Follow the Fracking Money All the Way to Keystone XL Conflicts of Interest
By Steve Horn
There are numerous ties between key members of the fracking industry and groups pushing for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. And these threads all lead back, one way or another, to Environmental Resources Management, Inc. (ERM).
ERM did the official U.S. State Department's environmental review for Keystone XL pipeline. The review, published in March 2013, determined the pipeline will have negligible climate change impacts. The review dealt with the northern segment of the pipeline as the southern half, now known as the "Gulf Coast Pipeline," received an expedited Executive Order permit by President Barack Obama in March 2012.
ERM is also a paying member of the American Petroleum Institute (API), which has spent over $22 million lobbying on Keystone XL since June 2008.
In its bid to provide the environmental review for the Keystone XL pipeline, ERM overtly lied on its conflict-of-interest form, saying it has no current business ties to TransCanada. ERM has an ongoing consulting relationship with the company responsible for the Alaska South Central LNG Project, also known as Alaska Gas Pipeline Project. The company, South Central LNG, is co-owned by TransCanada.
On top of lying about its current business ties, ERM stated on the conflict-of-interest form it had no "direct or indirect relationship (financial, organizational, contractual or otherwise) with any business entity that could be affected in any way by the proposed work." In so doing, ERM may have broken federal law—18 USC § 1001—by making a false claim on a federal contract.
The State Department's Office of Inspector General has officially launched an inquiry into how and why State overlooked ERM's omission, allowing ERM to potentially commit a crime.
In addition to potentially fraudulent claims about its connection to TransCanada, ERM also has significant ties to major gas industry groups and major players supporting the fracking boom in the U.S.
The details will follow below, but for starters, here are the connections in a nutshell:
Prior to serving as Executive Director of the lobbying powerhouse, Klaber began her career at Environmental Resources Management, Inc. (ERM Group). ERM is a former dues-paying member of the Marcellus Shale Coalition.
Exhibit B: ICF International, an additional firm contracted by the State Department to perform the environmental review.
Former ICF Vice President Karl Hausker is the husband of Kathleen "Katie" McGinty (pictured right), former head of President Clinton's Department of Environmental Quality, environmental aide to Vice President Al Gore and 2014 Democratic Party candidate for Governor in Pennsylvania.
Exhibit C: One of the key functions of Keystone XL's northern half—referred to by TransCanada as the "Bakken Marketlink" pipeline—is to bring fracked Bakken Shale oil to market.
The ties that bind raise even more questions about the legitimacy of the State Department's contracted out environmental review. Below follows the thorough treatment.
A: Marcellus Shale/ERM Group Ties That Bind
ERM paid $15,000 a year for a Marcellus Shale Coaliton membership, the shale gas industry's lobbying tour de force, until October 2011.
Its headquarters are located near Philadelphia, PA, the state at the epicenter of the fracking boom. ERM also networked with the gas industry, provided speakers and sponsored a booth at Marcellus Shale Coalition's "Shale Gas Insight" conference in 2012, which took place in Philadelphia.
Beyond fiscal ties, Katie Klaber—Marcellus Shale Coalition's first president—is a former ERM higher-up.
"Through the 1990s, Kathryn Klaber worked for the international environmental, health and safety consulting firm, Environmental Resources Management, Inc. (ERM), first ... in Philadelphia, then in her native Pittsburgh," explains a biographical sketch. "She supervised multinational projects, primarily for Fortune 1000 companies, involving staff from across the company’s 130 offices."
"During her last three years with the firm, Ms. Klaber managed the Pittsburgh regional office, responsible for all aspects of the practice including business development, product delivery, staffing and financial management."
ERM also works with production companies to secure ample water supplies for fracking. Around 2010, ERM conducted a "water resource study for each of six U.S. States crossed by the Marcellus Shale," according to its website, to aid companies looking to develop shale gas deposits in the area.
Ed Hinchey is another key figure operating between ERM and the Marcellus Shale Coalition. Hinchey is a Principle Partner and Marcellus Program Director at ERM and a biography lists him as an active member of the Marcellus Shale Coalition.
In November 2012, Hinchey debated against Cornell University's Robert Howarth, co-author of the May 2011 study showing shale gas development is worse for the climate than coal development when both are measured over their entire lifecycles.
At that debate, when asked if he would change his mind if science proved fracking's perils, Hinchey responded, “The beauty of science is that it is never settled,” uttering a familiar stock phrase from the "Tobacco Playbook." ERM formerly had close ties to the tobacco industry.
In addition to Klaber and Hinchey, ERM hosts numerous other fracking advocates.
John Alexander, current CEO of ERM Group, is also on the record stating, "The chance that a major drinking water source will be contaminated by natural gas drilling operations is fairly slim."
Woodruff is now the founder, president, CEO and majority shareholder of Sustainable Resources Group, a spin-off of ECOR Solutions as of May 2011. ECOR Solutions spun off of ERM C&O Services Inc. in 2001, a former subsidiary of ERM.
Sustainable Resources Group is also a former dues-paying member of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, which it joined in Feb. 2012.
ERM Group also does “environmental services” for the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York, another shale gas industry lobbying powerhouse.
B: Center for Sustainable Shale Development/ICF International Ties That Bind
ICF International, the other contractor the State Department hired to perform the environmental review, is also tightly tied to the shale gas industry—and to the Obama Administration itself. Ernest Moniz (right), Obama's new Secretary of Energy, formerly sat on ICF's Board, where he earned $305,000 for a two year term.
ICF recently wrote a report on behalf of American Petroleum Institute making the case for U.S. shale gas exports and also has a client relationship with America's Natural Gas Alliance, a gas industry sponsored lobby group. It's the Department of Energy, with Moniz at the helm, that has the final say over the future of fracked gas exports.
In March 2013, five environmental groups and four shale gas corporations teamed up to create the Center for Sustainable Shale Development, referred to as the "Big Green Fracking Machine" by the Public Accountability Initiative, a watchdog group, in a recent report. The report found the Center for Sustainable Shale Development has numerous ties to the natural gas industry.
One of the environmental groups making of the "fracking machine" is the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, was previously run by Karl Hausker (left), former VP of ICF International and husband of Katie McGinty.
McGinty gave Hausker's Pennsylvania Environmental Council over $2.8 million in grants while heading Democratic Governor Ed Rendell's Department of Environmental Conservation and was reprimanded by the state's ethics board for doing so. She's now a business partner of Rendell's at Element Partners, which provides investment capital to shale gas industry start-ups.
Other featured Center for Sustainable Shale Development environmental groups include both the Clean Air Task Force and Environmental Defense Fund, both of which also had representatives sitting on the industry-stacked Department of Energy Fracking Subcommittee that Katie McGinty also sat on, formed in May 2011. Another represented group was World Resources Institute, where Hausker currently sits as a Senior Fellow.
That subcommittee drew up the loophole-ridden fracking chemical disclosure standards embraced by ExxonMobil and passed as a model bill, first by the Council of State Governments and then by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), both in late 2011. In May 2013, those same standards—at this point state law in many places—became the Bureau of Land Management's chemical disclosure standards for fracking on public lands.
FracFocus—a front group for PR corporation Brothers and Company, whose clients include America's Natural Gas Alliance, Chesapeake Energy and Chesapeake front group Clean Skies Foundation—is the industry-chosen entity tasked to oversee fracking chemical disclosure.
"The [Center for Sustainable Shale Development] bills itself as a 'Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design' (LEED) for the gas industry, putting forward 15 standards for fracking and certifying drillers that voluntarily comply with those standards," Public Accountability Initiative explained in the report.
ICF also runs the “Gas Market Model,” which “provides clients with analysis and forecasts of regional gas markets throughout North America," according to its website.
Coming full circle, "Market Model" was utilized in its study funded by America's Clean Skies Foundation and is titled "The Future of Natural Gas," co-authored by then Massachusetts of Technology professor and ICF International Board Member, Ernest Moniz. The MIT study was one of the first major examples of "frackademia."
Furthermore, ICF is a major donor to MIT's Energy Intiative, giving $125,000 per year in endowments for the Initiative starting in 2011, the same year Moniz was named to sit on ICF's Board.
C: Bakken Shale Connection to ERM and Philly
Investors refer to Keystone XL's northern half as the "Bakken Marketlink" pipeline.
That's because one of the main goals of the pipeline's northern half—other than pulling Alberta's tar sands to Gulf Coast export markets—is to carry North Dakota's Bakken Shale fracked oil to market via pipeline. Right now, due to lack of pipeline infrastructure, rail serves as the chief way to get fracked Bakken Oil to market.
In June 2013, ERM said a Bakken fracked oil and tar sands refinery made the air "cleaner" in Delaware City in a study funded by the owner of the refinery itself. The fracked oil and tar sands bitumen gets to that refinery via freight rail owned by Norfolk Southern.
And tying it all back to where the tale began in Philadelphia, the unconventional oil industry is gearing up to carry upwards of 400,000 barrels of Bakken fracked oil via freight rail to the city's refineries.
Industry publication Rig Zone said this could make Philadelphia a prospective "Cushing East," referring to Cushing, OK, the "pipeline crossroads of the world." Philly may soon also become a shale gas export hub.
It was in Cushing that President Obama—standing in front of the pipe pieces that would soon make up the 95-percent complete Keystone XL's southern half —made a speech in March 2012 promoting expedited building of the "Cushing Marketlink" that will pump 700,000 barrels of tar sands per day to Gulf Coast refineries by the end of the year.
By Jan Ellen Spiegel
It wasn't so long ago that the issue of climate change was poised to play a huge – possibly even a decisive – role in the 2020 election, especially in the race for control of the U.S. Senate. Many people supporting Democratic candidates saw a possible Democratic majority as a hedge against a potential Trump re-election … a way to plug the firehose spray of more than 100 environmental regulation rollbacks and new anti-climate initiatives by the administration over its first term.
Potential Climate Voters<p>In a September 1 memo on climate and the election, Andrew Baumann, vice president of the consultants Global Strategy Group, wrote: "Few issues have seen as dramatic a shift in public opinion as climate change has over the last few years. Only marriage equality and the recent shift in views around racial justice outpace the rapid growth in the salience of climate change as an issue."</p><p>Calling it a "winning political issue" the memo says: "First, it is clearly a motivator for both younger and Latinx voters. Second, it has the power to move swing voters, particularly center-right white women."</p><p>Baumann points to a finding that when a group of such women were asked generic ballot questions, Democrats trailed by nine percentage points. But when the question was revised as a choice between:</p><p>"A Democrat who supports taking strong government action to combat climate change.<br>A Republican who opposes taking strong government action to combat climate change."</p><p>… the result was a 29 percentage point shift, putting Democrats ahead by 20 percentage points among that same group.</p><p>"I think it is playing a role," says Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, D-RI, a longtime outspoken climate activist who is on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and also on the Senate Democrats' Special Committee on the Climate Crisis. If Democrats win back the Senate, he stands to play an even more pivotal climate role as part of the majority. He is not up for re-election this year.</p><p><span></span>"I think from the Democratic side it's playing a role in generating enthusiasm – particularly making younger voters feel that they have a real stake in this election. On the Republican side, I think things have moved enough that candidates can no longer get away with simply scoffing about climate change."</p>
Climate a Top Concern for Youths, Latinx<p>So who's still thinking climate? Mostly young voters – 18 to 25 or 29 and Latinx voters.</p><p>Climate and the environment are the top concern among young voters, just above racism and healthcare according to <a href="https://circle.tufts.edu/latest-research/poll-young-people-believe-they-can-lead-change-unprecedented-election-cycle" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">CIRCLE</a>, the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University, which focuses on the political life of young people in the U.S. For Latinx youth, it drops a bit but remains in the top three.</p><p>The issues young people care about have an impact on how they volunteer their time, says Kristian Lundberg, an associate researcher at CIRCLE. He says that's played out most notably through the Sunrise Movement, which focuses on climate change and the environment along with other key activist groups such as Black Lives Matter and March for Our Lives.</p><p>He points to polling this summer that showed that 83% of 18-to-29-year-olds felt they had the power to change things. "Young people feel much more empowerment than in 2016 and 2018," Lundberg says. "It's intentional these movements are carving out space for young people. It's an important strategy."</p><p>In positions of power in these organizations, young people have developed peer-to-peer outreach on activism. And Lundberg says young people have made the leap that connects activism to voting as a lever for change. "In the past in very close races, young people breaking heavily have provided the margin of victory," he says.</p><p>CIRCLE is highlighting 10 U.S. Senate races as ones in which young voters can be decisive. Several of them have notable climate or environmental components – most prominently the Colorado and Montana races.</p><p>The Republican incumbents in each state – Cory Gardner in Colorado and Steve Daines in Montana – are running against a popular Democratic governor – John Hickenlooper in Colorado, now out of office — and Steve Bullock, still the governor of Montana. Both governors have had to balance their state's fossil fuel economic interests with supporting climate change solutions.</p>
Tying Climate Change to the Economy<p>In August, Data for Progress, a progressive research think tank, released polling on climate change – including in the battleground Senate elections in Arizona, Iowa, Maine, and North Carolina – showing voters back a Senate candidate supporting strong climate action.</p><blockquote>Climate change as 'mobilizing issue … key persuasion issue.'<br></blockquote><p>It also showed that linking climate change to the economy may be key. That means talking about clean energy and jobs together, says Danielle Deiseroth, climate data analyst for <a href="https://circle.tufts.edu/latest-research/poll-young-people-believe-they-can-lead-change-unprecedented-election-cycle" target="_blank">Data for Progress</a>. She says that in addition to jobs, climate change issues include climate justice and economic equality – both of heightened interest because of fallout from western wildfires.</p><p>"Climate change, we've observed over the last year or so, is a key mobilizing issue and a key persuasion issue," she says. "Climate issues can only grow support for Democratic candidates.</p><p>"I think it's pretty naive to say climate is the key issue for voters. For a lot of voters it really exemplifies so many things that are wrong with the Trump presidency," Deiseroth says.</p><p>So a factor among others. Helpful, but pivotal only in narrow circumstances.</p><p>At the League of Conservations Voters, a progressive environmentalist organization putting a lot of money and effort into the 2020 races, Senior Director of Political Affairs Craig Auster says: "I'll push back that climate change doesn't matter or isn't registering."</p><p>"It's still showing up in several Senate races. It's been playing a role in almost all of them."</p><p>Candidates are still talking about it, he says, pointing to Colorado, Montana, Iowa, and other states where ads are addressing climate and environmental issues. That shows the candidates believe their opponent is vulnerable on the issue or they're strong on it, he says.</p><p>Like others, Auster calls climate a motivator.</p><p>"Climate change matters," he says. "We have proof point after proof point about what's happening, whether it's a hurricane, a superstorm, derechos in Iowa, or wildfires out west.</p><p>"Pre-COVID it was top tier for Democratic voters along with healthcare. If COVID didn't happen I think climate would be a big deal."</p>
- Green New Deal Champion Ed Markey Defeats Joe Kennedy III ... ›
- These Races Will Shape How U.S. Elections Affect Climate Progress ... ›
- Outdoor Brand Patagonia Wants You to 'Vote the A**holes Out ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Two lawmakers introduced a bill Tuesday addressing previous actions the U.S. government inflicted upon Native Americans.
The bill, authored by Rep. Deb Haaland from New Mexico and Sen. Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts, specifically addresses the "intergenerational trauma" caused by policies that tore Native American children away from their families and sent them to boarding schools to be educated in white culture, HuffPost reported.
- Maine Becomes First State to Ban Native American Mascots at ... ›
- Federal Judge Orders Trump Admin to Give Native Americans Their ... ›
- Federal Bill Seeks First Native American Land Grab in 100 Years ... ›
By Gudrun Heise
Just as scientists are scoring successes in coronavirus research, new problems are on their way. Fall is with us and winter is around the corner, so the season for colds and flu has begun — joining COVID-19.
Influenza Vaccination<p>A flu vaccination may thus be able to narrow down the diagnostic options when flu-like symptoms occur, but whether such a vaccination also has an influence on the behavior of the dangerous new virus is — like so much else — not clear. "It is conceivable that there is an indirect effect. But it is, I believe, a matter of speculation whether it has an immunological effect in the narrower sense," says Krause.</p><p>Every winter, doctors' waiting rooms are full of people who are coughing and sniffing but who mostly turn out to have only a severe respiratory infection. According to current knowledge, the virus that causes COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, is also likely to be subject to seasonal fluctuations. </p><p>In winter, cold viruses, at least, flourish because cold and dry air offers ideal conditions for their spread. In addition, it becomes more difficult to air rooms regularly and intensively — an important further measure to counteract the coronavirus and contain to some extent the danger posed by aerosols.</p><p>According to the <a href="https://www.rki.de/DE/Home/homepage_node.html" target="_blank">Robert Koch Institute, Germany's public health agency</a>, between 5% and 20% of people in Germany become infected with flu viruses every year. These viruses are also dangerous and can be fatal. The flu vaccination must be adapted to the influenza viruses every year, because they mutate. But at least there is a vaccination.</p><p>Most experts agree that there is unlikely to be a vaccine against the coronavirus by the time the next wave of influenza comes around. And even if a vaccine were to be approved, many unknowns remain.</p>
COVID-19 and Flu Simultaneously<p>For example, there is a lack of practical experience in dealing simultaneously with SARS-CoV-2 and influenza. It is possible to speculate that having influenza could facilitate the entry of the coronavirus into the human body. "The general weakening of the immune system during an influenza infection could increase the susceptibility of a patient to a SARS-CoV-2 infection," Krause says.</p><p>However, it is uncertain how dangerous this double infection could ultimately be and what can be done about it. Krause is of the opinion that we must arm ourselves against all three diseases — colds, flu and COVID-19. If we have a cold, bed rest, hot tea and cough medicine usually help. We can get vaccinated against flu. But how do we deal with COVID-19?</p><p><span></span>Probably people can only hope that if they get the illness, they will have a mild form with as few after-effects as possible. Here, it will certainly help to stick to suggested rules on hygiene to reduce or prevent our exposure to the virus. In an interview with DW, Bonn-based virology professor Hendrik Streeck made it clear that COVID-19 usually takes a more severe course when there is a high viral load at infection.</p>
Hygiene, Hygiene, Hygiene<p>The same hygiene measures with which we are trying to get at least some kind of grip on COVID-19 also apply to influenza. The less we come into contact with viruses, the greater the chance that we will be spared an infection or that it will be mild.</p><p>These measures include general hygiene precautions such as frequent hand washing and the wearing of protective face masks. "The various hygienic measures against COVID-19 will also reduce the spread of influenza," says Krause. "Possibly, further connections of a more immunological nature will be discovered."</p><p>Let us hope that is the case, because the flu season hasn't even started.</p>
- Fauci Warns Bad Second Wave of Coronavirus Could Hit U.S. ... ›
- U.S. Coronavirus Death Toll Tops 170,000 Ahead of Flu Season ... ›
- COVID-19 Makes Getting a Flu Shot More Important Than Ever ... ›
Rising temperatures in the air and the water surrounding Greenland are melting its massive ice sheet at a faster rate than anytime in the last 12 millennia, according to a new study published Wednesday in the journal Nature.
- Greenland and Antarctica Already Melting at 'Worst-Case-Scenario ... ›
- Warmer Current Is Carving Away Greenland Ice Sheet From Below ... ›
- Greenland's Ice Sheet Is Melting at Rate That Surpasses Scientists ... ›
- Greenland's Ice Sheet Has Reached 'Point of No Return' - EcoWatch ›
- Record Shrinking of Greenland's Ice Sheet Raises Sea Levels ... ›
- Greenland Ice Sheet Melt Creates Huge Waterfalls, Increasing ... ›
A grim new assessment of the world's flora and fungi has found that two-fifths of its species are at risk of extinction as humans encroach on the natural world, as The Guardian reported. That puts the number of species at risk near 140,000.
- Climate Crisis Could Cause a Third of Plant and Animal Species to ... ›
- World Leaders Urged to 'Act Now' to Save Biodiversity - EcoWatch ›
- Bumblebees Face Extinction From the Climate Crisis - EcoWatch ›
- Plant Extinction Is Happening 500x Faster Than Before the Industrial ... ›