Eyes on the Ties’ Friday Fossil Fuel Runoff – November 3, 2017

Vol 1. No. 5 – November 3, 2017

Welcome to the Friday Fossil Fuel Runoff, a weekly series from Eyes on the Ties highlighting the networks of power behind the week’s energy news. Here you’ll find oil and gas reporting from around the web with important context from the Public Accountability Initiative, including original research and power maps created by PAI and the LittleSis research community! 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 info@public-accountability.org!

REGULATORY CAPTURE: EPA director Pruitt moves to stack Science Advisory Board with oil and gas personnel

On Tuesday, EPA director Scott Pruitt announced a plan to remove several scientists from the Environmental Protection Agency Science Advisory Board, replacing them with staff from fossil companies and industry lobbying groups – like Southern Company, Phillips 66, Total, and the American Chemistry Council – and with representatives from environmental agencies from states traditionally friendly to the energy industry – like Kentucky and Texas.

Energy & Environment News released a leaked list of new appointees on Monday night.

MORE CAPTURE: Trump environmental quality nominee made money from oil leases and energy industry speaking fees

DeSmog’s Itai Vardi reports:

According to her financial disclosure, [Council on Environmental Quality nominee Kathleen Hartnett White] received fees for speaking at the 2015 International Association of Drilling Contractor’s conference, the Energy Conference Network’s Internet of Things in the Oil & Gas Industry conference in 2016, and earlier this year at the 4C Health, Safety & Environmental conference, which brings together compliance professionals from oil and gas, petrochemicals, and other industries.

Hartnett White also enjoyed income from an interest in four oil leases — two in Texas and two in Kansas. These rigs were operated by Central Crude, Linn Operating, CHS Operating, and CVR Refining. Hartnett White indicated in her disclosure that she recently gifted these interests to her nephew.

Residents near gas storage site tied to California Governor Jerry Brown have elevated levels of dangerous chemicals

Capital and Main published an interview with a family practice physician in Porter Ranch, California, close to the site of an enormous 2015 natural gas leak that caused thousands to be evacuated. What he has to say about the health of local residents is alarming.

Why won’t Jerry Brown shut down the Aliso Canyon gas facility, as so many are demanding? The answer might lie in our recent post, “Governor Jerry Brown’s million dollar conflict of interest at Aliso Canyon

See map at LittleSis.org.

Meanwhile, poor Californians are also being poisoned by the oil and gas industry

While the Aliso Canyon community is a relatively wealthy enclave, polluting fossil fuel facilities are most often sited near poor communities and communities of color. Jim Morris of the Center for Public Integrity reported this week on low-income communities in Southern California facing pollution from oil refineries:

Los Angeles’ Wilmington neighborhood, a nine-square-mile enclave of Latino immigrants just inland from the ports, gets the worst of it. Its 54,000 residents, many seeking refuge from steep housing prices, breathe some of the foulest air and suffer some of the highest rates of asthma in California. The 92,000 people in neighboring Carson — like Wilmington, working-class and heavily minority – fare no better.

Now, amid the Los Angeles area’s worst smog season in at least 13 years, come new aggravations and anxieties. Andeavor — formerly Tesoro Corp. — plans to merge its Wilmington and Carson refineries into the biggest crude-processing complex on the West Coast.

Pennsylvania stops construction on troubled Energy Transfer Partners pipeline

Late last week, the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission issued an order halting construction on the Mariner East 2 pipeline, being built by Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind several controversial pipeline projects, including Dakota Access.

The construction of Mariner East 2 has been harried by opposition and environmental problems. Water pollution by drilling mud spills caused the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to stop construction on a different segment of the pipeline this week.

Hugh MacMillan of Food and Water Watch mapped the money behind Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics Partners – which have now merged – last year during the fight over Dakota Access.


New report shows how Dark Money and astroturf fossil fuel groups are attacking solar energy

As the New York Times reported in July, big utilities and fossil fuel companies are at war with the spread of solar panels. A report this week from the Environment America Research & Policy Center shows how groups like the Edison Electric Institute, ALEC, the Koch brothers, and the Consumer Energy Alliance are systematically fighting solar energy, which cuts into their fossil fuel profits.

Read the report here.

Exxon refinery catches fire day after government settles over pollution from other Gulf plants

From DeSmog’s Julie Dermansky:

The blaze, though contained before the sun came up, is a reminder to the surrounding community of yet another danger of living next to refineries and chemical plants…Exxon’s refinery is located along the stretch of Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans known as “Cancer Alley” due to the high number of chemical plants and refineries — and illnesses possibly connected to emissions — along the river’s banks.

New report shows why tar sands pipelines are bad choices for investors

From Greenpeace & Oil Change International:

“Our report outlines the financial and reputational risks related to all three proposed tar sands pipelines including legal challenges, opposition from Indigenous and local communities, threats to drinking water and economic vulnerability. We make a number of recommendations for potential pipeline financiers and we suggest questions for bank investors to ask to understand whether the various risks are being adequately assessed, mitigated, and managed.”

Read the full report here.

This coastal town banned tar sands and sparked a war with the oil industry

Read this gripping story from Inside Climate News about how one town – South Portland, Maine – has tried to fight back against tar sands oil.


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 info@public-accountability.org!