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Former Exxon CEO and current U.S. Sec. of State, Rex Tillerson, shakes hands with Saudi Defense Minister, Prince Mohammad bin Salman during Trump's recent visit. Saudi Press Agency via Twitter

Why Was Tillerson Present at Signing of Major Exxon Deal With Saudi Arabia?

By Steve Horn

During his recent trip to Saudi Arabia, President Donald Trump announced an array of economic agreements between the U.S. and the Middle Eastern kingdom, saying it would usher in "jobs, jobs, jobs" for both oil-producing powerhouses.

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690,000 Contiguous Acres in Alaska May Soon Be Open to Fracking

By Steve Horn

Hydraulic fracturing's horizontal drilling technique has enabled industry to tap otherwise difficult-to-access oil and gas in shale basins throughout the U.S. and increasingly throughout the world. And now fracking, as it's known, could soon arrive at a new frontier: Alaska.

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New York Times Defends Hiring Climate Science Denier

By Graham Readfearn

The New York Times has been defending the paper's hiring of a climate science denier, fighting off its critics with what it claims is a standard fashioned from hardened "intellectual honesty."

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Pipeline under construction in Alberta, Canada. Photo credit: Rblood / Flickr

3 Reasons Why Keystone XL Pipeline May Never Get Built

By James Wilt

Almost a full decade since first applying for a presidential permit, TransCanada looks set to finally receive go-ahead in the U.S. for its massive $8-billion Keystone XL pipeline.

But here's the thing: U.S. approval, while a great leap forward for TransCanada, doesn't guarantee the Keystone XL pipeline will ever be built.

New U.S. President Trump was elected with the explicit promise to get the 830,000 barrel per day pipeline from Alberta to Nebraska built, under the conditions that the U.S. would receive a "big, big chunk of the profits or even ownership rights" and it would be built with American steel; his administration has already flip-flopped on the latter pledge.

On Jan. 24, Trump signed an executive order, inviting TransCanada to reapply for a presidential permit, which the company did two days later. It's now in the hands of the State Department, which has to issue a verdict by the end of March.

Sounds like a slam dunk, right? Not so fast. Here are three key reasons why.

1. Economics

Even Enbridge CEO Al Monaco recently stated that Canada only needs two more export pipelines.

"If you look at the supply profile and you look at our expansion replacement capacity for Line 3 and one other pipeline, that should suffice based on the current supply outlook, out to at least mid-next decade," Monaco said on a fourth quarter earnings call last week.

Wood Mackenzie analyst Mark Oberstoetter seconded that: "There's not an evident need to get three or four pipelines built."

Add to that the rapidly declining long-term prospects in the tar sands.

Those include Exxon's writing off of 3.5 billion barrels in bitumen reserves, ConocoPhillips' cutting of 1.2 billion barrels in reserves and Shell's forecasting of global peak oil demand in 2021.

Just last week, Shell sold off almost all of its tar sands assets to Canadian Natural Resources Limited. This follows divestitures by Statoil and Total SA in recent years.

"There will be no more greenfield projects if the price of oil stays at what it is," said David Hughes, expert on unconventional fuels and former scientist at the Geological Survey of Canada.

Hughes adds that Western Canadian Select already sells at a discount of around $15/barrel due to transportation and quality discounts.

Pipeline companies thrive on long-term contracts with producers, with lower rates for longer terms (such as 10 or 20 years).

Such contracts are huge financial gambles, especially given uncertainty about oil prices. In a low oil price scenario, tar sands take a hit because of the high cost of production.

"The economic case is not there for the three pipelines," said Amin Asadollahi, lead on climate change mitigation for North America at the International Institute for Sustainable Development. "And should the massive expansion happen, I don't think the financial benefits for the sector … would be there."

2. Landowners

We've already seen what lawsuits and protests can do to proposed oil pipelines, including crippling Enbridge's Northern Gateway and seriously delaying Energy Transfer Partner's Dakota Access Pipeline.

Same goes for Keystone XL. Lawsuits have plagued the company for years. In 2015, more than 100 Nebraska landowners sued TransCanada over the proposed use of eminent domain; the company eventually withdrew from the case and its plans for eminent domain, but it appears such conflicts will reignite with the federal approval. Landowners have already started to meet to plot out how to resist the pipeline.

TransCanada requires a permit from Nebraska in order to proceed. Last week, two-thirds of Nebraska's senators signed a letter petitioning the state's Public Service Commission to okay the proposed route; the original route was altered in April 2012 due to public opposition.

Keith Stewart, climate and energy campaigner at Greenpeace Canada, said: "They'll probably get the federal approval, but state-level and other legal challenges will go ahead to try to stop it."

Adam Scott of Oil Change International noted that he expects a lot of resistance to the Keystone project on the ground in Nebraska, especially given that the project still doesn't have a legal route through the state.

There's also growing resistance from Indigenous people, especially in the wake of Standing Rock. Thousands of Indigenous people recently gathered in Washington, DC for a four-day protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

In 2014, the Cowboy Indian Alliance united potentially affected farmers and Indigenous people to protest against the Keystone XL project. The recently signed continent-wide Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion specifically identified Keystone XL as a proposed pipeline to be stopped.

3. Environment and Climate

Then there's the fight north of the border over greenhouse gas emissions and climate obligations.

The Canadian government's approvals of Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain and Enbridge's Line 3 added a bit more than one million barrels per day in potential capacity to the tar sands network.

Unless there are significant breakthroughs in technology to cut per-barrel emissions, those two pipelines alone will allow for tar sands production and associated greenhouse gases to hit Alberta's 100 megatonne (Mt) cap; Stewart said companies have been talking about the possibility of emissions-cutting technologies such as solvents since 2007, but they still haven't materialized in a commercial setting.

Unconventional fuels expert David Hughes has calculated that if the 100 Mt cap is reached and a single LNG export terminal is built, Canada will need to cut non-oil and gas emissions by 47 percent cut in order to meet the 2030 target, which will be impossible "barring an economic collapse."

Adding an additional 830,000 bpd of export potential via the Keystone XL—allowing for the kind of expansion hoped for by the National Energy Board and Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers—could result in the breaching of Alberta's emissions cap and the country's climate targets.

Stewart points to Chevron's recent submission to the Securities and Exchange Commission, which acknowledged the increasing likelihood of climate-related litigation as a related sign of looming danger for companies.

It's a rapidly growing trend. Climate-based litigations are grounding fossil fuel projects around the world. A lawsuit based on constitutional rights to a healthy environment filed on behalf of 21 children during the Obama administration threatens to bring a similar precedent to the U.S.

"We're actually looking at a variety of ways to put pressure—including possible legal challenges—on companies that are basing their business model on the failure of the Paris agreement," Stewart said. "If you're telling your investors, 'We'll make money because the world will not act on climate change' are you actually engaging politically to try to produce that outcome? Are you lobbying against climate policy?'"

Reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmog Canada.

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Who's Killing the Electric Car?

By Ben Jervey

As federal support for electric vehicles (EVs) is expected to wither under the Trump administration, state-level policies will play the biggest political role in how quickly battery powered motors replace the internal combustion engine.

Yet, at this critical moment when state governments should be supporting zero-emission vehicles, many states are cutting their incentives, while others are penalizing EV drivers outright.

In a recent article for the New York Times, Hiroko Tabuchi explores a number of efforts underway in state capitals across the country that are making the transition to electric cars a steeper uphill climb.

These speed bumps take two main forms:

1. The canceling of tax credits that support EV sales and leases.

2. New registration fees that disproportionately penalize battery-powered vehicles.

These legislative attacks on EVs bear the fingerprints of Big Oil, which sees the electrification of the transportation sector as the biggest single threat to the oil industry. Groups funded by the likes of ExxonMobil and the Koch brothers are supporting the measures and in some cases, even writing the bills.

State Financial Support for EV Sales Slacking

Over the past decade, nearly half of all of the states and the District of Columbia have had some kind of financial incentive for EV sales on the books—typically in the form of an income tax credit or a straight-up rebate. But this support is fading, as some states cancel the incentives and others let them expire.

Today, only 16 states (plus the District of Columbia) still offer tax credits or rebates and at least two states are voting in the current legislative session on whether or not to extend or repeal the benefits.

In Utah, a bill that would have extended the state's EV tax credit (of up to $1,500) through 2021 was just voted down, failing by a single vote. Meanwhile, in Colorado, which had offered the country's most generous EV incentive, legislators will soon vote on a bill that would cancel the $6,000 tax credit for purchasers of EVs.

As Tabuchi noted:

"The measure in Colorado has been backed publicly by Americans for Prosperity, an advocacy group founded by the conservative billionaire brothers David H. and Charles G. Koch, whose wealth is founded on their petrochemicals empire."

The rollback of sales incentives has come at the same time as many states are introducing new fees that directly penalize plug-in owners for their choice to drive zero emission vehicles that charge off the local electric grid.

Registration Fees for EVs

Coming into the 2017 state legislative sessions, 10 states impose extra fees to register electric vehicles.

National Conference of State Legislatures

This year, policymakers in nine states have introduced legislation that would charge a higher rate for EV registrations than for conventional internal combustion vehicles. (Another state, Illinois, is debating a bill that would raise the EV registration rate, which is currently lower, to match gas-powered vehicles).

Kansas and Indiana are both debating a $150 annual fee. Montana started out with a bill featuring a $300 annual fee, but that was negotiated down to $95 per year, which passed their house and has moved into the state senate. New Hampshire, South Carolina, Minnesota, Arizona and even California have some sort of EV fee winding through the legislature.

Proponents of higher EVs fees say that they are necessary to ensure that plug-in cars pay their fair share for the roads. Typically and universally within the U.S., highway funds are raised from revenue from gasoline taxes. Because EV drivers don't buy gas, they aren't chipping in for those highway funds.

However, the Sierra Club's Electric Vehicles Initiative director, Gina Coplon-Newfield, told DeSmog that this argument fails the tests of basic math, saying, "When you look at the financial numbers, they don't add up at all."

First of all, Coplon-Newfield noted, "conventional vehicles have become far more efficient" and aren't consuming as much gasoline and therefore aren't generating as much revenue for the highway funds. Second, "gas tax charges have not been in sync with inflation."

Coplon-Newfield gives the example of North Carolina, where the state is hoping to raise millions for their highway fund. If you raised the gas tax by one cent per gallon, the state would raise an extra $7.5 million. Contrast that with the total revenue raised from EV registration fees in 2014: $440,000. Even if the state is registering three times as many EVs today, it's still millions short of the goal.

There are other reasons that EVs should be given a break on registration fees—they actually cause less road damage given their light weight and improve air quality and benefit public health because they don't have tailpipes.

Georgia: A Cautionary Tale

For a look at what happens when a state both kills incentives and starts charging EV drivers extra fees, you only have to look to Georgia.

Just three years ago, Georgia was an unlikely national leader in electric vehicle sales, boosted by one of the nation's most generous state-level EV tax incentives that offered drivers a tax credit of up to $5,000 when buying a plug-in vehicle. By early 2014, Georgia trailed only California in EV registrations. Then, in January 2015, a new measure slipped into the state's $1 billion transportation bill which killed the credit and added another $200 annual fee for EV drivers.

Electric car sales immediately fell off a cliff.

Overall EV sales dropped by 90 percent and sales of the Nissan LEAF are off nearly 95 percent, according to Don Francis, the coordinator of Clean Cities-Georgia and executive director of the Partnership for Clean Transportation.

Here's how Atlanta Magazine described the history of the legislation:

"In January 2015, state Representative Chuck Martin, an Alpharetta Republican, introduced a bill to kill the state credit partly on the argument that it gave electric vehicles an unfair advantage over other low-emission cars such as the Chevrolet Volt. Martin's measure got lumped into the $1 billion transportation bill, which raised the state's gas tax to pay for road improvements. As if that weren't enough, lawmakers slapped electric vehicle owners with an additional $200 annual fee on the logic that it wasn't fair to make drivers of gas-powered vehicles bear the entire cost of road maintenance. When the new laws went into effect on July 1, the emerging electric vehicle market was immediately eviscerated. Statewide registrations plummeted from 1,338 in June to 115 in October."

But there's more to the story. Martin's bill looks similar to model bills that have been pushed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a Koch-funded entity that pushes fossil fuel–friendly agendas through state legislatures.

As the Center for Media and Democracy has noted, ALEC recently began pushing the Koch's anti-EV agenda:

"At the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) meeting in Scottsdale, Arizona in December 2015, the Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force heard a presentation on 'State and Federal Subsidies for Electric Vehicles,' then voted on a resolution to discourage states from providing subsidies, the 'Resolution Regarding Subsidies for Electric Vehicles.' The Kochs have long funded ALEC. Koch Industries has had a seat on ALEC's 'Private Enterprise' board for years, while Koch network entities like Freedom Partners, Americans for Prosperity and Koch-funded 'think tanks' have seats on a number of task forces where they get a vote on bills."

Meanwhile, also in 2015, Georgia started charging EV drivers extra registration fees. The extra $200 per year to register the vehicle probably doesn't have the impact of losing the $5,000 tax credit. But it sure doesn't help.

As evidenced in the registration numbers pictured in the chart above, Georgia is no longer a national leader in electric car sales. In Georgia and nationwide, the transition to electric cars seems inevitable. It just might take a decade or two longer if left to market forces alone. In terms of public health and the climate, those years shouldn't be wasted.

As Coplon-Newfield put it, "Now is the time to be incentivizing, not penalizing, electric vehicles."

Reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmogBlog.

Communities Push Back on Koch Brother's 'Distasteful Effort' to Promote Fossil Fuels

By Ben Jervey

Religious leaders and environmental justice activists in Richmond, Virginia, are "pushing back" against the Koch-funded Fueling U.S. Forward campaign's efforts to target minority communities while promoting the "importance of domestic oil and natural gas to making people's lives better."

One element of the strategy to win the "hearts and minds" (as Alex Fitzsimmons of Fueling U.S. Forward put it) of minority communities was on display in Richmond, Virginia, last December, when the group threw a gospel concert that included pro-fossil fuel propaganda and a surprise award payment of four attendees' electric bills.

As the New York Times described:

Though few in the crowd knew it, the concert had a powerful sponsor: Fueling U.S. Forward, a public relations group for fossil fuels funded by Koch Industries, the oil and petrochemicals conglomerate led by the ultraconservative billionaire brothers David H. and Charles G. Koch. About halfway through the event, the music gave way to a panel discussion on how the holidays were made possible by energy—cheap energy, like oil and gas.

The concert flier was adorned with a red car bearing Christmas gifts. "Thankful for the fuels and innovation that make modern life possible," it read.

At the time, commenting on the event and the campaign to the New York Times, Eddie Bautista, executive director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, called it "an exploitative, sad and borderline racist strategy."

Many local environmental advocates from minority communities felt the same. Last week, the region's congressional representative, A. Donald McEachin, hosted an environmental justice roundtable at a Baptist church in Petersburg, Virginia, a suburb of Richmond with a strong majority of residents that are people of color.

As reported in the Progress-Index, a daily newspaper from Petersburg, Virginia, a manager of the Virginia Conservation Network—a diverse group of conservation organizations that among other issues supports clean energy—said that the roundtable with Rep. McEachin was an effort "to push back against the Koch brothers."

Conservation organizer Mariah Davis, also with the Virginia Conservation Network, described the Fueling U.S. Forward event as "a distasteful effort by Koch to sway low-income communities away from clean energy."

According to the Progress-Index, Rep. McEachin himself, speaking of the Fueling U.S. Forward concert, "equated the group's payment of citizens' electric bills with the '30 pieces of silver' Judas took to betray Jesus."

As Fueling U.S. Forward works to purchase the hearts and minds of minority communities with electric bill payments and college scholarships, the campaign promotes oil and gas as necessary and cheap sources of energy. Not factored into their definition of "cheap," however, are the multitude of public health and environmental costs that are inflicted upon the lower-income communities the campaign is targeting.

Reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmogBlog.

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Trump's Top Energy Aid: Former Koch Lobbyist, Peddled Climate Denial for Decades

By Steve Horn

Mike Catanzaro, President Trump's recently minted top energy aide, has officially begun his first week on the job at the White House. He was hired to move policy measures through federal energy and environmental agencies in a synergistic way.

A long-time oil and gas industry lobbyist who has spent his career passing in and out of the government-industry revolving door, Catanzaro actually got his start as a writer. Working for the conservative newspapers Human Events and Evans-Novak Political Report, Catanzaro's views on climate change—and climate denial—were on full display in articles published during his formative years as an up-and-coming conservative star.

DeSmog has reviewed articles found in the Human Events archives, no longer found on the publication's website and they shed new light on Catanzaro and his views as Trump's right-hand man on climate, energy and environmental policy.

Catanzaro's articles, obtained through the University of Wisconsin Libraries System, purport that mainstream U.S. environmental groups are driven by Marxist ideology and that global warming is a "liberal concept" (as opposed to a scientific reality). They also reveal him writing puff pieces on organizations such as the climate change-denying Heartland Institute and individuals such as prominent climate denier Fred Singer.

Alarmism

In March 2001, Catanzaro wrote an article titled Energy Secretary May Be Barrier to Sound Energy Policy about then-President George W. Bush's U.S. Treasury Secretary, Paul O'Neill, which covered O'Neill's views on what he referred to as "global warming" (in scare quotes). Catanzaro found O'Neill's posture on climate problematic, as O'Neill wanted the Bush administration's policy to be "grounded in science."

Human Events; University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries

Citing O'Neill's "alarmism," Catanzaro wrote that there is a "lack of consensus on whether global warming is occurring or what its impact on climate and weather might be." Yet that same year, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its more than 1,000 page assessment, assembled and reviewed by hundreds of scientists, cataloging evidence for exactly such a scientific consensus that humans are changing the climate and some of the resulting impacts.

"Natural and human systems are expected to be exposed to climatic variations such as changes in the average, range and variability of temperature and precipitation, as well as the frequency and severity of weather events," wrote the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. "Systems also would be exposed to indirect effects from climate change such as sea level rise, soil moisture changes, changes in land and water condition, changes in the frequency of fire and pest infestation and changes in the distribution of infectious disease vectors and hosts."

Good Things Usually Happen

In a 1997 profile of the Heartland Institute, one of the pioneering nodes of the climate change denial and anti-environmental machine, Catanzaro described the free-market think tank as a place where "good things usually happen."

"The most important subject the institute is dealing with right now is environmentalism," he wrote. "Of particular interest … is global warming and Heartland has been ahead of the curve in unraveling some of the confusions and obfuscations spewed by left-wing environmentalists on that very issue."

Though funded by wealthy donors and corporations including ExxonMobil, Catanzaro wrote that "Heartland remains a testament to the power and influence of the grassroots."

Catanzaro would, later in his career, become a lobbyist for Koch Industries and other companies such as Noble Energy, Devon Energy, Encana Oil and Gas, American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers and Hess Corporation. The Koch network has led the way in funding climate denial in recent years and has used "astroturf" techniques or seemingly grassroots movements which are in reality fronts for corporate interests.

Blame Yellowstone

In January 1998, Catanzaro penned an article about naturally occurring greenhouse gas emissions emanating from Yellowstone National Park's geysers. Pointing to a study published in December 1997, his piece was titled, If the World is Warming, Blame Old Faithful.

Human Events, University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries

The study he cited said that Yellowstone's geothermal features emit 4.4 million tons of carbon dioxide per year, the equivalent of about 10 medium-sized coal-fired power plants. Even with coal-fired power plants in decline in the U.S. today, there are still 363 plants open for business and located in the U.S., according to U.S. Energy Information Administration data. That would be the greenhouse gas equivalent of 36 Yellowstones, according to the study cited by Catanzaro.

Fracking

Study Links Childhood Leukemia With Living Near Oil and Gas Development

By Mike Gaworecki

With the rise of new technologies like fracking and horizontal drilling, oil and gas development in the U.S. has exploded over the last 15 years. As development expands, it's also pushing ever closer into areas where people live. It's been estimated that today more than 15 million Americans live within one mile of oil and gas development.

The drilling process, of course, has the potential to emit toxic substances, including the carcinogen benzene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and diesel exhaust, into the surrounding air and waterways. But researchers have long been trying to determine to what extent oil and gas drilling operations may threaten public health, particularly around cancer risk.

However, new research suggests that children living in areas of high-density oil and gas development may face increased risk of health impacts, namely a certain type of leukemia, as a result of their exposure to pollutants associated with this activity.

In some parts of Colorado where oil and gas development is especially concentrated, hundreds of oil and gas wells reportedly lie within one mile of residential areas. And according to a recent study, children and young adults who were diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia were 4.3 times more likely to live within 10 miles of an active oil and gas well than kids with other types of cancer.

This finding, published in the scientific journal PLOS One, applied to youth between 5 and 24 years old. The study did not find a connection between other types of cancer, such as non-Hodgkin lymphoma and proximity to oil and gas wells.

"Over 378,000 Coloradans and millions of Americans currently live within a mile of at least one oil and gas well and petroleum development continues to expand into residential areas," Dr. Lisa McKenzie, professor with the Colorado School of Public Health at the University of Colorado Anschutz and the lead author of the study, said in a statement.

"The findings from our registry-based case control study indicate that young Coloradans diagnosed with one type of childhood leukemia are more likely to live in the densest areas of oil and gas sites. More comprehensive research that can address our study's limitations is needed to understand and explain these results."

While oil and gas development can and does happen in urban areas (see: Los Angeles), McKenzie's team limited their research to Colorado's small towns and rural areas with populations under 50,000 people. They used data collected by the Colorado Central Cancer Registry to find more than 740 young Coloradans under 24 years old who were diagnosed with cancer between 2001 and 2013.

In order to analyze these children's proximity to oil and gas development at diagnosis, the researchers then employed information from the Colorado Oil and Gas Information System to determine both the coordinates of all oil and gas wells in rural Colorado and timing when each well was active.

The study team notes in the PLOS One paper that environmental factors such as pollution from oil and gas wells are unlikely to fully explain incidence of cancer on their own, but that they are a significant influence:

A number of factors, including genetic predisposition and susceptibility, as well as environmental factors, come together in the development of childhood cancers through a two step process, the first of which likely occurs in utero. Environmental factors that may be associated with [acute lymphocytic leukemia] include in-utero and postnatal exposures to vehicle exhaust fumes, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and chemicals including benzene and other hydrocarbons.

McKenzie and her co-authors called for more research to confirm their findings, recommending that those studies take into account nuances such the type and level of oil and gas development and production, the amounts of benzene and other pollutants and pollutant levels at locations such as schools and childcare facilities.

But a key takeaway of the study seems to be that fracking and horizontal drilling have enabled oil and gas development to encroach more and more into places where people live (something the city of Greeley, Colorado, is grappling with firsthand) and as the researchers noted, "This has the potential to expose a large population to oil and gas development related pollutants."

Reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmogBlog.

These 4 Koch-Funded Congressmen Are Behind the Bill to Abolish the EPA

By Alex Kotch

Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz turned heads when he introduced a bill on Feb. 3 to "completely abolish" the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

"Today, the American people are drowning in rules and regulations promulgated by unelected bureaucrats," Gaetz told fellow GOP lawmakers in an email reported by the Huffington Post "and the Environmental Protection Agency has become an extraordinary offender."

Rep. Gaetz's bill came the day after a Senate committee voted in favor of confirming Scott Pruitt, the fossil fuel-friendly attorney general of Oklahoma who has sued the EPA 14 times, to head the agency.

And like Pruitt, Rep. Gaetz and his three fellow sponsors of H.R. 861 have all benefited from campaign donations from oil, gas and coal companies and large electric utilities.

The four GOP representatives have raked in campaign cash from some of the biggest corporations peddling fossil fuels, including Koch Industries, Duke Energy, Chevron and ExxonMobil. What's more, an independent political spending group funded by an oil and gas company stepped in with ad buys to aid in Gaetz's recent U.S. House race.

Over their careers, these legislators appear to have responded in kind, pushing legislation favored by the industries reliant on fossil fuels. Here's who they are, how much they've received from the industry and what they've been up to in recent years.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL)

Since 2010, Gaetz's political campaigns have received $28,000 directly from fossil fuel companies and energy utilities, according to data compiled by the National Institute on Money in State Politics. These donors include the corporate PACs of utilities including Duke Energy, Gulf Power, NextEra Energy, Progress Energy, Southern Company and Teco Energy; oil and gas companies Chevron, Exxon and Koch Industries; and individual donors including the CEO of Gulf Power and the CEO of Global Industries and Dore Energy.

In 2016, as Gaetz ran for his first term in Congress, a super PAC supporting him received a $100,000 donation from Harness Oil and Gas, a Texas-based company reportedly run by family friends. This super PAC, North Florida Neighbors, spent more than $460,000, the bulk of its total expenditures during that election cycle, supporting Gaetz.

As a Florida state legislator, Gaetz successfully fought the requirement that gas sold in the state contain a minimum percentage of ethanol, something he called "a feel-good attempt to use alternative energy."

Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY)

Massie, a U.S. representative since 2012, was first elected with the backing of the Tea Party group FreedomWorks, which heavily opposes environmental regulations and regularly questions whether humans are affecting the climate.

In his three congressional campaigns, Massie took in nearly $155,000 from companies working in various parts of the oil, gas and coal industries, including Alpha Natural Resources, Chevron, Duke Energy, Exxon, Halliburton and Koch Industries, as well as from CSX Corporation, a transportation company that operates trains carrying coal, oil, natural gas and frac sand, an essential material used in shale drilling.

From his position in Congress, Massie has attacked and attempted to weaken the EPA repeatedly. He co-sponsored a 2016 bill to shift how the EPA analyzes greenhouse gas emissions in favor of fossil fuel companies—a bill lobbied for by Marathon Petroleum (which has given him $20,000) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (which raises doubt about human-caused climate change). Before that, he co-sponsored a 2015 resolution weakening an EPA rule under the Clean Air Act and a 2014 bill lowering EPA ambient air quality standards.

The Liberty for All Super PAC, funded mostly by the young, Texas-based millionaire investor John Ramsey, spent nearly $630,000 backing Massie for Congress in 2012. Unsurprisingly, Ramsey has "oil and gas ventures," according to his biography on the super PAC's website.

Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA)

Loudermilk's state and federal campaigns have received more than $60,000 from fossil fuel companies and trade associations, including Duke Energy, Exxon, Georgia Mining Association, Georgia Power, Koch Industries and Valero Energy.

In Congress, Loudermilk has co-sponsored several energy-related bills: a nuclear energy bill for which Duke Energy and Southern Company lobbied; a repeal of the U.S. crude oil export ban, which numerous fossil fuel companies, including BP, Chevron, Exxon, Marathon Oil and ConocoPhillips, lobbied in support of; and a bill challenging EPA greenhouse gas regulations, another piece of legislation oil and gas companies and utilities favored.

Both Loudermilk and Massie sit on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology—which has jurisdiction over the EPA, the Department of Energy and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)—and its subcommittee on oversight, key positions that would naturally attract the attention of fossil fuel companies.

Loudermilk's 2015 financial disclosure statement reveals that he received state funding to attend and speak at a "conservative policy summit" hosted by the climate change-denying Heritage Foundation, which has reportedly received $780,000 from ExxonMobil and nearly $6 million from Koch family foundations. Another speaker at the conference was Myron Ebell, the notorious climate change denier who led Trump's EPA transition team. Ebell crafted Trump's plan to hobble the EPA.

As a Georgia state senator, Loudermilk was on the communications and technology task force of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative bill mill that unites state legislators and big business representatives. ALEC has a history of producing templates for anti-environmental legislation involving climate change denial, promoting gas pipelines and attacking residential solar energy. In addition, ALEC is funded by many of the same fossil fuel corporations that donated to the campaigns of Loudermilk and his fellow legislators hoping to abolish the EPA: Chevron, CSX, Dominion, Duke Energy, Exxon and Koch Industries, to name a few.

Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS)

PACs and employees of companies in the energy and natural resources sector have given more than $265,000 to Palazzo's four federal election campaigns, which includes $168,000 from oil and gas companies. The fourth-largest donor is Mississippi Power, an electric utility owned by Southern Company that burns coal and natural gas and has given Palazzo's campaigns more than $34,000. Palazzo has also taken in $24,000 from Chevron, nearly $20,000 from Koch Industries and $19,000 from General Electric.

In 2015 Palazzo voted to oppose an EPA rule that increased emissions standards for coal-fired power plants and the year prior, he voted to halt defense spending on climate change initiatives and cut all funding for the Department of Energy's energy efficiency and renewable energy program. In previous years, Palazzo voted to speed up natural gas pipeline permits, allow state laws to supersede federal EPA laws regarding hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") and cut funding to the EPA, among other measures.

While serving as Mississippi state representative, Palazzo was also a member of ALEC.

Rep. Gaetz's office declined to offer comment, while the other three representatives did not respond to requests for comment.

While their bill to kill the EPA has been receiving little support from either political party and is unlikely to pass, its mere existence marks the extent to which fossil fuel funding has the potential to influence elected officials. This bill joins an effort already underway among the GOP-controlled House, Senate and White House to roll back regulations to protect the environment and public health.

Congressional observers likely can expect to see more of the same from these four representatives in the future.

Reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmogBlog.

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