Keystone XL Conflict of Interest: Obama Attorney's Law Firm Represents TransCanada
By Steve Horn
A recent DeSmogBlog investigation reveals that Robert Bauer, former White House Counsel and President Obama's personal attorney, works at the corporate law firm Perkins Coie LLP, which does legal work for TransCanada's South Central Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) Project, formerly known as Alaska Gas Pipeline Project.
Furthermore, Dan Sullivan, current Commissioner of Alaska's Department of Natural Resources, and former Alaska Attorney General and former Assistant Secretary of State in the Bush Administration, is also a former Perkins attorney.
These findings come in the immediate aftermath of a recent investigation revealing the contractor hired by Obama's U.S. State Department to do the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the northern half of TransCanada's Keystone XL tar sands export pipeline—Environmental Resources Management, Inc. (ERM Group) —lied on its June 2012 conflict-of interest filing. ERM Group checked the box on the form saying it had no current business ties to TransCanada.
In fact, ERM—a member of the American Petroleum Institute, which has spent more than $22 million lobbying on tar sands and Keystone XL since 2008—does maintain business ties to TransCanada, the investigation revealed. This includes an ongoing consulting relationship with South Central LNG, co-owned by TransCanada, ExxonMobil, BP and ConocoPhillips.
Under 18 U.S.C. § 1001, making a "materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation...[to the] executive, legislative or judicial branch of the Government of the U.S." is a crime punishable by up to five years in jail.
On top of his job at Perkins Coie, Bauer—a well-known architect of bending campaign finance law to allow more corporate money to flood into electoral races—served as general counsel to President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign. He also serves as general counsel to the Democratic National Committee and did electoral law work for John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign.
His wife, Anita Dunn is the co-owner of SDKnickerbocker, and former Obama Communications Director, was senior advisor for Obama's 2012 re-election campaign and is the former communications director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee under then-Senator Kerry. She's met with top Obama administration officials more than 100 times since leaving in 2009, according to a recent New York Times investigation.
Dunn currently does public relations work on behalf of TransCanada and freight rail industry lobbying group, American Association of Railroads. The tar sands pipeline boom comes alongside a freight rail boom to carry tar sands crude and fracked oil from North Dakota's Bakken Shale.
“ERM lied on its conflict of interest disclosure form, and State was either asleep at the wheel or chose to look the other way,” Friends Of the Earth's Ross Hammond told The Washington Post in a recent piece commenting on ERM's "Pinocchio moment."
Given the myriad ties that bind, "looking the other way" appears more plausible.
Perkins Coie's Legal Bidding for Democrats, TransCanada Alaska Gas Pipeline Project
Perkins Coie is a global firm with 19 offices worldwide and maintains close ties to the Democratic Party above and beyond Bob Bauer. Bauer's colleague Mark Ellis, for example, does legal work on behalf of the "Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democratic Governors Associations and numerous U.S. senators and representatives and their campaigns," according to his Perkins Coie biography.
The Oil and Gas legal work portion of Perkins' website highlights its legal work in Alaska, "in Alaska, our lawyers have long represented leading oil and gas companies on the North Slope and the Cook Inlet...We are extensively involved in efforts to develop the Point Thomson field and commercialize Alaska's natural gas resources with a pipeline to Lower 48 markets."
The "efforts to...commercialize Alaska's natural gas resources with a pipeline to Lower 48 markets" that Perkins' website refers to is the South Central LNG Project co-owned by TransCanada.
"The project is designed to connect Alaska's North Slope natural gas resources to new markets and deliver a reliable and secure source of clean burning energy for decades to come," explain TransCanada and ExxonMobil on the original Alaska Gas Pipeline Project website. "TransCanada and ExxonMobil have the expertise, experience and financial capability to develop what would be one of the largest privately funded energy projects in the history of North America."
Before providing legal aide to South Central LNG, Perkins helped the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS)—co-owned by Koch Industries, ExxonMobil, BP, ConocoPhillips and Chevron and often referred to as the Alyeska Pipeline—get up and running. TAPS takes oil from the Alaska North Slope to the Valdez Marine Terminal, home of the Exxon Valdez spill.
Perkins' legal aide, in fact, made TAPS a reality according to an interview appearing online with Perkins' veteran attorney Guy Martin. Martin was instrumental in opening Perkins' office focusing on Alaska in Washington DC.
"I actually took a little, first-floor townhouse on Capitol Hill, and opened what was really a two-or three-person office. It was the first state office, and we worked pretty much exclusively on the pipeline," said Martin. "The Trans-Alaska Pipeline Act was passed as the direct result of the passing of the Settlement Act."
Perkins Coie attorney L. John Iani—former Region 10 (which includes Alaska) Environmental Protection Agency administrator from 2001-2004 under President George W. Bush—also formerly lobbied for the Alaska Gas Pipeline Project working for TransCanada from 2005-2008, Congressional lobbying disclosure records show. He did so while working for Van Ness Feldman from 2004-2010, a firm that today lobbies on behalf of TransCanada's Keystone XL.
Perkins still does legal work on behalf of TAPS and defended it in the 2010 case Alyeska Pipeline Service Company v. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
Alaska Department of Natural Resources Run by Former Perkins Attorney
Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Commissioner Dan Sullivan formerly worked at Perkins Coie from 1996-2006. His task as head of Alaska's DNR, by law, is to serve as an oil and gas industry watchdog. As such, he will aid in overseeing whether South Central LNG becomes a reality. Sullivan—it's important to remember—was named Attorney General by former Alaska Republican Gov. Sarah Palin of "drill baby, drill" fame in June 2009.
Prior to his appointment as Attorney General, Dan Sullivan served as Assistant Secretary of State during the Bush administration, reporting to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Sullivan's full title was Assistant Secretary for Economic, Energy and Business Affairs.
Wikileaks diplomatic cables reveal that while at the State Department, Sullivan helped negotiate oil and gas deals with Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Norway, the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Turkmenistan and France.
It was also under Bush and during Sullivan's time at the State Department that the original TransCanada Keystone tar sands pipeline was approved in March 2008. Three months later, in June 2008, TransCanada proposed Keystone XL to the State Department.
In March 2012, President Obama issued an Executive Order to expedite the building of Keystone XL's southern half from Cushing, OK to Port Arthur, TX. It is the northern, border-crossing half whose final destiny is now in the hands of President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry.
"Americans Know a Rat When They Smell One"
Anita Dunn will likely be working overtime in the coming weeks and months using her insider/outsider status to ensure its approval on behalf of the client she shares with her husband's law firm, TransCanada.
"Only in the ethically-challenged world of K Street lobbyists could it be considered OK for a power couple like Dunn & Bauer to exploit their White House connections to promote the interests of a foreign corporation like TransCanada," Hammond told DeSmogBlog in an interview.
"Beltway insiders may yawn at the fact that TransCanada has hired people so close to President Obama and Secretary Kerry to push their dirty and dangerous pipeline, but ordinary Americans know a rat when they smell one."
- 7 Devastating Photos of Wildfires in California, Oregon and ... ›
- California Wildfires Destroy Condor Sanctuary, at Least 4 Birds Still ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Mark Hertsgaard
What follows are not candidate endorsements. Rather, this nonpartisan guide aims to inform voters' choices, help journalists decide what races to follow, and explore what the 2020 elections could portend for climate action in the United States in 2021 and beyond.
Will the White House Turn Green?<p>Whether the White House changes hands is the most important climate question of the 2020 elections. President Donald Trump rejects climate science, is withdrawing the United States from the Paris Agreement, and has accelerated fossil fuel development. His climate policy seems to be, as he tweeted in January when rejecting a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposal to protect New York City from storm surges, "Get your mops and buckets ready."</p><p>Joe Biden, who started the 2020 campaign with a climate position so weak that activists gave it an "F," called Trump a "climate arsonist" during California's recent wildfires. Biden backs a $2 trillion plan to create millions of jobs while slashing emissions—a Green New Deal in all but name. Equally striking, his running mate, California Senator Kamala Harris, has endorsed phasing out fossil fuel production—a politically explosive scientific imperative.</p><p>The race will be decided in a handful of battleground states, five of which already face grave climate dangers: Florida (hurricanes and sea-level rise), North Carolina (ditto), Texas (storms and drought), Michigan (floods), and Arizona (heat waves and drought). <a href="https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/visualizations-data/ycom-us/" target="_blank">Public concern is rising</a> in these states, but will that concern translate into votes?</p>
Will Democrats Flip the Senate, and by Enough to Pass a Green New Deal?<p>With Democrats all but certain to maintain their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Senate will determine whether a potential Biden administration can actually deliver climate progress. Democrats need to pick up three seats to flip the Senate if Biden wins, four if he doesn't. But since aggressive climate policy is shunned by some Democrats, notably Joe Manchin of coal-dependent West Virginia, Democrats probably need to gain five or six Senate seats to pass a Green New Deal.</p><p>Environmentalists, including the League of Conservation Voters, are targeting six Republicans who polls suggest are vulnerable.</p><ul><li>Steve Daines of Montana, who denies climate science</li><li>Martha McSally of Arizona</li><li>Thom Tillis of North Carolina</li><li>Susan Collins of Maine</li><li>Joni Ernst of Iowa (bankrolled by Charles Koch)</li><li>John James of Michigan (also a Koch beneficiary)</li></ul><p>Republican Senators are even at risk in conservative Kansas and Alaska. In both states, the Democratic candidates are physicians—not a bad credential amid a pandemic—who support climate action. In Kansas, Barbara Bollier faces an incumbent funded by Charles Koch. In Alaska, Al Gross urges a transition away from oil, though his openness to limited drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Preserve dims his appeal to green groups. He faces incumbent Republican Dan Sullivan, who receives an 8 percent lifetime voting record from the League of Conservation Voters.</p>
Will Local and State Races Advance Climate Progress?<h4>THE CLIMATE HAWKS</h4><p>Under Democratic and Republican leadership alike, Washington has long been a graveyard for strong climate action. But governors can boost or block renewable energy; the Vermont and New Hampshire races are worth watching. Attorneys general can sue fossil fuel companies for lying about climate change; climate hawks are running for the top law enforcement seats in Montana and North Carolina. State legislatures can accelerate or delay climate progress, as the new Democratic majorities in Virginia have shown. Here, races to watch include Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Colorado.</p><h4>THE CLIMATE POLICY MAKERS</h4><p>Perhaps the most powerful, and most overlooked, climate policy makers are public utility commissions. They control whether pipelines and other energy infrastructure gets built; they regulate whether electric utilities expand solar and energy efficiency or stick with the carbon-heavy status quo. Regulatory capture and outright corruption are not uncommon.</p><p>A prime example is Arizona, where a former two-term commissioner known as the godfather of solar in the state is seeking a comeback. Bill Mundell argues that since Arizona law permits utilities to contribute to commissioners' electoral campaigns, the companies can buy their own regulators. Which may explain why super-sunny Arizona has so little installed solar capacity.</p><p>In South Dakota, Remi Bald Eagle, a Native American U.S. Army veteran, seeks a seat on the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, which rules on the Standing Rock oil pipeline. And in what <em>HuffPost</em> called "the most important environmental race in the country," Democrat Chrysta Castaneda, who favors phasing out oil production, is running for the Texas Railroad Commission, which despite its name decides what oil, gas, and electric companies in America's leading petro-state can build.</p>
Will the Influencers Usher in a Green New Era?<h4>THE UNCOUNTED</h4><p>The story that goes largely under-reported in every U.S. election is how few Americans vote. In 2016, some 90 million, <a href="https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2018/08/09/an-examination-of-the-2016-electorate-based-on-validated-voters/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">roughly four out of every 10 eligible voters</a>, did not cast a ballot. Attorney Nathaniel Stinnett claims that 10 million of these nonvoters nevertheless identify as environmentalists: They support green policies, even donate to activist groups; they just don't vote. Stinnett's <a href="https://www.environmentalvoter.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Environmental Voter Project</a> works to awaken this sleeping giant.</p><h4>THE SUNRISE MOVEMENT</h4><p>Meanwhile, the young climate activists of the <a href="http://www.sunrisemovement.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Sunrise Movement</a> are already winning elections with an unabashedly Green New Deal message. More than any other group, Sunrise pushed the Green New Deal into the national political conversation, helping Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey draft the eponymous congressional resolution. In 2020, Sunrise has helped Green New Deal champions defeat centrists in Democratic primaries, with Markey dealing Representative Joe Kennedy Jr. the first defeat a Kennedy has ever suffered in a Massachusetts election. But can Sunrise also be successful against Republicans in the general elections this fall?</p><h4>THE STARPOWER</h4><p>And an intriguing wild card: celebrity firepower, grassroots activism, and big-bucks marketing have converged behind a campaign to get Latina mothers to vote climate in 2020. Latinos have long been the U.S. demographic most concerned about climate change. Now, <a href="https://votelikeamadre.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Vote Like A Madre</a> aims to get 5 million Latina mothers in Florida, Texas, and Arizona to the polls. Jennifer Lopez, Salma Hayak, and Lin-Manuel Miranda are urging mothers to make a "pinky promise" to vote for their kids' climate future in November. Turning out even a quarter of those 5 million voters, though no easy task, could swing the results in three states Trump must win to remain president, which brings us back to the first category, "Will the White House Turn Green?"</p>
- Climate Activists Prepare for November Election - EcoWatch ›
- The Next Election Is About the Next 10,000 Years - EcoWatch ›
- Latino Voters Worried About Climate Change Could Swing 2020 ... ›
- Climate Crisis Could Change Permafrost Soil Microbes, With ... ›
- Zombie Fires Could Be Awakening in the Arctic - EcoWatch ›
- The Arctic Is on Fire and Warming Twice as Fast as the Rest of the ... ›
By Tony Carnie
South Africa is home to around 1,300 of the world's roughly 7,100 remaining cheetahs. It's also the only country in the world with significant cheetah population growth, thanks largely to a nongovernmental conservation project that depends on careful and intensive human management of small, fenced-in cheetah populations. Because most of the reserves are privately funded and properly fenced, the animals benefit from higher levels of security than in the increasingly thinly funded state reserves.
Vincent van der Merwe at a cheetah translocation. Endangered Wildlife Trust
Under Pressure<p>Cheetah populations elsewhere in Southern Africa have not prospered over the past 50 years. In Zimbabwe, cheetah numbers have crashed from 1,500 in 1975, to just 170 today. Botswana's cheetah population has held steady at around 1,500 over the same period, but illegal capture for captive breeding and conflicts with farmers and the growing human population are increasing. In Namibia, there were an estimated 3,000 cheetah in in 1975; roughly 1,400 remain today.</p><p>In contrast, South Africa's cheetah numbers have grown from about 500 in 1975 to nearly 1,300 today. Van der Merwe, who is also a Ph.D. student at the University of Cape Town's Institute for Communities and Wildlife in Africa (iCWild), says he's confident that South Africa will soon overtake Namibia and Botswana, largely because the majority of South African cheetahs are protected and managed behind fences, whereas most of the animals in the neighboring countries remain more vulnerable on mainly unfenced lands.</p><p>Wildlife researchers Florian Weise and colleagues have reported that private stock owners in Namibia still trap cheetahs mainly for translocation, but there are few public or private reserves large enough to contain them. Weise says that conservation efforts need to focus on improving tolerance toward cheetahs in commercial livestock and game farming areas to reduce indiscriminate trapping.</p><p>Van der Merwe says fences can be both a blessing and a curse. While these barriers prevent cheetahs and other wild animals from migrating naturally to breed and feed, they also protect cheetahs from the growing tide of threats from humanity and agriculture.</p><p>To simulate natural dispersion patterns that guard against inbreeding, the trust helps landowners swap their animals with other cheetah reserves elsewhere in the country. The South African metapopulation project has been so successful in boosting numbers that the trust is having to look beyond national boundaries to secure new translocation areas in Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique.</p><p>Cheetah translocations have been going on in South Africa since the mid-1960s, when the first unsuccessful attempts were made to move scores of these animals from Namibia. These relocations were mostly unsuccessful.</p>
Charli de Vos uses a VHF antenna to locate cheetahs in Phinda Game Reserve. Tony Carnie for Mongabay
Swinging for the Fences<p>But other wildlife conservation leaders have a different perspective on cheetah conservation strategy.</p><p>Gus Mills, a senior carnivore researcher retired in 2006 from SANParks, the agency that manages South Africa's national parks, after a career of more than 30 years in Kalahari and Kruger national parks. He says the focus should be on quality of living spaces rather than the quantity of cheetahs.</p><p>Mills, who was the founder of the Endangered Wildlife Trust's Carnivore Conservation Group in 1995, and who also spent six years after retirement studying cheetahs in the Kalahari, says it's more important to properly protect and, where possible, expand the size of existing protected areas.</p><p>He also advocates a triage approach to cheetah conservation, in which scarce funds and resources are focused on protecting cheetahs in formally protected areas, rather than diluting scarce resources in an attempt to try and save every single remaining cheetah population.</p><p>"People have an obsession with numbers. But I believe that it is more important to protect large landscape and habitats properly," Mills said.</p><p>He suggests that cheetahs enclosed within small reserves live in artificial conditions: "It's almost like glorified farming."</p><p>"In the long run we have to focus on consolidating formally protected areas," he added. "Africa's human population will double by 2050, so cheetah populations in unfenced areas will become unsustainable if they are eating people's livestock."</p>
Scientists are on the brink of scaling up an enzyme that devours plastic. In the latest breakthrough, the enzyme degraded plastic bottles six times faster than previous research achieved, as The Guardian reported.
- Mutant Enzyme Recycles Plastic in Hours, Could Revolutionize ... ›
- Scientists Find Bacteria That Eats Plastic - EcoWatch ›
- Plastics: The History of an Ecological Crisis - EcoWatch ›
- Scientists Accidentally Develop 'Mutant' Enzyme That Eats Plastic ... ›