Top Oil Lobbyist Wants Government Open to Keep Rolling Back Environmental Rules

Repost from DeSmog Blog
[I highly recommend the DeSmog News & AlertsSign up here.  – R.S.]

News & Alerts – Clearing the PR Pollution that Clouds Climate Science

Message From the Editor

The Dark Side forces of climate denial and industry-funded misinformation are strong these days in the public conversations about energy and global warming.

Graham Readfearn unpacks an important new analysis by researchers from Yale and Brown University that show a blindspot to this Dark Side.

Climate action advocates have underestimated the strength and sophistication of decades-long fossil fuel-funded misinformation campaigns and need a coordinated set of strategies to fight back, say these leading academics.

Among those strategies are promoting financial transparency, suing misinformers and their funders, and researching the vast networks of think tanks and front groups.

All actions that sound familiar to DeSmog readers, of course. But the stakes are higher than ever as we see certain politicians worldwide actively undermining efforts to combat climate change and block the clean energy future we need.

Justin Mikulka digs into the oil industry lobbyists who are panicked that the government shutdown will derail their sinister plans to undo critical environmental and public health protections.

Find all that and more from our past week’s work below and on

Have a story tip or feedback? Get in touch:

Brendan DeMelle
Executive Director

P.S. Missed your chance to donate to DeSmog during our year-end drive? No worries! You can always donate securely via the Donate button on our homepage or right here. How easy is that? Thanks for your support!

Climate Advocates Underestimate Power of Fossil Fueled Misinformation Campaigns, Say Top Researchers

By Graham Readfearn (4 min. read)

Climate action advocates have underestimated the strength and sophistication of decades-long fossil fuel-funded misinformation campaigns and need a coordinated set of strategies to fight back, say leading academics.

Among those strategies, say the three researchers from Yale and Brown University, are promoting financial transparency, suing misinformers and their funders, and researching the vast networks of think tanks and front groups. Read more.

Top Oil Lobbyist Wants Government Open to Keep Rolling Back Environmental Rules

By Justin Mikulka (6 min. read)

Although the partial U.S. government shutdown, now marching into its fourth week, isn’t hurting the oil and gas industry, according to Mike Sommers, the head of the American Petroleum Institute (API) says he wants the shutdown to end so that the Trump administration can get back to actively helping the industry by meeting federal deadlines for rolling back environmental regulations.

Nevertheless, there are signs the Trump administration is still at work on that fossil fuel-friendly agenda in some places, such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), despite the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. Read more.

Virginia Air Board Member Who Approved a Controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline Permit Has Links to a Dominion Gas Partner

By Itai Vardi (6 min. read)

A member of a Virginia state permitting board who last week approved a highly controversial certification for Dominion’s planned Atlantic Coast pipeline has business ties to a company currently collaborating with Dominion on a related gas project, DeSmog has found.

William (Trip) Ferguson joined three other Air Pollution Control Board members to unanimously approve a permit for Dominion’s Buckingham compressor station. The planned station, which will propel the natural gas as it moves through the 600-mile interstate pipeline, will be built in Union Hill, a largely African-American community settled by free blacks and emancipated slaves after the Civil War. Read more.

Former Coal Lobbyist Andrew Wheeler Faces Senate Confirmation as EPA Administrator

By Sharon Kelly (9 min. read)

Acting Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief — and now Trump cabinet nominee — Andrew Wheeler heads into Senate confirmation hearings at 10 a.m. EST Wednesday, as the longest government shutdown in U.S. history has left the EPA mostly shuttered.

Wheeler, a former coal, petrochemical, and LNG (liquefied natural gas) lobbyist, has run America’s top environmental agency since ex-EPA chief Scott Pruitt resigned this summer under at least a dozen internal investigations. Read more.

Warning: A ‘Shrinking Window’ of Usable Groundwater — and the Oil and Gas Industry Isn’t Helping

By Tara Lohan, the Revelator. (7 min. read)

New analysis reveals that we have much less water in our aquifers than we previously thought — and the oil and gas industry could put that at even greater risk.

We’re living beyond our means when it comes to groundwater. That’s probably not news to everyone, but new research suggests that, deep underground in a number of key aquifers in some parts of the United States, we may have much less water than previously thought. Read more.

From the Climate Disinformation Database: American Petroleum Institute

If we had to pick one group responsible for the most egregious misinformation campaigns to sow doubt and delay climate action, it’d have to be the API. They are so blatantly anti-future, only they could want the shutdown to end so Trump can keep destroying environmental protections and expanding dangerous drilling.

Read the full profile and browse other individuals and organizations in our research database.

Former chief of FBI Counterintelligence: Trump a ‘clear and present danger’

Reprint from
[Editor: Incredible 6-minute interview at the end of this story!  Be sure to watch!  Note that Laufman is calling on ALL OF US to speak out now.  – R.S.]

Trump ‘is a clear and present danger’ to national security’: Ex-DOJ counterintelligence head

By BOB BRIGHAM, 14 JAN 2019 AT 22:15 ET 
Composite image of MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow and David Laufman ran the Justice Department’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section (screengrabs)

SNBC anchor Rachel Maddow brought the former chief of the Justice Department’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section to discuss the latest revelations in scandals involving Russia swirling around President Donald Trump.

David Laufman served as a federal prosecutor and ran the D.O.J.’s counterintelligence division at the time the FBI, according to a New York Times report, began a counterintelligence investigation into President Trump.

Maddow noted a tweet by Laufman, which she said, “sent a shiver down my spine.”

“It was a tipping point, among the data points we’re familiar with through the public actions of the special counsel, other investigative reporting,” he explained. “I spent 25 years in public service, mostly in the national security space and I feel I have a moral obligation to speak up when I see action taken by the president or the members of the administration that in my judgment undermine the national security of the United States.”

“The notion that the president of the United States would be trying to conceal details of conversations with a leader of our principle foreign adversary was positively chilling,” he continued.

“When you describe the president as acting in a way that is counter to the national security interest of the United States, those of us who don’t think of this in legalistic terms, those of us who are civilians trying to make sense of this moment in history and thinking about our own responsibility which you’re calling us to think about here, do you mean in blunt terms that the continuing existence of this presidency is a threat to the national security of the United States?” Maddow asked. “Do you think the president is that kind of a threat?”

“I think there’s a culmination of things we can point to in the public record now, the unbelievable acquiescence to Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, that was positively shocking to those of us who worked in the national security, all of the charging documents, people associated with the president, all of those point to a reasonable inference — and it’s a painful anguishing thing to acknowledge — that the president of the United States is a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States,” he concluded.


KQED: Big Oil, Small Town: Valero’s Election Influence in Benicia’s Politics

Repost from KQED NEWS Public Radio
[Editor: This  is a GREAT audio report.  Only 12 minutes – well worth the time!  – R.S.]

Big Oil, Small Town: Valero’s Election Influence in Benicia’s Politics

12 min – Ted Goldberg & Devin Katayama, Jan 14, 2019
The Valero refinery in Benicia. (Craig Miller/KQED)

Valero spent $200,000 in last year’s Benicia city council election to help elect two candidates who were less critical of the company than others. That’s created tension between the oil refiner and the city, leading people to question how much influence Valero should have in local politics. On Tuesday Benicia will discuss the possibility of new campaign finance laws that could limit corporate influence in its small town.

For the audio interview, go to

Guest: Ted Goldberg, KQED News Editor

Mayor’s thoughts for Council consideration on public campaign financing, etc.

From an E-Alert by Benicia Mayor Elizabeth Patterson

Council meeting:  …dark money

By Elizabeth Patterson, January 12, 2019

The city council meeting agenda and packet with staff reports and recommendations are available on-line here.   Items of interest include:

[excerpt…]  The second item of interest for consideration is Council Member Campbell’s two-step process request to consider updates to the city’s campaign ordinances.

Staff is recommending the council provide direction on whether the Santa Clara model and any other proposed updates should be considered and whether updates should be discussed and reviewed by an ad hoc group or by the Open Government Commission prior to consideration by the Council.

Other ideas that can be considered are:

  1. “Public Campaign Financing Won Big on Tuesday”:That was one of the headlines after last year’s elections that nationally had the highest turnout for 50 years.  Voters overwhelmingly passed Fair Elections matching funds systems in Denver, Colorado with 69% of the vote, in Baltimore, Maryland with 76% of the vote, and in New York City with 72%.  Great news in the fight to get politicians out of the Big Money fundraising game!

    To what extent can cities utilize this strategy?  For instance, some cities have adopted ordinances for candidates who pledge voluntary campaign expenditures limits but the candidate is targeted by an outside committee known as PACs spending nearly ten times what a candidate can spend.  So the city provides public funds to supplement the targeted candidate not equal to what is being spent by the PAC but helpful.

    Common Cause discusses public financing in this booklet.

  2. When we set up the Open Government Commission, the first batch of applicants had many great ideas – many of which have been adopted – but not including having a city website similar to the City of Livermore for guidance on how to be a “smart voter”.  While the League of Women Voters does this and other organization, it may make sense to have the resources available on a city webpage.
  3. Another concept is “participatory-budgeting” government which engages the public in decision making.  Why this idea is included in a discussion about campaigning is that a more engaged public is a more informed public.  At the end of the day, that is the goal so that voter decisions are based on information and not fear or “bad for Benicia” speak.  Some ideas to blend the public financing and “participatory” government could be explored further upon council direction.