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 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. 

Jeff Sessions, Trump's Attorney General Pick, Introduced First Bill to Exempt Fracking from Drinking Water Rules

Jeff Sessions

U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for U.S. Attorney General, introduced the first so-called “Halliburton Loophole” bill back in 1999 before it was ever known as such.

Sessions co-sponsored the bill (S.724) with the climate change-denying Senator James Inhofe (R-OK). The bill called for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to exempt enforcement of the Safe Drinking Water Act as it relates to hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”).

The bill's language eventually became a provision in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, known today as the “Halliburton Loophole” because the company's ex-CEO and then-Vice President Dick Cheney headed up the industry-loaded Energy Policy Task Force which helped pen the bill's language.

Donald Trump's Swamp: Meet Ten Potential Energy and Climate Cabinet Picks and the Pickers

One of President-elect Donald Trump's most pressing current tasks is selecting who will serve in his new administration, especially his transition team and cabinet, though there are over 4,000 political appointees to hire for federal jobs in all.

Much of the mainstream media attention so far has centered around Trump's choices of Republican National Committee head Reince Priebus as White House chief of staff and former Breitbart News CEO Steve Bannon as chief strategist and senior counselor. Congressional Democrats have called for Bannon to be banned from the White House, citing his personal bigotry and the bigotry often on display on Breitbart.com. Meanwhile, Bannon's hire was praised by the American Nazi Party and KKK.

Yet, perhaps just as troubling is the army of climate change deniers and fossil fuel industry lobbyists helping to pick or court a spot on Trump's future climate and energy team.

Drain the Swamp? Mike McKenna, Head of Trump Energy Team, Began Lobbying Career with Ethics Scandal

Mike McKenna, named to head the U.S. Department of Energy transition team for President-Elect Donald Trump, began his lobbying career in the aftermath of an ethics scandal in Virginia.

Before resigning from the administration of Virginia's then-Governor George Allen in 1997, McKenna was implicated in the authorship and distribution of what the Associated Press called a “dirty tricks” memo written in response to a report published by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC), which had critiqued the Department of Environmental Quality for which McKenna had then served as policy director and spokesman.

McKenna now works as a lobbyist for a firm he founded named MWR Strategies

How a Company With Ties to a Dakota Access Pipeline Owner Flew Over Protests in the No Fly Zone

A helicopter over the Standing Rock encampment

One of the few helicopters authorized to fly within the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration's (FAATemporary Flight Restriction (TFR) zone over Dakota Access pipeline protesters in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, has been identified as belonging to ABC Helicopters. According to its website, this company maintained as a customer the company Enbridge, a Dakota Access, LLC minority equity owner.

That portion of its website was removed after DeSmog contacted ABC Helicopters, which appears to fit under the umbrella of a Minnesota and Wisconsin-based company named Brainerd Helicopters. The TFR, initially set for October 26 through November 5, recently ended early after coming under public criticism.*

The temporary no-fly zone was put into place in response to the alleged use of drones around and arrows attempting to shoot down a law enforcement helicopter operating above the Standing Rock encampments, which are protesting the proposed Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota. 

Dakota Access Pipeline Builder Ignored Obama Admin Request to Halt Construction

Dakota Access pipeline construction near Lake Oahe

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has confirmed to DeSmog that Energy Transfer Partners, the owner of the proposed Dakota Access pipeline, has ignored the Obama administration's September 9 request to voluntarily halt construction in a disputed area, 20 miles east and west of Lake Oahe and the Missouri River. 

The confirmation came in the aftermath of a video published by drone pilot Shiyé Bidziil on the news website Indian Country Today titled, “Drone Footage of Dakota Access Pipeline Approaching Missouri River.” Published November 2, this video offers an airborne view of pipeline construction — coupled with heavily guarded concrete fortresses around key construction locales — in close proximity to the Missouri River. 

Lobbyist for Dakota Access Formerly Led Army's "Restore Iraqi Oil" Program

Screen shot of Robert Crear.

Robert Crear, one of the lobbyists working for Dakota Access pipeline co-owners Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics, formerly served as a chief of staff and commanding general for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 

The Army Corps and other federal agencies are currently reviewing the permit granted for the controversial pipeline's construction near the Missouri River and Lake Oahe in North Dakota, and the Army Corps has reserved final authorization to complete construction on Corps land until after formal government-to-government consultations with the tribes are completed later this month.

Before he became a lobbyist, Crear headed up the Army Corps project, “Task Force: Restore Iraqi Oil” during the early years of the U.S. occupation of Iraq under the George W. Bush administration. This finding by DeSmog comes as the law enforcement presence has become increasingly militarized and additional forces pour into North Dakota from states nationwide under the auspices of the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC)

As President Obama Hints At Dakota Access Possible Reroute, Tensions Swirl at Standing Rock

President Barack Obama, in an interview with Versha Sharma of NowThis News, said that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers may consider a reroute of the hotly contested Dakota Access Pipeline, one which would presumably not cross sacred Native American sites. The Obama administration is currently holding consultations with tribes across the US, and Obama alluded to the fact that the consultation process will “play out for several more weeks” before the administration takes action. 

Obama explained that “right now the Army Corps is examining whether there are ways we can reroute this pipeline, so we're going to let it play out for several more weeks and determine whether or not this can be resolved in a way that is properly attentive to the tradition of First Americans.” He also commented on First Amendment concerns, calling for restraint on the part of law enforcement and continued non-violence for protestors.

Security Firm Running Dakota Access Pipeline Intelligence Has Ties to U.S. Military Work in Iraq and Afghanistan

TigerSwan is one of several security firms under investigation for its work guarding the Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota while potentially without a permit. Besides this recent work on the Standing Rock Sioux protests in North Dakota, this company has offices in Iraq and Afghanistan and is run by a special forces Army veteran.

According to a summary of the investigation, TigerSwan “is in charge of Dakota Access intelligence and supervises the overall security.”

The Morton County, North Dakota, Sheriff's Department also recently concluded that another security company, Frost Kennels, operated in the state while unlicensed to do so and could face criminal charges. The firm's attack dogs bit protesters at a heated Labor Day weekend protest.

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