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.

GOP Congress, Trump Already Pushing Koch Industries' Bill to Hobble Regulatory Agencies

Kochtopus

One of the first orders of business for the freshly convened 115th Congress — now that it's no longer attempting to gut an independent ethics office  — is to pass a bill which could weaken the ability of federal regulatory agencies to do their jobs. 

That law, the REINS (Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny) Act of 2017, has long been a legislative priority for Koch Industries, Koch-funded advocacy groups such as Americans for Prosperity, and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Its latest iteration, H.R. 26*, has the backing of Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) and 159 co-sponsors (five Democrats and 154 Republicans) and has reached full debate on the House floor.***

REINS dictates that a “major rule shall not take effect unless the Congress enacts a joint resolution of approval” and won't become law if Congress does not pass that resolution by “70 session days or legislative days, as applicable.”

Exxon, Qatar Petroleum Get OK to Export U.S. Fracked Gas Amidst Tangled Ties to Russia, ISIS

Saturday Night Live skit showing parody of Tillerson, Putin, and Trump

Just days before Christmas, the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) gave ExxonMobil a gift: a permit to export natural gas from its Golden Pass LNG (liquefied natural gas) facility located in Sabine Pass, Texas. 

Dubbed Golden Pass Products, the expansion of this LNG facility to export gas is a joint venture between Exxon (30 percent stake) and Qatar Petroleum (70 percent stake), the state-owned oil company. Golden Pass LNG is now the fourth LNG export facility, and third situated along the Gulf of Mexico, approved under the Obama administration.

This facility will continue to open up the global market to U.S. natural gas obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”)

The permit for Golden Pass comes shortly after Exxon's CEO, Rex Tillerson, was named Trump's nominee for U.S. Secretary of State and will likely face a tough Senate confirmation hearing in January, mainly due to his close ties to Russia.

Trump's Top Regulations Advisor, Billionaire Carl Icahn, Will Profit From Weak Regulations

Deepwater Horizon oil rig on fire, left, Carl Icahn, right.

In a recent “Victory Tour” speech in Des Moines, Iowa, President-elect Donald Trump told the audience that he sought to pick a Cabinet and team of advisors composed of “people that made a fortune” because “now they’re negotiating with you, OK?”

Carl Icahn, the 26th richest man on the planet according to Forbes, fits the “made a fortune” bill. Icahn, a business partner of Trump and major donor to his presidential campaign, has been named by the President-elect as his Special Advisor on Regulatory Reform.

However, as recently reported by DeSmog, Icahn stands to gain directly from deregulation in the energy and environmental sphere. He has already made his mark on the future Trump administration by vetting and recommending the regulation-averse Scott Pruitt, whom Trump eventually picked to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

Canada’s Trudeau Plans to Work with Trump Admin to Approve Keystone XL, Pump Exxon-owned Tar Sands into U.S.

Tar sands Mildred Lake plant

At a speech given to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he intends to work with President-elect Donald Trump to approve the northern leg of TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline. 

The speech comes as Trump revealed in a recent interview with Fox News that one of the first things he intends to do in office is grant permits for both Keystone XL and the perhaps equally controversial Dakota Access pipeline. Because Keystone XL North crosses the U.S.-Canada border, current processes require it to obtain a presidential permit from the U.S. Department of State, which the Obama administration has denied.

The next State Department, however, could be led by the recently retired CEO of ExxonMobil, Rex Tillerson, who was just nominated to be U.S. Secretary of State and soon will face a Senate hearing and vote. Potentially complicating this situation is the fact that Exxon holds substantial interest in both tar sands projects and companies, which stand to benefit from the Keystone XL pipeline bringing this carbon-intensive crude oil across the border.

Obama Banned Arctic and Atlantic Offshore Drilling and Big Oil Isn't Happy

Kayaktavists in Seattle in front of a drilling rig.

President Obama has announced what amounts to a ban of offshore drilling in huge swaths of continental shelf in both the Alaskan Arctic Ocean and Atlantic Ocean, a decision which came after years of pushing by environmental groups.

Using authority derived from Section 12(a) of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, the White House banned drilling in a 115 acre area making up 98 percent of federally owned lands in the Alaskan Arctic and a 3.8 million acre stretch of the Atlantic extending from Norfolk, Virginia, to the Canadian border. By taking this route, rather than issuing an Executive Order, Obama made it legally difficult for Republican President-elect Donald Trump's administration to reverse this action.

Environmental groups and Democratic senators have praised the decision, while Republican congressional members and industry groups have denounced it.

Leaked Audio: Dakota Access Pipeline Executive Says "Election Night Changed Everything" and DAPL "Is Going Through"

Dakota Access

Shaun King, a writer for the New York Daily News, has uploaded what appears to be a recorded audio file of Energy Transfer Partners' Chief Operating Officer saying that “election night changed everything” for the company as it relates to its embattled Dakota Access Pipeline.

King stated on social media and on the SoundCloud page on which he posted the file that a source sent him the file on December 13, hours after Matthew Ramsey — COO of Energy Transfer Partners — gave his speech. The source who gave King the audio, he explains on SoundCloud, “claimed to be in a corporate meeting at Energy Transfer Partners” and told him that the person speaking was Matthew Ramsey, the COO of Energy Transfer Partners. King also wrote that the recording was made during a mandatory company meeting.

“I've got to tell you, election night changed everything,” Ramsey apparently said in the 10-minute clip, the authenticity of which DeSmog could not independently verify. “We now are going into a transition where we are going to have a new President of the United States who gets it. He understands what we're doing here and we fully expect that as soon as he gets inaugurated his team is going to move to get the final approvals done and we'll begin to put [Dakota Access] across Lake Oahe.” 

As Trump Names Exxon CEO Tillerson Secretary of State, Waterkeeper Alliance Asks EPA to Tell Company "You're Fired!"

The Waterkeeper Alliance, represented by Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic, submitted a 54-page petition with 358 footnotes and 448 pages containing 43 exhibits to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), calling for an end of all of its federal contracts with ExxonMobil. 

ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson was recently named U.S. Secretary of State by President-Elect Donald Trump and will likely face a contentious congressional nomination hearing due to his own and his company's ties to Russia and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The petition centers around what Exxon knew for decades about climate change, which it studied closely in-house, while funding climate change denial efforts for decades, while also discussing the rest of its environmental track-record. 

Rick Perry, Climate Denier and Dakota Access Pipeline Owner Board Member, Named Energy Secretary

Rick Perry

Former Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry, a boardmember of Energy Transfer Partners — owner of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) — has been named U.S. Secretary of Energy by President-elect Donald Trump.

Perry, the former chairman of the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC), ran for president as part of the Republican Party primaries in 2015, but his campaign ended quickly. He announced his run for the Oval Office in 2015 while facing felony charges for official state corruption in Texas.

Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson Tapped for Secretary of State Despite Close Ties to Russia, Putin

Tillerson and Putin

ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson — who has close personal and company ties to Russia and President Vladimir Putin — is President-elect Donald Trump's top pick to become the next secretary of state, with the decision likely coming next week according to NBC News.

The news comes amid reports that Congressional members and senior U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officials say they have intelligence showing Russia attempted to tip the balance of the November U.S. presidential election in favor of President-elect Donald Trump by hacking into email systems and giving those emails to Wikileaks. And President Barack Obama has called for a complete investigation on the matter before he leaves the White House on January 20.

Though the evidence presented to the U.S. public so far lacks smoking gun documentation, many are alarmed that a geopolitical adversary may have interfered with the U.S. electoral process. Trump, though — who has signaled a potential sea change in the U.S.-Russia geopolitical relationship — is not among them, as indicated in his choice of Tillerson for top U.S. diplomat.

The Billionaire Energy Investor Who Vetted Trump's EPA Pick Has Long List of EPA Violations

Natural gas refinery

Asked for his take on President-elect Donald Trump's appointment of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), multi-billionaire investor and Trump business partner Carl Icahn told Bloomberg that Pruitt is “going to really be a breath of fresh air.” Given Icahn's business ties, that statement is steeped in accidental irony. 

Icahn, owner of the holding company Icahn Enterprises and a major donor to Trump's presidential campaign, was instrumental in choosing Pruitt — a man who as state prosecutor actively opposed most federal environmental regulations and denied the science of climate change — for the nation's top environmental job. As reported by The Wall Street Journal, Trump allowed Icahn, the 26th most wealthy man on the planet, to vet and interview finalists for high-level EPA jobs even though Icahn owns business assets impacted by current EPA regulations.

In addition, a DeSmog investigation shows that Icahn Enterprises owns oil industry assets based in Oklahoma, which are involved in EPA enforcement violations, and does business with TransCanada's Keystone pipeline system. 

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