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.

Federal Research Has Been Stoking Oil, Gas Interest in Bears Ears Monument for Years

Bluff formations in Bears Ears Monument

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke is considering revoking the protected status from Bears Ears National Monument, a culturally and archaeologically significant area spanning 1.35 million acres in Utah and protected by then-President Barack Obama under the Antiquities Act of 1906 during his last weeks in office.

While numerous Native American tribes claim ties and sacred sites within its borders, Bears Ears is also of considerable interest to the fossil fuel industry for its close proximity to oil and gas deposits, one of several reasons for pushback against the monument designation. According to a map published by WildEarth Guardians, a group calling for protection of Bears Ears, hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) powerhouses EOG Resources and Whiting Petroleum are already drilling near the area. Soon, however, there may be much more activity.

A DeSmog review of Utah state records shows that the drilling company Wesco Operating has obtained permits to drill in oil fields near Bears Ears, fields which are part of a larger shale basin extending under the monument. Furthermore, the federal government has been stoking interest in developing that shale basin to the tune of nearly three quarters of a million dollars invested in feasibility research.

Tillerson Present as Exxon Signed Major Deal with Saudi Arabia During Trump Visit

Left, current ExxonMobil CEO, Darren Woods, shakes hands with a Saudi leader. Right, former ExxonMobil CEO and current U.S. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, does the same.

During his recent trip to Saudi Arabia, President Donald Trump announced an array of economic agreements between the U.S. and the Middle Eastern kingdom, saying it would usher in “jobs, jobs, jobs” for both oil-producing powerhouses.

While the $350 billion, 10-year arms deal garnered most headlines, a lesser-noticed agreement was also signed between ExxonMobil and the state-owned Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) to study a proposed co-owned natural gas refinery in the Gulf of Mexico. Under the deal, signed at the Saudi-U.S. CEO Forum, the two companies would “conduct a detailed study of the proposed Gulf Coast Growth Ventures project in Texas and begin planning for front-end engineering and design work” for the 1,300-acre, $10 billion plant set to be located near Corpus Christi, Texas, according to an ExxonMobil press release.

In addition, ExxonMobil's press release for the agreement mentions that Darren Woods, the company's CEO, was in the room for the signing of the pact alongside ExxonMobil Saudi Arabia CEO Philippe Ducom and SABIC executives. Missing from that release: After the forum ended, Woods went to the Al-Yamamah Palace for an agreement-signing ceremony attended by both President Trump and recently retired ExxonMobil CEO and current U.S. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson.

Anadarko Execs Buy up Depressed Stock After Lethal Colorado Explosion

Anadarko stock prices going down

Buy low, sell high. It's a maxim taught to stock traders from day one and one which Anadarko Petroleum's upper-level management seems to have taken to heart in the aftermath of the April gas line explosion that blew up a Colorado home, leaving two dead and one badly injured. 

Since the explosion, five members sitting on either Anadarko's board of directors or executive officer team have purchased a combined $2.6 million worth of company stock, totaling over 46,700 shares, according to data on InsiderInsights.com and first reported by investor analyst site SeekingAlpha.com. Anadarko's stock price has fallen nearly $10 per share since the April 17 blast.

However, the trouble may have just begun for the Texas-based company at the center of Colorado's hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) boom. On May 25, an Anadarko oil well exploded just a few miles from the mid-April gas line explosion site. That incident, also in Firestone, Colorado, left one dead and three others injured.

Trump’s Budget Delivers Big Oil’s Wish: Reducing Strategic Petroleum Reserve

Aerial view of three large crude oil storage tanks as part of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve

President Donald Trump's newly proposed budget calls for selling over half of the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), the 687 million barrels of federally owned oil stockpiled in Texas and Louisiana as an emergency energy supply. 

While most observers believe the budget will not pass through Congress in its current form, budgets depict an administration's priorities and vision for the country. Some within the oil industry have lobbied for years to drain the SPR, created in the aftermath of the 1973 oil crisis.

Leading the way has been ExxonMobil, which lobbied for congressional bills in both 2012 and 2015 calling for SPR oil to be sold on the private sector market. The Trump administration says selling off oil from the national reserve could generate $16.58 billion in revenue for U.S. taxpayers over the next 10 years.

Rover Pipeline Owner Disputing Millions Owed After Razing Historic Ohio Home

Rover pipeline about to be laid underground next to a home in Ohio

After taking heat last fall for destroying sacred sites of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the owner of the Dakota Access pipeline finds itself embattled anew over the preservation of historic sites, this time in Ohio.

Documents filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) show that Energy Transfer Partners is in the midst of a dispute with the Ohio State Historic Preservation Office over a $1.5 million annual payment owed to the state agency as part of a five-year agreement signed in February.

Energy Transfer Partners was set to pay the preservation office in exchange for bulldozing the Stoneman House, a historic home built in 1843 in Dennison, Ohio, whose razing occurred duing construction of the Rover pipeline. Rover is set to carry natural gas obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) from the Utica Shale and Marcellus Shale — up to 14 percent of it — through the state of Ohio. The pipeline owner initially bulldozed the historic home, located near a compressor station, without notifying FERC, as the law requires.

How Exxon Lobbyists Led Push to Deepen US Ports and Increase Natural Gas Exports

LNG port

The U.S. has signed a major deal with China to ship liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Asia, adding further momentum to America's hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) boom.

The deal, which includes the export of other commodities from the U.S. to China, was signed about a month after President Donald Trump met with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Much of the LNG in this deal will move across a recently expanded Panama Canal, offering a fast-track route to Asia for larger vessels, an expansion for which the oil and gas industry lobbied.

A DeSmog investigation has revealed that expanding the Panama Canal was part of a two-part process, which included an oil and gas industry push to deepen ports in the Gulf of Mexico as well. Emails obtained under the Texas Public Records Act show that lobbyists for ExxonMobil were leading this effort.

After Years-Long Push, Fracking Has Quietly Arrived in Alaska

Hydraulic fracturing's horizontal drilling technique has enabled industry to tap otherwise difficult-to-access oil and gas in shale basins throughout the U.S. and increasingly throughout the world. And now “fracking,” as it's known, could soon arrive at a new frontier: Alaska.

As Bloomberg reported in March, Paul Basinski, a pioneer of fracking in Texas' prolific Eagle Ford Shale, has led the push to explore fracking's potential there, in what's been dubbed “Project Icewine.” His company, Burgundy Xploration, is working on fracking in Alaska's North Slope territory alongside the Australia-based company 88 Energy (formerly Tangiers Petroleum).

“The land sits over three underground bands of shale, from 3,000 to 20,000 feet below ground, that are the source rocks for the huge conventional oilfields to the north,” wrote Bloomberg. “The companies’ first well, Icewine 1, confirmed the presence of petroleum in the shale and found a geology that should be conducive to fracking.”

Wisconsin Senate Passes Koch-Backed REINS Bill That Would Benefit Koch, Other Polluters

In Wisconsin, a Koch Industries–backed group recently moved closer toward a major legislative victory, with an anti-regulations bill it has pushed for years passing in the Wisconsin Senate.

That bill, the REINS (Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny) Act, passed 19-14 as SB 15. It mandates that if a proposed rule causes “$10 million or more in implementation and compliance costs” over a two year period, that regulation must either be rewritten or discarded. Before taking effect, it still has to pass an Assembly vote and get the signature of Republican Governor Scott Walker

The Wisconsin version of REINS has moved in parallel to a federal version moving through Congress, also called the REINS Act. It too has been pushed for years by the Koch-funded network, which passed in January in the U.S. House of Representatives and now awaits a Senate vote. The federal version has the backing of President Donald Trump.

In Heat of Dakota Access Protests, National Sheriffs' Association Lobbied for More Military Gear

SWAT team

By Steve Horn and Curtis Waltman

At the end of 2016, as a mix of sheriffs, police, and private security forces were clashing with those protesting the Dakota Access pipeline at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, the National Sheriffs' Association was lobbying Congress for surplus military gear and on undisclosed issues related to the now-operating oil pipeline. This information comes from federal lobbying disclosure forms reviewed by DeSmog.

Weeks Before Becoming Trump Top Energy Adviser, Mike Catanzaro Lobbied for Keystone XL

Pipeline sections for Keystone XL pipeline in 2009

Just weeks before being hired as President Donald Trump's top White House energy adviser, Mike Catanzaro was paid by TransCanada to advocate for the Keystone XL pipeline.

Lobbying for his old employer, CGCN Group, disclosure forms reviewed by DeSmog reveal that a team of lobbyists including Catanzaro advocated for “Policy issues and executive branch approval of the Keystone pipeline.” TransCanada paid Catanzaro and the CGCN team $90,000 for their work during the first quarter of 2017. The Trump administration recently gave the Canadian energy company the green light to build the long-contested cross-border pipeline, which will carry tar sands from Alberta, Canada, to Cushing, Oklahoma.

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