Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Obama Approved 2 Pipelines to Mexico Amid Dakota Access Pipeline Protests

Popular

By Steve Horn

On Sept. 9, the Obama administration revoked authorization for construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) on federally controlled lands and asked the pipeline's owners, led by Energy Transfer Partners, to voluntarily halt construction on adjacent areas at the center of protests by Native Americans and supporters.

However, at the same time the pipeline and protests surrounding it were galvanizing an international swell of solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and its Sacred Stone Camp, another federal move on two key pipelines has flown under the radar.

C-SPAN

In May, the federal government quietly approved permits for two Texas pipelines—the Trans-Pecos and Comanche Trail—also owned by Energy Transfer Partners. This action and related moves will ensure that U.S. fracked gas will be flooding the energy grid in Mexico.

The Dakota Access Pipeline is also set to carry oil obtained via hydraulic fracturing ("fracking"), but in the northern U.S., from North Dakota's Bakken Shale Formation through several Great Plains states to Illinois.

Within a two-week span in May 2016, as the Sacred Stone Camp was getting off the ground as the center of protests, the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued presidential permits for the Trans-Pecos and Comanche Trail pipelines. Together, the pipelines will take natural gas obtained from fracking in Texas' Permian Basin and ship it in different directions across the U.S.-Mexico border, with both starting at the Waha Oil Field.

Similar to the case of North Dakota oil wells whose oil will likely be transported via Dakota Access and like the name Dakota itself, the Comanche Trail Pipeline's nomenclature originates from a Native American tribe.

Today the Comanche Nation is headquartered in the southwestern part of Oklahoma in Lawton and was removed from Texas in the aftermath of the Comanche Wars. As part of those wars, this nomadic tribe used the Comanche Trail which crossed West Texas and through what is now Big Bend National Park.

Like many other tribes, the Comanche Nation has come out in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline. Some members have formed a support group called Comanches on the Move, which has taken caravans on the road from Oklahoma to the Sacred Stone Camp in North Dakota.

U.S.-Mexico Energy Business Council

The same month the Obama administration permitted the Comanche Trail and Trans-Pecos pipelines, the U.S. and Mexican governments announced the signing of an agreement creating the U.S.-Mexico Energy Business Council. This council's objective is "to bring together representatives of the energy industries of the United States and Mexico to discuss issues of mutual interest." Its membership list is a who's who of major oil and gas players.

The list includes a senior-level lobbyist for Halliburton; the president of oil and gas industry services giant Honeywell Mexico; the CEO of Hunt Consolidated Energy (and former energy policy adviser for George W. Bush's 2000 campaign); the CFO of Sempra Energy's Mexican subsidiary, IEnova; and the president of the Petroleum Equipment Suppliers Association (PESA), who worked on the press team in the George W. Bush White House and 2000 presidential campaign.

U.S. International Trade Administration

PESA members—including Halliburton (Halliburton's Robert Moran, a councilmember, serves on PESA's Board of Directors) and other oil and gas industry services companies—will serve as among the biggest winners of Mexico's ongoing energy sector privatization.

IEnova, the Sempra Energy subsidiary, owns numerous pipeline assets throughout Mexico and also owns the Energía Costa Azul LNG terminal on Mexico's west coast. The Trans-Pecos Pipeline is set to connect to IEnova's Ojinaga-El Encino Pipeline at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Hunt, meanwhile, serves as a symbol of the contradiction existing between U.S.-Mexico energy relations and U.S.-Mexico immigration policy. Prior to its involvement in the U.S.-Mexico Energy Business Council, Hunt was actually the first company to have a "holes in the wall" open border policy. Under the George W. Bush administration, this policy allowed energy to flow between borders, with gas flowing to real estate owned by the powerful and wealthy Hunt family.

"Over the years, Hunt has transformed his 6,000-acre property, called the Sharyland Plantation, from acres of onions and vegetables into swathes of exclusive, gated communities where houses sell from $650,000 to $1 million and residents enjoy golf courses, elementary schools and a sports park," wrote the Texas Observer in 2008. "The plantation contains an 1,800-acre business park and Sharyland Utilities, run by Hunt's son Hunter, which delivers electricity to plantation residents and Mexican factories."

Hunt was also one of the companies recently approved to bid on offshore oil parcels on the Mexico side of the Gulf of Mexico.

Wall Won't Block Pipelines

The creation of the U.S.-Mexico Energy Business Council comes as Mexico continues to make its push to privatize its energy sector under the auspices of constitutional amendments signed into law in 2013 and move away from the state-owned system run by Pemex (Petróleos Mexicanos). Under then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as first reported by DeSmog, the U.S. State Department helped spearhead those privatization efforts.

"The council, comprised of private sector representatives from both countries, is expected to exchange information and industry best practices in order to provide actionable, non-binding recommendations to both governments on ways to strengthen the U.S.-Mexico relationship on trade, investment and competitiveness in the energy sector," read the press release announcing the council's launch.

At a joint press conference featuring Mexico's President Enrique Peña Nieto and President Obama held at the White House on July 22, Obama mentioned the council and its looming first meeting.

"This fall, our new U.S.-Mexico Energy Business Council will meet for the very first time to strengthen the ties between our energy industries," said Obama. "And, Mr. President, I want to thank you for your vision and your leadership in reforming Mexico's energy industry."

With most eyes on the immigration debate and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's grandiose claims about building a "beautiful wall" on the U.S.-Mexico border, it's easy to forget that proverbial walls are coming down when it comes to energy, and in particular, the flow of oil and gas across the border.

"As long as the wall doesn't go below ground," one industry executive recently told Financial Times, "I think we'll be OK."

Thanks to the regulatory blessing of the Obama administration, Energy Transfer Partners may be the first beneficiary to go "under the wall" with its Trans-Pecos and Comanche Trail pipelines.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

By Michael Svoboda

The enduring pandemic will make conventional forms of travel difficult if not impossible this summer. As a result, many will consider virtual alternatives for their vacations, including one of the oldest forms of virtual reality – books.

Read More Show Less
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility on Thursday accused NOAA of ignoring its own scientists' findings about the endangerment of the North Atlantic right whale. Lauren Packard / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

By Julia Conley

As the North Atlantic right whale was placed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's list of critically endangered species Thursday, environmental protection groups accusing the U.S. government of bowing to fishing and fossil fuel industry pressure to downplay the threat and failing to enact common-sense restrictions to protect the animals.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Beth Ann Mayer

Since even moderate-intensity workouts offer a slew of benefits, walking is a good choice for people looking to stay healthy.

Read More Show Less
Much of Eastern Oklahoma, including most of Tulsa, remains an Indian reservation, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday. JustTulsa / CC BY 2.0

Much of Eastern Oklahoma, including most of Tulsa, remains an Indian reservation, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.

Read More Show Less
The Firefly Watch project is among the options for aspiring citizen scientists to join. Mike Lewinski / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 2.0

By Tiffany Means

Summer and fall are great seasons to enjoy the outdoors. But if you're already spending extra time outside because of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be out of ideas on how to make fresh-air activities feel special. Here are a few suggestions to keep both adults and children entertained and educated in the months ahead, many of which can be done from the comfort of one's home or backyard.

Read More Show Less
People sit at the bar of a restaurant in Austin, Texas, on June 26, 2020. Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered bars to be closed by noon on June 26 and for restaurants to be reduced to 50% occupancy. Coronavirus cases in Texas spiked after being one of the first states to begin reopening. SERGIO FLORES / AFP via Getty Images

The coronavirus may linger in the air in crowded indoor spaces, spreading from one person to the next, the World Health Organization acknowledged on Thursday, as The New York Times reported. The announcement came just days after 239 scientists wrote a letter urging the WHO to consider that the novel coronavirus is lingering in indoor spaces and infecting people, as EcoWatch reported.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A never-before-documented frog species has been discovered in the Peruvian highlands and named Phrynopus remotum. Germán Chávez

By Angela Nicoletti

The eastern slopes of the Andes Mountains in central Perú are among the most remote places in the world.

Read More Show Less