Obama Approved 2 Pipelines to Mexico Amid Dakota Access Pipeline Protests
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.
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.
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.
People across New England witnessed a dramatic celestial event Sunday night.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By David Reichmuth
Over the last month, I've seen a number of opinion articles attacking electric vehicles (EVs). Sadly, this comes as no surprise: now that the Biden administration is introducing federal policies to accelerate the roll out of electric vehicles, we were bound to see a reaction from those that oppose reducing climate changing emissions and petroleum use.
The majority of EVs sold in 2020 were models with a starting price (Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price) under $40,000 and only a fifth of models had a starting price over $60,000.
On Friday, China set out an economic blueprint for the next five years, which was expected to substantiate the goal set out last fall by President Xi Jinping for the country to reach net-zero emissions before 2060 and hit peak emissions by 2030.
The Great Trail in Canada is recognized as the world's longest recreational trail for hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing. Created by the Trans Canada Trail (TCT) and various partners, The Great Trail consists of a series of smaller, interconnected routes that stretch from St. John's to Vancouver and even into the Yukon and Northwest Territories. It took nearly 25 years to connect the 27,000 kilometers of greenway in ways that were safe and accessible to hikers. Now, thanks to a new partnership with the Canadian Paralympic Committee and AccessNow, the TCT is increasing accessibility throughout The Great Trail for people with disabilities.
Trans Canada Trail and AccessNow partnership for AccessOutdoors / Trails for All project. Mapping day at Stanley Park Seawall in Vancouver, British Columbia with Richard Peter. Alexa Fernando<p>This partnership also comes at a time when access to outdoor recreation is more important to Canadian citizens than ever. <a href="https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/200527/dq200527b-eng.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Studies from the spring of 2020</a> indicate that Canadian's <a href="https://www.bnnbloomberg.ca/moneytalk-mental-health-during-covid-19-1.1567633" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mental health has worsened</a> since the onset of social distancing protocols due to COVID-19. </p><p>The <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/safe-activities-during-covid19/art-20489385" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mayo Clinic</a> lists hiking, biking, and skiing as safe activities during COVID-19. Their website explains, "When you're outside, fresh air is constantly moving, dispersing these droplets. So you're less likely to breathe in enough of the respiratory droplets containing the virus that causes COVID-19 to become infected."</p><p>TCT leadership took this into consideration when embarking on the accessibility project. McMahon explains that there has never been a more important time to bring accessibility to the great outdoors: "Canadians have told us that during these difficult times, they value access to natural spaces to stay active, take care of their mental health, and socially connect with others while respecting physical distancing and public health directives. This partnership is incredibly important especially now as trails have become a lifeline for Canadians."</p><p>Together, these organizations are paving the way for better physical and mental health among all Canadians. To learn more about the TCT's mission and initiatives, check out their <a href="https://thegreattrail.ca/stories/" target="_blank">trail stories</a> and <a href="https://thegreattrail.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/TCT_2020-Donor-Impact-Report_EN_8.5x14-web.pdf" target="_blank">2020 Impact Report</a>.</p>