August 16, 2014 Leave a comment
The Columbus Dispatch | Your Right to Know: Public records, open meetings and free-speech issues: Group says Kasich evading records request, by: Randy Ludlow – August 13, 2014 11:34 AM
Holding government officials, lobbyists and corporate management accountable to the public
August 16, 2014 Leave a comment
The Columbus Dispatch | Your Right to Know: Public records, open meetings and free-speech issues: Group says Kasich evading records request, by: Randy Ludlow – August 13, 2014 11:34 AM
August 2, 2014 Leave a comment
(This is cross-posted from my guest editorial for the Toledo Blade on 7/20/14.)
BY SCOTT PETERSON
Gov. John Kasich has signed a measure that freezes Ohio’s popular renewable-energy standards. Although the freeze attracted most of the attention, the new law also calls for a two-year study of the standards’ impact on the state.
While the General Assembly conducts this review, the process that led Governor Kasich to suspend the standards deserves scrutiny as well. That’s why I have filed a request for information about communications Mr. Kasich and his senior staff may have had with fossil-fuel interests before he decided to repeal clean-energy expansion in Ohio.
My organization, a government watchdog group called the Checks and Balances Project, seeks documentation of written and email communications from the governor and his staff to representatives of Koch Industries Inc., and the lobbying organizations they are known to support financially, as well as communications between the governor’s office and Ohio’s investor-owned utilities.
We made this request in light of a recent $12,155 donation — the maximum contribution allowed by Ohio campaign finance law — by David Koch to Governor Kasich’s 2014 re-election campaign. We’re also curious about the significant donations the governor has received from Ohio utilities, such as FirstEnergy.
Ohioans deserve to know why Mr. Kasich signed Senate Bill 310 even though it could cost Ohio consumers $1.1 billion, could put 25,000 Ohio jobs at risk, and was overwhelmingly opposed by Ohioans, a significant number of major businesses, and the state’s leading newspapers. The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, a nonpartisan agency, concluded that the state’s renewables policy would save consumers tens of millions of dollars.
This would not be the first time that the fossil-fuel industry and the Kasich administration have been closely intertwined. In 2012, a records request revealed that the Ohio Department of Natural Resources worked with fossil-fuel industry players, including Halliburton and the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, to promote hydraulic fracturing in state parks.
Ohio DNR is charged with ensuring that companies operate in a safe and responsible manner. Instead, under Governor Kasich, it performed public-relations services for fracking companies on Ohio taxpayers’ dime.
Ohioans deserve an honest accounting of what freezing the clean-energy and energy-efficiency standards will mean to the state. But this may be difficult, given Mr. Kasich’s ties to the fossil-fuel industry and utilities that have a vested interest in repeal of the standards. An open and transparent process would ensure all parties a say in how the legislative review committee measures the benefits of the state’s renewable-energy policy.
Governor Kasich is frequently mentioned as a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2016. David Koch and his brother Charles are well-known power brokers in the GOP.
They have spent hundreds of millions of dollars contributing to election campaigns and creating a network of shadowy advocacy groups that work to undercut clean energy and protect the fossil-fuel industry that has provided their wealth. I would hate to think that Governor Kasich is applying for his next job in part by putting at risk the jobs of thousands of Ohioans.
Our records request is an opportunity for Mr. Kasich to explain not just to Ohio voters, but also to folks around the country, how he makes decisions that affect the lives and jobs of his constituents. Unfortunately, Ohio law does not specify a time limit for responding to requests such as ours.
But I hope that the significant public concern created by the enactment of the renewable-energy standards freeze will encourage the Kasich administration to respond promptly. If Governor Kasich and the General Assembly think that Ohio needs to review its policy on renewable energy, Ohioans deserve a review of why politicians are threatening that successful policy.
Scott Peterson is executive director of the Checks and Balances Project, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that examines how government officials, lobbyists, and corporate executives affect energy and environmental policy.
June 6, 2013 Leave a comment
One of the oil industry’s best friends in Congress imploded a standard GOP/industry talking point yesterday when, in the face of Sec. Sally Jewell’s facts, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) admitted that oil production is up on public lands. Watch the exchange!
# # #
Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell showed up at today’s Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing loaded for bear, and she bagged an Alaskan grizzly.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski started her time by regurgitating often-repeated – and totally flawed – oil and gas industry talking points about oil and gas production on public lands. Sec. Jewell fired back, using actual statistics to point out the truth: onshore oil production on federal lands is at its highest level in more than a decade.
And when Sen. Murkowski, a true politician, tried to change the topic to offshore production, her colleague Sen. Al Franken, and Deputy Secretary of Interior David Hays pointed out that offshore numbers had (appropriately) dipped in the wake of BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf – but that offshore oil production, and offshore drilling and exploratory activity are now back at pre-spill levels and growing.
Unable to dispute cold, hard facts, Sen. Murkowski was forced to acknowledge the truth. And her admission that oil production is up on federal lands demonstrates the need for a more balanced approach between energy development and conservation.
With onshore oil production at its highest level in 10 years, the Obama Administration should adopt an equal ground policy – conserving an acre of land for every acre they lease, consistent with the balanced approach achieved by Presidents such as Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush.
Sec. Jewell pointed out in her testimony that in 2011, recreational visits contributed an estimated $49 billion in economic benefits to local communities. Balancing appropriate energy production with protecting our treasured lands also attracts high-wage businesses and entrepreneurs to Western states – strengthening our economy for future generations.
As oil- and gas-funded politicians in the House and Senate get ready for yet another summer of pushing the same failed giveaways to oil and gas companies they’ve tried before, they’re going to have to deal with the same facts that stopped Sen. Murkowski in her tracks today. It’s tough to lose a top talking point.
A few other facts from Sec. Jewell’s testimony:
TRANSCRIPT OF THE EXCHANGE
Sen. Murkowski, opening statement: “A related concern is the rate of falling production on federal lands. It’s true that our nation is in the midst of an historic oil and gas boom, but it’s also true that production on federal lands is in trouble. Contrary to some of the statements of the rhetoric we’ve heard, oil production from the federal estate actually fell 5% last year after falling by even more than that in 2011. Natural gas production from the same federal areas meanwhile is in virtual free fall, down 8% last year and down 23% since 2009. The fact of the matter is that America’s energy boom is happening in spite of federal policies that stymie our production. We should be opening new lands to development, making sure the permits are approved on time, and preventing regulation and litigation from locking down our lands, and if anyone’s looking for a place to start, I’ll invite you to look to Alaska.”
Sec. Sally Jewel, responding in her testimony and opening statement said: “I want to start with energy, energy onshore. Onshore oil production on federal lands is actually at its highest level in over a decade, the amount of producing acreage continues to increase and I’m very happy, Ranking Member Murkowski, to provide you with some statistics that are a little different than the comments that you just referenced in terms of oil production. I have looked at the leasing reforms that the BLM have put in place, they changed them in 2010. They’ve actually had the lowest number of protests on lease sales in ten years, so we are making progress there, and I know the team is working hard on the time for permitting approval of new projects. That will be facilitated by automation. Sequestration has impacted that a bit but we’re still committed to getting that done….and now there are more deepwater rigs operating in the Gulf of Mexico than there were prior to the deepwater horizon spill.”
Sen. Murkowski, following Wyden’s first round of questions: “but I did just want to put a statement on the record, that, you had noted in your opening statement that oil production from federal onshore lands is at its highest level in over a decade, you had noted that perhaps our commentaries differed, I had noted that oil production from the federal estate actually fell 5% and the reference there, and I think it is important to just give some of the numbers here very briefly because I think it can be confusing. Federal onshore production was at 89.5 million barrels back in 2003, its gone up to 108.7 million in 2012, so you do have a substantial increase there, but it’s not the full picture, and that was my point. Because on federal offshore production we’ve seen that fall from 532.7 million barrels in ’03, to 438.6 million barrels in 2012, so what we’ve got is federal onshore production which rose by about 20 million barrels, and federal offshore production fell by 100 million barrels, more than five times the onshore increase. So I think that it’s important that when we’re talking about this we look at the full picture so if your numbers are different than mine, I’d be happy to share them.”
Sen. Franken, rebuttal: “Can I ask, did the moratorium after the BP oil spill… isn’t that really what caused that dip? I mean, (with laughter) we had a huge thing happen, and so there was a moratorium after that. Is that ok if I ask that of Mr. Hays?”
Deputy Sec. Hays: “Yes, Senator. It is true that oil production in the Gulf did decline because of the safety issues that arose and the need to upgrade our safety standards. The good news is that EIA recently reported a very strong upward trend now, in the Gulf. The Secretary mentioned a major discovery, there have been ten major new discoveries. There are now more than fifty rigs drilling in the offshore, lease sales are very strong that we’ve had and are having in the central Gulf and the western Gulf, so we expect to be back to where we were and further, but there certainly was a time that we did a pause, and increase the safety standard and change the way we did business and that did effect we believe temporarily in the offshore.
Sen. Franken: “I just wanted to clarify that.”
April 5, 2013 Leave a comment
The oil industry is once again trying to re-write history. Kathleen Sgamma, spokesperson for industry mouthpiece Western Energy Alliance, claimed in a news story that more lands were put under protection than drilled, during President George W. Bush’s Administration.
A quick review of the amount of lands leased for drilling compared to the amount of lands permanently protected under President George W. Bush’s Administration shows that Sgamma’s claim is false. The Bush administration opened roughly 29 million acres, an area the size of Ohio, to the oil and gas industry for lease. On the other hand, the administration only permanently protected 746,373 acres from drilling.
Kathleen – If you do the math, that means nearly 39 times more land was opened to oil and gas drilling than was protected, during the protected by the Bush (43) Administration. Even if you add in land protected by Congress during this time, his administration still opened up 7.5 times more land to oil and gas drilling than it protected.
March 18, 2013 Leave a comment
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.
March 6, 2013 Leave a comment
Price and geology have incentivized oil and gas companies to drill on nonfederal lands in recent years. Yet this fact hasn’t stopped industry group Western Energy Alliance (WEA) and Congressmen Ed Whitfield (R-KY.), who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power, from mischaracterizing a recent Congressional Research Service (CRS) report on fuel production.
“Once again, House Republicans are spinning tall tales about oil and gas production. Technology, geology and price are the big drivers that determine where and how much industry drills. The industry is following the oil and no amount of rhetoric changes that fact.” said the Checks and Balances Project’s Ellynne Bannon.
Key facts from the recent CRS report that refute claims made by House Republicans and Western Energy Alliance:
October 18, 2012 Leave a comment
Note: This post is a write up of a poll done by Latino Decisions
Colorado has become one of the most contested states in 2012, and Michael Bennet’s 2010 Senate win came by less than 30,000 votes. Latino voters – at an estimated 12% of the electorate – have become one of the most crucial voting blocs. Today, Latino Decisions releases new poll results on behalf of Nuestro Rio regarding Latino voter attitudes towards environmental issues, including potential oil shale development, and protection of rivers and drinking water.
Potential oil shale development is a contentious issue in Colorado. Oil shale is not oil, but a rock containing kerogen which can be melted to 700 degrees over months or years to produce oil. No commercial oil shale operations currently exist in the United States. Little-to-no research has probed Latino voters’ attitudes on this complex issue. Advocates of oil shale have argued it represents an opportunity to develop domestic oil and create jobs. Opponents have countered that it is creates pollution and could damage the environment, including the Colorado River. But where do Latino voters stand on this issue? Polls have shown that job-creation is a top issue of concern among Latinos. However, the results released today suggest that for Colorado Latinos, protecting the environment is also an issue of significant concern. When it comes to evaluating candidates, by a 3-1 margin, Latino voters say they prefer a candidate who will ensure environmental protections before oil shale production moves forward.
According to Nita Gonzalez, Nuestro Rio Coordinator for Colorado, “The health of the Colorado River depends on a smart approach to the conflict between energy and water demands. In our poll, we found that by an overwhelming majority – 70 percent to 17 percent – Colorado Latino’s favor a smart approach to oil shale that ensures the protection of western water.”
To get to this complex issue, and present both sides of the debate, Latino Decisions asked Latino voters in Colorado the following question: For 100 years in western states, oil companies have attempted to melt a rock known as oil shale into oil by superheating it to 700 degrees or more over a period of months or even years. Oil companies say this process will help lead us to energy independence and create jobs. Critics say oil shale mining could require enormous amounts of electricity and billions of gallons of water, create toxic pollution, and put western waters such as the Colorado River at serious risk. The federal government is considering a plan for oil shale development which would require companies to prove the economic viability of oil shale and that it can be produced in a way that will not harm water and air resources in Colorado and other states.
Do you favor or oppose a plan that would require oil companies to complete successful research of oil shale technologies and know its viability and potential impacts to western water prior to commercial development on public lands?
Next, respondents were asked to evaluate two candidates who had competing views on the need for oil shale regulations, and then pick which candidate they would support. Let’s say there are two candidates running for office, and one candidate supported a proposal to require oil companies to prove that oil shale is feasible and won’t harm western water before commercially occurs on public lands — and the other candidate said oil companies should be able to get started developing oil shale right away to create jobs and energy. Which candidate are you more likely to support?
“Not only do Latinos agree in principle that we should put some safe guards on oil shale, but are Latinos have told us they are more likely to support a candidate that favors protection of our water versus a candidate that supports a headlong rush into oil shale speculation by an incredible margin of 40 percent,” added Nita Gonzalez.
While there are many important issues in 2012 including jobs and the economy, immigration reform, health care and education, this new polling shows that Latino voters in Colorado also care deeply about protecting the environment. Even when told that some argue oil shale production could create jobs, a strong majority of Latino voters opted for more government regulations to ensure the environment is protected.
When asked how important the protection of rivers, mountains and air in Colorado was an election issue, given all the various important issues on the agenda this year a sizable share of Latino voters, 39% said it was one of the most important issues, and an additional 38% rated environmental protection as “fairly important.” Only 2% of respondents said it was “not at all important” as an election issue this year.
Finally, Latino voters believe in candidates who will improve the economy and also ensure the protection of natural resources in Colorado. We presented respondents with the following proposition: Let’s say one of the candidates had a plan to improve the economy that you supported, and on the issue of energy and oil the candidate said, quote: “in the West, we know how important water is. We must protect our waters like the Colorado river. If an oil company wants to pursue oil shale, it’s just common sense to have them do their homework first, know the feasibility of oil shale, and prove they won’t ruin our beautiful rivers and streams here in Colorado” end quote. Would that statement make you more likely to support the candidate, less likely to support the candidate, or would you not care what they said about energy and oil if you agreed with their plan for the economy?
Poll Details: A total of 400 Latino registered voters in Colorado were interviewed September 29-October 4, 2012 by Latino Decisions for Nuestro Rio. Interviews were conducted in English or Spanish, at the preference of the respondent, all conducted by bilingual interviewers at Latino Decisions calling center, Pacific Market Research. The survey has an overall margin of error of 4.9% on results that approach a 50/50 distribution. All respondents confirm that they are Hispanic or Latino and currently registered to vote.
July 25, 2012 Leave a comment
The following is a letter from 11 groups calling on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to “Let the science and the facts make the determination, not emotion and not politics” regarding his decision on fracking. The only way to be sure that Gov. Cuomo is not making a decision based on politics, is for him to sign the following pledge:
I, Governor Andrew Cuomo, pledge to accept no money from the gas industry for any political race I undertake in the next 10 years. This pledge includes a re-election run for my current office as governor and any presidential run I might make.
I will also order New York state universities to turn away gas industry money of any kind so that any “studies” produced to promote fracking as safe or benign will not have the taint of pay-for-play to them.
By signing, Gov. Cuomo can demonstrate to the citizens of New York that his decisions have not been based on corporate influence from big‐moneyed interests. If he doesn’t, how can we be certain?
Below is the letter to the Governor:
July 25, 2012
The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building Albany, NY 12224
Dear Governor Cuomo:
Late last year, you said, “Let the science and the facts make the determination, not emotion and not politics” regarding fracking in New York.1
We applaud you in setting this great standard. Furthermore, we want to help you live by it as you make a final decision on fracking in and around New York State’s water supplies. We imagine this must be very difficult, especially considering the enormous amount of influence Chesapeake Energy and other gas industry lobbyists have in the state. As countless organizations such as New Yorkers Against Fracking and the Checks & Balances Project, a watchdog group, have documented, the gas industry has caused considerable damage in nearby Pennsylvania, including the contamination of drinking water supplies, threats to private property rights and human health, and other negative impacts in communities state-‐wide.2 3 4 Because of this, we want to suggest a way to instill the maximum amount of public trust in any decisions made in New York State involving hydraulic fracking.
Before you decide to move forward with any decisions pertaining to hydrofracking and shale gas drilling, and before you consider permitting the gas industry an opportunity to damage New York as they have done in Pennsylvania, Wyoming and other states, will you pledge to accept no money from the gas industry for any political race you undertake in the next 10 years? This would include a re-‐election run for your current office, or a future presidential campaign.
Will you also order New York state universities to turn away oil and gas industry money of any kind so that any “studies” produced to promote fracking as somehow safe or benign will not have the taint of pay-‐for-‐play to them?
Please sign the pledge and demonstrate to the citizens of New York that any decisions around hydrofracking have not been based on undue persuasion created by corporate influence from big-‐moneyed interests. If you don’t, how can we be certain?
Advocates for Morris
Damascus Citizens for Sustainability
Friends of Butternuts
Plymouth Friends of Clean Water
Sharon Springs Against Hydrofracking
Stephanie Low Artists, Inc.
Sullivan Area Citizens for Responsible Energy Development (SACRED)
The Checks and Balances Project
The Green Umbrella
University at Buffalo Coalition for Leading Ethically in Academic Research (UB CLEAR)
April 19, 2012 Leave a comment
Matt Garrington, Co-Director of The Checks and Balances Project, offered the following statement and facts regarding the introduction of Colorado House Republicans’ three bills to give away more of the West to the oil and gas industry: H.R. 4381, H.R. 4382 and H.R. 4383.
“Colorado House Republicans clearly know who is in charge of the U.S. House – Big Oil. It’s painful to watch members of Congress so blatantly pander for oil and gas lobby dollars.
“Instead of pushing legislation that amounts to nothing more than cheap gimmicks and handouts to industry, Rep. Lamborn, Rep. Coffman and Rep. Tipton should offer real solutions to high gas prices.
“If we want to get serious about gas prices, we should end tax breaks to oil and gas companies and reinvest those funds in American energy solutions such as high tech vehicles, the next generation of renewable fuels, and transportation solutions. We should also crackdown on Wall Street oil speculators that artificially increase the price of gas.”
FACTS ABOUT AMERICAN ENERGY DEVELOPMENT
FACTS ABOUT COLORADO ENERGY DEVELOPMENT
Bush administration average: 67
Obama administration average: 60
A LOOK AT THE BILLS
H.R. 4382, Sponsored by Rep. Coffman (CO-06) – $174,800 in oil and gas contributions
H.R. 4381, Sponsored by Rep. Tipton (CO-03) – $111,600 in oil and gas contributions
H.R. 4383, Sponsored by Rep. Lamborn (CO-05) – $137,962 in oil and gas contributions