Mother Jones Magazine has uncovered a new twist in the fight against the Keystone XL pipeline. As it turns out the authors who drafted the environmental review of the Keystone XL pipeline worked for TransCanada, Koch Industries, Shell Oil, and other oil corporations that stand to benefit from building the Keystone XL. Not only did the State Department know about these conflicts of interest, they redacted this information from public filings in attempt to conceal the truth.
For background, the Keystone XL is a proposed oil pipeline that would ship sour crude oil from the Canadian tar sands to the Gulf coast of Texas. The oil would then be refined and shipped abroad.
In order to build the pipeline, Transcanada, the company who proposed Keystone XL, must get the OK from the State Department. The State Department bases its decision on whether or not to approve the pipeline on an environmental review, conducted by a third party group overseen by the State Department and paid for by Transcanada.
This review, called the "draft supplemental environmental impact statement" was released earlier this month. It has been widely criticized as downplaying the impact that building Keystone XL will have on the climate, and all but paving the way for approval for the project.
The review was conducted by a company called Environmental Resources Management (ERM). When ERM released its review of Keystone, it also released a 55 page filing claiming that there was no conflicts of interest in writing the report. However, the State Department redacted information from this filing, including the biographies of key experts involved in writing the report.
According to Mother Jones, those redactions were meant to keep ties between the report authors and Transanada a secret from the public. Here is what the State Department was covering up:
- ERM's second-in-command on the Keystone report, Andrew Bielakowski, had worked on three previous pipeline projects for TransCanada over seven years as an outside consultant. He also consulted on projects for ExxonMobil, BP, and ConocoPhillips, three of the Big Five oil companies that could benefit from the Keystone XL project and increased extraction of heavy crude oil taken from the Canadian tar sands.
- Another ERM employee who contributed to State's Keystone report—and whose prior work history was also redacted—previously worked for Shell Oil;
- A third worked as a consultant for Koch Gateway Pipeline Company, a subsidiary of Koch Industries. Shell and Koch* have a significant financial interest in the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. ERM itself has worked for Chevron, which has invested in Canadian tar sands extraction, according to its website.
However, this is not the first time that the State Department has been criticized for conflicts of interests involving TransCanada and Keystone XL.
From Mother Jones:
In October 2011, Obama's reelection campaign hired Broderick Johnson, who had previously lobbied in favor of Keystone, as a senior adviser. Emails obtained by Friends of the Earth, an environmental group that opposes the Keystone pipeline, revealed a cozy relationship between TransCanada lobbyist Paul Elliott and Marja Verloop, an official at the US Embassy in Canada whose portfolio covers the Keystone project. Before he lobbied for TransCanada, Elliott worked as deputy campaign manager on Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential bid. Clinton served as secretary of state until recently.
The question is, how can the State Department get away with routinely ignoring or burying connections between the oil industry and regulators responsible for Keystone XL?
This means that Congressman Stewart now has dominion over the EPA, climate change research, and "all activities related to climate." According to the House Science Committees website (of which Stewart's subcommitee is a part), the chair of the Environment subcommittee oversees:
"all matters relating to environmental research; Environmental Protection Agency research and development; environmental standards; climate change research and development; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, including all activities related to weather, weather services, climate, the atmosphere, marine fisheries, and oceanic research;…"
Unfortunately for the EPA, NOAA, and anyone worried about climate change, Chris Stewart is a climate science denier. Mr. Stewart believes there is "insufficient science" to determine if climate change is caused by humans. He believes this in spite of the fact that the EPA, NOAA, and all experts in the field (which he now oversees), disagrees with him.
For the record, Chris Stewart has no advanced degrees in science. However, before running for congress he was owner and CEO of Shipley Group, a company that trains government workers on environmental issues. Shipley Group actually runs a training on climate change science, and according to the Shipley Group website "Upon completion of the workshop, participants will be able to understand basic climate change science." Clearly Mr. Stewart has never taken his company's training.
Ties to Fossil Fuels
Though Stewart seems to ignore climate change science (while his company profits by teaching it), he does not ignore the fossil fuel industry. In fact he is quite sympathetic to the plight of oil and gas companies. His campaign website claims:
"I am the CEO of a company that works extensively with independent energy producers. I understand how difficult it is to get a drilling permit on federal lands. It is painfully slow, incoherently arbitrary, and always expensive."
Stewart's "extensive" knowledge of the fossil fuel industry is not a surprise. His brother, Tim Stewart is a lobbyist for American Capitol Group, a washington DC lobbying firm. American capitol Group lobbies for fossil Fuel interests, like the Western Energy Alliance, a group mainly comprised of fracking and oil companies. Tim Stewart also lobbied for EnergyNorthAmerica, a company he cofounded to lobby for the Fossil Fuel Industry. One EnergyNorthAmerica slide presentation reads:
"The fact that fossil energy and mining are viewed by political "elites" with disfavor, a view driven by acolytes of radical environmentalism, has resulted in damaging laws and regulation and general neglect"
Unsurprisingly, the fossil fuel industry does not ignore Chris Stewart either. One of Stewart's books (which were published and praised by Glenn Beck), is recommended reading at Koch Industries. Stewart received the maximum possible campaign contribution from ExxonMobil and Koch Industries during his last campaign. He also received considerable support from several Koch and Exxon funded SuperPACs. All told, he received more funding from dirty energy companies and their superPACs than any other single source.
See Chris Stewart's PolluterWatch profile for more information.
Chris Stewart, head of congressional commitee on climate change, confronted about his climate science denial
Representative Chris Stewart (R-UT) is the chair of the subcommittee on the environment, the congressional group in charge of the EPA, climate change research, and “all activities related to climate.” It is therefore extremely troubling that Stewart denies the basic findings of climate science. Stewart has said that he is “not convinced” that climate change is a threat, despite the fact that the EPA, NOAA, and all of the climate science and scientists that he now oversees, disagree with him. In fact 98% of actual climate scientists disagree with his views on climate science.
At a recent town hall meeting, a group of activists confronted Stewart on his ill-informed views on climate science. The activists, working with the group Forecast the Facts, presented Stewart with a 17,000 signature petition demanding “the Chairman of the Science Committee's Subcommittee on Environment stop using his seat to promote climate denialism.” They also held up banners reading “Believe It Or Not Climate Change Is Not Going Away,” “97% of Say Climate Change is Human Caused. We Trust Them,” and “Stewart Denies While Utah Burns."
The group of activists included high school student Sara Ma. "Many people think climate change is a future problem for my generation to solve later, but it’s not. The data shows that it is here, it's happening and it has a cost," said Ma, a 17-year-old senior at West High School. Utahns are particularly upset by Stewart’s ignorance on climate issues due to the record wildfire season they endured last year. Wildfires did over $50 million dollars in damage to Utah in 2012.
Stewart's climate denial is made more suspicious by his close ties to carbon polluting industries. His brother and campaign manager, Tim Stewart, is a Washington, DC lobbyist for fossil fuel corporations. In addition, he has received more campaign donations from oil and gas companies than any other single source.
See more pictures from the confrontation with climate science denier Chris Stewart
This is a guest blog from Jane Bright of Healthlink, a local environmental health citizens group in Salem, Massachusetts. Crossposted from Greenpeace Blogs.
Have you seen Romney’s 50 page “Climate Protection Plan”? No? Well there’s a reason for that: He doesn’t have one and he is hiding from the issue on the campaign trail. Romney mocked climate change at the Republican National Convention in August and his campaign website reads:
“Mitt Romney will eliminate the regulations promulgated in pursuit of the Obama administration’s costly and ineffective anti-carbon agenda.”
So Romney’s only current "climate plan” is to attack the Obama EPA and its efforts to cut global warming pollution from power plants and other sources. Just eight years ago, in 2004, Romney was so concerned about climate change that he implemented a comprehensive “Massachusetts Climate Protection Plan”.
Then-Governor Romney summarized the issue as effectively as any statement I’ve read, evoking stewardship, science and risk.
“The world’s dramatically shifting weather patterns are in part attributable to the often-heedless development patterns of the past. Our houses, schools, shops, industry, cars and transit vehicles all consume energy and generate emissions, which too often have taken a disturbing cumulative toll on our fragile and finite natural resources.”
What the heck happened? He was threatened by the hard right. Rush Limbaugh and others said he was 'unelectable' if he was a climate change believer. In fact, after Romney addressed global warming as a reality in 2011, Rush said "bye bye nomination."
For people in Massachusetts and other states this is serious. Superstorms like Hurricane Sandy, sea-level rise and other climate impacts have great consequences for the state.
For me, this is very personal. My picture and story were included in the state published report that launched the Massachusetts Climate Protection Plan.
During Romney’s governorship, I was recognized by the state for my volunteer work to reduce air pollution in Massachusetts battling a coal fired power plant in Salem. Our effort supported an aggressive statewide commitment to address climate change and was part of a successful regional multi-state program using financial incentives to help power plants cut carbon emissions, a strong model for national climate protection strategies during the Bush years.
As soon as Romney decided to run for president, even while he was still Governor, he stopped supporting carbon pollution reductions and started ridiculing climate change as an issue. Climate Romesia?
Those of us who have watched him over the decades don’t know who he is or what he stands for anymore. He clearly is not the 2004 version of Mitt Romney.
I suspect Michelle Obama is right: “The presidency doesn’t change who you are, it reveals who you are.”
What would a Romney presidency reveal? No one, probably including Romney, knows where he would stand on too many issues critical to the American economy, our environment and our safety. Those of us in Massachusetts concerned about the environment are shaking our heads. We only hope the rest of the nation is paying attention, too.
Jane Bright is on the board of HealthLink, a grassroots citizen group dedicated to improving health by reducing or eliminating toxins and pollutants from our environment through research, education and community action. She partnered with Governor Romney’s administration to toughen emissions regulations in Massachusetts.
At a campaign event today in Etna, Ohio, Governor Romney was asked, "Do you still think the rising of the seas is funny?" Romney responded, "I never imagined such a thing is funny," despite using rising sea levels as a punchline in his speech to the Republican National Convention.
Woman: "Do you still think the rising of the seas is funny?"
Romney: "I never imagined such a thing is funny."
Man: "Is climate change still a joke to you?"
Romney: "As a matter of fact, if you'd like to - I know you're filming - if you'd like to see my view on global warming, I wrote a book, and there's a chapter on global warming and you'll see what I think we can do to deal with it."
Man: "What are you going to do to address global warming?"
This confrontation marks the fifth time in two days that Governor Romney has been questioned about climate change. On Thursday, a protester interrupted Romney during a speech in Virginia Beach, shouting "Romney! What about climate? That’s what caused this monster storm! Climate change!" Also yesterday, student activists asked Romney about his plan to address climate change at three different campaign stops, in Roanoke, Doswell, and Virginia Beach, VA. Romney dodged the question each time, referring the voters to his book.
Despite Governor Romney and President Obama's reluctance to address climate change during the presidential campaign, Hurricane Sandy and Mayor Michael Bloomberg's endorsement of President Obama has renewed attention to the impacts of climate change on the United States, and the candidates' plans to address the crisis.
In addition to a warming atmosphere and oceans that are loading storms with more energy and rainfall, global warming is raising sea levels and increasing the damage from storm surge and coastal flooding. A US Geological Survey report found that sea levels are rising three to four times faster on the Atlantic Coast than globally, putting several major US cities at greater risk.
With the election at hand, Greenpeace has been particularly concerned about the lack of action to address global warming from President Barack Obama as well as his challenger, Governor Mitt Romney. Both candidates have been asked for months to break the climate silence, yet we have heard very little from either candidate even after hurricane Sandy, the "Frankenstorm," wrought havoc on the U.S. east coast (see pictures).
If you missed the first two times Mitt Romney was asked on camera about how he plans to address the global crisis of climate change now that superstorm Sandy has, check out the video in our previous blog. Asked three times about global warming, Governor Romney seems to have deferred to the instructions of his campaign managers and public relations advisers: tell 'em to read your book!
Beyond dodging questions from attendees at his recent campaign events, governor Mitt Romney also bit his tongue during a speech in Virginia Beach yesterday, when a protester holding a "End Climate Silence" banner for CNN's camera's interrupted Romney's speech, asking "Romney! What about climate? That’s what caused this monster storm! Climate change!" That video is available here:
Check out this interactive graph of how both candidates positions and actions have been notably inconsistent on solutions to climate change, or even its scientific basis.
Today, President Obama received the coveted endorsement of New York City’s Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, and the Mayor highlighted climate change as a big reason why Mitt Romney should not get his endorsement.
Let’s be clear though. It took a Superstorm Sandy to force an endorsement of Obama for another term. As Mayor Bloomberg noted, both candidates have run administrations implementing policies to reduce pollution. What damns a Romney endorsement is not Obama’s fantastic record but the fossil industry-crazed climate denialism that has come to rule the Republic platform and Romney’s overt positions.
The climate policy record of Obama’s first term is dismal if you consider the scale of the problem. In the context of international negotiations, other governments have asked the Obama government to describe emissions reduction policies as a percentage of the country’s pollution, but the Obama negotiators have no number to provide. The only policies implemented in the last four years to make a significant dent economy-wide are the new car standards, which, optimistically, reduce pollution by a few percent.
If we are going to have any hope of avoiding runaway climate change, developed countries must cut about a third of greenhouse gas emissions in less than a decade.
The US federal government should be leading at home, and advocating strongly that other countries do the same. Far from being a climate leader, the Obama administration has dragged its feet on all fronts. We have no limits yet on current stationary sources of pollution, such as coal-fired power plants. We have no limits on climate pollution from aviation, which Obama has been fighting internationally. We have no limits on climate pollution from agriculture. And Obama’s team in the international climate talks has continuously attempted to stall and confuse the negotiations. The President has ceded political debate on climate to Fox News and friends, which has made climate politics in America even more backward.
There is little doubt that President Obama wants to deal with climate change, but so far that has not translated into him making it a priority for the country. Quite the contrary, the President has gone out of his way to please the fossil fuel industry. This pandering has been painfully obvious in the recent presidential campaigns, but the Obama administration has also been a fossil friend of substance.
The Department of Interior has energetically scaled up fire sales of publicly-owned coal. This coal is sold under the auspices of satisfying domestic demand, although it is often to foreign buyers who fully intend to export. The climate doesn’t know the difference. Despite one of the worst human-caused environmental disasters ever, the BP blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, the Obama administration opened up new areas to dangerous ultra-deepwater drilling on the outercontinental shelf and signed an historic agreement with Mexico to drill the deepest wells ever even further offshore. The administration hasn’t ruled out the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, and continues to move forward with drilling in the fragile Arctic Ocean. Leaving unanswered a letter from 68 organizations calling on Obama to stop fracking in the absence of regulations and adequate knowledge of impacts, the administration seems intent to both allow fracking on public lands and to possibly approve exports of high carbon-footprint fracked gas.
In effect, the Obama administration is actively increasing supply of carbon polluting sources of energy, while dillydallying on policies and advocacy to reduce carbon pollution.
Mayor Bloomberg also criticized both candidates for failing to cite the “hard decisions” they would take to get the economy back on track. We should be asking the same regarding runaway climate disruption. The problem with endorsing Obama for his overt position on climate is that just as many, if not more, of his hard decisions have benefited climate polluters.
Written by David Pomerantz, crossposted from Greenpeace blogs.
Meet Hurricane Sandy, brought to you by global warming.
That's a tough message to swallow right now. It means that the devastating scenes we are seeing from the Northeast are not a freak coincidence, but a reflection of our new reality on a hotter, less stable planet, and a reality that will get much worse if we don't do something about it.
Fortunately there are things we can do, both to better prepare ourselves for more extreme weather events like Sandy, and to slow down the global warming at their root.
But whatever we do won't matter until our politicians start getting honest about the problem.
“There has been a series of extreme weather incidents. That is not a political statement. That is a factual statement. Anyone who says there’s not a dramatic change in weather patterns, I think is denying reality ... I said to the president kiddingly the other day we have a 100-year flood every two years now."
Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm sees the obvious too:
“There’s a clear link to climate change. And, yet, for the first time in over a quarter century, climate change was not brought up even once at the presidential debates.”
President Clinton may have drawn the sharpest, clearest connection so far, in a critique of Gov. Romney earlier today:
Clinton gets the facts slightly wrong in his scathing take-down of Gov. Romney (he made his "rising seas" joke at the RNC, not in a debate) but his point stands that Romney's campaign has completely ignored the looming thread of climate change, and even flirted with denying it. Perhaps even worse than Romney's joke that Clinton mentioned - one that is likely to become infamous in the post-Sandy world - is the fact that Romney's budget proposal would cut FEMA funding by 40 %. That's not exactly a smart resilience policy for a hotter planet with more extreme weather events.
Despite President Clinton's praise, President Obama has also been mostly silent on the climate discussion for some time. While Obama has made strides on clean energy in his presidency, he has run a campaign almost entirely devoid of any mentions of climate change, instead trying to out-embrace Gov. Romney for who could better endear himself to the fossil fuel industry responsible for the problem in the first place.
It may feel funny to talk about politicians right now, but if we are serious about steeling ourselves for the next disaster and slowing down the global warming that's putting these hurricanes on steroids, then part of picking up the pieces means finding out which politicians we can trust to be honest about what's exacerbating these disasters.
That starts with the next president. Pres. Obama and Gov. Romney will likely both be talking about Sandy this week: it's a good chance for them to show they'll be one of the politicians who gets it.
Aerial views of damage caused by Hurricane Sandy along the New Jersey coast on October 30, 2012.
Written by Cassady Sharp, crossposted from Greenpeace blogs.
Climate change is now changing the weather. All weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be . The past few years have been marked by unusually severe extreme weather characteristic of climate change .
Hurricane Sandy grew to record size as it headed north eastwards along the US coast. Less than 48 hours before it was due to make landfall Sandy's tropical storm-force winds extended north eastwards 520 miles from the centre. Since records of storm size began in 1988, only one tropical storm or hurricane has been larger--Tropical Storm Olga of 2001  . New York and New Jersey suffer the brunt of the damage and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has certainly noticed the pattern in his state giving the below statement in press conference today.
"There has been a series of extreme weather incidents. That is not a political statement. That is a factual statement. Anyone who says there’s not a dramatic change in weather patterns, I think is denying reality."
September 2012 saw the second highest global ocean temperatures on record. During the same month, ocean temperatures off the mid-Atlantic coast were 1.3°C above average. These unusually warm ocean temperatures have carried on into October, enabling Sandy to pull more energy from the ocean than a typical October hurricane.
Hurricane Sandy could have been just some coincidental freak storm. A rare occurrence with impacts few infrastructures are prepared to handle. The same coincidence that caused the East Coast derecho this summer or the simultaneous Midwest drought. But aren't coincidences and freak storms supposed to be rare?
2012 has been packed with extreme weather, and the aftermath of these events has been devastating not only to individuals, but to the operation of our country. Although mum's been the word on climate change during this year's election overshadowed by a debate on which candidate is a better friend to coal, the issue is now at the feet of President Obama and Governor Romney. The latest reports claim Hurricane Sandy caused 16 U.S. deaths, 7 million without power and $10 billion in damages. That could make Hurricane Sandy the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history. What would Hurricane Sandy be beating out for that prestigious title? Hurricane Katrina whose devastation was so grave, it nearly led to the condemning of one of America's greatest cities.
The global scientific consensus makes it clear that the burning of fossil fuels is driving climate change and its impacts. It is up to our leaders in government and business to protect us from this growing threat.
President Obama and Mitt Romney must articulate the scale of the global warming problem to the American public, and offer real plans to not only enhance US preparedness for extreme weather caused by climate change, but also to dramatically reduce the fossil-fuel emissions that are driving the worst effects of catastrophic climate change.
American citizens are paying for climate change when they're left to clean up the mess after extreme weather events such as Hurricane Sandy. President Obama and Governor Romney have indicated a willingness to address taxpayer subsidies to the fossil fuel companies that are driving climate change. Both candidates should commit to prioritizing an end to these subsidies in the first days of their administration.
And we can all take part in an energy revolution.