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World's Largest Fracked-Gas-to-Methanol Refinery Forced to Calculate Climate Impact

Sat, 10/21/2017 - 20:24
CO2 to methanol plant in Iceland

By Stephen Quirke

Last month one of the largest fracked gas projects in the Pacific Northwest was dealt a legal blow when its development permit was canceled for failing to fully account for the plant’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The project, backed by Northwest Innovation Works (NWIW), would refine fracked gas into methanol, an industrial feedstock used in chemical production, that would be shipped in bulk from Kalama, Washington, to China, where backers say it will produce plastics.

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5 Facts About Mike Pence's Close Ties to the Koch Brothers Not Included in Jane Mayer’s New Yorker Article

Fri, 10/20/2017 - 17:15

This is a guest post by Scott Peterson from Checks and Balances Project.

If you’ve read Jane Mayer’s deep dive into the ties between the Koch Bros. and the Vice President, “The Danger of President Pence,” you’ll understand why it’s the high-water mark of reporting about their relationship. 

Yet there are several facts that aren’t included in the New Yorker article. Here are five facts worth knowing in addition to her excellent work.

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Why Is This African American Community Living Next to a Dump for Hurricane Harvey Debris?

Fri, 10/20/2017 - 01:22
Port Arthur resident Tami Thomas-Pinkney and her daughter Trinity Handy, with a hurricane debris dump in the background

Tami Thomas-Pinkney’s house in Port Arthur, Texas, was not damaged when Hurricane Harvey soaked the city with up to 28 inches of rain on August 29. But now, a month and a half after the storm, she is preparing to move. Across the street from her family’s home is a temporary dumpsite for storm debris, which she says is endangering her family’s health and making her home unlivable. 

Countless trucks haul the debris —ruined building material ripped from storm-damaged homes and household belongings previously submerged in floodwater but now covered with mold — past her house. Each day they rattle down the streets around Thomas-Pinkney, dumping their loads about a hundred feet from her front porch. 

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Koch-Funded Fueling US Forward Shuts Down, But Koch Attacks On Clean Energy Continue

Thu, 10/19/2017 - 21:33

Over this past weekend, with no announcement or notice, the website for Fueling U.S. Forward went dark. The Koch-funded campaign that had set out to promote the “positives” of fossil fuels has seemingly shut down, having wiped the website from the internet and deleting all traces on Facebook and all of its videos off of Youtube.

The abrupt end of the campaign, barely a year old, comes after a summer in which the group’s messaging clearly pivoted from celebrating fossil fuels to attacking clean energy and electric vehicles.

Upon its launch in August 2016, Fueling U.S. Forward CEO and President Charles Drevna told a crowd at the Red State Gathering that the campaign would set out to promote the “positives” of fossil fuels, which he described as “reliable, abundant, efficient and sustainable.”

“We’ve got to take this to the emotional and personal level,” said Drevna.

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FERC Approved NEXUS Pipeline After Companies Behind Project Lobbied for New Commissioners

Thu, 10/19/2017 - 20:42
Powelson and Chatterjee

In one of their first major decisions on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), President Trump’s newly appointed commissioners Neil Chatterjee and Rob Powelson approved the controversial NEXUS natural gas pipeline.

Yet DeSmog has found that in the months leading up to the appointment of the new commissioners, the companies behind the pipeline engaged in a lobbying blitz to support their nomination and confirmation.

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Former Head of Energy, Environment at ALEC, Todd Wynn, Hired by Trump Interior Department

Thu, 10/19/2017 - 05:57

Todd Wynn, former Director of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)'s Energy Environmental and Agriculture Task Force, was recently hired by President Donald Trump to work as a senior-ranking official in the U.S. Department of the Interior. 

DeSmog discovered the hire via LinkedIn, and Wynn says on his profile page that he began at Interior in October.

Wynn worked at ALEC from 2011 to 2013 and then became Director of External Affairs for Edison Electric Institute (EEI), a trade association representing electric utility companies nationwide. Prior to his position at ALEC, Wynn served as Vice President of the Cascade Policy Institute, a part of the State Policy Network (SPN), a national chain of state-level conservative and corporate-funded think-tanks which was started as an ALEC offshoot.

ALEC's critics have described the organization, a national consortium of mostly Republican Party state legislators and corporate lobbyists, as a “corporate bill mill.” That's because its lobbyist members convene several times a year with legislators to produce what it calls “model bills” which have ended up as actual legislation thousands of times since the organization's founding in 1973.

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Fossil Fuel Misinformation Helps Quash Community Effort to Ban Fracking in Youngstown, Ohio

Wed, 10/18/2017 - 13:32
Sign reading 'Don't frack Ohio - Stop injection wells'

For the first time since 2013, a group of activists in Youngstown, Ohio, has been told it cannot place an anti-fracking initiative on local ballots, due in part to a misinformation campaign from the fossil fuel industry.

On October 6, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that two proposed ballot initiatives — one to outlaw fracking and fracking waste injections and another to regulate political campaign contributions within city limits — would not be up for a vote this November. In previous years, voters weighed in on similar initiatives, which were ultimately defeated.

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Company Behind Gas Rig Explosion in Louisiana Was Sued for Degrading Coast

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 06:52
Clovelly Oil rig on fire

Clovelly Oil is not quite a household name, as far as oil and natural gas companies go, though it recently gained attention when its oil and natural gas storage rig exploded on October 15 in Louisiana.

Located on Lake Pontchartrain near New Orleans, Clovelly's storage facility erupted at about 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, injuring seven. Timothy Morrison, 44, of Katy, Texas, remains missing. The search for him has been suspended by the U.S. Coast Guard. 

What do we know about this company and its history in the state? Clovelly previously made headlines in 2013 when the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority sued it along with over 100 other companies for their role in eroding and degrading the Louisiana coast. 

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Louisiana Attorney General Says Oil, Gas Industry Deserve ‘a Break’ for First-Time Crimes

Sat, 10/14/2017 - 13:05
Landry at Shale Insight Conference

Louisiana's first-term attorney general Jeff Landry often presents himself as a staunch tough-on-crime and anti-corruption candidate, pushing his office's powers to the limits (and beyond) as he seeks to lock up offenders.

But when it comes to prosecuting companies for environmental crimes, Landry arrived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, at the Shale Insight conference with a very different message: sometimes, mistakes happen.

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Trump Names Climate Denier Kathleen Hartnett-White to Head White House Environmental Council

Fri, 10/13/2017 - 16:32

President Donald Trump, as first reported by EnergyWire's Hannah Northey‏ on Twitter, has named Kathleen Hartnett-White to chair the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). 

Hartnett-White, as previously reported by DeSmog, is a prominent climate change denier and former Chairman and Commissioner of the Texas Council on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) under then-Texas Governor Rick Perry. Perry now heads up the U.S. Department of Energy and is reported to have advocated for her to run CEQ. She is also an outspoken advocate of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) and of exporting oil and gas to the global market.

Long seen as the presumptive front-runner to take the CEQ role, Hartnett-White also worked on President Trump's presidential campaign on his Economic Advisory Team. And her name was once floated to head up the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as well, currently led by Scott Pruitt.

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Shark Tank's Steve Baxter Joins Climate Science Deniers and Islamophobes for Australian LibertyFest

Thu, 10/12/2017 - 15:04

What do you get when you bring together some of Australia’s most fervent climate science deniers with anti-Islam activists, fledgling right-wing political groups and an American “free market” Libertarian?

The answer, apparently, is the one-day conference titled LibertyFest scheduled for Brisbane this Saturday.

Two mainstays of Australia’s “fever swamp” of climate science denial, Professor Ian Plimer and Jennifer Marohasy, are set to kick-off the proceedings on Friday evening.

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How Oil Hijacked Alberta’s Politics: Behind the Curtain With Former Liberal Leader Kevin Taft

Wed, 10/11/2017 - 20:00
Oil's Deep State Kevin Taft Alberta DeSmog Canada

For decades, Kevin Taft has served as a thorn in the side of Alberta’s provincial government.

In his new book, Taft, who served as a Liberal MLA between 2001 and 2012, and as leader of the Alberta Liberal Party — the province’s official opposition — between 2004 and 2008, maintains his course.

Oil’s Deep State: How the Petroleum Industry Undermines Democracy and Stops Action on Global Warming — in Alberta, and in Ottawa is a controversial read.

Notably the book implicates the Alberta NDP, which was elected in 2015 with promises to challenge the sector’s dominance over political processes. To help explain why that didn’t happen, Taft deploys concepts of institutional capture and deep state — a term used when institutional capture occurs with several different entities and is maintained for a long time.

It’s a challenging and insightful read, one that will likely spark many debates about how we talk and think about the oil and gas sector.

DeSmog Canada chatted with Taft about the book.

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Top Trump Official for Pipeline Safety Profits from Selling Oil Spill Equipment

Wed, 10/11/2017 - 17:14
Drue Pearce

A newly appointed federal regulator charged with overseeing pipeline safety personally profits from oil spill responses, a DeSmog investigation has found.

Drue Pearce is the acting administrator for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), an agency in the Department of Transportation responsible for ensuring oil and gas pipeline integrity. However, she is also associated with a company specializing in the sale of oil spill equipment.

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Experts Who Sold the Idea of Oil Exports Proven Very Wrong Very Fast

Wed, 10/11/2017 - 16:27

As Bloomberg put it recently, today “crude oil gushes out of the U.S. like never before.” U.S. exports of crude oil just hit a new record: nearly two million barrels per day. And while at DeSmog we predicted that “lifting the oil export ban will result in large increases in fracking for oil in the U.S.,” most industry experts at the time were making very different claims.

“It’s universally agreed in the short term that we won’t see a flood of ships leaving for foreign ports because the economics aren’t right,” Sandy Fielden, director of energy analytics at respected consulting firm RBN Energy, said in December 2015, just before the ban on crude oil export lifted. Fielden was explaining why lifting that ban wouldn't result in a sizable and ongoing rush to export American crude.

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Climate Scientists Attack Tony Abbott's 'Misleading' Speech to Global Warming Policy Foundation

Tue, 10/10/2017 - 00:07
Tony Abbott

Australian climate scientists have hit back at their former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, describing his speech to a London think tank as being laced with distortions, falsehoods, misrepresentations, and misdirection.

Abbott told the contrarian Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) that rising carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel burning could be “beneficial” and compared acceptance of human-caused climate change to religion.

The GWPF, founded by former Thatcher government treasurer Lord Nigel Lawson, consistently pushes positions on climate change that fall well outside the established science.

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It's Official: Trump Administration to Repeal Clean Power Plan

Mon, 10/09/2017 - 21:50
Scott Pruitt at the White House

By Lorraine Chow, EcoWatch. Reposted with permission from EcoWatch.

The Trump administration will scrap the Clean Power Plan (CPP), President Obama's signature environmental policy aimed at fighting climate change, confirming earlier reports of such a move.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt said at an event in Kentucky he will sign a proposed rule on Tuesday “to withdraw the so-called clean power plan of the past administration.”

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FERC Allows Conflicted Contractor to Supervise Enbridge’s Atlantic Bridge Gas Project

Sun, 10/08/2017 - 13:58

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is permitting a contractor with a known conflict of interest to monitor Enbridge’s Atlantic Bride natural gas project. This decision joins a growing list of apparent conflicts of interest involved in the project, as DeSmog has extensively reported.

In an internal FERC memorandum sent this week, FERC’s ethics officer authorized the commission’s Office of Energy Projects to continue using a third-party contractor, Environmental Resources Management (ERM), that had produced the project’s environmental assessment. While the work of such contractors is paid for by the pipeline company, they are considered independent reviewers laboring under the supervision of FERC staff who must vet for possible conflicts of interest.

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Why People Around The World Fear Climate Change More Than Americans Do

Sat, 10/07/2017 - 13:58

By Gregory J. Carbone, Professor of Geography, University of South Carolina

When asked about major threats to their country, Europeans are more likely than Americans to cite global climate change, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. Just 56 percent of Americans see climate change as a major threat, versus an average of 64 percent of Europeans surveyed.

Why the difference? Like climate data itself, data regarding public concern for climate change are “noisy.” Public response can vary depending on what’s going on in the news that week. Surveys of these types of surveys find no single explanation for how the public perceives the threat of climate change.

Of course, many explanations exist. As a climatologist who has taught university classes and given public lectures on global climate change for 30 years, I find it clear that public concern about climate change has evolved dramatically over the past three decades. In the U.S., now more than ever, it seems tied to ideology.

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Five Things You Need to Know About the Cancellation of the Energy East Oilsands Pipeline

Fri, 10/06/2017 - 18:39
Alberta oilsands

TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline is officially dead.

Announced via press release on Thursday, the news confirmed long-held suspicions that the $15.7 billion, 4,500 km oilsands pipeline simply wouldn’t cut it in today’s economic context.

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We Looked at 1,154 Climate Science Results and Found No Evidence of ‘Publication Bias’

Fri, 10/06/2017 - 08:39
Stack of papers

Despite widespread acceptance of a consensus around the science of climate change, supposedly factual debates about the presence and causes of warming continue. Could climate science really be guilty of publication bias? A team of scientists led by Johan Hollander from Lund University concluded the answer was: no. This article was first published on The Conversation and ScienceNordic.

It is rare to encounter a scientific fact that stirs widespread debate and distrust quite like the matter of climate change.

Despite consensus among climate specialists about a theory that is supported by a mountain of facts from the physical, natural, and cultural sciences, the debate continues to be perpetrated by politicians, industrialists, academics, and armchair scientists.

When governments reject science, the rest of us are put at risk. By refusing to accept the facts and potential ramifications of climate change, as a society, we stand to delay or overlook actions that are urgently needed to reduce our impact on the environment and adapt our cities and farmlands to a different future.

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