential explanation: some senators from the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources found themselves busy with another task, besides questioning Perry, today. That is, they were in a rush to get to the “Leadership Luncheon” put on by the Trump Inaugural Committee, the latter funded by major corporate sponsors, including Chevron, J.P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America, and others. 

Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record

Rex Tillerson

During his Secretary of State confirmation hearing, recently retired ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson came under questioning by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) about his stance on Saudi Arabia's awful human rights record, a country which contains the biggest oil reserves on the planet and is a long-time ally of the U.S.

While Tillerson offered mild criticism of Saudi Arabia's treatment of women, LGBQT people, and others, several Senators found his response far from full-throated and said as much. A DeSmog investigation shows that Exxon has long been involved in Saudi Arabia's oil and gas industry. Not only did the company, through its predecessor Standard Oil, help launch the industry there and co-owned the country's first major export pipeline, but to this day it maintains deep business ties with Saudi Arabia and the industry in a variety of sectors, both there and in the U.S.

Here's a Review of Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson's Secretary of State Hearing So Far

Rex Tillerson

Long-time ExxonMobil employee and former CEO Rex Tillerson's U.S. Secretary of State confirmation hearing has begun. As expected, it has created waves, covering topics from climate change, foreign policy in Russia and Ukraine, the Islamic State (ISIS), and far beyond. 

His U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing has faced protests both on the outside and on the inside, including several hearing interruptions, with protestors removed from the room by the U.S. Capitol Police. Tillerson's cozy ties to Russia have come under question by senators on both sides of the aisle and Democrats have peppered him with questions about his personal views, as well as Exxon's views, on climate change.

A theme has developed: Tillerson has offered in-depth answers on foreign policy generally speaking, but punted for the most part on questions pertaining to his time heading up the world's largest oil and gas company.

How Jeff Sessions Profited from Introducing a Fracking Exemption for Drinking Water Rules

Jeff Sessions

With U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) in the midst of Senate confirmation hearings, watchdog group Food and Water Watch has raised new questions about how Sessions and his family profited from a fracking loophole provision he introduced in the Senate.

The group has unveiled new documents showing that Sessions' family owned stock in Energen, a Birmingham, Alabama-based oil and gas company, which pioneered fracking in Alabama and in turn benefited from Sen. Sessions’ push to exempt hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enforcement of the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Known better as the “Halliburton Loophole,” Sessions co-sponsored — along with climate-denying U.S. Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) — the first federal bill (S.724) to exempt fracking activities from drinking water regulations, a 1999 bill which later passed as a provision of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. A few years later, Energen's stock raised significantly in value, and Sessions and his wife cashed out in 2008. 

Fracking Fans Use Intelligence Report to Revive Baseless Claim Russia Funds U.S. Anti-Fracking Movement

Proponents of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) have seized upon a paragraph found within the recent national intelligence report examining Russia's attempts to influence the 2016 U.S. elections to push a long-promoted but unfounded claim: that Russia and President Vladimir Putin fund the U.S. anti-fracking movement.

Pass a Regulation, Repeal Another: House Approves Provision Tied to Koch Industries

B.C. Minister of Finance Colin Hansen and Laura Jones cut ceremonial red tape

On January 5, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the REINS (Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny) Act of 2017 in a 237-187 vote, a bill pushed for years by Koch Industries-funded entities, which will make it harder for federal agencies to enact regulations. 

Passing mostly along party lines, the bill also included an amendment introduced by U.S. Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN) and passed by the House, which states that for every federal regulation created, another must be amended or retired. In announcing the amendment on the House floor, Messer said Canada has a similar law on the books.

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