Eyes on the Ties’ Friday Fossil Fuel Runoff – October 20, 2017

Vol. 1, No. 3

Welcome to Eyes on the Ties’ Friday Fossil Fuel Runoff! This weekly series highlights the power relationships behind recent developments in the oil and gas industry. We include links to the week’s stories in oil and gas news with important context from LittleSis, including power maps made by the LittleSis community of researchers and original research by the Public Accountability Initiative. If you have any feedback or tips, or would like to subscribe to an email version of these posts, please send us an email at [email protected]!

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Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate owns Dominion stock, has not opposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Activists opposing the Atlantic Coast Pipeline have criticized Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam for his investments in companies with business before the state, including Dominion Energy, which is seeking to build a 600-mile pipeline.

From the Virginian-Pilot:

In early 2013, [Northam] reported owning between $10,000 and $50,000 of stock in Dominion Energy, Virginia’s largest utility and the top corporate donor to local campaigns.

Later that year, Northam voted on eight Senate bills Dominion lobbied on. As lieutenant governor in 2015, he praised legislation that suspended audits of Dominion by state regulators, a measure denounced by consumer advocates but touted on Wall Street as a boon to shareholders.

PAI has reported extensively on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. See our “Power Behind the Pipelines” report, which details Dominion’s influence in Virginia state politics, and our continuing coverage at Eyes on the Ties.

Op-ed shows how industry-tied science is deployed by industry-paid mouthpieces to make the case for fracking

Last week, the Midland Reporter-Telegram published a column by Steve Everley, a managing director at the lobbying and public affairs firm FTI Consulting, which operates a number of astro-turf messaging groups on behalf of the oil and gas industry, including Energy in Depth and Texans for Natural Gas.

Everley deceptively cited a number of academic studies to make the claim that fracking is safe for water by highlighting findings that groundwater was not contaminated while ignoring findings that found fracking operations polluted water at the surface level.

One report that Everley called “a landmark study” was not peer reviewed and was funded by the family foundation of George Mitchell, the “father of fracking” who sold his oil company to Devon Energy for $3.1 billion in 2001.

PAI has been following the industry strategy of funding and misrepresenting academic writing since 2012. Our guide to the phenomenon, which we have called “frackademia” can be found here.

Porter Ranch residents exposed to Aliso Canyon gas leak have uranium, lithium and other chemicals in their bodies, health study shows

From the Los Angeles Daily News:

High levels of uranium, lithium and a synthetic chemical used to make plastics were present in the urine and hair samples of residents who live near the site of the massive 2015 Aliso Canyon natural gas leak, according to results released Saturday by a local physician.

The long-awaited, independent health study by Dr. Jeffrey Nordella, who practiced in Porter Ranch, showed a pattern of symptoms from patients he followed and tested just after the leak was capped in February 2016 and then months later, up until this year.

The Aliso Canyon facility is owned by Sempra Energy, where Kathleen Brown, the sister of California Jerry Brown is a director and has been paid more than $1 million in compensation. Read our report “Jerry Brown’s Ties to the Oil and Gas Industry” for the full story.

Producing oil in California is nearly as polluting as Canadian tar sands

Speaking of California, a new report from Yale Environment 360 finds that oil drilling in the state is nearly as polluting as tar sands mining in western Canada:

The California Air Resources Board does include emissions from steam generation in evaluating oils for its low-carbon fuel standard, and regulators hold oil-field steam generators to stringent standards for traditional pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides and sulfur. But language governing greenhouse gas emissions from transportation fuels, which might have sparked innovation in the oil industry, was written out of a 2015 bill that set higher renewable energy standards for the state’s electric utilities.

Trump hires former ALEC environmental head to Department of Interior

DeSmog’s Steve Horn reports on the industry ties of climate change denier Alex Wynn, President Trump’s new Director of Intergovernmental and External affairs at the Department of Interior, which regulates fossil fuel production on public lands:

Wynn worked at ALEC from 2011 to 2013 and then became Director of External Affairs for Edison Electric Institute (EEI), a trade association representing electric utility companies nationwide. Prior to his position at ALEC, Wynn served as Vice President of the Cascade Policy Institute, a part of the State Policy Network (SPN), a national chain of state-level conservative and corporate-funded think-tanks which was started as an ALEC offshoot.

ALEC’s critics have described the organization, a national consortium of mostly Republican Party state legislators and corporate lobbyists, as a “corporate bill mill.” That’s because its lobbyist members convene several times a year with legislators to produce what it calls “model bills” which have ended up as actual legislation thousands of times since the organization’s founding in 1973.

Louisiana rig explosion, pipe rupture spill

In Louisiana, an oil rig owned by Clovelly Oil Company exploded on October 14 and an offshore pipeline owned LLOG Exploration Company ruptured, according to EcoWatch.

The rig explosion injured seven workers and the Coast Guard has suspended its search for one who remains missing. The pipeline spill has leaked an estimated 672,000 gallons so far, double what the company originally reported.

Community activists in Louisiana are currently appealing to the state to force an environmental review of Energy Transfer Partners’ Bayou Bridge Pipeline, which is proposed to impact 454 acres of wetlands along the Gulf Coast.

That’s all for this week! Remember, if you want to receive an email version of this newsletter or have any tips for us, send us an email at [email protected]!