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In a 3-0 vote, the U.S. Appeals Court for the Tenth Circuit has ruled that the southern leg of TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline was permitted in a lawful manner by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Keystone XL South was approved via a controversial Army Corps Nationwide Permit 12 and an accompanying March 2012 Executive Order from President Barack Obama. The pipeline, open for business since January 2014, will now carry tar sands crude from Cushing, Oklahoma to Port Arthur, Texas without the cloud of the legal challenge hanging over its head since 2012.

As previously reported here on DeSmog, the Sierra Club and co-plaintiffs already lost their Appeals Court legal challenge to impose an injunction and stop diluted bitumen (“dilbit”) from flowing through Keystone XL South back in October 2013. Now that same Court, albeit different judges, have ruled that the pipeline approval process itself was also legally acceptable.

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Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

A DeSmog investigation has uncovered the identity of a land agent and the contract company he works with that allegedly offered to buy an Iowa farmer the services of two teenage sex workers in exchange for access to his land to build the controversial proposed Dakota Access pipeline, owned by Energy Transfer Partners.

The land agent who allegedly made the offer is Stephen Titus, a Senior Right-of-Way Agent who works for the Texas company Contract Land Staff, which was contracted by Energy Transfer Partners.

No news outlet has, until now, established the identity of the land agent on the tape, or the contracting company he works for. DeSmog is naming the land agent and the company after an investigation into the available evidence and publicly accessible information, as well as evidence from the farmer who first made the allegation and a second source who has heard an audio recording of the conversation when the sex offer was made.

The Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation also has a copy of the conversation Tweedy recorded with Titus, and has opened an investigation, according to the Des Moines Register.

Hughie Tweedy, the Iowa landowner who secretly recorded the exchange, told DeSmogBlog on May 19: “Steve Titus. I think the name of the company is Contract Land Staff.”

Ed Fallon, a former Iowa state lawmaker, environmental and property-rights activist and independent radio show host heard Tweedy's audio recording on May 13 and told DeSmogBlog immediately afterwards that the land agent's name was “something Titus.”

On May 22, DeSmogBlog asked Fallon to verify if he remembered the land agent giving his name as Stephen Titus.

“I believe that was his name. I'm pretty sure. It was hard to hear over the phone,” Fallon said.

Steve Titus' LinkedIn profile states he currently works for Contract Land Staff out of Stockport, Iowa, located just a few miles from Tweedy’s Lee County farm and the Montrose town at which Titus allegedly made his offer. Titus, pictured above, has lived in Iowa since July 2014 according to his LinkedIn, roughly when news of the pipeline plan first broke in Iowa.

Titus' LinkedIn profile includes a job description fitting the role he played when contacting Tweedy.

Among other jobs he held before working at Contract Land Staff, Titus worked for the company Golden Field Services out of Watford City, North Dakota, which is located in the heart of the Bakken Shale basin. Energy Transfer's proposed Dakota Access pipeline runs from the Bakken, straight through South Dakota and Iowa and ends in Patoka, Illinois.

“Responsible for negotiating row with no right to immanent domain,” Titus wrote (sic) for his job description at Golden Field Services on LinkedIn. “Negotiated permits and routing with [North Dakota Department of Transportation] & North Dakota trust lands. Coordinated with landowners and surveyors before & during construction and cleanup.”

DeSmogBlog attempted to contact Titus for comment multiple times, but never received a response.

Several newspaper and television reporters have listened to Tweedy’s recording and have confirmed Tweedy’s basic narrative, including the Little Village Magazine, Cedar Rapids Gazette, and KCRG TV news. But the identity of the land agent and his company wasn't known until now.

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Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

A recent peer-reviewed study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has confirmed what many fracking critics have argued for years: hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas can contaminate groundwater.

The study's release comes as a major class action lawsuit filed in the District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania in 2009 winds its way to a jury trial later this year. The lawsuit over fracking groundwater contamination pits plaintiffs based in Dimock, PA against Cabot Oil and Gas Corporation.

For the study, researchers examined groundwater contamination incidents at three homes in Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale basin in Bradford County. As The New York Times explained, the water samples showed “traces of a compound commonly found in Marcellus Shale drilling fluids.”

It's not the first time fracking has been linked to groundwater contamination in northeastern Pennsylvania. And that brings us back to Dimock, , located in neighboring Susquehanna County.

As DeSmogBlog revealed in August 2013, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had in its possession an unpublished PowerPoint presentation summarizing an Agency-contracted study that linked fracking to groundwater contamination in Dimock, a study the Agency later abandoned and censored.

That presentation was subsequently leaked and published here for the first time.

In its official July 2012 Dimock desk statement, EPA said “there are not levels of contaminants present that would require additional action by the Agency.” As Greenpeace USA researcher Jesse Coleman recently pointed out, EPA has done the bidding of the oil and gas industry on multiple instances during high profile fracking studies.

That PowerPoint presentation and the new Bradford County study could both potentially serve as key pieces of evidence in the U.S. District Court case.

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Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Anthony “Tony” Podesta began lobbying in late 2013 on behalf of a company co-owned by ExxonMobil and Qatar Petroleum aiming to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) to the global market. Tony is the brother of John Podesta, former top climate change adviser to President Barack Obama and current top campaign aide for Hillary Clinton's 2016 bid for president.

In October 2012, Podesta Group began lobbying on behalf of the proposed ExxonMobil-Qatar Petroleum Golden Pass LNG facility in Sabine Pass, Texas, according to lobbying disclosure forms. The forms indicate that Tony Podesta himself, not just his staff, lobbied on behalf of the terminal beginning in quarter four of 2013.

Tony Podesta's name also shows up on the Golden Pass LNG lobbying disclosure forms for quarters one, two, three and four for 2014. During those quarters, Podesta lobbied for proposed federal legislation aiming to expedite the regulatory process for permitting LNG terminals.

Lobbying disclosure forms for the first quarter of 2015 show that Podesta Group no longer lobbies on behalf of Golden Pass.

The company now employs FTI Consulting's Timothy Glassco to lobby for expedited permitting for LNG export terminals. Glassco, a former staffer for Obama's 2008 presidential run, recently departed after almost seven years on the job at Podesta Group, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Glassco has lobbied for Golden Pass since the Podesta Group began lobbying for the company back in 2012, according to the federal lobbying disclosure database.

FTI Consulting may ring a bell for some since one of its employees, Chris Tucker, manages the fracking front group Energy in Depth.

The Tony Podesta-Golden Pass example serves as an influence peddling and lobbying case study akin to many others unpacked in the DeSmogBlog-Republic Report November 2014 report titled, “Natural Gas Exports: Washington's Revolving Door Fuels Climate Threat.”

Qatar, the Persian Gulf country which shares a border with Saudi Arabia, is the top exporter of LNG in the world. It has also come under fire for human rights abuses and for maintaining one of the most long-standing dictatorships on the planet.

The Clinton Foundation, whose finances are currently under increased scrunity due to the looming release of the book “Clinton Cash,” took between $250,000-$500,000 from Qatar in 2014.

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Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

DeSmogBlog has obtained dozens of emails that lend an inside view of how the U.S. State Department secretly handed Enbridge a permit to expand the capacity of its U.S.-Canada border-crossing Alberta Clipper pipeline, which carries tar sands diluted bitumen (“dilbit”) from Alberta to midwest markets.

The State Department submitted the emails into the record in the ongoing case filed against the Department by the Sierra Club and other environmental groups in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota. Collectively, the emails show that upper-level State Department officials hastened the review process on behalf of Enbridge for its proposed Alberta Clipper expansion plan, now rebranded Line 67, and did not inform the public about it until it published its final approval decision in the Federal Register in August 2014.

According to a March 17, 2014 memo initially marked “confidential,” Enbridge's legal counsel at Steptoe & Johnson, David Coburn, began regular communications with the State Department on what the environmental groups have dubbed an “illegal scheme” beginning in at least January 2014.

Environmental groups have coined the approval process an “illegal scheme” because the State Department allowed Enbridge to usurp the conventional presidential permit process for cross-border pipelines, as well as the standard National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process, which allows for public comments and public hearings of the sort seen for TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline.

Further, the scheme is a complex one involving Enbridge's choice to add pressure pump stations on both sides of the border to two pipelines, Enbridge Line 3 and Enbridge Line 67, to avoid fitting under the legal umbrella of a “cross-border” pipeline.

Hastening the approval process — and thus dodging both the conventional presidential permit and NEPA process — came up in a June 6, 2014 memo written by Coburn and his Steptoe co-counsel Josh Runyan. Enbridge's legal argument centered around ensuring profits for its customers “consistent with its obligations as a common carrier.”

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Cross-Posted by DeSmogBlog

The Billings Gazette has revealed that coal mining company Cloudpeak Energy ghost wrote protest letters to the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) on behalf of allied policymakers and business groups.

Reporter Tom Lutey examined numerous letters written to DOI from Montana-based stakeholders and noticed something unusual: the language in every single letter was exactly the same. That is, the same except for a parenthetical note in one of them instructing the supposed writer of it to “insert name/group/entity.”

The “carbon copied” (pun credit goes to Lutey) letters requested for the DOI to give states a time extension to begin implementing new rules dictating the coal industry give states a “fair return” on mining leases granted to industry by the states. DOI ended up giving King Coal the 60-day extension.

“Last month, coal proponents scored a major victory by convincing the Department of Interior to hold off on its rule making for 60 days so that more people could respond,” Lutey wrote. “Members of the Montana Legislature, along with county commissioners and mayors from Montana and Wyoming communities put the weight of their political offices behind letters asking the DOI for more time. What they didn’t offer were their own words.”

Among those who submitted a “carbon copied” letter originally written by Cloudpeak Energy include the Montana Chamber of Commerce, Billings Chamber of Commerce, Montana Coal Council, Montana Sen. Debby Barrett and the Yellowstone County Board of Commissioners.  

Unlike others, the Montana Chamber of Commerce embarassingly forgot to take out the boilerplate “insert name/group/entity” language.

Cloud Peak responded by saying this was a “sample letter…included as part of…briefings,” but did not clarify if those allied stakeholders were supposed to send them to DOI in verbatim fashion, as did the Montana Chamber.

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On April 7, Wisconsin's Board of Commissioners of Public Lands voted 2-1 to ban those employed by the agency from doing any work pertaining to climate change or global warming while doing public lands related work.

Although the story was covered by multiple media outlets, lost in the public discussion so far is how the vote fits into the broader multi-front industry attack in America's Dairyland-turned-Petro State and which industry interests may have played a role in the vote.

The historical roots of the vote appear to trace back to an April 2009 congressional testimony given by Tia Nelson, executive secretary for the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands and daughter of former Wisconsin Democratic Governor Gaylord Nelson, in favor of passage of the American Clean Energy Security Act of 2009.

That bill is better known as the controversial and eventually nixed Waxman-Markey climate bill, a bill opposed vigorously by the fossil fuel industry (and some environmentalists, too).

Gaylord Nelson served as the founder of Earth Day and is the namesake for both the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, as well as Gaylord Nelson State Park.

Tia Nelson, when she testified in front of congress, sat as co-chair of former Wisconsin Democratic Governor Jim Doyle's global warming task force. The task force — announced during Doyle's 2007 State of the State address — published a report in July 2008 titled, “Wisconsin’s Strategy for Reducing Global Warming.”

That report was derided by environmentalists for coming out in support of lifting the state's nuclear energy moratorium and by corporate interests and climate change deniers like State Policy Network (SPN) “stink tank” members Wisconsin Public Research Institute (WPRI) and the Beacon Hill Institute, which co-authored a November 2009 report titled, “The Economics of Climate Change Proposals in Wisconsin.”

In audio of the discussion preceding the 2-1 vote obtained by DeSmogBlog via an open records request, much of the 17-minute deliberation centered around the GOP Wisconsin treasurer Matt Adamczyk peppering Nelson with questions about her time spent serving on the task force.

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Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) has responded defensively to the oil-by-rail lawsuit filed by former BNSF locomotive engineer Bryan Thompson, a case recently reported on by DeSmogBlog.

BNSF — the top rail carrier of oil obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in North Dakota's Bakken Shale basin — denied all charges. The company also argued that some federal laws protect the company from liability for injuries allegedly suffered by Thompson.

The Answer to the Complaint signals the likelihood of a protracted legal battle ahead. Lee A. Miller, a Minneapolis, Minnesota-based attorney representing BNSF against Thompson, filed the company's response in Cass County, North Dakota.

Miller argued that the damages allegedly suffered by Thompson — which include Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from living through and running away from the December 2013 Casselton, North Dakota oil train explosion — were “caused or contributed to by Plaintiff's own contributory or sole fault.”

He also argued that the explosion occurred due to “unknown causes for which BNSF is not responsible” and “are the result of acts or omissions of persons, entities, or corporations other than BNSF…over whom” they have “no control or right to control at the time of the alleged incident.”

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The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has threatened public interest group Common Cause with a lawsuit for pointing out what the public record has made clear: ALEC denies the scientific consensus on climate change.

As first reported by The Washington Post, ALEC's lawyers Alan Dye and Heidi Abegg wrote a cease-and-desist letter to Common Cause president Miles Rapoport. Dye and Abegg demanded that Common Cause stop calling ALEC a cog in the climate denial machine.

“We demand that you cease making inaccurate statements regarding ALEC, and immediately remove all false or misleading material from the Common Cause, and related, websites within five business days,” they wrote. “Should you not do so, and/or continue to publish any defamatory statements, we will consider any and all necessary legal action to protect ALEC.”

ALEC critics call the organization a “corporate bill mill.”

Dye and Abegg also demanded an immediate and public retraction of statements the Common Cause has made about ALEC with regards to climate denial.

Further, Dye and Abegg argued that ALEC — contrary to the vast amount of evidence collected by those who research the organization — does not deny climate change.

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Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

A March 24 hearing prior to the passage of a controversial bill out of committee that preempts cities in Texas from regulating hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for oil and gas obtained from shale basins, featured numerous witnesses who failed to disclose their industry ties, including some with ties to the Koch brothers.

The next day on March 25, Texas Senate Bill 1165 — “Relating to the express preemption of regulation of oil and gas operations and the exclusive jurisdiction of those operations by the state” — passed in the Senate Natural Resources & Economic Development Committee unanimously. Its companion bill, HB 40, also only received a single dissenting vote, and it now advances to a full floor vote in both chambers.  

The legislation is seen by some as part of the multipronged effort to chip away and ultimately defeat the Denton, Texas fracking ban voted on by the city's citizens on Election Day 2014, with another prong being the lawsuits filed against the city.

The March 24 Senate Natural Resources & Economic Development hearing on SB 1165, lasting over four hours, featured a long list of witnesses testifying for and against the bill.

Though everyone testifying in support of it had industry ties, a DeSmogBlog investigation reveals that a few of them did not disclose this when signing up to testify and simply wrote they were testifying as “self.”

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Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

A Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) employee who worked as a locomotive engineer on the company's oil-by-rail train that exploded in rural Casselton, North Dakota in December 2013 has sued his former employer.

Filed in Cass County, the plaintiff Bryan Thompson alleges he “was caused to suffer and continues to suffer severe and permanent injuries and damages,” including but not limited to ongoing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) issues.

Thompson's attorney, Thomas Flaskamp, told DeSmogBlog he “delayed filing [the lawsuit until now] primarily to get an indication as to the direction of where Mr. Thompson's care and treatment for his PTSD arising out of the incident was heading,” which he says is still being treated by a psychiatrist.

The lawsuit is the first of its kind in the oil-by-rail world, the only time to date that someone working on an exploding oil train has taken legal action against his employer using the Federal Employers' Liability Act.

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Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

By David Goodner and Steve Horn

Everyday Iowa voters are less likely to caucus for former Texas governor and potential presidential candidate Rick Perry “because of his involvement” with a controversial oil pipeline proposal, according to an influential state lawmaker who has made eminent domain one of his signature issues in the Iowa House of Representatives.

“Politically speaking, I am not sure there is as much upside for him to be involved as there is downside,” Iowa state representative Bobby Kaufmann (R-Wilton) told DeSmogBlog. “People would likely not vote for him for being involved with the pipeline.”

Last month, DeSmogBlog broke news that Perry’s appointment to the Board of Directors of Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) could cost him support in the Iowa Caucuses. Energy Transfer Partners is a Texas-based company whose subsidiary, Dakota Access, LLC, has petitioned the state of Iowa to build a pipeline to transport up to 575,000 barrels per day of oil obtained from North Dakota's Bakken Shale via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”).

Kaufmann’s statement to DeSmogBlog marks the first public criticism of Perry on this issue by a sitting Republican lawmaker. It also comes on the heels of Perry’s scheduled March 7 return to Iowa to speak at the Iowa Ag Summit alongside other likely Republican presidential candidates.

Kaufmann’s remarks to DeSmogBlog also come in the aftermath of Iowa’s paper of record, The Des Moines Register, releasing a poll finding that 74 percent of Iowans are opposed to the use of eminent domain to build the pipeline.

“I think any presidential candidate’s association with eminent domain could be unhelpful” to them in the Iowa Caucuses, Kaufmann said.

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