Oil

Koch Industries: Still Fueling Climate Denial [REPORT]

  • Posted on: 9 May 2011
  • By: Connor Gibson

Photo Credit: The Green Market

Crossposted from Greenpeace USA

Just over a year ago, oil billionaire David Koch used to joke that the company he owns with his brother Charles, Koch Industries, was “the biggest company you’ve never heard of.”

Then Greenpeace released our March, 2010 report, “Koch Industries: Secretly Funding the Climate Denial Machine,” that documented the Kochs’ systematic funding of the political system in order to stop action on climate change, including funding campaigns on climate denial. We have now updated this report; Koch Industries: Still Fueling Climate Denial.

Over the last year, the publicity-averse brothers have found themselves and their company, Koch Industries, under increased scrutiny from the public and the press. But the Koch Brothers continue to use their oil wealth to fund campaigns, front groups, think tanks, and politicians to sabotage climate and clean energy policies.

Greenpeace’s new research throws a focus on some of the information that has come to light over the last year, not least the Kochs’ previously-secret twice-annual gatherings of their rich and powerful allies to plot their strategy. In one of our three new case studies, we present a dossier showing that the media magnates invited to their summer 2010 meeting in Colorado have provided a convenient echo chamber for the Kochs' media network, thrown into overdrive as more people become aware of the Koch Brothers and how they use their oil money.

Our next two case studies demonstrate how Koch’s network of climate denier front groups have attacked state policies that were developed to curb climate change. One of these new case studies documents how the Kochtopus is currently attacking the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a multi-state effort in the Northeast to reduce climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions. Ironically, Koch Supply and Trading, a subsidiary of Koch Industries, has participated in RGGI carbon trading even as Americans for Prosperity has campaigned to get states to pull out of RGGI.

Our third new case study offers a full overview of a similar multi-pronged attack on California’s Global Warming Solutions Act, which took place during the 2010 election cycle when Koch financed ballot Proposition 23. This effort was supported by Koch funded groups Americans for Prosperity and the Pacific Research Institute.

The Kochs’ funding of the climate denial machine continued apace in 2009 (the most recent year that Koch foundation tax forms are available), when they contributed over $6.4 million dollars to some 40 organizations that continue to deny the scientific consensus on global warming while attempting to slow or block policies to solve the climate crisis.

The Kochs have now given a total of $55.2 million to these groups since 1997, $31.6 million of which they spent between 2005 and 2009. Favorite Koch Foundation organizations like the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation, the Mercatus Center and the Institute for Humane Studies continued to be top beneficiaries. Americans for Prosperity, a front group founded by David Koch, has now received over $5.6 million in documented donations from the Koch foundations.

It doesn’t stop there. Where our 2010 report found that Koch Industries lobbying expenditures totaled $37.9 million dollars since 2006, that figure has now risen to over $49.5 million, an increase of $11.6 million over the last year. In 2010, Koch Industries was the largest political spender of the entire energy sector, dumping $2,645,589 in campaign contributions from their political action committee. Koch currently outspends heavyweights ExxonMobil, Southern Company, American Electric Power and Chevron. In addition, the Koch Brothers and their spouses directly contributed over $360,000 to federal politicians in 2010.

There’s more. Plenty more. Visit our updated Koch Industries web page for the full deal.

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Just released: 30k pages of BP oil spill documents. Help us find out what we've got!

  • Posted on: 20 April 2011
  • By: Connor Gibson

The research team here at Greenpeace USA does some really great stuff. Uncloaking the Koch brothers, figuring out the truth about fracking, and pressuring polluters who are trying to influence our elected leaders.

But they can only do so much. In July 2010 the team began submitting Freedom of Information (FOIA) requests to the federal government about the BP oil disaster. They began to trickle back, slowly, and we stayed on top of it. But just like the gusher in the Gulf the trickle became a flood, and now we have around 30,000 pages of memos, reports and even flight records about the worst oil spill in American history.

While some of the agencies have simply ignored our requests, others have gotten back with some interesting documents. The problem is we simply don’t have time to go through them all. The Guardian ran a series of stories about them last week  but no one has the manpower to read the fine print. Plus, we’re getting more through the letterbox almost every day.

This is where you come in. We’ve created a new site which allows anyone to view, download and comment on these documents. We’re updating it with new stuff and categorizing it to make your life easier. Always imagined yourself winning a Pulitzer? Still mad at BP and want to find out what really happened out there? Searching for evidence for a compensation claim? Now’s your chance to dig up some gems.

Log on to www.polluterwatch.org/research and help us sift through the mountain of data. Get in touch if you find something interesting and we’ll try to get the news out.

You’re all part of the research team now.

Crossposted from Greenpeace USA with minor discrepancies (video added, link to NY Times photos).

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Amid Reports of Lax Enforcement, PA Governor Puts a “Leash” on Hydrofracking Regulators

  • Posted on: 6 April 2011
  • By: JesseColeman

Tom Corbett, Governor of Pennsylvania

In the wake of a New York Times series that revealed a serious lack of oversight of the gas industry by state regulators, the Governor of Pennsylvania has taken decisive action.  He ordered the state Department of Environmental Protection not to report violations by gas companies without approval from his hand picked environmental chief.  That’s right - Tom Corbett, the republican governor of Pennsylvania, ordered the Department of Environmental Protection to stop issuing violations against drillers without prior approval from DEP Secretary Micheal Krancer, who he personally selected as chief of the agency.

The Philidelphia Inquirer reports:

John Hines, the DEP executive deputy secretary, sent an e-mail March 23 to other senior staff, including four regional directors and the head of the department's oil and gas division.

"Effective immediately," it said, all violations must first be sent to him and another DEP deputy secretary in Harrisburg - with "final clearance" from Michael Krancer, DEP secretary.

"Any waiver from this directive will not be acceptable," Hines wrote. Regional directors reinforced the stern message in their own e-mails to staff.

Considering that notices of violation are the inspectors' main tool for enforcing compliance with environmental rules, Governor Corbett has basically kneecapped the DEP’s ability to control wayward hydrofrackers.  The new policy has been met with disbelief and anger by people familiar with regulating the industry.

"They are putting us on a leash," said the one inspector, who spoke to the Enquirer on condition of anonymity because of a fear of retaliation.

Even John Hanger, ex DEP chief and good friend of fracking was against the directive.  In an interview with the Enquirer, he said:

"I could not believe it. It's extraordinarily unwise. It's going to cause the public in droves to lose confidence in the inspection process."  According to Hanger, there has never been a similar directive in DEP.

Hanger said the "extraordinary" policy was akin to forcing a highway trooper to get approval from the head of the state police before writing a ticket.

"It is a complete intrusion into the independence of the inspection process," he said.

Why would Corbett pander so brazenly to the Natural Gas industry?  The Enquirer points out that Corbett received more than $800,000 in campaign contributions from drilling interests last year.  A good investment for the fracking industry, considering that since taking office in January, Corbett's administration has overturned a moratorium on drilling in state forests and has refused to consider any extraction tax on drillers.  Pennsylvania is the only major natural gas-producing state without such a tax.

A hydrofracking well pad in Pennsylvania.  Image source

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BP Seeks to Resume Drilling in Gulf of Mexico Long Before Situtation is Made "Right" [VIDEOS]

  • Posted on: 4 April 2011
  • By: Connor Gibson

Less than a year since BP’s Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig exploded into flame, killed eleven rig employees and initiated an uncontrolled oil gusher that blasted over four million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, the London-based oil giant is asking for more.

The Gulf ecosystem is still reeling from the dramatic oil and gas pollution that created underwater plumes that spanned for miles and effectively turned the ocean floor into a “graveyard.” While former BP CEO Tony Hayward promised his company would “make this right,” 300,000 Gulf residents still await their share of the $20 billion BP set aside for compensation.

Residents continue to worry about the quality of Gulf seafood and their own health:

As put by Greenpeace Research Director Kert Davies in an interview with ABC (above), "This is not even a year since the worst environmental disaster this country has ever seen and the culprit is being led right back to the scene of the crime and being given the keys."

Meanwhile, the offshore drilling contractor that owned the Deepwater Horizon rig, Transocean, is now apologizing for handing out absurd bonuses to executives for safety in 2010, including a $200,000 salary increase to CEO Steven L. Newman. Newman made $5,374,687 in 2009.

The Department of the Interior has challenged Transocean's safety claims, and has stressed that no agreement to resume drilling has been made with BP, although the company continued other operations throughout 2010 and into 2011, as had Exxon Mobil and Chevron. Royal Dutch Shell recently obtained permission for a new drilling project off the coast of Louisiana.

Photo Credit: the Guardian

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ExxonMobil Refuses to Tell the Fracking Truth

  • Posted on: 21 March 2011
  • By: JesseColeman

ExxonMobil, proud owner of the gas company XTO (bought in 2010 for $31B), attempted to parry criticism of the gas extraction process called hydraulic fracturing in a recent  letter to the editor featured in the New York Times.  The letter, written by Vice President Ken Cohen, contained all of the untruths and PR manipulations one would expect from the anti-climate, anti-environment, oil and gas supermajor ExxonMobil. 

Ken writes in retaliation to a New York Times Business Day article by largely pro-gas and pro-industry “journalist” Christopher Swann, in which Swann refers to ExxonMobil’s strategy of forming a “united front against regulation" as “myopic.”  Ken tacitly denies opposing regulation, saying “Along with other companies, ExxonMobil works with state regulatory authorities to develop sound, science-based regulations for oil and gas drilling.”  If the implication of this statement is that Exxon supports legitimate fracking regulation, then this is a lie.  Exxon opposes any attempt at regulation of their business reflexively and has opposed all attempts at regulation on fracking specifically

Ken goes on to parrot the industry mantra of how vital “clean-burning” gas is for “national energy security” and “well-paying jobs.”  No mention of how fracking poisons drinking water with radiation and toxic sludge.  When weighing the importance of fresh water versus the “billions of dollars” that stand to be made by energy profiteers, Ken has definitely picked a side.  Ken’s letter also spouts the common industry-created rhetoric that fracking has been used safely since 1940.  The truth is that the type of fracking practiced currently is significantly different than the processes used since the 40’s, and none of these processes should be labeled 100% safe.  Just ask the residents of Wiliamsport, Pennsylvania, where Exxon and XTO spewed 13,000 gallons of toxic sludge into waterways used for drinking water.  So much for the “responsible development” touted by Ken Cohen and ExxonMobil.

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Chevron's Human Rights Hitmen

  • Posted on: 14 March 2011
  • By: Connor Gibson

Rainforest Action Network (RAN) has profiled some of Chevron's most offensive operatives as part of their campaign to make the oil giant take responsibility for massive pollution in Ecuador. After almost three decades of drilling activity that ended in 1990, over 18.5 billion gallons of toxic waste was knowingly and haphazardly abandoned by Texaco, which was purchased by Chevron in 2001.

Despite documented human rights abuses worldwide, Chevron has insisted it is not guilty of poisoning Ecuadorian people (and the soil and waterways that sustain them). Chevron has crafted its case through aggressive denial, distracting advertising, staggering amounts of money, and "Human Rights Hitmen" willing to dodge and lie at the expense of people and ecosystems, intentionally boxed out of sight and mind.

RAN profiled the following Chevron Human Rights Hitmen:

  • R. Hewitt Pate: Chevron vice president and general counsel. Pate was a Justice Department lawyer during the Bush Administration, branded by RAN as "Chevron's Karl Rove" for his distraction tactics, fabricating small-scale scandals on part of Ecuadorians and their allies in order to ignore Chevron's large-scale guilt.
  • Diego Borja: Chevron's self-described "dirty tricks operative." Beyond linking Chevron to an "independent" U.S. lab testing samples from contaminated waste sites, Borja videotaped an Ecuadorian judge presiding over the lawsuit against Chevron and released footage edited to imply that the judge had accepted a bribe (he had not). The judge was dismissed from the case.
  • Andrea E. Neuman and Randy M. Mastro. Both Neuman and Mastro are veteran corporate influence peddlers with DC law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, drawing attention away from the suffering of plaintiffs against Chevron by conjuring pointed personal attacks and claims of bias by the Ecuardorian legal system. Neuman specializes in stomping wronged citizens at the behest of major polluters like Dole Foods and Lockheed Martin.
  • Sam Anson: Working for Kroll, one of several PR companies hired by Chevron, Anson was caught attempting to hire a journalist to spy on Ecuadorian plaintiffs suing Chevron. The journalist turned down the $20,000 offer and made the scandal public.

The degree of Chevron's pollution is staggering [VIDEO] and people are paying the price [VIDEO] for their crimes--see it for yourself:

More on the campaign to hold Chevron responsible for its crimes in Equador can be found at Rainforest Action Network and Amazon Watch, among others documenting the true cost of Chevron's toxic legacy [PDF]. More on Chevron can be found in our Polluter Watch profile.

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Polluter Congress Ignores $53 billion in Offshore Drilling Handouts During Spending Cuts

  • Posted on: 20 February 2011
  • By: Connor Gibson

In a move that exposes the repeated and predictable habit of Congressional polluter allies, House Republicans have ignored a $53 billion handout over the next 25 years to oil companies that are not required to pay royalties when obtaining leases for offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. This year alone, according to House Representative Ed Markey (D-MA), $1.5 billion in absent lease royalties will benefit oil companies seeking to expand offshore drilling.

The leases, which give oil giants access to public property for their own profit, is another slap in the face to taxpayers who have already watched their land (and for many, their fragile livelihoods) become poisoned by industry abuse and maintained by federal incompetence.  As fiscal conservatives in the U.S. House selectively look for government spending to trim, the main targets seem to be social programs instead of unncecessary billions doled out to the world's largest oil companies.  As Congress scratches the back of Big Oil, fresh reports emerge of continued devestation on the ocean floor of the Gulf of Mexico, a direct result of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Noting the twisted irony, Rep. Markey stated, "Republicans once again sided with BP, Exxon and the oil companies, not with the American taxpayer and the poorest Americans most in need of help. This legislation focuses on just the kind of special interest loophole that should be closed before we open attacks on programs for the poorest Americans.”

This failure to save wasted taxpayer money is but a small portion of the sickening annual handouts to the oil industry through subsidies. Oil Change International explains, "Estimates of the value of US federal subsidies to the domestic oil and gas industry alone (not coal) range from 'only' $4 billion a year, to an amazing $52 billion annually.  Coal subsidies are roughly another 10 billion annually."

Through its DirtyEnergyMoney tabulation website, Oil Change International reports that the 111th House of Representatives has some powerful allies to the oil industry across party lines. From 2009-2010, thirteen House members were each awarded over $100,000 by oil companies alone:

  • Roy Blunt (R-MO) -- $269,400
  • Dan Boren (D-OK) -- $205,750
  • Chet Edwards (D-TX) -- $176,130
  • Joe Barton (R-TX) -- $150,870
  • Mike Ross (D-AR) -- $135,350
  • K. Michael Conaway (R-TX) -- $132,600
  • John Sullivan (R-OK) -- $125,800
  • John Fleming (R-LA) -- $123,550
  • John Boehner (R-OH) -- $119,400
  • Jerry Moran (R-KS) -- $113,600
  • Eric Cantor (R-VA) -- $110,600
  • Charles Boustany (R-LA) -- $109,000
  • Harry Teague (D-NM) --$100,300

Top givers to the 111th Congressional Representatives of Oil were Koch Industries ($616,513), ExxonMobil ($553,950), Chevron ($373,100) and Valero Energy ($311,250).

More information on all of these companies can be found on our PolluterWatch profiles for each company, as well as in-depth looks at their Congressional funding through DirtyEnergyMoney.com

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Koch Brothers media manipulation: propaganda and hired thugs

  • Posted on: 4 February 2011
  • By: Connor Gibson

David and Julia Koch watch hundreds of protestors speak out against the pollution of democracy by the oily few for the oily few. Photo credit.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Crossposted from Greenpeace USA

We've already seen how oil billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch push their polluter agenda through tens of millions of dollars in campaign contributions, lobbying, and funding fronts groups and think tanks. Another way they use their oil profits and "Kochtopus" network to block progress on climate and clean energy policies is through their network of media operatives. Kate Sheppard at Mother Jones has a great article detailing The Koch Brother's Vast Right-Wing Media Conspiracy:
 

Last June, Glenn Beck paused in the middle of a rant about the economy and climate on his television show for an important, if rather unexpected, aside. "I want to thank Charles Koch for this information," he said. Beck's statement was totally without context, thrown in amid jabs at Al Gore and endorsements of the free market. Months later, it came to light that he recently had been a guest of honor at a semiannual confab sponsored by fossil-fuel billionaire Charles Koch and his brother, David, an event the pair hosts to connect conservative think tanks, politicos, and media types like Beck.
...
Indeed, the brothers have spent $31.3 million since 2005 on organizations that deny or downplay climate change, according to a forthcoming report from Greenpeace that updates its report on Koch's climate denial work released last year. But it's the web of media influence the Kochs have created that perhaps accounts best for their power—particularly when it comes to sowing doubt about climate change.

Read the whole article at Mother Jones to get all the details: The Koch Brother's Vast Right-Wing Media Conspiracy

Of course, the Koch Brothers' efforts to manipulate the media is tightly controlled, and they're certainly not interested in open scrutiny by individuals, organizations, and media who aren't on their payroll. While more than a thousand people rallied to Uncloak the Kochs at their secret strategy meeting last weekend in Rancho Mirage California, Koch hired thugs threatened Ken Vogel, a reporter from Politico with arrest just for asking questions. From Vogel's article:
 

On the other hand, the Kochs retained a heavy private security detail, which tracked resort guests deemed “suspicious,” erected a blockade Saturday to block a documentary camera crew from filming arriving guests, and removed a POLITICO reporter from the resort café under threat of arrest.

...
Security manned every doorway and stairwell near the ballrooms where Koch events were held, and threatened to jail this POLITICO reporter while he waited in line at the resort’s café, after he stopped by a Koch conference registration table.

The resort grounds were “closed for a private function,” the resort’s head of security, James Foster told POLITICO, ushering the reporter outside, where private security guards, wearing gold lapel pins bearing Koch’s “K” logo, threatened “a citizen’s arrest” and a “night in the Riverside County jail” if the reporter continued asking questions and taking photographs.

Fortunately, there are people willing to scrutinize and stand up to the Koch Brothers and their polluter agenda, despite this intimidation.
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David Koch Booed at NY Christmas Ballet Performance

  • Posted on: 5 January 2011
  • By: Connor Gibson

Crossposted from Greenpeace.

David Koch, one of the richest men in America and owner of the largest private energy company in the United States took to the stage over the Christmas holiday to receive praise for his $2.5 million sponsorship of the American Ballet Theatre's production of the Nutcracker... and a strange thing happened.

The oil tycoon was booed.

John Gapper on the Financial Times Business Blog has the story.

Gapper writes:

"... there were also boos from near where I sat in the balcony, followed by an angry debate in the row in front of me, with one of the booers declaring “he’s an evil man” and a couple next to her telling her to “shut up” and to leave the theatre. Mr Koch was venturing into the lion’s den in political terms, since Brooklyn is solidly liberal and Democrat, whereas he and his brother are right-wing libertarian and are alleged to have links to the Tea Party movement, which they deny."

"Once Mr Koch had left the stage, the booing stopped and the ballet started."

In our report last year, Koch Industries: Secretly Funding the Climate Denial Machine [PDF], Greenpeace outlined the millions of dollars that the Koch brothers have funneled into ideological and free-market activist organizations that have been fighting for more than a decade to confuse the scientific realities of climate and stall State and federal legislation to curb climate pollution.

The boos are rightfully earned.

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Salt Lake City Treated to Second Chevron Oil Spill in Six Months

  • Posted on: 3 December 2010
  • By: Connor Gibson

In a twisted case of actualized déjà vu, Chevron spilled 100 barrels of oil into the Red Butte Creek area of Salt Lake City, narrowly missing the waterways...

...waterways that were gifted about 800 barrels of spilled crude from the exact same pipeline last June.  The community is still busy cleaning up the first mess, and Mayor Ralph Becker has expressed his own "outrage."  While Mayor Becker has supposedly been a bit soft with Chevron even since June's spill, he has now explicitly stated what people around the world realize: "We cannot trust Chevron."

Chevron recently paid over $400,000 for the June spill--a negligable fee compared to their $13.7 billion profit since quarter three of 2010.  The new spill took place a mere 100 yards from June's disaster, stopping just 50 feet short of Red Butte Creek.

For a barrage of ironic and contradictory statements from one of Chevron's representatives, check out the Salt Lake Tribune article covering the [new] spill.

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Photo courtesy of the Salt Lake Tribune)

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