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Big Oil has already received plenty of gifts this holiday season. Despite another year of record-breaking temperatures, the last 12 months have seen a wave of policy wins that could secure an oil drenched status quo for decades to come.
The Obama administration is already touting its second-term climate accomplishments, but from free trade and oil exports to pipelines and Arctic drilling, here are nine Christmas presents President Obama gave Big Oil in 2015:
1. Crude oil export ban
Big Oil won its biggest policy victory in years when President Obama accepted a deal to lift the 40-year crude oil export ban. Over the next 10 years this long-sought goodie could translate into $171 billion in new revenue for the oil industry and as much as 3.3 million barrels of new production per day by 2035. More money in Big Oil’s pocket and more carbon in the atmosphere—at precisely the time we need less of both.
2. New refining subsidy
Since lifting the crude oil export ban means that domestic crude can sell for a higher price on the global market, some U.S. refiners may find their margins squeezed as the price of crude itself rises. The Congressional solution? Compliment the lifting of the export ban with a new $1.8 billion tax break for refiners over the next six years.
3. Alberta Clipper
Sure, TransCanada was denied a permit to build the Keystone XL, but a State Department decision could bring almost as much tar sands across the Canadian border. Enbridge, the company responsible for the worst onshore oil spill in U.S. history, was allowed to skirt the normal review process for a cross-border pipeline expansion. The result could double current capacity, sending a total 880,000 barrels per day of Canadian tar sands to refineries in the Gulf Coast.
4. Shell in the Chukchi Sea
The Obama administration gave Shell the green light to drill in the Chukchi Sea, even though scientists are telling us that all Arctic oil needs to stay in the ground to prevent catastrophic warming. Shell may have very publicly thrown in the towel on Arctic drilling earlier this year after disappointing initial results, but the Obama administration was willing to take a 75 percent chance of a large oil spill by allowing Shell to drill in the first place. Shell is fighting now to extend its current leases so it can drill again later.
5. ConocoPhillips in the Alaska Petroleum Reserve
After a coordinated lobbying blitz, an oil company was allowed to drill on federal lands in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska for the first time in its more than 90 year history. ConocoPhillips can now drill as many as 33 wells and construct miles of road and pipeline as part of its Greater Mooses Tooth project—all in a region famous for its delicate biodiversity.
6. BP’s dirty tax break
More than five years after Deepwater Horizon, BP is still paying for its disaster. The problem is that BP is still seeing major tax breaks as part of the costs. Although it was dinged with an out-of-court settlement worth $20.8 billion, most of those costs are going to be tax deductible—allowing the company to capture a tax windfall worth $5.35 billion for the worst oils pill in U.S. history.
7. Fast-tracking the TPP
Big Oil fought hard to help fast track the Trans Pacific Partnership free trade deal—and can you blame them? The deal could allow oil companies and other polluters to sue governments for enacting climate rules. It’s no surprise that similar agreements have already been used to attack renewable energy and fracking bans.
8. Atlantic Drilling
The Obama administration released a 5-year plan for offshore oil and gas leasing in January—and to the surprise of many it proposed new drilling areas off the coasts of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. Dozens of municipalities afraid of the effects that drilling could inflict on their local economies have passed resolutions opposing the plan—and it isn’t too late. The plan is likely to be finalized next year and Atlantic drilling could still be nixed.
9. Liquified Natural Gas
The Obama Administration has been lending a helping hand to the fracking boom by opening whole new markets for domestic natural gas. How? By approving permits for specialized export facilities that super-cool gas into a liquid to be shipped overseas. This is a very expensive and energy intensive process that produces a fuel that is worse for the climate than coal. The Obama administration is opting to end the year by approving construction of the newest export project—the Energy Transfer Partners and the BG Group’s Lake Charles LNG facility in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
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As a growing number of states move to pass laws that would criminalize pipeline protests and hit demonstrators with years in prison, an audio recording obtained by The Intercept showed a representative of a powerful oil and gas lobbying group bragging about the industry's success in crafting anti-protest legislation behind closed doors.
Speaking during a conference in Washington, DC in June, Derrick Morgan, senior vice president for federal and regulatory affairs at the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), touted "model legislation" that states across the nation have passed in recent months.
AFPM represents a number of major fossil fuel giants, including Chevron, Koch Industries and ExxonMobil.
"We've seen a lot of success at the state level, particularly starting with Oklahoma in 2017," said Morgan, citing Dakota Access Pipeline protests as the motivation behind the aggressive lobbying effort. "We're up to nine states that have passed laws that are substantially close to the model policy that you have in your packet."
Big Oil is now using its political power to try and criminalize protests of oil & gas infrastructure.— Friends of the Earth (@foe_us) August 19, 2019
"This legislation has potential to punish public participation and mischaracterize advocacy protected by the First Amendment."https://t.co/bmiHjONEhy
The audio recording comes just months after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law legislation that would punish anti-pipeline demonstrators with up to 10 years in prison, a move environmentalists condemned as a flagrant attack on free expression.
"Big Oil is hijacking our legislative system," Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network said after the Texas Senate passed the bill in May.
As The Intercept's Lee Fang reported Monday, the model legislation Morgan cited in his remarks "has been introduced in various forms in 22 states and passed in ... Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, South Dakota, and North Dakota."
"The AFPM lobbyist also boasted that the template legislation has enjoyed bipartisan support," according to Fang. "In Louisiana, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the version of the bill there, which is being challenged by the Center for Constitutional Rights. Even in Illinois, Morgan noted, 'We almost got that across the finish line in a very Democratic-dominated legislature.' The bill did not pass as it got pushed aside over time constraints at the end of the legislative session."
Many of the state bills restricting the right to protest have been "drafted by companies and passed through groups like ALEC, the secretive group of corporate lobbyists trying to rewrite state laws to benefit corporations over people." @greenpeaceusa https://t.co/ZxpTjWdrwT— Stand Up To ALEC (@StandUpToALEC) May 6, 2019
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.