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Martin O'Malley at a newDEAL meeting
Last week in Washington DC, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley’s political dark money group met with corporate funders at the DC headquarters of the American Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA).  ANGA is the lead lobby group for the fracking and shale industry, with a budget of $69 million in 2012. O’Malley’s group is called newDEAL, which describes itself as a “national network searching the country for state and local elected leaders who are pro-growth progressives to help them share their innovative ideas.”

I found out about the meeting when I was forwarded an invitation.
When I replied to a RSVP, I was initially sent a welcoming “see ya there” from Lauren Wessler, the organizer for the event. Wessler works for Helen Milby, who runs HM&CO, a fundraising group that connects corporations with legislators. Her work has been described as
“To communicate behind the scenes with power brokers in government and in the corporate world, and create events so that they can come together to make exchanges of money and influence.”

O’Malley created newDEAL with Alaska Senator Mark Begich, and the group is co-chaired by democratic politicians Cory Booker, and CO Governor John Hickenlooper.
They bill themselves as “pro-growth” democrats, but an expose by Lee Fang in Vice revealed that newDEAL was funded by some of the largest corporations in the US, the same corporations that provide the majority of funding to republican politicians.

newDEAL funders include
Comcast, Fluor, Merck, Microsoft, New York Life, Pfizer, Qualcomm, Verizon, Wal-Mart, the Private Equity Growth Capital Council, among others, including, of course, the host of Tuesday's event, ANGA.

Given the corporate connection, the newDEAL is an attempt to grow O’Malley and company’s political war chests with corporate dollars, more “deal” than “new.”

A few hours after receiving confirmation of my RSVP, another email buzzed into my inbox from Lauren. Apparently she had made a mistake. “The room seats less people than I originally thought…So sorry,” read her retraction of my RSVP. Sounds fishy, but OK. Maybe there just isn’t enough space at the largest fracking lobbyists’ headquarters for a researcher from Greenpeace. But there are always those people who RSVP and don’t show, so I went to ANGA the day of the event, just in case they could squeeze me in.  

The O’Malley connection to ANGA is particularly interesting given the battle the gas industry is waging in his state. Fracking is still being studied in Maryland, and drillers have not yet started exploiting the shale that lies under parts of the state. Maryland is also home to Cove Point, a proposed Liquified Natural Gas export plant. The plant will be the 3rd LNG export plant fully permitted in the US according to most analysis. Cove Point was just conditionally approved by FERC, which just released an Environmental Impact Statement. FERC’s statement has been roundly criticized for missing key elements, such as climate impacts, community safety, marine impacts, and fracking.

Cove Point LNG
Cove Point has been particularly controversial because it would be located in a populated, residential area on the coast of Maryland. Assistant fire chief for the area Mickey Shymansky resigned after calling attention to the fire department’s inability to controla disaster at the plant.

So, what does O’Malley’s financial relationship with ANGA change about the future of fracking and gas exports in Maryland?

Alas, we were unable to find out. When I arrived at ANGA’s headquarters I told them my name and showed them my RSVP. The front desk person gave me a leery eye, and within minutes a large man named Pablo came out of an elevator bank and walked up to me.

“You have to leave the premises.” he said.

Why? I asked

“They said that if you come in we aren’t allowed to let you up” He said.

“Who is they?” I asked.

“You know who” he said.

“America’s Natural Gas Alliance?”

“Yes” Pablo said

“But I have an RSVP, did they say my name specifically”

“yes” he said.

O’Malley and company plan on using newDEAL to fund campaigns of like minded politicians, basically creating a money laundering dark money pipeline from corporate interests to campaign coffers.

As Ruth Marcus said in her Washington Post editorial last week:

Big money is troubling; secret money is toxic. Having millions of dollars from outside groups pumped into elections distorts the democratic process. Not knowing what interests are behind those millions magnifies that distortion.
The Center for Responsive Politics estimates that the 2012 election saw more than $250 million in political spending by nonprofit groups organized under 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code, up from $86 million in 2008 and $3 million in 2004.

Wonder how many of those millions was from the shale industry, looking to open Maryland for drilling? Or Wal-Mart, trying to erode minimum wage? Or Wall Street making sure limits on risky banking will not be enforced?

Discuss
Exxon ad touting "all of the above"
 

Test your BS meter with this one question quiz:

Which part of Obama's State of the Union was written by the oil industry?

a) “America is closer to energy independence than we’ve been in decades”
b) “natural gas – if extracted safely, it’s the bridge fuel that can power our economy with less of the carbon pollution that causes climate change.”
c) fracking for oil and gas can be "sustainable"
d) all of the above

The answer is literally, "all of the above."

During his State of The Union speech, President Obama said:

"The all-of-the-above energy strategy I announced a few years ago is working, and today, America is closer to energy independence than we’ve been in decades."
The phrase “all of the above,” which the president used in his 2012 State of the Union address as well, is the creation of the oil industry’s most powerful lobbying and public relations arm, the American Petroleum Institute (API). According to the New York Times, the phrase was introduced in 2000 by API to advocate for oil drilling. API’s position at the time was “that an effective national energy policy must, at a minimum, allow for all of the above.” API, proud of the hegemony of their ideas, actually predicted the president would champion the pro-fossil fuel message in this most recent State of the Union address, the day before the speech was given.

After The American Petroleum Institute debuted the phrase in 2000, it was quickly picked up by republicans with wells to drill. John Mccain made it a central part of his 2008 campaign for president. Republicans in the house and senate used it to promote offshore drilling. The former governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell, now under federal indictment for corruption, listed the phrase on his campaign website.

ExxonMobil, the most profitable corporation in world history, continues to use the phrase in advertisements today.

This isn't just etymological trivia. The use of oil industry talking points by the president indicates how ingrained and powerful the fossil fuel industry is in the U.S’s energy conversation.

It also casts a revealing light on other pro-fossil energy comments made by President Obama in the speech, like promoting “Energy Independence.” The idea is, if we allow oil and gas corporations to exploit our land and water to extract fossil fuels, it will benefit the average citizen by lowering energy prices and reducing dependence of “foreign” energy supplies. This is completely false, as Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon Mobil will tell you. The oil industry wants to sell it's product on an open market, to the highest bidder, no matter who that is. Currently there are plans for 25 Liquified Natural Gas export terminals in the US, and the American Petroleum Institute is spending millions of dollars to undo a decades old law that prohibits the export of crude oil. As more oil and gas is drilled from American soil and water, more gas and oil will be exported. We will continue to import oil and other goods from around the world, regardless of how much drilling happens in the U.S.

Another energy myth promoted by the Obama administration and the fossil fuel industry is natural gas as a bridge fuel to renewable energy.

The truth is that gas is primarily comprised of methane, an extremely powerful greenhouse gas. Some scientists believe that methane could be up to 105 times as destabilizing to the global climate as carbon dioxide. When fully burned, gas releases less CO2 than coal or oil, but currently huge amounts of methane are escaping unburned into the atmosphere. An increase in spending on gas infrastructure, like pipelines, Liquified Natural Gas export terminals, or vehicle refueling stations, is not a bridge to renewable energy. It is the same old fossil fuel infrastructure that poses serious threats to the earth’s climate and local environments. The U.S doesn’t need more spending on fossil fuels, it needs a real commitment to renewable energy, efficiency, and cutting carbon pollution.

Originally posted to Greenpeace by Jesse Coleman

Discuss


On January 9th, Freedom Industries, a company that stores chemicals for the coal industry, spilled 7,500 gallons of Crude Methylcyclohexanemethanol (MCHM), a little known, little understood compound into the Elk river. The spill occurred one mile upriver from the water intake that supplies tap water for all of West Virginia's capital city of Charleston.

The thick oily chemical was pumped through the water system and into homes and businesses throughout the area, causing vomiting, skin problems, and diarrhea. Now, nearly two weeks since the disaster was discovered, the water has been deemed "safe to drink," though water from the tap still releases a sickly sweet chemical odor, especially when heated.

Pregnant women and children are still advised to drink bottled water, but very few people in the affected area are interested in drinking from the tap, with child or not. The tremendous need for potable water has led to the creation of the West Virginia Clean Water Hub, a community led effort to provide the people of Charleston and the outlying areas with bottled water, a need that government agencies have largely ignored. Sign this petition to demand justice for people whose water has been poisoned

So little is known about 4-MCHM that regulators didn't even know it's boiling point. Now scientists are scrambling to find out how the chemical reacts with the chlorine in the municipal water system, and whether the chemical has leached into water heaters and water pipes in people's homes. Authorities recommend that all pipes that have come in contact with the pollutant be flushed, including water heaters and outdoor faucets. However, West Virginia American Water, the company that owns the water treatment facility contaminated by the coal chemical, is only offering a 10 dollar credit (1000 gallons) to consumers. The cost of flushing homes will therefore fall on already struggling West Virginians, where poverty is rampant and Walmart is the largest single employer.

The affected intake also supplies water to 9 counties surrounding Charleston, which contain multiple rural communities, like the small community of Pratt. Pratt was added to Charleston's municipal water system only two months ago. This was initially celebrated by the residents of Pratt, because it meant relief from the extremely poor quality water from local sources, which have been contaminated by Acid Mine Drainage, coal dust, and othercoal industry impacts.

Water contamination from the coal industry is nothing new to West Virginians, who have lived with poisoned wells streams for generations. This spill, the latest and most dramatic in a long history of water contamination, exposes the problems of lax and inadequate regulation coupled with politicians that prioritizes the bottom line of the coal industry over the health and safety of people. The chemical 4-MCHM was exempted from federal laws that require disclosure. The tanks that held the chemical were not required to be inspected regularly, due to a loophole that exempted above ground tanks from inspection.

West Virginian politicians with close ties to the coal industry have continued to defend coal companies from federal and state regulation, even as 300,000 of their constituents went without drinkable water.  Speaking at an event hosted by the coal front group American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) last week,  Joe Manchin, West Virginia’s junior senator and former governor continued to defend the coal industry from reglation. “Coal and chemicals inevitably bring risk — but that doesn’t mean they should be shut down,” said Manchin. “Cicero says, ‘To err is human.’ But you’re going to stop living because you’re afraid of making a mistake?” Manchin has significant financial ties to the coal industry.

The current governor of West Virginia, Earl Ray Tomblin, was also quick to defend the coal industry. In a press conference days after the spill, he said "“This was not a coal company.  This was a chemical supplier where the leak occurred.  As far as I know, there are no coal mines within miles of this particular incident.” Governor Tomblin's remarks ignore the fact that many communities affected by this spill are only using municipal water because local sources have already been poisoned by coal extraction and use. Tomblin also ignored the fact that Freedom Industries' product is a necessary part of the coal extraction and burning process.

To donate water to West Virginians, please visit the Keeper of the Mountain Foundation.


To volunteer or request clean water, visit the West Virginia Clean Water Hub.


Originally posted to Greenpeace
Discuss

Craig Sautner lights a plastic jug of water from his well on fire. Methane from nearby hydraulic fracturing natural gas drilling has contaminated his water supply.

A Pennsylvania man ignites methane in his water, contaminated by fracking.

Richard Muller, an University of California Berkeley physicist known for renouncing hisclimate change “skepticism”, has recently released a report that positions fracking as a cure for air pollution concerns, especially in China. The report claims that shale gas, accessed by the fracking process, is a “Wonderful gift that has arrived right on time.”

The report comes as Muller, along with co-author and daughter Elizabeth, are starting a new venture called the China Shale Fund, which seeks to promote shale drilling and fracking in China. The third member of China Shale Fund is Marlan Downey, a longtime Shell executive who specializes in opening up oil and gas operations in developing countries. Downey currently serves on the board of Roxana, a shale gas drilling company and Berkeley Earth, the nonprofit by whom Richard and Elizabeth Muller are currently employed. Through his connections with Downey, Richard Muller has made several trips to meet with Shell in Texas, and has visited Shell’s drilling sites in China.

The Mullers’ article, titled “Why Every Serious Environmentalist Should Favour Fracking,” posits that fracking China’s shale would allow China to burn more natural gas. Muller claims this would decrease dangerous levels of air pollution caused by coal. Muller is specifically concerned about PM2.5, air pollutants that are less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, small enough to penetrate deep into the lungs. PM2.5 is a serious and deadly problem in China and the developing world. However, Chinese energy experts like Greenpeace’s Lifeng Fang do not agree that burning fossil fuels like gas are a solution. In response to the Mullers’ paper, Lifeng Fang commented:

"Burning coal is the biggest source of air pollution in China, the country is still highly dependent on coal. China must stop the coal rush, by cutting excessive capacity from the steel and cement industries. Renewable Energy is the proven solution for China for sourcing clean energy without air pollution, CO2 emission and intensive water use. But, shale gas is not even the transition energy for China."
People living near fracking operations would be surprised to learn that fracking was beneficial to air quality. In Colorado, the industry recently admitted that fracking caused serious air quality problems. In areas of Colorado with shale drilling and fracking, the air quality is as bad as Los Angeles, twice the level that federal regulators say should exist. Families in Colorado have been uprooted and forced to move from shale drilling areas because of health concerns. In fact,levels of PM2.5 have skyrocketed in Colorado, due to the tens of thousands of diesel tractor trailers necessary to service fracking sites. The Mullers never addresses this in the paper.

The Muller paper also gives schizophrenic answers to the problem of climate change. Muller oscillates from claiming that global warming is “a serious long term threat” and that gas “can help address the global warming issue” to claiming that gas “will not halt global warming.”

Studies on the greenhouse impact of methane, the primary component of gas, have shown it to be up to 105 times as powerful as CO2at trapping heat in the atmosphere. Furthermore, scientists have theorized that fugitive emissions of methane from fracking wells could make gas worse than coal pollution for the climate. A study in the Uintah basin in Utah found gas wells leaking up to 60 tons of methane per hour. When the entire lifecycle of gas is taken in to account, including the gas used for chemical feedstocks, as a recent report by the Environmental Integrity Project has done, it becomes clear that shale gas and fracking pose serious threats to the climate system.

The Mullers’ paper calls the issue of fugitive emissions and their global warming impact “mistaken,” because methane does not stay in the atmosphere as long as CO2. However, the Mullers do not address the fact that continued increases in shale drilling and fracking lead to expanding levels of methane loss, thereby providing a constant stream of methane into the atmosphere for years to come.

The report was commissioned by the Centre for Policy Studies, a think tank started by Margaret Thatcher and based in the United Kingdom. The Centre for Policy Studies, which is funded in part by tobacco corporations, is known for its conservative, pro industry politics. The Centre has been a key booster of fracking in the United Kingdom, where drilling has met withmassive protests.

Discuss

With approval from major drilling and fracking companies, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper has proposed a set of regulations to reduce pollution from methane and other dangerous gases leaked by the oil and gas industry. The rules are focused on fracking wells, a mostly unregulated drilling technology that has allowed an unprecedented increase in fossil fuel extraction in Colorado and across the nation.http://s3.amazonaws.com/...

The proposed regulations address a serious hazard posed by the massive growth of fracking in Colorado. There are over 51,000 fracking wells in Colorado, most of which have been drilled in the last four years. These wells, which produce both gas and oil, also leak gases like methane, the primary component of natural gas and a potent greenhouse gas. Methane is up to 105 times as powerful as carbon dioxide as a greenhouse pollutant. Scientists have theorized that fugitive emissions of methane from  fracking wells could make gas worse than coal pollution for the climate.http://s3.amazonaws.com/...

Fracking wells also leak volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which cause asthma, cancer, and severe illness. Oil and gas emissions are the main source of volatile organic compounds in Colorado and the third-largest source of nitrogen oxides. There have been many reported cases of illness from fracking pollution in Colorado since the boom began, causing families to uproot for the sake of the health of their children.

Smog caused by fracking emissions have already sent toxic ozone readings soaring in what was once pristine Rocky Mountain habitat. Ozone-forming air pollution measured along the Colorado Front Range by scientists is up to twice the amount that government regulators have calculated should exist. The researchers pinpoint oil and gas development as the main source.http://s3.amazonaws.com/...

Studies of fugitive methane emissions from fracking have found astounding levels of pollution. A study form the Uinta basin in Utah, found massive methane leaks from fracking wells. In Uinta, wells were estimated to be leaking 60 tons of methane per hour.

The response from fracking groups to the new rules has been tepid. The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), a group which claims fracking can be done safely, helped create the proposed legislation. Fracking has grown increasingly controversial as people in shale areas feel the environmental and health impacts of the hundreds of thousands of wells drilled each year. In the debate over fracking, EDF has played the role of the pro-industry “environmental” group. They have partnered with the oil industry to produce a series of studies on the dangers of methane pollution from fracking. Their first study, which was published in September of 2013, found surprisingly low methane pollution from specific parts of the fracking process. However, the sampling of fracking wells used in the study was controlled by the gas corporations who owned them, and many of those involved in the study were later found to have significant ties to the gas industry. EDF is involved in a congruent partnership with the industry called the Center for Susdainable Shale Development (CSSD). As part of this group, which includes Shell, Chevron and other major gas industry players, EDF wouldgive fracking wells an environmental seal of approval, in the form of a CSSD Certification.

The biggest fracking lobbyist groups, who generally oppose all regulation of the industry, do not support the new rules. A spokeswoman for the American Petroleum Institute said the group hadn’t taken a position on the proposed regulationsColorado Petroleum Association president Stan Dempsey questioned the state's authority and the need for new rules.http://s3.amazonaws.com/...

As the fracking industry tacitly admits by supporting this regulation, fracking poses a serious and as yet unmitigated danger to air quality. It is unknown when these regulations would take effect and given the number of wells already drilled in Colorado and the cost associated with retrofitting all of them, it is unclear if old wells will be required to adhere to the new rules. Air and water pollution from fracking is already impacting people throughout the United States, and if air quality is in danger from tracking in Colorado, it is in danger wherever fracking is occurring.

Discuss

Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 06:07 PM PDT

Chemical Security Now

by JesseC

By John Deans, Greenpeace Chemical Safety Campaigner

With the media flurry since the West, TX explosion it would seem that chemical disasters are somehow a new issue. Yet, communities who live near these facilities and workers who operate them have lived with these dangers for decades. President Obama, too, has talked about the need for action on this issue since his early days in politics.  As early as his book The Audacity of Hope in 2006 he said “…let me suggest at least one area where we can act unilaterally and improve our sanding in the world – by perfecting our own democracy and leading by example. When we continue to spend tens of billions of dollars on weapons systems of dubious value but are unwilling to spend the money to protect highly vulnerable chemical plants in major urban centers, it becomes more difficult to get other countries to safeguard their nuclear power plants.”

Greenpeace is a member of The Coalition to Prevent Chemical Disasters which has just released a videowith some of these quotes and a call for the President to live up to his sentiments, watch and share:

http://www.youtube.com/...

Consistent with these quotes and the many others was his historic executive order issued on August 1, 2013. This order directs his agencies who deal with chemical plants to use current regulatory authority to come up with better solutions to prevent chemical disasters. It just so happens there is a solution consistent with the President’s long-standing position.

The first three month period of the Executive Order is quickly coming to a close, ending on November 1st. This is the phase where agencies are drafting options, or possible new programs they could create to make communities safer from these dangers. The best solution is the one Greenpeace and our allies have been calling for: the safest chemical plants are the ones that use chemicals and processes that don’t carry with them a catastrophic disaster risk. For instance, in the case of West, TX, if they had been using a safer form of ammonium nitrate, we might not have seen that massive explosion and the 15 people who tragically lost their lives might have been home with their families that night.

There are thousandsof plants around the country that use these dangerous chemicals, whether it’s explosive, like ammonium nitrate, or a poison gas like chlorine or hydrofluoric acid. The shocking news is that most of these facilities can change to something safer, but most refuse to do so.

What can be done? Well, under the executive order the EPA could implement a new disaster prevention program using authority under the Clean Air Act. This would require facilities to implement safer alternatives where feasible (and it is feasible), which could reduce the disaster risk on a large scale. As a member of The Coalition to Prevent Chemical Disasters we need you to raise your voice and call the White House. Tell the President that you want him to direct the EPA to use their authority and make all of us safer. Don’t let the President break his record on chemical disaster prevention.

 

Discuss

Since it was first proposed in 2008 the argument for building the Keystone XL pipeline, which would pump tar sands crude oil from Canada to the Gulf coast for refining and export to foreign countries, has had some major holes. Literally.

Sunlight is visible from inside a section of the Keystone XL pipeline. Picture taken by activists with Tar Sands Blockade
If approved, Keystone will pump a super-heated mixture of tar, sand, and chemicals from the most carbon polluting oil development on earth, while theeffects of global warming manifest themselves across the country and the world. In order to mine and refine tar sands the oil industry must burn 1 barrel of oil for every 3 barrels of oil produced, a marvel of inefficiency.

The potential builders of the Keystone XL have been caught in scandal after scandal in their attempts to get government and popular approval for the pipeline. The last few months have revealed the lengths that TransCanada (the company building the pipeline) and other Keystone proponents will go to secure approval for Keystone.

Here are 3 of the most important Keystone XL Scandals that have been revealed since April:

1) The State Department doesn't know where the Keystone XL pipeline will be located.

A year and a half ago,Thomas Bachand, a researcher mapping the route of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, asked the State Department - the agency responsible for approving the pipeline - for the coordinates of the Keystone XL. He hoped to accurately map the pipeline route so that people would know which waterways, neighborhoods, and back yards would be affected. After 14 months of waiting and haggling for what should have been an easy answer, the State Department admitted in June that they did not possess the GIS coordinates of the pipeline, and therefore did not know its exact route.

Yet the State Department has promised that the Keystone XL would be environmentally safe and does not threaten water supplies in its path.

From the Environmental Impact Study used by the State Department:

“A limited number of public water supply wells are located within one mile of the proposed pipeline area (39 along the entire route; Montana-1, South Dakota-0, Nebraska-38), and a very limited number of private water supply wells are located within 100 feet of the pipeline (Montana-6; South Dakota-0, Nebraska-14).”
But how would the State Department know how close the pipeline runs to water sources without knowing where the pipeline will run?
http://s3.amazonaws.com/...
Tar sands run through a neighborhood in Mayflower, Arkansas, where Exxon's pipeline spilled hundreds of thousands of gallons
2) The private contractors hired to gauge the environmental impact of the Keystone XL for the State Department work for TransCanada and other oil companies that would benefit from building the pipeline, a major conflict of interest that the State Department tried to hide.

The most recent Environmental Impact Study (EIS) of the Keystone XL was conducted by the oil industry contractor Environmental Resource Management (ERM). Since it's release, the study has been widely criticized for both its glaring oversights and questionable findings. For instance, the EIS claims that building the Keystone XL, a giant among pipelines, would not have any effect on greenhouse gas emissions or the development of the Athabasca tar sands, even though the entire purpose of building the KXL is to increase tar sands development. Even the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has questioned the trustworthiness of the study.

As it turns out, ERM works for Transcanada, Koch Industries, Shell Oil, and other oil corporations that stand to benefit from building the Keystone XL. ERM is also adues paying member of theAmerican Petroleum Institute, which spent  $22 million lobbying for the pipeline. Not only did theState Department know about these conflicts of interest, they redacted this information from public filings in an attempt to conceal the truth.

ERM has a history of producing environmental studies that seem skewed toward befitting the oil companies that hire them. In March of this year,ERM released a study claiming that a tar sands refinery in Delaware made the air around the plant cleaner. The study, which was funded by the tar sands refinery in question, was challenged by independent air quality studies that found Benzene and other cancer-causing compounds far in excess of EPA standards. As theNews Journal explains:

"Air-quality tests commissioned by a Delaware City citizens group show a jump in local chemical, soot and sulfur levels after the opening of the Delaware City refinery, with at least three toxic pollutants exceeding some public health limits in one spot a mile from the plant"
3) Obama Administration insiders have significant ties to TransCanada, which the company has tried to exploit.

As was recently reported by Steve Horn at DeSmog Blog, President Obama’s personal attorney, former White House Counsel Robert Bauer, has direct ties to TransCanada. Bauer works for Perkins Coie LLP, a major corporate law firm which represents TransCanada’s South Central LNG project.

Furthermore, Robert Baur's wife, Anita Dunn, is the co-owner of the PR firm SDKnickerbocker, which handles public relations work for TransCanada. Dunn, who was a Communications Director for Obama and Senior Adviser for Obama's 2012 re-election campaign, has met with top Obama administration officials more than 100 times since leaving in 2009, according to a recent New York Times investigation.

However, Robert Bauer and Anita Dunn are just the latest tie between TransCanada and US regulators to be uncovered. TransCanada and the government of Alberta, Canada have purposefully stacked their ranks with lobbyists that have ties to the Obama administration and/or John Kerry, who is now in charge of the State Department.

From Friends of the Earth:

The Financial Times has found that Alberta made a point to hire former Obama officials and Kerry staff in order to win approval from the State Department instead of focusing on Congress like most lobby groups. TransCanada and Alberta’s lobbyists have been trying to convince the administration that the pipeline will create jobs and pose no threats to the environment, in the hopes that they can get the pipeline approved.
TransCanada also snapped up people leaving the State Department to help grease the wheels of approval for Keystone XL within the State Department.

From Businessweek:

David Goldwyn, an aide to Hillary Clinton, was something of a mole for TransCanada, coaching the company’s executives on how to win favor at State with “better messaging.” After leaving the State Department, Goldwyn testified before Congress in favor of Keystone XL.
These latest 3 scandals are just the most recent examples of the extent to which TransCanada and other Keystone XL boosters have manipulated the approval system in favor of the pipeline. Help stop the Keystone XL and protect the families and water sources in it's path by telling President Obama not to approve pipeline.Sign the petition here.

Posted to PolluterWatch

Discuss
Originally posted to Polluterwatch

James Inhofe, the Senator from Oklahoma, is one of the most outspoken and bombastic deniers of climate change and attackers of science, bar none. He tried to criminally investigate 17 climate scientists whose emails were hacked and leaked. He "wrote" a "book" called The Greatest Hoax, about climate change. He compares the EPA to the Gestapo. He also receives a huge percentage of his campaign money from the fossil fuel sector. Most of the rest comes from arms manufacturers. James Inhofe is exactly the kind of politician that has stopped any meaningful action of climate change in the United States.

And Google just threw him a fundraiser at their Washington DC Lobbying Headquarters.

Google has made lots of promises along their rise to global dominance of the internet. One of them is their motto "don't be evil." Another is to do their part to head off climate change. To that end, Google has invested in data centers powered by renewable energy and publicly promoted solutions to global warming. Google's Executive Chairman has made strong statements against climate change science deniers, saying “You can hold back knowledge. You cannot prevent it from spreading. You can lie about the effects of climate change, but eventually you'll be seen as a liar.”

That's why more than 12,000 people signed a petition asking Google not to fund Senator Inhofe. And when Google decided to hold the fundraiser anyway, people gathered outside of Google's DC office. Activists even made it in to Google's office, to ask Google employees their thoughts on funding such an outspoken enemy of the environment.

Inhofe's response?

To fund raise off "upsetting the environmentalists" and Google's support. See Senator Inhofe's gloating email:

This is why we can't let corporations like Google and the enormous wealth that they bring with them to continue to support politicians like Inhofe. Sign this petition and tell Google to stop funding Inhofe's climate change lies.
Discuss

On March 29, ExxonMobil spilled hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil in the small town of Mayflower, Arkansas. Exxon, the most profitable corporation in history, has yet to account for more than 126,000 gallons of the spilled oil.

Now, months after the spill, dangerous contaminants are being detected in the air, water and soil, and residents are getting sick - while Exxon claims the air and water are safe. Listen to these stories of Mayflower residents affected by the oil industry:

http://www.youtube.com/...

Exxon’s response has been typical of the oil industry. Like the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the Enbridge disaster in the Kalamazoo River, Exxon has stifled reporting and downplayed the damage and public health issues caused by their pipeline rupture. Immediately after the spill Exxon sought to shut down reporting and information gathering by cordoning off the area, convincing the FAA to declare a no fly zone over the spill site, even threatening journalists with arrest.

Documents obtained by Greenpeace revealed Exxon also misrepresented the extent of thecontamination in nearby Lake Conway. Exxon claimed the area was “oil-free”, though their own water tests showed dangerously elevated levels of cancer causing chemicalsassociated with tar sands crude oil.

Exxon’s Mayflower spill is a reminder of who bears the risks of fossil fuel development like the Keystone XL pipeline. While Exxon may have to shell out a few million dollars of their more than 44 billion dollars in profit, the residents of Mayflower must now live in a contaminated environment and many families will never be able to go back to their homes.

Like the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, Exxon’s pipeline was carrying tar sands oil from Canada, which is both particularly corrosive to pipelines and environmentally devastating to mine and refine.

Sign here if you want to the Keystone XL pipeline and other dangerous, unnecessary fossil fuel developments.

Discuss

10 out of 11 Tea Party spokespeople quoted in major news outlets regarding the IRS scandal have ties to the Koch funded Americans for Prosperity.

The Internal Revenue Service, not the most popular government agency to begin with, has been in the midst of a scatological squall for the past 3 weeks over their treatment of tea party groups. According to an agency spokesperson, organizations garnered additional scrutiny of their applications for non-profit status for having “Tea Party, Patriot, or 9/12” in the application materials. Non-profit status is granted by the IRS for “social welfare organizations” and federal law puts legal limits to the amount of overtly political things you can do if you are applying to be a non-profit, and thus tax-exempt.

In the coverage of this story, now a scandal, there are a couple of important facts that some of the reporting has missed.

First is the fact that the tea party is a creation of enterprising political and public relations professionals, constructed to accomplish a political purpose. A study published in the Tobacco Control Journal actually traced the origins of the tea party to “free-market” groups founded by tobacco corporations and the oil industry billionaires David and Charles Koch.

According to researchers at UC San Francisco:

“Rather than being a grassroots movement that spontaneously developed in 2009, the Tea Party organizations have had connections to the tobacco companies since the 1980s. The cigarette companies funded and worked through Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE), the predecessor of Tea Party organizations, Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks, to accomplish their economic and political agenda.”
Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE), was founded in 1984 by the Koch brothers.

There is even a tea party website registered to a Koch group in 2005, long before the conservative outcry we now know as the tea party began.

The second thing to keep in mind is that the tea party is still controlled by enterprising political and public relations professionals, funded by the David and Charles Koch. In coverage of the IRS scandal, there were 11 people who were involved in tea party groups quoted about IRS scrutiny. Of those 11, 10 have substantial ties to Americans for Prosperity (AFP). AFP (also founded and funded by the Kochs), is the direct descendent of  CSE  - one of the groups who registered a tea party site in 2005.  Of those 10 with ties to AFP, 2 actually work for the organization currently.  All 10 have received aid from AFP which included help with messaging and communication.

The tea party groups that were scrutinized by the IRS are not just separate grassroots citizen groups unfairly accused of political shenanigans, as the Koch associated spokespeople in the media would have you believe. They are one part of a wider political strategy, funded and managed by a very wealthy few. they have uniform and coordinated messages, such as attacking climate science andopposing environmental regulations.

As this IRS scandal progresses, it is important to keep in mind that many of the tea party groups in question deserve to have their non-profit, tax-exempt status questioned. The New York Times has already found that several tea party groups investigated by the IRS were engaged in activities that are illegal for tax exempt groups.

For the record, Greenpeace and Rainforest Action Network experienced expensive and debilitating audits by the IRS during George W Bush’s presidency. Those audits were most likely at the behest of an Exxon funded front group.

Tea Party Spokespeople with ties to Americans For Prosperity (AFP)

Tom Zawistowski: quoted in the Wall Street Journal and other sources

   


Margie Dresher: Quoted by ABC news

   

  • Currently works for AFP

Toby Marie Walker: Quoted by Business Insider

   

  • earned the "Watchdog of the Month" award in March and the “Tea Party Leader of the Year -2010” from Americans for Prosperity

Jennifer Stefano: Quoted by ABC news

   


Carol Waddell: Quoted by ABC news

   


Tim Savaglio: Quoted by the Associated Press

   


Jaime Radtke: Quoted in ABQ Journal,Newsday

   


Larry Norvig: Quoted by CNN

   

  • Norvig's tea party group is part of AFP campaigns
  •    
  • Norvig's tea party group in Virginia runs AFP funded campaignsand displays AFP messaging prominently on their website

Tim Curtis: Quoted by CNN

   


Susan McLaughlin: Quoted in Reuters

   

  • AFP ran tactics and messaging strategy training for Mclaughlin's group inLiberty Township, Ohio.
  •    
  • McLaughlin served on the Romney campaign's Conservative Leadership Coalition with representatives from AFP

Jay Devereaux: Quoted by Fox News

   

  • The only tea party spokesman quoted in the media with no obvious ties to AFP

 

Discuss

On March 29 ExxonMobil, the most profitable company in the world, spilled at least 210,000 gallons of tar sands crude oil from an underground pipeline in Mayflower, Arkansas. The pipeline was carrying tar sands oil from Canada, which floodedfamily residences in Mayflower in thick tarry crude. Exxon’s tar sands crude also ran into Lake Conway, which sits about an eighth of a mile from where Exxon’s pipeline ruptured.

A new batch of documents received by Greenpeace in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has revealed that Exxon downplayed the extent of the contamination caused by the ruptured pipeline. Records of emails between Arkansas’ DEQ and Exxon depict attempts by Exxon to pass off press releases with factually false information. In a draft press release dated April 8, Exxon claims "Tests on water samples show Lake Conway and the cove are oil-free." However, internal emails from April 6show Exxon knew of significant contamination across Lake Conway and the cove resulting from the oil spill.

When the chief of Arkansas Hazardous Waste division called Exxon out on this falsehood, Exxon amended the press release. However, they did not amend it to say that oil was in Lake Conway and contaminant levels in the lake were rising to dangerous levels, as they knew to be the case. Instead, they continue to claim that Lake Conway is "oil-free." For the record, Exxon maintains that the "cove," a section of Lake Conway that experienced heavy oiling from the spill, is not part of the actual lake. Exxon maintains this distinction in spite of Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel saying unequivocally "The cove is part of Lake Conway…The water is all part of one body of water." Furthermore, Exxon water tests confirmed that levels of Benzene and other contaminantsrose throughout the lake, not just in the cove area.

Though Exxon was eventually forced to redact their claim that the cove specifically was  "oil-free," the oil and gas giant has yet to publicly address the dangerous levels of Benzene and other contaminants their own tests have found in the body of Lake Conway. The Environmental Protection Agency and the American Petroleum Institutedon’t agree on everything, but they do agree that the only safe level of Benzene, a cancer causing chemical found in oil, is zero. Benzene is added to tar sands oil to make it less viscous and flow more easily through pipelines.  Local people have reported fish kills, chemical smells, nausea and headaches. Independent water tests have found a host of contaminants present in the lake.

According to Exxon’s data, 126,000 gallons of tar sands crude oil from the pipeline spill is still unaccounted for.

Exxon's spill emanated from the Pegasus Pipeline, which like the proposedKeystone XL pipeline, connects the Canadian Tar Sands with refineries in the Gulf of Mexico.

Discuss

Originally posted to PolluterWatch

As many people who watch the oil industry know, oil spills are not avoidable, preventable, or unlikely. From extraction to combustion, oil is a destructive and dirty business, based on sacrificing the health of environments and peoples for corporate profits.

This fact was especially evident last week, when Exxon’s Pegasus pipeline spilled over 150,000 gallons of toxic tar sands crude oil into Lake Conway and adjoining neighborhoods in Mayflower, Arkansas.

However, Exxon’s Mayflower spill is not an isolated incident. In fact, there were three other significant oil spills that occurred last week.

The spills, which were the result of both train derailments and pipeline ruptures, spilled many hundreds of thousands of gallons of toxic crude oil in and around neighborhoods, marshes, and rivers.

 

March 26 - Train Derailment in Minnesota - 30,000 gallons of crude oil spilled

Last week's cacophony of oil industry irresponsibility began with a train derailment in Minnesota, which spilled30,000 gallons of crude oil. The oil was from Canada which has become a top exporter of crude to the United States because of their exploitation of the tar sands in Alberta.

In a fit of ill-timed opportunism, supporters of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would pump tar sands oil from Canada to the gulf coast, used this this spill as a justification for building the tar sands pipeline. A spokesman for North Dakota Senator John Hoeven, who has been one of the chief political proponents of the Keystone XL pipeline, had this to say:

"It should be clear that we need to move more oil by pipeline rather than by rail or truck...This is why we need the Keystone XL. Pipelines are both safe and efficient."
 

March, 29 - Lake Conoway, Arkansas - 156,000 gallons of tar sands crude oil spilled

In an incident that should make anyone question the "safety and efficiency" of oil pipelines, Exxon’s Pegasus Pipeline spilled 157,000 gallons of tar sands crude into Lake Conway and surrounding neighborhoods in Arkansas. Since the spill, Exxon haslimited press access to the spill site, oiled animals, and even the skies above the spill area. Exxon has even claimed that Lake Conway has been unaffected by the oil spill, though Arkansas Attorney General Dustin Mcdaniel has set that particular record straight.

"Of course there's oil in Lake Conway"
Mcdaniels said.

 

April, 3 - Houston, Texas - 30,000 gallons of crude oil spilled

Four days after Exxon's Pegasus pipeline ruptured and seven days after Keystone XL pipeline proponents claimed "pipelines are both safe and efficient," a Shell pipeline running through a bayou outside of Houston spilled 30,000 gallons of oil into the Texas marsh. The actual amount of oil spilled by Shell's West Columbia Pipeline is still unknown, as the cause of the leak has not been released by Shell.

 

April, 3 - White River, Ontario - 16,642 gallons of crude oil spilled

At the same time that Shell was spewing oil into the wetlands of Texas, a train derailment in White River, Ontario was leaking oil in Canada. Most people know White River as the original home of Winnie the Pooh, but it is also a major train depot for shipping crude oil. The company responsible claimed that 4 barrels of oil were spilled, though the actual number turned out to be 10 times larger, at 400 barrels. That's 16,642 gallons of toxic crude oil. Sorry Winnie.

As the oil industry proved this week, they are incapable of protecting people and the environment from their product. As Micheal Brune of Sierra Club said:

"In Ontario, the company said it spilled four barrels when it had actually spilled 400. In Arkansas, Exxon learned about the spill from a homeowner but kept pumping tar sands crude into the neighborhood for 45 minutes, and is bullying reporters who want to tell the public what's going on. In Texas, a major oil spill came to light that Shell had been denying for days. Transporting toxic crude oil -- and tar sands in particular -- is inherently dangerous, more so because oil companies care about profit, not public safety. This is why Keystone XL, at nine times the size of the Arkansas Pegasus pipeline, must never be built.”
If built, the Keystone XL pipeline will spill. Stop the Keystone XL pipeline.
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