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Fri, 2012-07-27 03:30Steve Horn
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Exposed: Pennsylvania Act 13 Overturned by Commonwealth Court, Originally an ALEC Model Bill

On July 26, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court** ruled PA Act 13 unconstitutional.*** The bill would have stripped away local zoning laws, eliminated the legal concept of a Home Rule Charter, limited private property rights, and in the process, completely disempowered town, city, municipal and county governments, particularly when it comes to shale gas development.

The Court ruled that Act 13 “…violates substantive due process because it does not protect the interests of neighboring property owners from harm, alters the character of neighborhoods and makes irrational classifications – irrational because it requires municipalities to allow all zones, drilling operations and impoundments, gas compressor stations, storage and use of explosives in all zoning districts, and applies industrial criteria to restrictions on height of structures, screening and fencing, lighting and noise.”

Act 13 – pejoratively referred to as “the Nation's Worst Corporate Giveaway“ by AlterNet reporter Steven Rosenfeld – would have ended local democracy as we know it in Pennsylvania.

“It’s absolutely crushing of local self-government,” Ben Price, project director for the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), told Rosenfeld. “It’s a complete capitulation of the rights of the people and their right to self-government. They are handing it over to the industry to let them govern us. It is the corporate state. That is how we look at it.”

Where could the idea for such a bill come from in the first place? Rosenfeld pointed to the oil and gas industry in his piece.

That's half of the answer. Pennsylvania is the epicenter of the ongoing fracking boom in the United States, and by and large, is a state seemingly bought off by the oil and gas industry.

The other half of the question left unanswered, though, is who do oil and gas industry lobbyists feed anti-democratic, state-level legislation to?

The answer, in a word: ALEC.

Tue, 2012-07-03 15:51Ben Jervey
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Bloomberg Stunner: How Chesapeake Energy Paid Less Than a 1% Tax Rate On $5.5 Billion in Profits

Chesapeake Energy, a company that is no stranger to financial scandals, has found itself on the front page of the financial papers again. This time, the subject is taxes. Or how Chesapeake barely pays them.  

Over its 23-year history, Chesapeake Energy, the second largest producer of natural gas in the U.S., and the company described by its founder and CEO Aubrey McClendon as “the biggest frackers in the world,” has earned roughly $5.5 billion in pre-tax profits. To date, the company has paid $53 million in taxes. That’s an effective tax rate of under 1 percent - a massive taxpayer subsidy.

The corporate income tax rate in the U.S. is 35 percent. 

The Bloomberg article that exposed these stunning figures is quick to note that this is far less than the 12 percent rate that GE paid in 2010 that caused such public outrage, and even a tiny percentage of the 18 percent effective rate that Google had to answer for.

So how does Chesapeake pull this off? Mostly, it’s due to a rule written in 1916 that allows oil and gas producers to, according to Bloomberg, “postpone income taxes in recognition of the inherent risk of drilling wells that may turn out to be dry.

The break may be outdated for companies such as Chesapeake, which, thanks to advances in technology, struck oil or gas in 99.6 percent of its wells last year.“ When the policy was written, drillers struck “dry wells” roughly 80 percent of the time.

Wed, 2012-06-13 05:52Farron Cousins
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House Republicans Go All In With Dirty Energy Industry Bonanza Legislation

The dirty energy industry might experience Christmas in June if House Republicans have their way. Earlier this month, members of the House Energy Action Team (HEAT) unveiled a “package” of legislation that includes numerous bills that would give the industry everything that they’ve dreamt of for years. The legislative initiative, known as the Domestic Energy and Jobs Act, would grant almost unbridled access to federal lands for oil drilling and strips the EPA of their ability to properly regulate industry.

From a House Energy and Commerce Committee press release:
  

Sun, 2012-06-03 08:00Farron Cousins
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Dirty Energy Lobby Wins In EU – Shale Gas Now Considered “Green Energy”

In a headline that would appear to be ripped off the pages of The Onion, The Guardian UK this week reported “Gas rebranded as green energy by EU.”

After billions of dollars spent in lobbying efforts over the years, the dirty energy industry in the European Union has managed to convince leaders that natural gas – produced from both traditional extraction and from fracking – is a green, clean, renewable resource, no different than solar or wind power.

From The Guardian:
  

Energy from gas power stations has been rebranded as a green, low-carbon source of power by a €80bn European Union programme, in a triumph of the deep-pocketed fossil fuel industry lobby over renewable forms of power.

In a secret document seen by the Guardian, a large slice of billions of euros of funds that are supposed to be devoted to research and development into renewables such as solar and wave power are likely to be diverted instead to subsidising the development of the well-established fossil fuel.

The news comes as a report from the respected International Energy Agency predicted a “golden age for gas” with global production of “unconventional” sources of gas (notably shale gas extracted by hydraulic fracturing or 'fracking') tripling by 2035.
 

In the EU, the shale gas lobby has been working for more than 18 months to get the “green energy” label in attempts to get their hands on renewable energy subsidies, and brand themselves as a cleaner alternative to fossil fuels. They have also been touting that they are less costly than other forms of “green energy.”

Thu, 2012-05-17 14:19Steve Horn
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New Shill Gas Study Published by SUNY Buffalo Institute With Heavy Industry Ties

When does a study on the unconventional shale gas industry become a “shill gas study”? The quick answer: when nearly everyone writing and peer reviewing it has close ties to the industry they're purportedly doing an “objective” study on.

The newest kid on the block: a recent study published by SUNY Buffalo's Shale Resources and Society Institute, titled, ”Environmental Impacts During Shale Gas Drilling: Causes, Impacts and Remedies.”

The four co-authors of the “study” all have backgrounds, directly or indirectly, in the oil and gas industry:

Wed, 2012-04-25 15:46Farron Cousins
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American Lung Association Releases 2012 State of the Air Report

The American Lung Association (ALA) released their annual State of the Air report today, followed by a live discussion on Twitter where the organization answered questions. While the report offers some positive news for American citizens, it also shows us that the Clean Air Act is under attack from the dirty energy industry.

Here are the highlights from this year’s report:
  

More than 4 in 10 people (41 %) in the United States live in counties that have unhealthful levels of either ozone or particle pollution. Over 127.2 million Americans live in the 235 counties where they are exposed to unhealthful levels of air pollution in the form of either ozone or short-term or year-round levels of particles.

Over 5.7 million people (1.9%) in the United States live in six counties with unhealthful levels of all three: ozone and short-term and year-round particle pollution: ozone and short-term and year-round particle pollution.

The strongest improvement came in reducing ozone smog levels across the nation. More than half of the country’s most-smog-polluted cities experienced their best year yet. Twenty two of the 25 cities with the most ozone pollution improved their air quality over the past year’s report. More than half of the country’s most smog-polluted cities experienced their best year yet. Still, nearly four in ten people in the U.S.(37.8%) live in areas with unhealthful levels of ozone pollution.
 

The ALA also lists the health effects of this year’s two biggest pollutants – ozone and particle pollution:

Wed, 2012-04-25 14:14Farron Cousins
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Dirty Energy Industry Front Groups Launch Misleading PR Blitz Against President Obama

The American Energy Alliance (AEA) isn’t pulling any punches with their new advertising campaign, spending millions of dollars to air 45 million ad spots on Pandora Radio. They are attempting to hang the high cost of gasoline around the neck of President Obama, using a series of arguments that actually have nothing to do with how much Americans are paying for gasoline.

Here is the YouTube version of their ad, titled “$9 Dollar Gas”:



Before dissecting their arguments, it’s important to remember that the American Energy Alliance is a non-profit organization established by the oil industry to carry out lobbying activities. As such, their donors are kept secret. However, AEA president Thomas Pyle is also the leader of a related organization called the Institute for Energy Research, which has received funding from the usual suspects – Exxon and Koch Industries. In fact, Pyle formerly served as a Koch Industries lobbyist.

Mon, 2012-04-16 10:33Farron Cousins
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Institute for Energy Research Launches “Save Oil Tax Breaks” Offensive

In late March, Senate Republicans torpedoed an effort by Democrats to repeal the $4 billion a year that is flowing to the oil companies in the form of subsidies. The Obama Administration had proposed ending the subsidies so that this unnecessary money for the oil industry could instead be directed towards renewable energy projects and emission reduction in the United States. But in Washington, big oil has paid off the right people and organizations to make sure that their subsidies and tax breaks never disappear.

One organization that is flush with cash from the oil industry is the Institute for Energy Research (IER.) While their name might have you believe otherwise, the group is little more than an industry-funded propaganda machine, hell-bent on insuring that the desires of the dirty energy industry continue to be fulfilled within the halls of Congress. “Energy research” has almost nothing to do with the group’s activities.

Last week, after the Senate’s vote to block the subsidy repeal, IER compiled a report attempting to dissect and disprove the Administration’s proposal, point by point. But like most information put out by these corporate-funded think tanks, IER’s analysis is riddled with falsehoods and inaccurate information.

Fri, 2012-04-13 19:18Farron Cousins
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Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS Doubles Down On Gas Price Talking Points

The Karl Rove-helmed lobbying group Crossroads GPS (in conjunction with their parent group American Crossroads) has decided to double down on the debunked talking point that President Obama is to blame for the spike in gas prices. Their latest ad, titled “Too Much,” specifically takes aim at the President’s claim (based on facts) that domestic energy production is at a record high.

Take a look:



It is interesting to note that in this ad, when they attempt to “debunk” Obama’s claim about domestic oil production, the source they cite as evidence is actually talking about only the oil production, a fact that they actually left in the ad yet conveniently ignored:

Mon, 2012-04-09 12:15Farron Cousins
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Survey Says...Fracking IS Causing Earthquakes

A new report by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) says that the increased seismic activity taking place in certain areas of the United States is almost certainly the result of oil and gas drilling activities. The group has been studying dozens of earthquakes across America for the last 8 months and determined that the man-made quakes were taking place in areas where fracking or deep waste water injection had recently occurred.

Here is a brief snippet from the report's abstract:
  

A remarkable increase in the rate of M 3 and greater earthquakes is currently in progress in the US midcontinent. The average number of M >= 3 earthquakes/year increased starting in 2001, culminating in a six-fold increase over 20th century levels in 2011. Is this increase natural or manmade? To address this question, we take a regional approach to explore changes in the rate of earthquake occurrence in the midcontinent (defined here as 85° to 108° West, 25° to 50° North) using the USGS Preliminary Determination of Epicenters and National Seismic Hazard Map catalogs…

The modest increase that began in 2001 is due to increased seismicity in the coal bed methane field of the Raton Basin along the Colorado-New Mexico border west of Trinidad, CO. The acceleration in activity that began in 2009 appears to involve a combination of source regions of oil and gas production, including the Guy, Arkansas region, and in central and southern Oklahoma. Horton, et al. (2012) provided strong evidence linking the Guy, AR activity to deep waste water injection wells. In Oklahoma, the rate of M >= 3 events abruptly increased in 2009 from 1.2/year in the previous half-century to over 25/year. This rate increase is exclusive of the November 2011 M 5.6 earthquake and its aftershocks. A naturally-occurring rate change of this magnitude is unprecedented outside of volcanic settings or in the absence of a main shock, of which there were neither in this region. While the seismicity rate changes described here are almost certainly manmade, it remains to be determined how they are related to either changes in extraction methodologies or the rate of oil and gas production.


What’s interesting is that the USGS points out the obvious fact that has been ignored by the industry – these earthquakes are occurring in areas where earthquakes shouldn’t be happening. Still, that hasn’t stopped the dirty energy industry from denying that there is a correlation between fracking and earthquakes.

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