Gabe Elsner

Wed, 2013-07-10 12:27Steve Horn
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State Dept Contractor ERM Lied About TransCanada Ties, Another Fatal Flaw of Environmental Review

The contractor the Obama U.S. State Department hired for the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) of the northern half of TransCanada's Keystone XL (KXL) tar sands export pipeline overtly lied on its conflict-of-interest disclosure form that it signed and handed to State in June 2012.

A major research dossier unfurled today by Friends of the Earth-U.S. (FOE-U.S.) and The Checks & Balances Project (CBP) shows that Environmental Resources Management, Inc. (ERM Group) played “Pinocchio” in explaining its ties - or as they say, lack thereof - to Big Oil, tar sands and TransCanada in particular on its conflict-of-interest form.

The two groups dug deep and revealed State's contractor ERM and its subsidiary Oasis Environmental both have ongoing contractual relationships with the Alaska Gas Project - now known as the South Central LNG Project - co-owned by TransCanada, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips and BP. Further, ERM's Socioeconomic Advisor Mark Jennings served as a “Consultant to ExxonMobil Development Company for the Alaska Pipeline Project, according to his now-scrubbed LinkedIn profile

ERM's own documents - FOE-U.S. and CBP further explain - also reveal the multinational firm has business ties with over a dozen companies active in the Alberta tar sands, including Exxon, Shell, Chevron, Conoco Phillips, Total and Syncrude.

On its conflict-of-interest form, ERM said it had no “direct or indirect relationship … with any business entity that could be affected in any way by the proposed work.” Clearly, that's far from the case. 

In March, ERM Group - a City of London-based dues-paying member of the American Petroleum Institute (API) with a history of rubber-stamping ecologically hazardous oil and gas infrastructure projects - said KXL's northern half “is unlikely to have a substantial impact on the rate of development” of the tar sands in its SEIS. Thus, it will also have little impact on climate change, according to ERM's SEIS, contracted out by TransCanada on behalf of the State Department.

FOE-U.S. says these most recent developments further call the entire SEIS into question, and that doesn't include the fact that State recently revealed it's clueless as to the exact route of the Keystone XL.

Tue, 2013-01-15 11:09Steve Horn
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ALEC to Attack North Carolina Renewable Energy Initiatives

Renewable energy is under attack in the Tar Heel State. That's the word from Greenpeace USA's Connor Gibson today in a report that implicates King Coal powerhouse, Duke Energy and the fossil fuel industry at-large. 

The vehicle Duke Energy is utilizing for this attack is one whose profile has grown in infamy in recent years: the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

ALEC is described as a “corporate bill mill” by its critics. It's earned such a description because it passes “model bills” written by corporate lobbyists and to boot, the lobbyists typically do so behind closed doors at ALEC's annual meetings. 

Sat, 2012-11-17 12:39Guest
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Coal Polluter Lobbyist Jeffrey Holmstead Confronted at Energy Event

This is a guest post by Connor Gibson, originally published at Polluterwatch.

At a well-attended energy forum hosted by Politico on Thursday, I shed some light on the role of coal lobbyist Jeffrey Holmstead in blocking pollution reductions for his coal utility and mining clients after he said we can't “regulate our way to clean energy.” Here's the video:

(Click for transcript of interruption)

UPDATE 11/16: Holmstead was later confronted on camera by Gabe Elsner of the Checks and Balances Project after the disruption at the Politico forum. Watch Holmstead re-write the history of his attacks on mercury pollution laws:

Tue, 2012-05-08 16:06Steve Horn
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The Guardian Exposes Fossil Funded Groups Coordinating Renewable Energy Attacks

Ever wonder why a blooming green energy industry has faced such harsh opposition? Now, as the old adage goes, “the cat's out of the bag.”

The Guardian today revealed the network of fossil-funded groups coordinating the ongoing onslaught of attacks on renewable energy, particularly wind power. A memorandum passed to The Guardian from the Checks and Balances Project details the organizations and personnel acting as ringleaders to build an astroturf echo chamber of clean energy critics.

Guardian reporter Suzanne Goldenberg writes in “Conservative thinktanks step up attacks against Obama's clean energy strategy,” 


“A number of rightwing organisations, including Americans for Prosperity, which is funded by the billionaire Koch brothers, are attacking Obama for his support for solar and wind power. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which also has financial links to the Kochs, has drafted bills to overturn state laws promoting wind energy.”

A confidential memo seen by The Guardian and obtained by DeSmogBlog “advises using 'subversion' to build a national movement of wind farm protesters,” explained Goldenberg.

That memo was crafted by John Droz, a Senior Fellow at the American Tradition Institute (ATI).*(see update below)* ATI was the right-wing think-tank behind the lawsuit to obtain University of Virginia climatologist Michael Mann's “ClimateGate” emails. 

Wed, 2012-01-04 18:36Brendan DeMelle
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API’s New ‘Vote 4 Energy’ Ad Campaign Is Thinly Veiled Election Year Bullying

American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard today announced the oil and gas industry’s latest election-year scare campaign to threaten the demise of the U.S. economy unless Big Oil gets its every wish in Washington. This year the wish list includes approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, expanded offshore drilling on both coasts, opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and more federal lands in the West to drilling, and smaller buffer zones between drilling operations and drinking water supplies.

What if Washington doesn’t comply by delivering Keystone XL and the rest of the wish list? Gerard, the oil industry’s chief bully, threatens “huge political consequences” for Barack Obama. 

You can almost set your watch to this industry’s tired plays on this front. If it’s January of a presidential election year, it must be time for the oil industry to threaten Washington politicians to ensure they continue to do the industry’s bidding. The threats are delivered in the form of outlandishly expensive advertising campaigns and punditry tours, aided by a captive media that serves its role as stenographer for the industry’s inflated jobs figures and misleading claims.

The API campaign is nothing more than a fresh skin on a very old and stale argument – that President ______ (insert current name) needs to continue opening up more of the nation’s lands, particularly public lands, for oil and gas drilling, OR ELSE ______(insert latest political talking point), in this case “jobs jobs jobs” will be lost (a bogus argument)

CNN notes the close correlation between API’s target states and some of the hottest states in the 2012 U.S. elections – hint: they’re the same.

Tue, 2011-10-11 19:27Brendan DeMelle
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Journalists Ask NYTimes To Set Disclosure of Conflicts Policy For Op-Ed Contributors

Back in June, I wrote about my effort to seek answers from The New York Times public editor’s office regarding the paper’s lack of a policy for disclosure of possible conflicts of interest among op-ed contributors. In my query to the NYT, I specifically cited the example of Robert Bryce from the Manhattan Institute, a group funded by Koch Industries, ExxonMobil and other polluters to confuse the public about climate change and energy issues.

Bryce had penned an op-ed attacking renewable energy while promoting nuclear and fracked shale gas, with no disclosure in his byline about the Manhattan Institute’s fossil fuel clients. I offered Bryce's piece as an example in order to formally seek answers about the disclosure policy at the Times and whether it was adequate in light of the failure to disclose Bryce’s dirty energy backing.

I didn’t get a concrete answer from Public Editor Arthur Brisbane’s office – his assistant acknowledged that “this is a topic that interests due to the number of emails we receive from readers on it,” but rather than answer my questions or take action to highlight the policy oversight, he told me “We're going to keep your email on file in the event that we decide to tackle this issue in the future.”

With our attention at DeSmogBlog diverted in the ensuing months by the Keystone XL pipeline controversy, the ever-growing list of the Koch Brothers’ threats to decency and democracy, and other dirty energy issues to focus on, I felt that another group would be better suited to devote attention to the NYT disclosure matter.  I asked my friend Gabe Elsner at the Checks & Balances Project to take a look at my blog about Bryce and the failed efforts to get a satisfactory answer from the NYT Public Editor’s office.

Well, I’m grateful to Gabe for following through, since the issue is finally gaining some recognition, with the launch of TrueTies.org (designed by Checks and Balances Project) and a petition by 50 journalists echoing the call for The New York Times to lead the industry by creating a disclosure policy for op-ed contributors.

Fri, 2011-07-29 15:38Brendan DeMelle
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EIA's Politically Dictated “Garbage” Subsidy Report Obtained And Released Publicly

The Checks and Balances Project has obtained a copy of the controversial Energy Information Administration report that was called “garbage” by EIA Acting Administrator Howard Gruenspecht.  The polluter-friendly report was just delivered yesterday afternoon to the GOP House requesters, Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Congressman Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD). Checks and Balances provided a copy to DeSmogBlog, which we’re providing to the public here: “Direct Federal Financial Interventions and Subsidies in Energy in Fiscal Year 2010” [PDF].

Gabe Elsner, Deputy Director of the Checks and Balances Project, told DeSmogBlog that, “if it’s true that the Acting Administrator Gruenspecht called this report a “piece of garbage” he was right, because it deliberately leaves out the six other ways in which coal, oil and natural gas get government handouts.  The fossil fuel welfare tab is tens or hundreds of times greater than the cost of pro-renewable policy support.” 

Tue, 2010-10-26 15:09Brendan DeMelle
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Elusive Charles Koch Deploys Security To Block Joel Francis’ Visit to Koch Industries HQ to Invite Debate on Prop 23

Joel Francis, the Cal State-Los Angeles senior and Marine Corps veteran, today followed through on his promise to visit Koch Industries headquarters in Wichita, Kansas to formally deliver his letter challenging CEO Charles Koch to a public debate about his funding of Prop 23, an attack on California’s clean energy investments and job creation efforts.  

After receiving no response from Koch following the video posting of his challenge last week, Joel traveled all the way from Los Angeles with a group of fellow college students and Gabe Elsner, campaign director of Powervote CA and the California Student Sustainability Coalition.  

The goal was simple and the approach polite – Joel simply hoped to meet with Charles Koch to invite him to a public debate “anytime, anywhere in the state of California” between now and election day about why Koch would attack the fastest growing sector in California’s struggling economy – clean energy jobs, which are growing 10 times faster than other sectors.

But as the students arrived, it was clear that Koch wasn’t rolling out the red carpet for Joel.  

Pairs of security guards were stationed prominently outside each entrance to the Koch corporate campus.  Marked and unmarked Koch security vehicles trailed several cars after they dropped the students off on the front lawn of Koch HQ. (The vehicle I arrived in along with PowerVote’s Gabe Elsner was also trailed as it left the scene.)

Larry Moorman, Koch’s Director of Corporate Security, immediately approached Elsner and wrongly claimed that we were on private property.  Elsner responded that county records indicated the first 18 feet of lawn adjacent to the curb was public property, which sent Mr. Moorman on his way back to guard the front door from the apparent ‘threat’ of an articulate college senior challenging the company’s secretive CEO to talk to him.  

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