Trump

Governors Submit Pro-Pipeline Letter Written by DAPL PR Firm

  • Posted on: 21 February 2017
  • By: JesseColeman

The Governors of three states involved in the Dakota Access Pipeline are marching to the orders of a PR company hired by the pipeline’s builders.

On October 25th of last year, the Governors of North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa sent a letter to the Army Corp of Engineers demanding approval of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

A Greenpeace investigation has revealed that the first draft of this letter was written by LS2Group, a PR firm contracted by Energy Transfer Partners, the Dakota Access Pipeline’s (DAPL) main builder.

Emails between Iowa Governor Terry Branstad’s staff and Craig Schoenfeld, a senior account executive for LS2Group, contain a first draft of the three governors’ letter, written by LS2. An email from Schoenfeld obtained through an open records request makes plain that LS2 wrote the letter. He also questions why the letter was not sent to President Obama and other agency heads, as LS2 initially requested.

“The draft letter we sent the four governors for consideration last month was addressed to the President, DOJ, DOI and Army, but the one approved by ND, SD, and IA was addressed to the three USACE commanders. I was curious if this was a request by one of the governors for the change i.e.to steer clear of political pushback.”

The draft sent by LS2Group in September and the letter eventually sent by the Governors contain only minor differences in content.

LS2Group has multiple employees registered to lobby for Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), and has been lobbying for DAPL since at least 2014.

The PR firm has particularly strong ties to Governor Branstad of Iowa. It was Governor Branstad’s office that pushed the Governors of South and North Dakota to sign on to the LS2 letter.

As DeSmogBlog points out, Branstad’s chief of staff from 2010 to 2013, Jeff Boeyink, is now a Senior Vice President of LS2Group, and lobbies for ETP in Iowa. Susan Severino Fenton, LS2Group´s Director of Government Affairs, is also a registered lobbyist for Energy Transfer Partners.

LS2Group contributed $1,000 to Branstad in June of 2016. The PR firm has also contributed many thousands of dollars to the Republican party of Iowa since 2014.

The ease with which oil lobbyists were able to slap the official seals of three governors onto their clients’ missive underscores the cozy relationship between the oil industry and State Governments in the region.

The governors of Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota have fully supported the pipeline builders, providing militarized police to intimidate indigenous water protectors and their allies. As opposition to the pipeline escalated over the last few months, the Iowan government has brought severe criminal charges against those speaking against the pipeline.

Currently ETP is drilling under the Standing Rock Sioux’s water source, the Oahe Reservoir, despite a promise by the Army Corp of Engineers to conduct a thorough environmental review. A Presidential Memorandum by Donald Trump effectively cancelled any ongoing environmental assessment of the pipeline and gave the company permission to begin drilling. Donald Trump has investments in ETP and Phillips 66, which are partnered in building the pipeline. Trump also has close ties to ETP CEO Kelcy Warren, who contributed large sums to Trump’s presidential campaign.

 

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Scott Pruitt Emails: Oil Lobbyists Drafted His Letters as Oklahoma's AG

  • Posted on: 23 February 2017
  • By: Connor Gibson

Scott Pruitt had a bad habit as Oklahoma's attorney general: he liked to have oil lobbyists ghostwrite his official government letters calling for limits to enforcing federal pollution laws.

A lawsuit initiated by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has forced thousands of Scott Pruitt's emails into the daylight, after Pruitt's office delayed CMD's records requests for two years. CMD says it anticipates more documents in the coming weeks, so we're in the middle of an unfolding saga. You may recall this 2014 New York Times article by Eric Lipton, which opened with this juicy hook:

The letter to the Environmental Protection Agency from Attorney General Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma carried a blunt accusation: Federal regulators were grossly overestimating the amount of air pollution caused by energy companies drilling new natural gas wells in his state.

But Mr. Pruitt left out one critical point. The three-page letter was written by lawyers for Devon Energy, one of Oklahoma’s biggest oil and gas companies, and was delivered to him by Devon’s chief of lobbying.

“Outstanding!” William F. Whitsitt, who at the time directed government relations at the company, said in a note to Mr. Pruitt’s office. The attorney general’s staff had taken Devon’s draft, copied it onto state government stationery with only a few word changes, and sent it to Washington with the attorney general’s signature. “The timing of the letter is great, given our meeting this Friday with both E.P.A. and the White House.”

Mr. Whitsitt then added, “Please pass along Devon’s thanks to Attorney General Pruitt.”

Now we know this was not an isolated incident. A new article in today's New York Times notes a similar favor Pruitt conducted at the request of Devon Energy lobbyists who were concerned about U.S. Bureau of Land Management rules that could restrict oil and gas extraction on public lands:

In a March 2013 letter to Mr. Pruitt’s office, William Whitsitt, then an executive vice president of Devon, referred to a letter his company had drafted for Mr. Pruitt to deliver, on Oklahoma state stationery, to Obama administration officials. Mr. Pruitt, meeting with White House officials, made the case that the rule, which would rein in planet-warming methane emissions, would be harmful to his state’s economy. His argument was taken directly from Mr. Whitsitt’s draft language.

“To follow up on my conversations with Attorney General Pruitt and you, I believe that a meeting — or perhaps more efficient, a conference call — with OIRA (the OMB Office of Information and Regulatory Analysis) on the BLM rule should be requested right away,” Mr. Whitsitt wrote. “The attached draft letter (or something like it that Scott is comfortable talking from and sending to the acting director to whom the letter is addressed) could be the basis for the meeting or call.”

The letter referred to the section of the White House Office of Management and Budget that coordinates regulations throughout the government.

Two weeks later Devon's Bill Whitsitt sent a celebratory email to Pruitt's staff, saying, "I just let General Pruitt know that BLM is going to propose a different version of its federal lands hydraulic fracturing rule thanks to input received – thanks for the help on this!" In the most striking new example, CMD revealed that Scott Pruitt's staff accepted draft letters from oil refinery lobbyists who wanted government help to attack renewable fuels and limits to smog pollution:

The oil and gas lobby group American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) coordinated opposition in 2013 to both the Renewable Fuel Standard Program and ozone limits with Pruitt’s office. While AFPM was making its own case against the RFS with the American Petroleum Institute, it provided Pruitt with a template language for an Oklahoma petition, noting “this argument is more credible coming from a State.” Later that year, Pruitt did file opposition to both the RFS and ozone limits.

I recommend this deep dive by DeSmog Blog if you want more specific examples of oil lobbyists running Pruitt's agenda.

The emails are peppered with examples of Pruitt and his staff coordinating with Koch Industries and its political surrogates, including a conference call with a Koch Industries lobbyist. Pruitt frequently worked with some of the most notable Koch-funded climate denier hubs, including Americans for Prosperity, the Federalist Society, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the State Policy Network.

Pruitt was a keynote speaker for another well-known Koch venture in May, 2013, at a reception for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC's event was held at the Oklahoma City Petroleum Club, and Pruitt was told it would be sponsored by Koch Industries, Devon Energy, TransCanada, Continental Resources, and Phillips66. ALEC is the dating service for state legislators and corporate lobbyists, where Scott Pruitt has been a celebrity in recent years for leading other state attorneys general into attacks on the EPA.

The appointment to lead the EPA is a reward for Pruitt, who dutifully acted on behalf of fossil fuel companies as Oklahoma attorney general, and a consequence of the Republican administrations close ties to the oil and coal industries.

At Greenpeace, we invite our supporters to join us and resist this administration's handover of federal agencies to the industries who are supposed to be monitored by them. Scientific fact can't be yelled into submission. We'd rather not have the President learn that lesson by failing to protect Americans from the damage done by an unstable climate.

Just as Scott Pruitt's denial of fracking-related Oklahoma earthquakes did nothing to stop a surge in real earthquakes, putting a climate denier in charge of the EPA is not going to undo the global rise in average surface temperatures that lead to intense drought, flooding, storms, and sea level rise.

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