New Methane Rules Underestimate the Climate Threat from Oil and Gas

  • Posted on: 19 August 2015
  • By: JesseColeman

As promised earlier this year, the Environmental Protection Agency has released methane pollution standards for the oil and gas industry. While regulation of methane is a necessity, these rules are much too weak to accomplish the administration’s goals of meaningful greenhouse gas reduction. Here is why:

Methane Must Be Regulated, But New Rules Underestimate Its Power

Methane is 86 to 105 times as powerful as carbon dioxide at disrupting the climate over a 20-year period. The EPA and many news organizations misreport the real power of methane by using old science since updated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Obama’s new rules calculate that methane is 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide over a 100-year timeline. However, this ignores the fact that methane is most potent when it is first released. Scientists say that methane could push the climate over a “tipping point” in the next 18-25 years, causing runaway global warming, and making a 100-year timeline obsolete. In order to take the threat from methane seriously, we must join the IPCC and assess methane’s threat on a time scale that makes sense in the context of avoiding catastrophic climate change.

Craig Sautner lights a plastic jug of water from his well on fire. Methane from nearby hydraulic fracturing natural gas drilling has contaminated his water supply.

Craig Sautner lights a plastic jug of water from his well on fire. Methane from nearby hydraulic fracturing natural gas drilling has contaminated his water supply.

Oil and Gas Industry—Especially Fracking—Is the Largest Industrial Methane Polluter

It is undisputed that the oil and gas industry is the largest industrial emitter of methane. A recent study of the major gas producing shales found that the Barnett Shale around Dallas was leaking the equivalent of 16 coal plants worth of greenhouse gases every year. Similar studies from Colorado found that highly fracked areas leaked more than 19 tons of methane an hour.

But we don’t actually know how much the oil and gas industry is emitting. The Obama administration’s new rules are aimed at reducing methane between 40 to 45 percent from 2005 levels. Unfortunately, no one really knows how much methane the oil and gas industry pumped into the atmosphere in 2005. The EPA figures that the administration’s rules rely on are based on numbers self reported by the industry. These numbers are almost certainly a fraction of actual total methane emissions. Recent studies that use planes to determine methane emissions from oil and gas operations have found much higher rates of pollution than the industry or the EPA will currently admit. For example, a study released this August found that natural gas gathering facilities, which collect methane from fracked wells, lose about 100 billion cubic feet of gas every year—eight times more than the EPA estimates. A Stanford report concluded that there is already about 50 percent more methane in the atmosphere than previously estimated by the EPA. The New York Times recently reported that the creator of the technology commonly used to measure methane emissions by the oil and gas industry thinks his invention is not accurate the way the industry and some research groups use it, and is missing a huge portion of the pollution actually released by the industry.

These Rules Won’t Cut Enough Methane

These regulations are based on old science that misrepresents the impact of methane on the climate. The aim of the new rules is to reduce methane emissions 40 to 45 percent of an imaginary number—an underestimation of 2005 emissions. On top of that, they are only aimed at new sources, ignoring the nearly one million fracked wells and associated infrastructure that already exist in the United States. Real and meaningful reductions in methane must be made to reach the president’s global warming goals, and they have to be better than these.


Rick Scott's Florida: Climate Change Denial Part of "the Drill"

  • Posted on: 15 April 2015
  • By: JesseColeman

Newly released documents provide further indication that Florida officials were directed not to talk about climate change.


In an email exchange from April of 2014 obtained by a records request, a communications official working for the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in Florida instructed a scientist to “make no claims as to cause” of Florida’s sea level rise. The scientist responded “I know the drill,” suggesting that a prohibition on mentioning climate change was well established in the department.

The exchange came in response to a request for an interview from National Geographic. In a report to her superiors, the “administrator of external affairs” for the DEP, who was in charge of approving the interview request, expressed confidence that the scientist would “stay on message,” but offered to be “more hands on with this because of the sensitivity,” should her supervisors insist. Scientists have repeatedly warned rising sea levels pose a serious threat to Florida'a coast. A Southeast Florida Regional Climate Compact paper that water in the Miami area could rise by 2 feet by the year 2060, due to climate change.

This latest evidence of a ban on mentioning climate change is congruent with earlier reports that Governor Rick Scott forbade Florida agencies from discussing the matter. As was first uncovered by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, DEP officials were told not to use the terms “climate change,” “global warming,” or “sustainability” once Rick Scott was elected governor in 2011. Rick Scott, a republican, has been a long time denier of climate change science. As the New Republic reported:

a reporter asked Scott whether man-made climate change "is significantly affecting the weather, the climate." Scott tried to change the subject and replied, "Well, I'm not a scientist." When asked by the Tampa Bay Times in 2010 whether he believed in climate change, Scott simply replied, "No."

Governor Rick Scott is well connected to the oil and gas billionaire Koch brothers’ world of climate change denial. Scott has attended secretive strategy meetings held by the Kochs, and has benefitted politically from Koch initiatives and funding. The Koch brothers have given over $79 million to groups that deny climate change science and oppose regulations on greenhouse gas pollution.  

Company or Organization: 

EPA's National Study of Fracking Crippled by Industry Pressure

  • Posted on: 5 March 2015
  • By: JesseColeman

Fracking companies had extensive influence over a critical study of the groundwater impacts from fracking, according to insider documents released by Greenpeace. In 2010, amidst growing worries about the environmental impacts from fracking, Congress compelled the EPA to conduct a study. The study was supposed to be a definitive look at the issue, exploring if and how fracking contaminates groundwater supplies. That study was supposed to be released in 2012, but has been delayed until 2016. Documents released as part of Greenpeace investigation have found that the EPA was forced to rely on shale companies like Chesapeake Energy for data, funding, and access to fracking sites. The shale industry in turn constrained the study, limiting what could be studied and when. These constraints led to the eventual cancellation of perhaps the most important part of the study - the "prospective" section.  

Industry Actions leads to the Cancellation of Science

When the EPA's study was first conceptualized, it was supposed to include retrospective and prospective portions. The retrospective pieces would examine data collected by the industry in the past. The prospective section was where new scientific study would be done. The prospective studies were supposed to take baseline data from groundwater in areas that had not yet been drilled, and compare them to samples taken after drilling and fracking occurred. This type of prospective study, which starts pre-fracking, has never been done before and represented a major advance in the scientific study of fracking's impacts. The prospective portions would be the most reliable way to determine whether oil and gas development contaminates surface water and nearby aquifers. One EPA scientist told Inside Climate News "The single most important thing you could do is prospective studies.” However, the EPA was reliant on two shale companies for access to areas that had not yet been fracked, an arrangement that led to the full cancellation of the entire prospective section of the EPA's study. Documents obtained by Greenpeace show that Chesapeake Energy, one of the companies that initially agreed to cooperate with the EPA on the prospective portions of the study, actually drilled wells at their prospective study site, before the EPA was able to collect baseline data. This effectively torpedoed the entire project, and attempts at replacing the location, originally in Louisiana, with one in Oklahoma, also ended in failure. The correspondence between Chesapeake and EPA includes a draft press release announcing the cancellation of the prospective study in Louisiana conducted with Chesapeake. The release blames the cancellation on  "scheduling conflicts, " resulting in Chesapeake drilling the well before baseline data could be collected. The press release was jointly edited by EPA and Chesapeake, but never released to the public. The EPA would never publicly announce the cancellation of the prospective studies, and only after increased pressure from Greenpeace did they reference it's cancellation deep on the study's website. The second prospective study, to be conducted with Range Resources, has also been cancelled. The cancellation of the prospective pieces has had a major impact on the usefulness of the study. "We won’t know anything more in terms of real data than we did five years ago," said Geoffrey Thyne, a geochemist and a member of the EPA's 2011 Science Advisory Board, a group of independent scientists who reviewed the draft plan of the study. (from Inside Climate News)

Water Supply Problems

Kids in Pennsylvania hold tap water contaminated by nearby shale drilling

Delay and Obstruct - Study attacked on all sides by Industry

The documents reveal a number of instances where the fracking industry delayed and obstructed the EPA’s attempts to study fracking. The industry waged an attack from every side, political, scientific, and procedural. As Sharon Kelly writes for Desmog, "Watered-down federal research weakens the possibility for future regulations. It also has been used to justify loopholes in federal environmental laws for the oil and gas industry." Kelly points out the 3 step process that various industries have employed to impact unwanted studies:

Step one: using a rhetoric of collaboration and “non-adversarial” relationships, the industry effectively establishes inside access to what otherwise should be an independent research process. This allows the industry to meddle with study methodologies, pick and chose its own favored experts, and distort findings. Step two: through inside access, the industry affords itself the authority to contest, after the fact, any findings that it is not able to water down on the front end. Step three: this access also allows industry the ability to impose infeasible methodological demands on the agency, slowing the process to a crawl and at times forcing the agency to give up trying to get answers to certain key questions.

Fracking for natural gas in Pennsylvania.

This Pennsylvania resident's water changed color and taste after a fracked well was placed near her property.

Here is a list of findings from the documents:

  • Chesapeake only allowed for baseline sampling after the fracking wells had initially been drilled, rather than beforehand, as EPA scientists preferred. Without having baseline data pre-drilling, the industry can claim that contaminates existed there before their drills pierced the aquifer. The Industry has claimed this in multiple cases where groundwater impacts from fracking have occurred.
  • Chesapeake demanded the EPA reduce the depth of their study from 300 to 150 feet, and demanded that the EPA focus solely on the fracking stage, not drilling, completion, or other stages where contamination can occur.
  • API and ANGA tried to have their own consultants shadow the EPA's scientists during the study. This proved to be distracting to the scientists conducting the study.
  • At the same time, Chesapeake and Range, the two companies that were supposed to cooperating with EPA on the prospective study, were attacking other EPA studies of water contamination cases. While initially finding evidence of contamination from Chesapeake Energy wells in Pennsylvania and Range Resources wells in Texas, The EPA never pursued any regulatory action.
  • Chesapeake was, as one EPA email put it “part of the team here” when it came to the water study.
  • The Inspector General of the EPA tried to investigate “the EPA’s and states’ ability to manage potential threats to water resources from hydraulic fracturing.” In response, pro-fracking Congressional representatives demanded the investigation “immediately end.”

As Neela Banerjee writes in Inside Climate News: "The industry balked at the scope of the study and sowed doubts about the EPA's ability to deliver definitive findings. In addition, concerns about the safety of drinking water conflicted with the Obama administration's need to spur the economy out of recession while expanding domestic energy production."

A Chesapeake drilling site warns of water contamination

A Chesapeake drilling site warns of water contamination

Does Fracking Contaminate Water Supplies?

Studies conducted since the EPA’s study began have found evidence that fracking affects groundwater supplies. A 2013 Duke University study found that within a kilometer of fracking wells, methane concentration in drinking-water wells was 6 times higher than the surrounding area.  A University of Texas-Arlington study from 2013 found elevated levels of arsenic and heavy metals in groundwater near fracking sites in Texas’ Barnett Shale. See Greenpeace's fracking page for a list of groundwater contamination incidents.


Green "Billionaire's club" Conspiring to Save the Environment?

  • Posted on: 8 August 2014
  • By: JesseColeman

Vitter alleges a "Billionaire's club" is conspireing to save the environment.

Green Billionaire's Club?

Is a “billionaire’s club” conspiring to help the environment? A new report by the Senate minority’s Environment and Public Works (EPW) committee called “The Chain of Environmental Command: How a Club of billionaires and Their Foundations Control the Environmental Movement and Obama’s EPA” says yes. The report was ostensibly commissioned by David Vitter, the ranking republican in EPW. Despite a lack of good grammar, the Vitter’s "Billionaire’s club" report represents a significant amount of government time and energy. It tracks donations from major environmental foundations to various non-profits, like the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Defense Fund. It has tables and graphs. But as Lee Fang points out, it is missing some important context:

“Though the report scolds the nonprofits as untrustworthy and elite, there’s virtually no information in the report that details anything they have done wrong. Rather, Vitter and his staff appear to disagree with the shared policy goals of these nonprofits, which include combating global warming as well as reducing cancer-causing pollutants from the air and water.”

Rather than a tool for open government, Vitter's Billionaire's Club report seems more like a distraction from the real billionaires in politics, major corporations and industrialists, with whose agenda David Vitter is strongly aligned.  

David Vitter and The Koch Brothers

  Interestingly, Vitter has ties to his own billionaires club, specifically the billionaire Koch Brothers. Sen. Vitter has vociferously supported the Billionaires, and was caught on camera saying: "I think the Koch Brothers are two of the most patriotic Americans in the history of the Earth… I’ll be honest with you, God bless the Koch brothers." According to ThinkProgress, the Koch brothers have blessed Senator Vitter right back. A review of campaign contributions finds that he and his leadership PAC have received at least $57,500 from the Koch brothers’ corporate political action committee - the same PAC that has been repeatedly accused of breaking elections laws surrounding money contributions. Besides the Koch brothers, Senator Vitter's largest political contributors are billionaire oil and gas interests.  

David Vitter and the environment

Vitter is not usually a friend of environmental legislation. Oil Change International has Vitter siding with billionaire fossil fuel interests 94% of the time. For example, David Vitter was instrumental in delaying EPA ‘s assessment of the health risks of formaldehyde, while being lauded by companies that use or manufacture the chemical, like Koch Industries. Formaldehyde, which has been conclusively linked to cancer by the National Cancer Institute, is still only a “probable” carcinogen according to the EPA. Furthermore, as Steve Horn points out, Vitter's green Billionaire's club report may have an ulterior motive in blocking environmentalists:

What the 92-page report leaves out is that Vitter — an esteemed member of the Senate “Millionaires Club” — owns tens of thousands of dollars in stocks of the electric utility Wisconsin Energy Corporation (We Energies), which owns major coal-fired power plants in both Oak Creek, Wisc. and Pleasant Prairie, Wisc.

We Energies says it stands to lose economically if the proposed Obama EPA carbon rules are implemented, citing the potential risks related to legislation and regulation in its most recentU.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Form 10-Q.

  Should there be less money in politics and more disclosure? Yup. Just funny to hear that from David Vitter. In fact there is a bill that Sen. Vitter could support, that would help reduce the influence of secret money in politics. Called the DISCLOSE Act, it seeks to reduce the torrent of dark money unleashed by the Citizens United v. FEC supreme court decision. However, the DISCLOSE Act would also force transparency on the Koch political giving machine, well known for obscuring the origin of political contributions. In spite of EPW's focus on Vitter's billionaire's club and political spending by environmental groups, Senator Vitter has refused to support campaign finance reform, or efforts aimed at reducing the wealthy's influence in politics, like the DISCLOSE Act. 

If the Senate was interested in uncovering secretive funding apparatus bent on twisting government policy to the detriment of people and their future, perhaps a look into climate change denial organizations would be a better use of tax dollars. A report by Drexel University's Robert Brulle found that 140 foundations funneled $558 million to almost 100 climate denial organizations from 2003 to 2010. This dwarfs most of the numbers used in Vitter's Billionaire's club report. However, Vitter has called climate change science “ridiculous pseudo-science garbage.” Perhaps Vitter and his staff should read Greenpeace's report on Koch funding of climate change denial, if he is so interested in secretive manipulations of politics. Billionaire's club.

Company or Organization: 

Obama's State of the Union speech riddled with oil industry talking points

  • Posted on: 30 January 2014
  • By: JesseColeman

Test your BS meter with this one question quiz:

Which part of Obama's State of the Union was written by the oil industry?

a) “America is closer to energy independence than we’ve been in decades”
b) “natural gas – if extracted safely, it’s the bridge fuel that can power our economy with less of the carbon pollution that causes climate change.”
c) fracking for oil and gas can be "sustainable"
d) all of the above

The answer is literally, "all of the above."

During his State of The Union speech, President Obama said:

"The all-of-the-above energy strategy I announced a few years ago is working, and today, America is closer to energy independence than we’ve been in decades."

The phrase “all of the above,” which the president used in his 2012 State of the Union address as well, is the creation of the oil industry’s most powerful lobbying and public relations arm, the American Petroleum Institute (API). According to the New York Times, the phrase was introduced in 2000 by API to advocate for oil drilling. API’s position at the time was “that an effective national energy policy must, at a minimum, allow for all of the above.” API, proud of the hegemony of their ideas, actually predicted the president would champion the pro-fossil fuel message in this most recent State of the Union address, the day before the speech was given.

After The American Petroleum Institute debuted the phrase in 2000, it was quickly picked up by republicans with wells to drill. John Mccain made it a central part of his 2008 campaign for president. Republicans in the house and senate used it to promote offshore drilling. The former governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell, now under federal indictment for corruption, listed the phrase on his campaign website.

ExxonMobil, the most profitable corporation in world history, continues to use the phrase in advertisements today, like this ad from ExxonMobil:

This isn't just etymological trivia. The use of oil industry talking points by the president indicates how ingrained and powerful the fossil fuel industry is in the U.S’s energy conversation.

It also casts a revealing light on other pro-fossil energy comments made by President Obama in the speech, like promoting “Energy Independence.” The idea is, if we allow oil and gas corporations to exploit our land and water to extract fossil fuels, it will benefit the average citizen by lowering energy prices and reducing dependence of “foreign” energy supplies. This is completely false, as Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon Mobil will tell you. The oil industry wants to sell it's product on an open market, to the highest bidder, no matter who that is. Currently there are plans for 25 Liquified Natural Gas export terminals in the US, and the American Petroleum Institute is spending millions of dollars to undo a decades old law that prohibits the export of crude oil. As more oil and gas is drilled from American soil and water, more gas and oil will be exported. We will continue to import oil and other goods from around the world, regardless of how much drilling happens in the U.S.

Another energy myth promoted by the Obama administration and the fossil fuel industry is natural gas as a bridge fuel to renewable energy.

The truth is that gas is primarily comprised of methane, an extremely powerful greenhouse gas. Some scientists believe that methane could be up to 105 times as destabilizing to the global climate as carbon dioxide. When fully burned, gas releases less CO2 than coal or oil, but currently huge amounts of methane are escaping unburned into the atmosphere. An increase in spending on gas infrastructure, like pipelines, Liquified Natural Gas export terminals, or vehicle refueling stations, is not a bridge to renewable energy. It is the same old fossil fuel infrastructure that poses serious threats to the earth’s climate and local environments. The U.S doesn’t need more spending on fossil fuels, it needs a real commitment to renewable energy, efficiency, and cutting carbon pollution.

Gas Pipeline Construction in Bradford
Gas Pipeline Construction in Bradford County, Pennsylvania


Known Associates: 
Company or Organization: 

The Keystone XL Coverup: The State Department's Attempt to Hide Oil Industry Connections

  • Posted on: 21 March 2013
  • By: JesseColeman

Mother Jones Magazine has uncovered a new twist in the fight against the Keystone XL pipeline. As it turns out the authors who drafted the environmental review of the Keystone XL pipeline worked for TransCanada, Koch Industries, Shell Oil, and other oil corporations that stand to benefit from building the Keystone XL. Not only did the State Department know about these conflicts of interest, they redacted this information from public filings in attempt to conceal the truth.

For background, the Keystone XL is a proposed oil pipeline that would ship sour crude oil from the Canadian tar sands to the Gulf coast of Texas. The oil would then be refined and shipped abroad.

In order to build the pipeline, Transcanada, the company who proposed Keystone XL, must get the OK from the State Department. The State Department bases its decision on whether or not to approve the pipeline on an environmental review, conducted by a third party group overseen by the State Department and paid for by Transcanada.

This review, called the "draft supplemental environmental impact statement" was released earlier this month.  It has been widely criticized as downplaying the impact that building Keystone XL will have on the climate, and all but paving the way for approval for the project.

The review was conducted by a company called Environmental Resources Management (ERM). When ERM released its review of Keystone, it also released a 55 page filing claiming that there was no conflicts of interest in writing the report. However, the State Department redacted information from this filing, including the biographies of key experts involved in writing the report.

According to Mother Jones, those redactions were meant to keep ties between the report authors and Transanada a secret from the public. Here is what the State Department was covering up:

  • ERM's second-in-command on the Keystone report, Andrew Bielakowski, had worked on three previous pipeline projects for TransCanada over seven years as an outside consultant. He also consulted on projects for ExxonMobil, BP, and ConocoPhillips, three of the Big Five oil companies that could benefit from the Keystone XL project and increased extraction of heavy crude oil taken from the Canadian tar sands.
  • Another ERM employee who contributed to State's Keystone report—and whose prior work history was also redacted—previously worked for Shell Oil;
  • A third worked as a consultant for Koch Gateway Pipeline Company, a subsidiary of Koch Industries. Shell and Koch* have a significant financial interest in the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. ERM itself has worked for Chevron, which has invested in Canadian tar sands extraction, according to its website.

However, this is not the first time that the State Department has been criticized for conflicts of interests involving TransCanada and Keystone XL.

From Mother Jones:

In October 2011, Obama's reelection campaign hired Broderick Johnson, who had previously lobbied in favor of Keystone, as a senior adviser. Emails obtained by Friends of the Earth, an environmental group that opposes the Keystone pipeline, revealed a cozy relationship between TransCanada lobbyist Paul Elliott and Marja Verloop, an official at the US Embassy in Canada whose portfolio covers the Keystone project. Before he lobbied for TransCanada, Elliott worked as deputy campaign manager on Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential bid. Clinton served as secretary of state until recently.


The question is, how can the State Department get away with routinely ignoring or burying connections between the oil industry and regulators responsible for Keystone XL?



Climate Science Denier Chris Stewart now Head of Congressional Committee on Climate Science

  • Posted on: 20 March 2013
  • By: JesseColeman

Chris Stewart, climate change science denier


Chris Stewart, a republican from Utah, was recently appointed Chair of the House subcommittee on Environment.


This means that Congressman Stewart now has dominion over the EPA, climate change research, and "all activities related to climate." According to the House Science Committees website (of which Stewart's subcommitee is a part), the chair of the Environment subcommittee oversees:


"all matters relating to environmental research; Environmental Protection Agency research and development; environmental standards; climate change research and development; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, including all activities related to weather, weather services, climate, the atmosphere, marine fisheries, and oceanic research;…"

Unfortunately for the EPA, NOAA, and anyone worried about climate change, Chris Stewart is a climate science denier. Mr. Stewart believes there is "insufficient science" to determine if climate change is caused by humans. He believes this in spite of the fact that the EPA, NOAA, and all experts in the field (which he now oversees), disagrees with him. 

For the record, Chris Stewart has no advanced degrees in science. However, before running for congress he was owner and CEO of Shipley Group, a company that trains government workers on environmental issues. Shipley Group actually runs a training on climate change science, and according to the Shipley Group website "Upon completion of the workshop, participants will be able to understand basic climate change science." Clearly Mr. Stewart has never taken his company's training.

Ties to Fossil Fuels

Though Stewart seems to ignore climate change science (while his company profits by teaching it), he does not ignore the fossil fuel industry. In fact he is quite sympathetic to the plight of oil and gas companies. His campaign website claims:

"I am the CEO of a company that works extensively with independent energy producers. I understand how difficult it is to get a drilling permit on federal lands. It is painfully slow, incoherently arbitrary, and always expensive."

Stewart's "extensive" knowledge of the fossil fuel industry is not a surprise.  His brother, Tim Stewart is a lobbyist for American Capitol Group, a washington DC lobbying firm. American capitol Group lobbies for fossil Fuel interests, like the Western Energy Alliance, a group mainly comprised of fracking and oil companies. Tim Stewart also lobbied for EnergyNorthAmerica, a company he cofounded to lobby for the Fossil Fuel Industry. One EnergyNorthAmerica slide presentation reads:

"The fact that fossil energy and mining are viewed by political "elites" with disfavor, a view driven by acolytes of radical environmentalism, has resulted in damaging laws and regulation and general neglect"

Unsurprisingly, the fossil fuel industry does not ignore Chris Stewart either. One of Stewart's books (which were published and praised by Glenn Beck), is recommended reading at Koch Industries.  Stewart received the maximum possible campaign contribution from ExxonMobil and Koch Industries during his last campaign. He also received considerable support from several Koch and Exxon funded SuperPACs. All told, he received more funding from dirty energy companies and their superPACs than any other single source.

See Chris Stewart's PolluterWatch profile for more information.


Known Associates: 
Company or Organization: 

ALABAMA - Oil & Gas "Critical Infrastructure" Anti-Protest Bills

  • Posted on: 18 July 2019
  • By: Connor Gibson

Updated May 8, 2020.

See Full Report: State Bills to Criminalize Peaceful Protest of Oil & Gas "Critical Infrastructure"

2020 SB 45

  • Introduced and read in House on May 4, 2020 - many legislators are absent, due to COVID-19
  • Amended and passed by Senate on March 12, 2020
  • Introduced and referred to Transportation and Energy committee on February 4, 2020
  • Direct link to SB 45 via Alabama legislature

ICNL Analysis:

Would amend existing state law to create new criminal penalties for conduct that may occur in the course of peaceful protests near oil or gas pipelines and other infrastructure facilities. Alabama already criminalizes trespass onto “critical infrastructure,” pursuant to law passed in 2016. The bill would expand the law's definition of “critical infrastructure” to include "pipelines," such that a person who trespasses onto pipeline property could be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by one year in jail and a $6,000 fine. The bill would also create a new felony offense for any person who "injures," "interrupts or interferes with" critical infrastructure while trespassing. Such an act would be a Class C felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and $15,000.

ALEC Legislators:

Campaign Finance: 

Sen. Cam Ward has received $40,272 from oil, gas, utility and railroad companies.

(Note: the data llnked above includes payments from the Alabama Home Builder's Association. For relevance, those contributions are excluded from the $40,272 sum, above).

2020 HB 36

2016 HB 77

  • Died in committee
  • Introduced and read for first time on February 2, 2012 
  • Full text here - some links are broken on Alabama legislature website

ALEC Legislators:

CSG Legislators:

  • Sole sponsor Chris Pringle is not a confirmed member of the Council of State Governments.

Media Reports and References:


Alexander C. Kaufman, Yet Another State Quietly Moves To Criminalize Fossil Fuel Protests Amid Coronavirus, HuffPost, May 8, 2020

Kyle Whitmire, Drones help police pollution in Alabama. Lawmakers want to make that a crime., March 1, 2020

Ward and Brown announce legislation to protect critical infrastructure, Opelika Observer, January 23, 2020

AL State Senator Cam Ward, Critical Infrastructure Legislation Introduced, Cam Ward: State Senate District 14, February 2, 2020


AL State Senator Cam Ward, Senate Bill Protects Critical Infrastructure Sites, Increases Penalty for Criminal Trespassing, Cam Ward: State Senate District 14, March 10, 2016


TEXAS - Oil & Gas "Critical Infrastructure" Anti-Protest Bills

  • Posted on: 25 March 2019
  • By: Connor Gibson

Updated March 5, 2020

See Full Report: State Bills to Criminalize Peaceful Protest of Oil & Gas "Critical Infrastructure"

2019 TX HB 3557

  • Law takes effect on September 1, 2019.
  • Signed by Gov. Greg Abbott on June 14, 2019.
  • Passed House on May 7, passed Senate on May 20, 2019.
  • Filed on March 6, 2019.

ICNL Analysis:

Creates new criminal sanctions and expansive civil liability for protests near pipelines and other infrastructure facilities, including those under construction. The law provides for four new criminal offenses. One, "impairing or interrupting operation of critical infrastructure facility," is defined as entering or remaining on facility property and intentionally or knowingly "impair[ing] or interrupt[ing] the operation of" the facility. The act is a state jail felony, punishable by up to two years in jail and a $10,000 fine. This provision could target peaceful protests that, e.g., hinder access to pipelines or pipeline construction sites. A second offense, "intent to impair or interrupt critical infrastructure," is defined as entering or remaining on facility property "with the intent to impair or interrupt the operation of the facility." The act is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a year in jail and a $4,000 fine. This provision could capture peaceful protests that take place near a pipeline or other infrastructure facility, regardless of whether they actually impair or interrupt the facility's operations. The law also creates two new felony offenses for "damage" and "intent to damage" critical infrastructure. Under the law, an association that is found guilty of any of the offenses around critical infrastructure is subject to a $500,000 fine. The law also creates new civil and vicarious liability for individuals and organizations related to the criminal offenses: A defendant who engages in conduct covered by any of the criminal offenses is civilly liable to the property owner, as is an organization that “knowingly compensates" a person for engaging in the conduct. The property owner may sue for and claim actual damages, court costs, and exemplary damages.

ALEC Legislators:

Oil & Gas Lobbying:

According to witness slips filed for Texas Senate [PDF] and House [PDF] committee hearings on HB 3557 (reported by Grist), the following companies formally supported the bill. 

These companies and trade associations gave a combined $100,051 to the three co-sponsors of HB 3557, from 2010-2018.

Companies marked with * testified before the legislature.

  • Anadarko Petroleum
  • Association of Electric Companies of Texas
    • member companies include CenterPoint, Entergy, Exelon, NextEra, NRG, Reliant, Xcel, and subsidiaries of American Electric Power and Vistra Energy (formerly Energy Future Holdings)
  • BNSF Railway (subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway)*
  • CenterPoint Energy
  • Cheniere Energy
  • Chevron
  • Concho Resources
  • DCP Midstream
  • Dow Chemical
  • EOG Energy
  • Enbridge
  • ExxonMobil
  • Husch Blackwell Strategies
  • Koch Industries
  • Magellan Midstream Partners
  • NuStar Energy
  • Occidental Petroleum
  • Parsley Energy
  • Permian Basin Petroleum Association
  • Phillips66*
  • Plains All American Pipeline
  • Shell Oil
  • SM Energy
  • Texas Alliance of Energy Producers
  • Texas Association of Builders
  • Texas Association of Business
  • Texas Association of Dairymen
  • Texas Association of Manufacturers
  • Texas Chemical Council*
  • Texas Independent Producers & Royalty Owners Association
    • Board of directors includes executives from Encana, EOG Resources, and Occidental.
  • Texas Oil & Gas Association*
    • Board of directors includes executives from Anadarko, BP, Chesapeake Energy, Chevron, Citgo, ConocoPhillips, Devon Energy, Encana, EOG Resources, ExxonMobil (XTO Energy), Marathon Petroleum, Noble Energy, Occidental, Shell, and Valero.
  • Texas Pipeline Association*
    • Member companies include Anadarko, CenterPoint Energy, Cheniere Energy, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Enbridge, Energy Transfer Partners, Kinder Morgan, Koch Industries (Flint Hills Resources), Magellan Midstream, NextEra Energy, OneOK, Phillips66, and Williams Companies.
  • Texas Poultry Federation
  • Texas Public Power Association
  • Texas Railroad Association
    • Member companies include BNSF and Union Pacific
  • Valero Energy*

2019 TX SB 1993

  • Replaced by HB 3557 (above).
  • Died in committee on March 27, 2019.
  • Filed on March 7, 2019.
  • Referred to Senate Natural Resource and Economic Development Committee on March 19, 2019.

ICNL Analysis:

Would create harsh new criminal sanctions and expansive civil liability for protests near pipelines and other infrastructure facilities, including those under construction. The bill provides for two new offenses: "damage to critical infrastructure," defined to include actual damage or "intentionally or knowingly impeding, inhibiting, or interfering with the operation of" an infrastructure facility. This provision could target protests that, e.g., peacefully hinder access to pipelines or pipeline construction sites. Under the bill, “damage to critical infrastructure” is a second degree felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. A second offense, "intent to damage critical infrastructure," is defined as entering onto infrastructure facility with intent to commit "damage," as defined above. This provision could capture peaceful protests that take place near a pipeline or other infrastructure facility regardless of whether they actually impede, inhibit, or interfere with the facility. The offense of “intent to damage critical infrastructure” is a state jail felony, punishable by up to two years in jail and a $10,000 fine. The bill would make an organization that is found guilty of damage to or intent to damage critical infrastructure subject to a $1,000,000 fine. The bill creates new civil and vicarious liability for individuals and organizations related to the criminal offenses, as well. A defendant who engages in either damage or intent to damage critical infrastructure is civilly liable to the property owner, as is an organization that “compensates" a person for engaging in damage or intent to damage critical infrastructure. For both individuals and organizations, the property owner may sue for and claim actual damages, court costs, reasonable attorney’s fees, and exemplary damages. The bill expands the definition of "critical infrastructure facility" to include a "facility that is being constructed and all of the equipment and appurtenances used during that construction."

ALEC Legislators:

2019 TX SB 2229

  • Died in committee, folded into SB 1993 and HB 3557 (above)
  • Referred to Senate Resource and Economic Development Committee on March 21, 2019.
  • Filed on March 8, 2019.

ICNL Analysis:

Would revise criminal trespass and mischief law in Texas such that individuals and organizations involved in protests on infrastructure sites could be subject to harsh new penalties. The bill would create a new offense of trespass on critical infrastructure “with the intent to either damage, destroy, deface or tamper with” or the intent to “impede or inhibit the operations” of a facility. Accordingly, protesters who sought to peacefully demonstrate on a posted infrastructure facility such as a pipeline, with the intent to disrupt its operations, could be prosecuted. The offense would be a state jail felony punishable by one year in jail and a fine of up to $10,000. The bill would also newly criminalize critical infrastructure mischief, defined to include defacing an infrastructure facility, and make it a felony punishable by up to ten years in prison and a $100,000 fine. Under the bill, an organization found guilty of either offense would be subject to a fine of ten times the maximum fine imposed on an individual--i.e., $100,000 for trespass, and $1,000,000 for mischief. The bill would expand the current definition of “critical infrastructure” under Texas law to include not only facilities that are completely enclosed by fencing but also property that is posted with signs that are "reasonably likely" to be seen.

ALEC Legislators:

Media Reports & References

Liz Hampton, Jury refuses felony charges against protesters who shut Houston Ship Channel, Reuters March 4, 2020

Mike Lee, 9 states weigh ALEC-backed plan targeting protesters, Energywire, E&E Publishing, February 24, 2020

Jim Hightower, The American People Are Revolting Against Their Elites, TruthDig, January 9, 2019

Tom Dart, Why Texas’s fossil fuel support will ‘spell disaster’ for climate crisis, The Guardian, December 7, 2019

Jim Hightower, Who’s behind suppression of right to protest?, Muskogee Phoenix, September 26, 2019

Naveena Sadasivam, Why Greenpeace activists dangled from a bridge in Texas — and face 2 years in prison, Grist, September 18, 2019

Delilah Friedler, A Judge Just Blocked South Dakota’s “Riot-Boosting” Law, But Anti-Protest Measures Keep Spreading, Mother Jones, September 18, 2019

Naveena Sadasivam, Mess with a Texas pipeline now and you could end up a felon, Grist, June 17, 2019

Candice Bernd, Despite Attempts to Soften Penalties, Texas Legislature Passes Bill to Charge Pipeline Protesters with Felonies, Texas Observer, May 27, 2019

Nick Cunningham, Permian Pipeline Protesters May Face Decade Behind Bars, Oil Price, May 21, 2019

Rachel Adams-Heard, Texas pipeline protesters face 10 years in prison under proposal, Houston Chronicle, May 21, 2019

Naveena Sadasivam, Texans could get a year in prison for protesting pipelines on their own land, Grist, May 21, 2019

Jack Johnson, Outrage as Texas Senate Passes 'Unconstitutional' Bill That Would Hit Pipeline Protestors With Up to 10 Years in Prison, Common Dreams, May 21, 2019

Mike Lee, Texas looks to pass ALEC-backed protest bill, E&E Publishing EnergyWire, May 16, 2019

Clarice Silber, Texas lawmakers may stiffen penalties for pipeline damage, AP News, May 15, 2019

Naveena Sadasivam, After Standing Rock, protesting pipelines can get you a decade in prison and $100K in fines, Grist, May 14, 2019

Frank Hopper, ‘Kill the bill! Save the land!’ Native protectors disrupt Texas legislature, Indian Country Today, May 10, 2019

Asher Price, House backs stiffer penalties for those who damage pipelines, Austin Statesman, May 7, 2019

Candice Bernd, Pipeline Protesters Could Face 10 Years in Prison Under Bill OK’d by Texas House, Texas Observer, May 1, 2019

Video from V&M Productions on Vimeo.


Pennsylvania Pipeline Companies Spent $37.7 million Lobbying PA Government

  • Posted on: 17 October 2018
  • By: Connor Gibson

Image via Greenpeace, 2018.

In recent years, the government of Pennsylvania has faced enormous pressure to serve the oil and gas industry. Some legislators have been all too happy to help out, including some introducing bills that attempt to restrict peaceful protest of oil and gas pipelines. 

The industry has a lot at stake, and has spent heavily lobbying the government of Pennsylvania. This report hones in on the lobbying expenditures, disclosed in to the PA Department of State, by the companies involved with three ongoing major pipeline projects: the Mariner East, PennEast, and Atlantic Sunrise pipelines.


$37.7 million is the grand total of lobbying expenditures disclosed to the Pennsylvania Secretary of State by the companies and organizations with financial interest in the Mariner East, PennEast, and Atlantic Sunrise pipeline projects.

This grand total includes:

  • $11,593,448 spent by companies with significant financial interest in Mariner East 1, 2, and 2X

  • $1,701,648 spent by companies with significant financial interest in Atlantic Sunrise

  • $2,605,806 spent by companies with significant financial interest in PennEast

    • -$560,824 in expenditures from Cabot Oil & Gas, which is a shipper for both Mariner East and PennEast, in order to avoid double-counting (see highlighted "NOTE" below).

  • $22,370,247 spent by trade associations representing the specific companies with significant financial interest in any of these three pipeline projects in PA.

MARINER EAST: $11,593,448


Mariner East I open season was announced on August 9, 2012

Mariner East II pipeline open season announced in December, 2013. Antero Resources and Range Resources are both ME2 shippers,

Mariner East 2X “open season” prospecting began on September 10, 2015; construction was confirmed by Sunoco in Feb, 2017.


ME1 shippers include:


$11,593,448 in PA lobbying expenses disclosed by ME's owner/operator & shippers

ETP, Sunoco LP, Sunoco Logistics, and Sunoco Pipelines spent $1,208,329 lobbying the PA government since August, 2012, the first open season for ME1.

  • NOTE: This excludes spending from ETP in Q3, 2012, because ETP didn’t merge with Sunoco until October, 2012. References on ETP/Sunoco merger via Greenpeace and via ETP

Range spent $5,803,739 lobbying the PA government since September, 2012, when it signed an anchor shipper agreement.

EQT Corp spent $2,733,053 lobbying the PA government since ME1 open season was declared in August, 2012.

Consol Energy, CNX Resources and subsidiary CNX Gas Corp* spent $967,114 lobbying the PA government since ME1 open season in August, 2012:

*NOTE: Consol Energy was spun off as the coal subsidiary of CNX Resources in November, 2017. The above calculations include CNX Resources & CNX Gas Co expenditures before and after that time, but only includes Consol Energy expenditures before that time.

MarkWest spent $881,213 lobbying the PA government since it signed a contract as a ME1 shipper.



Williams declared open season on August 8, 2013 for the Atlantic Sunrise


Williams Companies owns Transco, which is building the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline.

Williams disclosed to FERC several companies that signed contracts to ship products through the Atlantic Sunrise:

  1. Anadarko Energy Services (owned by Anadarko Petroleum)

  2. Cabot Oil & Gas

  3. Chief Oil & Gas

  4. Inflection Energy

  5. MMGS Inc (owned by Mitsui & Co)

  6. Seneca Resources

  7. Southern Company Services (owned by Southern Company)

  8. Southwestern Energy Services

  9. WGL Midstream


$1,701,648 in lobbying expenses disclosed by owner/operator & shippers of Atlantic Sunrise pipeline.

Along with Williams itself, three of the companies that Williams disclosed to FERC as Atlantic Sunrise shippers reported lobbying expenditures in PA:

PENNEAST: $2,605,806


PennEast open season was announced in August, 2014.


PennEast Pipeline Company LLC was formed by 6 companies:

  1. AGL Resources

  2. NJR Pipeline Co (owned by New Jersey Resources)

  3. PSEC Power

  4. SJI Midstream (owned by South Jersey Industries, or “SJI”)

  5. Spectra Energy (owned by Enbridge)

  6. UGI Energy Services

PennEast’s website also currently lists Southern Company Gas as a co-owner.

The six companies that formed PennEast Pipeline Company LLC committed to half of the pipeline’s total shipping capacity, along with several other companies disclosed to FERC:

  1. New Jersey Natural Gas Company (owned by New Jersey Resources)

  2. PSEG Power

  3. Texas Eastern Transmission (owned by Enbridge via Spectra)

  4. South Jersey Gas Company (owned by SJI)

  5. ConEd of New York

  6. Elizabethtown Gas (owned by SJI)

  7. UGI Energy Services

  8. Cabot Oil & Gas

  9. Talen Energy Marketing

  10. Enerplus Resources

  11. Warren Resources

  12. NRG Rema


$2,605,806 in lobbying expenses disclosed by PennEast owners & shippers:

These time frames span from when the PennEast open season took place in Q3 2014 until the most recent available disclosures, Q2 2018.


$22,370,247 is the combined total spent lobbying in PA by oil & gas industry trade groups that represent companies with significant financial stake in the Mariner East, Atlantic Sunrise or PennEast pipelines.

These totals only include spending within the following parameters

  1. Trade association members includes at least one company involved in ME, AS, or PE

  2. Trade association spending has occurred since the announcement of the specific pipeline project that at least one of its members is involved with.

    • i.e. API doesn’t represent any ME companies, but it represents companies with stake in AS and PE, so the spending totals run from August, 2013--when AS was announced--until the present.

Marcellus Shale Coalition: $13,936,668

Marcellus Shale Coalition member companies include:

  1. Mariner East companies: CNX Resources, ETP, EQT Corp, MarkWest, Range, and Rex Energy.

  2. Atlantic Sunrise companies: Cabot, Chief Oil & Gas, Seneca Resources, Southwestern Energy, and Williams.

  3. PennEast companies: Cabot, and UGI Energy.

MSC spent $13,936,668 lobbying in PA from Q3 2012 through Q2 of 2018. This time frame reflects when ME1 conversion was announced until the most recently available filing.

American Petroleum Institute: $7,084,737

API members include:

  1. None of the ME companies

  2. All of the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline companies: Williams, Anadarko, Cabot & Southwestern

  3. Two of the PennEast shippers: Enbridge (Spectra’s parent company) and Cabot.

API has publicly advocated for all 3 of these PA pipeline projects.

API merged with America’s Natural Gas Alliance (below) in November, 2015. API does not include Range or Seneca among its current members.

API spent $7,084,737 lobbying in PA from Q3 2013 through Q2 2018. This time frame reflects the announcement of the Atlantic Sunrise project up until the most recent lobbying disclosures.

America’s Natural Gas Alliance: $261,119

ANGA members included:

  1. Mariner East companies: Range Resources

  2. Atlantic Sunrise companies: Anadarko, Cabot, Seneca Resources, and Southwestern Energy.

  3. PennEast companies: Cabot

ANGA spent $261,119 lobbying in PA from Q3 2012 through Q4 2015. This timeframe reflects when ME1 conversion was announced until ANGA folded in late 2015.

ANGA merged with the American Petroleum Institute (above) in November, 2015. API does not include Range or Seneca among its current members.

Pennsylvania Petroleum Association (PPA): $409,069

Membership is largely undisclosed, but the owner of Mariner East has recently paid PPA:

  • Sunoco sponsored the PA Petroleum Association conferences in 2018, 2017,

  • Sunoco was listed among PPA’s sponsors in 2016, 2015, 2014, and 2013.

  • PPA is a member of the national Petroleum Marketers Association of America (PMAA), which lists Sunoco as a PMAA sponsor.

PPA spent $409,069 lobbying in PA from Q3 2012 through Q2 of 2018.  This time frame reflects when ME1 conversion was announced until the most recently available lobbying disclosure filings.

Pennsylvania Independent Oil & Gas Association: $640,749

PIOGA leadership since 2012 has included executives from:

PIOGA spent $640,749 lobbying in PA from Q3 2012 through Q2 of 2018. This time frame reflects when ME1 conversion was announced until the most recently available filing.

American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers: $37,905

AFPM member companies include Mitsui & Co (formerly known as MMGS, a shipper for Atlantic Sunrise), and Ineos, the European chemical manufacturer that will be using NGL’s shipped to port by Mariner East.

AFPM spent $37,905 lobbying in PA. This time frame only includes the year 2018, as AFPM did not file any lobbying disclosure reports in previous years.