INFOGRAPHIC: The Koch Bros, Getting Richer While the World Burns

Authored by David Halperin of Republic Report & designed by Wake Coulter


The Maine Players Attacking Renewable Energy: The Koch Brothers

In a new report, the Maine Conservation Alliance asks: are we debating renewable energy, or the Koch brothers’ profits?”

Maine RPS StudyMaine’s renewable energy standards have been the prime target of the Koch Machine – front groups, think tanks, and legislators with financial ties to Koch Industries and its two billionaire owners: the Koch brothers.

The Renewable Portfolio Standard, which requires utilities to provide 30% of their energy through renewable sources, has led to $2 billion in investment and over 2500 local jobs. It has proven to be great for Maine’s economy – but it threatens the profit margins of fossil fuel companies like Koch Industries, which pumps 300 million tons of carbon into the atmosphere every year.

To dismantle the RPS, the Koch brothers have been extending influence through a legislative front group – the American Legislative Executive Council (ALEC). ALEC has contributed over $750,000 to political action committees, candidates, and parties in Maine. Senator Mike Thibodeau, one of the anti-RPS bill’s co-sponsors, has received over $15,000 from ALEC-affiliated organizations.

It is the civic duty of Mainers to decide for themselves what is best for the state’s environment and economy, not an out-of-state corporate interest. The Maine Conservation Alliance affirms that the economy is not for sale.

Fracking New York with Another Conflict of Interest: Ecology and Environment’s Frackonomics

A major player in New York’s fracking debate has been exposed as a member of one of the largest oil and gas lobby groups in New York. Ecology and Environment Inc. was hired as an “independent consultant” by the Cuomo Administration to assess the economic impacts of fracking in New York.


On Earth Day 2013, a letter revealed Ecology and Environment to be a member of the Independent Oil and Gas Association, a pro-fracking lobbying group. This conflict of interest calls into question the integrity of the economic assessment completed for the state in 2011.

The Cuomo Administration hired Ecology and Environment Inc. to perform an economic analysis as part of the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS). According to the Democrat and Chronicle, “The DEC at the time said it had not done enough to study the economic impacts of fracking and said it had decided to engage ‘independent consultants to thoroughly research these types of effects.’”

As it turns out, Ecology and Environment Inc. was anything but “independent.” The company’s 2011 assessment raised eyebrows due to its surprisingly sunny economic outlook for fracking. Anti-fracking groups criticized the results because the assessment didn’t include local economic costs on roads or hospitals. DEC commissioner Joe Martens responded, saying he would ask Ecology and Environment to expand the study – but that work was never publicly completed

IOGA Executive Director Brad Gill wrote in the letter to Cuomo, “The public can be assured that exploration for natural gas in New York is—and has been—safe, good for our environment and for our economy. Our New ‘New’ York must now join the nation and embrace the expansion of responsible natural gas development. We need your help.”

At the time the SGEIS was released, many were concerned that Ecology and Environment’s ties to the energy industry might have influenced their assessment. Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said “This is not an objective analysis done in the public interest. They went to someone with whom they have a work relationship and that also does work for energy interests.”

This letter proves the worries were not unfounded.

As a member of an active pro-fracking lobby organization, Ecology and Environment does not have an objective view towards fracking and should never have been hired to contribute to the SGEIS.

New Yorkers Against Fracking is calling for Governor Cuomo to throw out the SGEIS, due to this and other conflicts of interest. They are asking for a “new, truly independent study that regains the public’s trust and ensures science and facts drive your decision.”

Getty Images / Kris Radder

Getty Images / Kris Radder

Keystone XL Environmental Impact Consultant’s Cozy Relationships with Fossil Fuel Interests

ERMFossilRelationshipsBlogEnvironmental Resources Management (ERM), the consulting firm hired to perform the supplemental environmental analysis of the Keystone XL pipeline works for and has worked for fossil fuel companies with a stake in the Canadian Tar Sands. Mother Jones’ Andy Kroll exposed the conflicts of interest in an exclusive story, which included unredacted documents that show the recent work history of ERM’s consultants.

It’s no surprise that ERM painted a rosy picture of Keystone XL’s environmental impact. Their business depends on it. ERM’s major clients in the fossil fuel industry would steer clear of an environmental consulting company that determines fossil fuel projects are not environmentally responsible. ERM claimed in the report that the Keystone
XL pipeline would not lead to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions or significantly impact the environment along its route.

Last week, Steve Horn from DeSmogBlog documented major problems with another pipeline (the 1,300 mile-long Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan (BTC)) determined by an ERM environmental assessment to be “environmentally and socio-economically sound.” Horn wrote, “An Aug. 2008 Wikileaks cable discusses a BTC explosion in a mountainous area of eastern Turkey …which spewed 70,000 barrels of oil into the surrounding area.” The BTC
pipeline caused enormous environmental damage and failed to live up to the jobs hype created by the project developers, which included BP, State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR), Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Eni and Total.

Horn goes on to quote Mik Minio-Paluello, co-author of The Oil Road – a new book documenting the slew of destructive impacts of BTC saying, “Supposedly an environmental consultancy, in practice ERM operated more like aPR firm representing BP and now they’re fulfilling a similar role for TransCanada.”

So why does ERM operate more like a PR firm than an environmental consultancy?

Let’s say ERM provided a review claiming a fossil fuel project was skirting safety precautions or moving too quickly to ensure quality seals on the pipeline (see Keystone XL’s faulty welding here). Would a fossil fuel company, whose financial interest is building more fossil fuel infrastructure, want to hire a consultant that results in delays and increased costs for developing that infrastructure?

Checks & Balances Project contacted ERM’s Global Head of Communications Simon Garcia multiple times over the past week without any response.  We requested comment on the following question: Has ERM ever determined that a proposed fossil fuel project was not “environmentally sound” in an assessment?

The answer is probably “no.”



Colorado oil production up nearly 50 percent since 2010

According to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) oil production exceeded 48 million barrels in 2012, a 49 percent increase over 2010 levels.

The 2012 oil production levels are the highest since 1961 and are in increase of 24 percent over 2011 levels.


According to COGCC gas production reached its highest level since 1952.


Another Friday News Dump: State Department Paves Way for Keystone XL Approval

State Department releases Keystone XL environmental impact statement, ignores reality of climate change impacts

This afternoon, the State Department released its Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) on the controversial Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline, claiming that the pipeline will “not likely result in significant adverse environmental effects.” The SEIS paves the way for President Obama’s approval of the pipeline despite widespread concern over the climate impacts of tar sands oil.
The State Department assessment does acknowledge that excavation of the Canadian tar sands oil would result in 17% more climate change emissions than the average barrel of heavy crude oil. But the report continues to say that the KXL pipeline would have no adverse impact on climate change because if the pipeline were not approved, companies would ship tar sands oil via railroad.

In reality, the Keystone XL pipeline is a “fundamental element in the oil industry’s plan to triple production of tar sands oil from 2 million barrels per day (bpd) to 6 million bpd by 2030” (and eventually to 9 million bpd), according to a whitepaper (PDF) from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The NRDC whitepaper quotes Andrew Potter, a Managing Director at CIBC World Markets, an investment banking subsidiary of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, as saying “Even if you build every single pipe that’s on the table right now… you’re still short pipeline capacity…For the growth to continue, all the proposed export pipeline capacity and more will need to be built, and soon.”

With other options for transporting tar sands oil facing significant opposition, Keystone XL is the path for tar sands industry growth. The Obama Administration just released a report that positions the President to greenlight the project. So as the President goes to make his decision in the coming weeks, let’s hope he remembers his lofty words from his inaugural address: “We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.”

For more breaking news on the Keystone XL decision, see DeSmogBlog’s live blog here.

Wall Street rings in the New Year for oil speculators

Matt Garrington

Wall Street started 2012 by ringing in the New Year for oil and gas speculators.  On Tuesday, Ralph Hill, the CEO of WPX Energy Inc., rang the opening bell for the first day of trading on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).

The evidence of speculation’s effect on the price at the pump has piled up over the last couple of years. In 2011 especially, as gas prices hit near-record highs in the first half of the year, analysts and financial reporters explained how price increases had less to do with supply and demand than Wall Street trading.

Commissioner Bart Chilton of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission endorsed this view in a speech to the High Frequency Trading World in Amsterdam.  Chilton told a room full of traders, “Researchers at Oxford, Princeton, and many other private researchers say that speculators have had an impact on prices—oil prices and food prices most notably.”

Even Goldman Sach acknowledged the impact of speculation on energy prices. In a little-publicized study conducted issued last year, the investment world’s flagship firm estimated oil prices to be $20 higher per barrel as a result of speculation.

When you consider the effect this speculation has had on the checkbooks of American families, it’s telling that the NYSE still chose an oil and gas CEO to open the new year. It can be viewed as an admission that speculators understand the role they’ve played in energy costs, and are looking forward to another banner year.

Unfortunately, that prosperity won’t be passed down to American consumers. After all, in just the first three quarters of 2011 oil and gas companies reported over $101 billion in profits. They passed cost of speculation directly on to the consumer, even though many of those companies were engaged in speculation themselves.

Meanwhile, Big Oil executives and the politicians they support fought tooth and nail to protect the billions in government handouts oil companies receive every year. For the record, many of those same politicians were far less vocal in protecting the 2 percent payroll tax cut that House Republicans held hostage at the end of the year.

If you’re looking for an explanation for their actions, you need look no further than Ralph Hill, the CEO who opened the NYSE. Before WPX Energy split off from Williams, Hill was that company’s President of Exploration and Production. During his time there, Hill gave thousands of dollars to the company’s political action committee.

That PAC turned around and funded the election campaigns of many of the politicians who over the past year have protected corporate welfare to oil companies, especially some of the key players on the House Natural Resources Committee.

No wonder these same Congressmen voted time and time again to protect special tax breaks on oil and gas subsidies, and we still don’t have legislation cracking down on oil speculators.

Wall Street continues to prove it is politically tone deaf by bringing in the very example of the 1 percent to kick-off the New Year – an oil and gas CEO whose company gets bigger profits when America’s working families are forced to pay more at the pump.

3 Security Concerns with the Keystone XL Pipeline

As protesters continue to urge the Obama administration to stop the construction of a 1,600-mile crude oil pipeline, national security issues should be considered.

Canada is often considered the United States’ most peaceful and friendly ally. Our neighbors to the north are held in such high acclaim that many have used national security concerns to support the proposed construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. However an examination of the pipeline plan reveals three serious national security issues.

1-The Keystone XL as a terrorist target

Photo: MATEUS_27:24&25 / flickr

It’s hard to think of a larger target for our enemies to take aim at than a 1,661-mile pipeline measuring 36-inches thick and filled with flammable crude oil. To put this in perspective, consider that the entire length of the border between the United States and Mexico spans 1,989 miles. To guard the border, the United States government spends the money to arm, train, support and employ more than 20,000 border patrol agents. Whether this government program is able to effectively prevent illegal immigrants and contraband from coming into the United States has been hotly contested for decades.

The Keystone, which is just 300-miles shorter than the border, will travel through or near several of the United States’ major population centers. New Orleans, Houston, Oklahoma City and Lincoln, Nebraska all have populations of more than a million and are near the proposed pipeline. These population centers, along with Austin, Texas, Topeka, Kansas, Cushing Oklahoma and those living in North and South Dakota, would each be vulnerable to attacks if the wrong people decided to mess with enormous pipeline.

In 2005 Gal Luft, the Executive Director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security (IAGS) proclaimed that pipeline sabotage is becoming a “weapon of choice” for terrorists. Luft explained that the ease and large impact of messing with pipelines was behind attacks in India, Turkey and Colombia. The threat of terrorist attacks on pipelines has become so strong that Luft has said there are clear economic implications for consumers. Whether perpetuated for political or criminal reasons, assaults on oil infrastructure have added a “fear premium” of roughly $10 per barrel of oil.

2-The Keystone makes the United States no less dependent on foreign oil

Image: Oil Change International

Proponents of the Keystone XL have argued that the pipeline will make the United States less dependent on oil that comes from unfriendly parts of the world. While this claim is designed to resonate with those concerned about our foreign relations, the facts are that the Keystone XL will not lessen U.S. dependence on foreign oil, but instead transport Canadian oil in American refineries for export to overseas markets.

As reported this week, the Keystone XL is an export pipeline. “The Port Arthur, Texas, refiners at the end of its route is focused on expanding exports to Europe, and Latin America. Much of the fuel refined from the pipeline’s heavy crude oil will never reach U.S. drivers’ tanks.” Furthermore, information obtained from the U.S. Energy Information Administration and the Canadian National Energy Board points out that Valero, the customer for crude from the Keystone XL has developed a strategy to refine the Canadian crude in the United States and export it to foreign markets without paying taxes in the U.S. “Because Valero’s Port Arthur refinery is in a Foreign Trade Zone, the company can carry out its strategy tax-free.”

3-The Keystone XL is a threat to water and food security

Image: Human Resource Development Group

Beyond the concerns protecting the Keystone XL from terrorists and allowing it to pump oil to countries friendly to them, there are fundamental concerns about what could happen to our domestic security if the Keystone XL is developed.

The Keystone XL pipeline will travel directly over the Ogallala Aquifer, which has been vital to the United States’ as well as global food supplies since the 1950’s. Scientific America has already said serious damage to the aquifer would damage “one fifth of the total annual U.S. agricultural harvest.” Losing the Ogallala, according to that investigation would mean that, “more than $20 billion worth of food and fiber will vanish from the world’s markets.”

This damage is not something that is out of the realm of possibility. Heavy taping of the Ogallala has lead many to say the supply is already threatened.  Moreover, the fact that the giant water supply to America’s breadbasket is remarkably shallow (anywhere between zero and 400 feet according to the USGS) means the level of exposure to a crude leak is only heightened.

Pipeline leaks have become more abundant in the United States in recent years. Before the well-documented failure of an Exxon pipeline in Montana sent tens of thousands of gallons of crude into the Yellowstone River this summer the U.S. had already been seeing a steady dose of pipeline issues. Between January 2010 and February 2011, there were nine major pipeline explosions that resulted in 18 deaths, 13 injuries and 85 destroyed homes in the United States. One of those accidents included the spilling of 800,000 gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River. If a similar accident, or a series of them were to compromise the Ogallala the damage would be catastrophic according to a report in the Telegraph. “If it does, the impact on the world’s food supply will be far greater. The irrigated Plains grow 20 per cent of American grain and corn (maize), and America’s ‘industrial’ agriculture dominates international markets. A collapse of those markets would lead to starvation in Africa and anywhere else where a meal depends on cheap American exports.”

These are the facts that make the Keystone XL expansion proposal a national security issue. In a world where oil and food markets are global and the threats to keeping these markets free come in many forms the Keystone XL expansion provides a lot to consider.


Our weekly update to unravel the industry and political spin around the energy debate



While Americans are suffering from pain at the pump, Halliburton reported last week that its first quarter revenue set a company record at $5.3 billion, which is up from $3.8 billion in the first quarter of 2010. First quarter profits were up 148 percent from $206 million in 2010 to $511 million in 2011.

Halliburton cited increased U.S. onshore drilling activity as the reason for its success, with Chairman Dave Lesar stating, “North America delivered strong performance as margins progressed due to increased activity while Eastern Hemisphere operating income was significantly impacted by geopolitical events in North Africa, delays in Iraq, and typical seasonality.”


A Chesapeake Energy Corp. well blowout occurred in Northern Pennsylvania Tuesday, spilling up to tens of thousands of gallons of toxic, chemical-laden fluid onto area residential land and contaminating a tributary of the Susquehanna River. The incident may be the most serious fracking accident in the history of the commonwealth’s Marcellus Shale development. DeSmogBlog has the story.


Last week, Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Director David Neslin testified before a Senate committee looking into hydraulic fracturing’s less than spotless track record on safety. Contrary to his testimony, where he asserted that groundwater contamination from fracking has never occurred, Neslin told The Checks and Balances Project immediately following the hearing that oil and gas production in Colorado had indeed led to contamination. Most drilling is fracking, so to say fracking does not cause groundwater contamination is disingenuous at best. Watch how Neslin and industry representatives use rhetorical tactics to excuse corporate responsibility for toxic fracking fluid casing leaks and pit overflows.


Headwater Economics on Tuesday released a report analyzing the relative success of states and communities to maximize energy development’s benefits and minimize its costs. The report concludes with a series of policy recommendations for communities trying to achieve that goal. In five Rocky Mountain, energy-producing states – Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming – Headwater Economics discovered that common sense standards and protections did not hamper energy production. Price was the ultimate factor in determining whether energy development occurs. Read the full report.


Checks and Balances Deputy Director Matt Garrington asks that question in his guest-commentary piece for Sunday’s Denver Post. Give it a read and let us know what you think.


In New York State last year, the oil and gas industry spent $1.6 million on lobbying to fight common sense protections from oil & gas fracking impacts, up from $400,000 in 2008.



The Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management will host public hearings in three Western states – Colorado, Utah and Wyoming – beginning today to gather input from residents and experts as they review the federal oil shale leasing program. Find out more about the hearings.

Now that gas prices are hovering around $4 per gallon, risky schemes like oil shale are back in the national debate. Oil shale is pure science fiction, as companies have failed to produce commercial oil from oil shale despite a hundred years of experimentation.

Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA), Subcommittee Chairman Lamborn (R-CO), Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO) and Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) have all been throwing about this fantastic tale. Compare what politicians are saying to those in the oil and gas industry, who believe viable oil shale is a decade out or more.

Furthermore, oil shale today is being conflated with shale gas and shale oil, giving the false impression that oil shale is ready for prime time. This has led to inaccurate rhetoric, and it has the potential to mislead investors, policymakers and other Americans interested in real energy solutions.

Compare what politicians are saying to those in the oil and gas industry, who believe viable oil shale is a decade out or more: Oil Shale Quotes – Congress v Industry


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Maybe the Big Bird will set Big Oil Free

Re-posted from

There’s been much ado over Rep. Lamborn’s push to “set Big Bird” free by cutting federal tax dollars to NPR. Just yesterday, the Colorado

Springs Independent reported that a group of local citizens are asking him to pledge to set Big Oil free of the billions of subsidies they get which drive up our federal deficit and oil and gas speculation in the Rockies and elsewhere.

Congressman Doug Lamborn hates the idea of big government spending constituents’ hard-earned tax dollars on socialisms so much that he introduced a (probably unconstitutional) bill into the U.S. House that would shut off the geyser of dollar bills to the “left-leaning” National Public Radio. […]

So on Monday, a group of Lamborn’s tax-strapped constituents are gonna see if he’ll put an end to another wasteful, socialist giveaway of their hard-earned dollars: the huge subsidies to not-exactly-struggling oil companies.

Will he sign the pledge?