Checks and Balances Project

Wed, 2013-01-16 11:15Steve Horn
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Breaking: Obama EPA Shut Down Weatherford, TX Shale Gas Water Contamination Study

The Associated Press has a breaking investigative story out today revealing that the Obama Administration's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) censored a smoking gun scientific report in March 2012 that it had contracted out to a scientist who conducted field data on 32 water samples in Weatherford, TX.

That report, according to the AP, would have explicitly linked methane migration to hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in Weatherford, a city with 25,000+ citizens located in the heart of the Barnett Shale geologic formation 30 minutes from Dallas.

It was authored by Geoffrey Thyne, a geologist formerly on the faculty of the Colorado School of Mines and University of Wyoming before departing from the latter for a job in the private sector working for Interralogic Inc. in Ft Collins, CO

This isn't the first time Thyne's scientific research has been shoved aside, either. Thyne wrote two landmark studies on groundwater contamination in Garfield County, CO, the first showing that it existed, the second confirming that the contamination was directly linked to fracking in the area.

It's the second study that got him in trouble.

“Thyne says he was told to cease his research by higher-ups. He didn’t,” The Checks and Balances Project explained. “And when it came to renew his contract, Thyne was cut loose.”

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. 

Wed, 2012-12-12 19:48Brendan DeMelle
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Fossil-Fuel Funded Operatives Litter the Mainstream Media, Despite Simple Fix

Have you ever found yourself reading a news article or op-ed in which an “expert” from a distinguished-sounding “think tank” or “institute” seeks to distort or attack climate change science or, alternately, decries public investment in clean energy solutions, and wonder in whose interest this individual and their organization is operating?

Who is funding the proliferation of the anti-renewables, pro-status-quo perspective in all these mainstream media outlets? And why is the media providing them a platform at all, let alone without disclosing the fossil fuel funding behind their misinformation efforts?

Well, today the Checks and Balances Project released a report revealing the extent of this problem in the mainstream media. 

The Checks and Balances report, Fossil Fuel Front Groups on the Front Page, concludes that 58 of the largest mainstream newspapers and publications have quoted or given op-ed space to a fossil-fuel-funded “expert” every other day for the past five years, on average.

“Despite having received millions of dollars from fossil fuel interests, such as ExxonMobil and Koch Industries, these groups’ financial ties to the fossil fuel industry are rarely mentioned,” according to the report.

Checks and Balances writes that it “uncovered the extent of this deception by focusing on the 10 most prominent fossil fuel front groups’ traction [in] 58 of the largest daily newspapers, the Associated Press and Politico. This analysis does not include mentions in broadcast, radio or online publications for these 10 advocacy groups.  As a result, this report only scratches the surface on these fossil fuel-funded groups’ influence on the energy debate.”

The report has received a chilly response from some of the very “experts” often quoted without any disclosure of their fossil fuel funding.  Steven “Junk Man” Milloy was so peeved that he tapped out a quick post attacking the messenger, a typical tactic of the fossil-fuel-funded echo chamber.

Milloy knows the tobacco playbook well. As Connor Gibson points out over at PolluterWatch,  “Steve Milloy has been a central climate denier, who was paid to shill for tobacco company Phillip Morris and oil giant Exxon before work for the Cato Institute and starting the climate denial website “JunkScience.” 

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:

Wed, 2012-08-29 16:49Brendan DeMelle
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Coalition Calls On Duke Energy To Dump American Legislative Exchange Council

A coalition of environmental, civil rights and democracy reform groups today called upon Duke Energy to join the 38 other companies that have left the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. In their letter sent to Duke CEO Jim Rogers this morning, the coalition requests that Duke Energy “disassociate and stop funding ALEC immediately.”

“We collectively call upon Duke Energy to drop all financial and staff support to ALEC due not only to their role in blocking clean energy implementation and solutions to global warming, but due to their direct attacks on democracy and our civil rights.”

As Greenpeace's Connor Gibson points out in his blog about the effort,

“Duke Energy has distinguished itself from other polluters with rhetorical commitments to tackling global warming and implementing clean energy, but stops short of meaningful action. By dumping ALEC, Duke would take a step in the right direction toward the potential it has to become a cleaner energy company.”
  

Here is the full-text of the letter to Jim Rogers:

Tue, 2012-07-17 01:08Steve Horn
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Does Red Leaf's "EcoShale" Technology Greenwash Oil Shale Extraction?

At the Clinton Global Initiative in 2008, former Vice President Al Gore called the possibility of fossil fuel corporations extracting oil shaleutter insanity.” 

Insanity, though, doesn't serve as a hinderance for deeply entrenched and powerful fossil fuel interests.

Oil shale, also known as kerogen, should not be confused with shale gas or shale oil, two fossil fuels best known from Josh Fox's “Gasland.” As explained in a report by the Checks and Balances Project,

Oil shale itself is a misnomer. It is actually rock containing an organic substance called kerogen. The rocks haven’t been in the ground for enough time or under enough pressure to become oil. Oil companies need to recreate geological forces to produce any energy from it. Ideas for developing oil shale have included baking acres of land at 700 degrees for three to four years and even detonating an atomic bomb underground.

The really “insane” part of the equation: oil shale production, which has yet to begin, would be ecologically destructive to the extreme.

“Because oil shale is a rock, commercial production would release 25% to 75% more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional oil,” wrote the Western Resource Advocates. Furthermore, like tar sands production and shale oil/gas production, oil shale production is a water-intensive process.

Adding insult to injury, in the 100 years of attempted commercial production of oil shale, the fossil fuel industry has yet to seal the deal, motivating an April 2012 report by Checks and Balances titled “A Century of Failure.”

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. 

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.” 

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