October 22, 2017

High Noon on Energy: Five Energy Stories

Posted on 31. May, 2013 by Stephan Helgesen in Energy/Environment

Article 1: Fisker: a free ride to make flashy cars in Finland

With nearly a year’s worth of exclusive reporting on Obama’s green-energy crony-corruption scandal, you might think we’ve covered them all—but the hits just keep on coming. This week Fisker is in the news due to its failure to meet a Monday payment on their Department of Energy (DOE) loan with $10 million due, and Wednesday’s House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing: “Green Energy Oversight: Examining the Department of Energy’s Bad Bet on Fisker Automotive.”

Along with researcher Christine Lakatos who writes The Green Corruption Files, I’ve addressed Fisker before. In last week’s column I harkened back to an October 2012 report we did on 2009 Obama’s green-energy projects that were in trouble. We highlighted two companies on that list: Suntech and SoloPower. Suntech was recently put into bankruptcy and, about SoloPower, we said: “SoloPower’s power is waning.” On April 22, the Oregonian’s headline read: “SoloPower moves to power down Portland factory, gut remaining workforce.”

Fisker, the taxpayer-funded company making $100,000+ electric cars in Finland, was also on that October 2012 list. At the time, I wrote: “Though the company has balked at Solyndra comparisons, Fisker may well be on ‘death’s door.’”

Despite defaulting “on loans or investment conditions at least four separate times” and squandering more than $1.3 billion in investment capital and government loan money, the company’s founder and former CEO, Henrik Fisker (Fisker left the company in March over  “disagreements with management”), in testimony before the House Oversight Committee hearing on Wednesday, argued that the company was still viable. In both the opening and closing of his testimony, Fisker used the following statement regarding the company that bears his name: “Fisker still has the potential to build on these achievements if the company can secure financial and strategic resources.”

While Fisker’s testimony indicates that he is proud of the company’s “many notable achievements,” Subcommittee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH), declared in his opening statements: “Fisker should have never received taxpayer money; it was rated CCC+…it was a junk grade investment.”  So why did Fisker get the loan in the first place and continue to receive funding even after it “missed a crucial production target?”

While Wednesday’s hearing didn’t reveal any smoking gun, and Fisker claimed: “I am not aware and do not believe that any improper political influence was used in connection with the company’s loan application or subsequent negotiations with the Department of Energy,” experience in reporting on the various stimulus-funded loan guarantee programs, grants and tax credits indicates otherwise.

True, unlike many of the other stories, no one from the Fisker organization itself served on Obama’s (now-disbanded) Jobs Council, nor is there an obvious connection such as a former DOE staffer sitting on the board. But, surprise, there are political connections nonetheless.

In the case of Fisker, the cronyism comes first in the form of the venture capital firm with private investments that needed government funds to make their 2008 investment good. The company in question? Kliener Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB)—which, according to New York magazine, “has both former Vice-President Al Gore and John Doerr, a very big-ticket Obama donor, on its board of directors.” Doerr has had roles inside the Obama White House since early 2009, from jobs, to economics, to crafting the energy sector of the 2009-Recovery Act, from which his firm, KPCB, has been rewarded handsomely. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), in 2008, reported that the Fisker deal was “one of the first deals in which former Vice President Al Gore provided advice for Kleiner.” KPCB’s Managing Partner, Ray Lane, told the WSJ that their investment was more than $10 million and was “one of our bigger investments.”

In an earlier report, I said: “Doerr jumped on the Climate Change bandwagon in 2005 and credits Al Gore for his ‘environmental awakening’—though his conversion may have been more financial than spiritual, as he saw green-energy as the ‘mother of all markets’ and ‘the largest economic opportunity of the 21st century.’”

Despite a green-energy push from the White House, these funds haven’t “delivered the returns expected on the timeline expected for most venture capitalists.” In fact, Doerr admitted in a November 2009 speech that the government funding saved them: “If we’d been able to foresee the crash of the market, we wouldn’t probably have launched a green initiative, because these ventures really need capital. The only way in which we were lucky, I think, is that the government stepped in, particularly the Department of Energy. Led by this great administration that put in place these loan guarantees.”

Clearly the Fisker “investment” wasn’t going as well as KCBP expected. In Wednesday’s hearing, a 2009 email from Bernhard Koehler, Fisker cofounder and COO was addressed. In it, he pressured someone inside the DOE, regarding the need for the taxpayer-funded loan, because they couldn’t meet payroll.

The Fisker loan had three specific strikes against it: it had a dismal credit rating—a “junk bond” CCC+; it was initially rejected by the credit review board; and the loan was twice the value of the collateral. While the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing (ATVM) program received 150 applications, only 5 were awarded loans—and all had some political connections or ramifications: Fisker—$529 million; Ford—$5.907 billion, Nissan—$1.448 billion; Tesla—$465 million; and The Vehicle Production Group, LLC—$50 million.

Companies without connections didn’t get approved. In November, I reported on XP Technologies, one of those companies whose loan application was rejected. Alleging that “criminal activities did take place by DOE staff and affiliates,” XP Technologies has filed a lawsuit concerning the DOE’s denial. Following the publication of my column on XP Technologies, another applicant, who also didn’t have any political connections, contacted me.

This applicant acknowledged that he really didn’t know the system and, therefore, looking back, wasn’t surprised that his application was denied. However, he told me that he received no help or encouragement from the DOE; they did nothing to make it easier for him. It was like they weren’t really interested in anyone but the favored few. Accepting applications was, perhaps, just for cover.

Fisker’s $529 million loan was approved in September 2009, and the first tranche was funded May 2010. But it took a lot of finagling to get there.

Vice President Biden stepped in to move the loan along—we don’t know why, but we know he did. (We also know more about other green-energy projects in which Biden was involved.) In August 2009, Fisker visited a Delaware GM factory, which was scheduled to be shut down. According to a 2009 WSJ report, once politicians in the state got wind of Fisker’s possible interest, they ratcheted up the pressure. Saving the plant, according to officials involved in the decision, “gave fresh urgency to the DOE’s quest for Fisker.” However, by August, the December 2008 application still wasn’t approved. “Delaware’s governor and congressional delegation began peppering U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu with calls on Fisker’s behalf.

They also had repeated discussions with Vice President Biden and his staff.” Five days after Governor Merkell had a September meeting with Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu, “Chu announced the government had signed a provisional agreement” for Fisker’s loan. Part of the deal included, not just the $529 million DOE loan, but also $21 million in grants and loans from the State of Delaware.

On October 27, 2009, Biden toured Fisker’s Delaware plant to tout the DOE’s Loan Program. ABC News reported: “Standing in a shuttered General Motors plant in Wilmington, DE, Vice President Biden proclaimed that a half-billion-dollar Department of Energy loan would transform the idled site into a production line for electric cars.”

“Biden heralded the Energy Department’s $529 million loan to the start-up electric car company called Fisker as a bright, new path to thousands of American manufacturing jobs,” and stated: “This is seed money that will return back to the American consumer in billions and billions and billions of dollars in good, new jobs.”

Referencing Delaware’s involvement, the state’s chief of economic development, Alan Levin said: “We had in the vice president a secret weapon.”

In addition to Doerr and Gore championing the Fisker Project, and the Biden “secret weapon,” Fisker had a few other friends in high places. The National Legal and Policy Center reports that Fisker was receiving advice regarding their loan application from Debevoise & Plimpton LLC, a law firm with a history of donating to President Obama and other Democrats—which taxpayers also funded. Too bad XP technologies, and other applicants without connections, didn’t know to hire Debevoise & Plimpton.

Now, we all know that Fisker never made one car in Delaware—or anywhere in the US. The Delaware plant is “absolutely empty.” We know that Fisker lost $557,000 on each flashy sports car it sold and has laid off most of its employees. And we know that Fisker will likely be the next taxpayer-funded green-energy project to go bankrupt.

While we do not know all the political connections that got Fisker a free ride to make flashy cars in Finland, we do know there is crony-corruption. As the WSJ reports: “The Obama Energy Department is keeping tight rein on documents, so we don’t know.” We just don’t know the full story.

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Article 2: A vote for permanent poverty

Late last month, the elected officials of a small, rural New Mexico county became the first in the nation to vote for permanent poverty. Mora County’s unemployment is double that of most of the country and nearly 500% greater than that of some other parts of the state where oil and gas development is taking place, and 23.8% of Mora County’s residents live in poverty.

With that in mind, you’d think that the Mora County Commissioners would welcome the jobs that are boosting the economy in the southeastern part of the state. Instead, they voted, 2-1—in a session that may violate the Open Meetings Act as the notice did not contain the date, time, and place of the meeting—to pass an ordinance that permanently bans oil and gas drilling.

Defending his vote, Chairman John Olivas, an employee of New Mexico Wilderness Alliance with no political experience, explained: “We need to create other jobs. First, sustainable agriculture; second, business development; and third, eco-tourism to keep people on the land.”

Frank Trambley, the Mora County GOP chairman, disagrees: “In our economic climate, we simply cannot afford to needlessly throw the possibility for jobs down the drain.”

Currently, Mora County has no oil and gas activity—and now it looks like it never will (though the outcome of potential lawsuits could change that). But there is reason to believe that the potential for development and jobs is there. Shell Oil has 100,000 acres leased for development—not to mention private interest—in Mora County, and there are more than 120 leases on state lands within the county.

In adjacent Colfax County, there are 950 natural gas wells. There the Commissioners don’t seem too troubled by the activity. The Colfax Country Commissioners are looking at drafting an ordinance that would “allow oil and gas drilling to continue while setting standards and regulations to give county officials control over aspects of the industry’s work that affect landowners and other citizens.”

But this story is bigger than the sparsely populated—less than 5000 and declining—northeastern New Mexico County. Following the passage of their “ban” ordinance, the two “yes” vote commissioners sent a letter to all the county commissioners in the state: “We’re sending you this letter to urge you to consider adopting a similar law.

In Mora, we decided that ‘fracking,’ along with other forms of oil and gas drilling are not compatible with Mora farming, forestry, and our quality of life.” Apparently unemployment and poverty are “compatible” with the Mora “quality of life.”

How did Mora come to believe that it might become the little county that could “force” change aimed at “restoring democratic control of our communities”? They had the help of an out-of-state environmental group: the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF)—which helped draft Mora’s “Community Water Rights and Local Self-Government Ordinance.” Thomas Linzey, executive director of CELDF explained: “This is the fight that people have been too chicken to pick over the last 10 years.” The CELDF press release on the ban states: “Mora is joining a growing people’s movement for community and nature’s rights” and brags about CELDF’s involvement in other communities across the country.

The Mora Commissioners’ letter—on County letterhead—encourages all other New Mexico Commissioners to join them and invites participation in a gathering “hosted by a new group, the New Mexico Coalition for Community Rights (NMCCR) which was formed this past year to begin to change how our system here in New Mexico functions.” Kathleen Dudley, a “community organizer” and CELDF staffer, is the “contact person for that event.”

Wayne Johnson, a Bernalillo County Commissioner, alerted me to the Mora letter that may be in violation of state’s code of conduct—to which every elected official is subject. Johnson told me: “I believe I would at least be violating the spirit of the law if I sent out a letter on Bernalillo County letterhead that directly promotes the political activities of a specific group.

Imagine the uproar that would be caused if I sent out—at taxpayers’ expense—a letter promoting an NRA conference or a Right to Life meeting. The First Amendment guarantees the right to express their political opinion. However using government resources to do so is inappropriate.”

The letter also includes this: “You may be unaffected by fracking and oil and gas drilling in your county.” Wrong. There is no county in New Mexico that is “unaffected.” In response to the letter, Greg Nibert, Chairman of the Chaves County Commission, shot back: “The oil and gas producing counties bear more than 40% of the entire state budget.

We send money to Santa Fe that pays for educating the children of New Mexico. It is difficult to swallow that a county who may be blessed with such rich resources would enact such an ordinance.” Along with the other counties in the region, the Chaves County Commissioners plan to send a “strong letter in opposition to the Mora County Commission letter.” In a recent radio interview Mora’s Olivas said that he had no problem accepting state revenue from energy development in other counties, but is unwilling to allow any production and contribution from his own.

If the other counties followed Mora’s lead and banned fracking and/or oil and gas development, the state would lose 33,000 jobs—that’s 33,000 people who would be unable to put food on their families’ tables, pay their bills without worry, and even save for retirement. The states’ budget would be short a combined $5.73 billion dollars of investment. The majority of New Mexico’s 50,000+ wells use hydraulic fracturing for decades.

Nibert hopes some brave citizens of Mora County will step forward and bring a law suit against Mora County and at least its two commissioners who enacted the ordinance, as it takes the real property of its citizens without compensation, which is guaranteed by the US Constitution and the Constitution of New Mexico. To date, no one has come forward. “I know some lawyers who would love to take the case!”

Nibert may get his wish. Several groups are looking at a legal challenge.

The one dissenting vote was from Commissioner Paula Garcia, who believes the ordinance goes too far. Federal and state law typically overrides local county legislation, but in regards to oil and gas extraction, the Mora ordinance puts the county above state and US government. Garcia says: “It is trying to reclaim local decision making that isn’t recognized in the law currently, and, in essence, it is challenging existing laws.” She “worries the ordinance won’t hold up in court and that Mora County can’t afford a pricey lawsuit.”

The state says its Oil Conservation Division can still issue permits to drill in Mora County, but permit holders will now likely have to go to court to fight the county ordinance. Likewise, officials at the Bureau of Land Management say that they are not bound by local ordinances. Yet, the little county’s ordinance has the gall to demand an amendment to the state Constitution “to explicitly secure a community right to local self-government that cannot be preempted by the State”—even threatening secession.

Olivas believes Mora County is prepared: “What we’re doing to prepare ourselves is signing with a legal firm to represent us. At the next County Commissioner meeting, we will sign a retainer with the firm.” It is reported that CELDF is the firm—charging $1 for representation, and that Mora County is working to establish a fund to help pay for the living and travel expenses involved in representation.

Trambley told me: “The County is split on the drilling issue, but people are afraid to speak out against the ban—afraid that if they do, they’ll lose their job. It’s maddening to see sweeping bans being made without accurate information about the economic and environmental effects of drilling.”

A recent poll from the Western Energy Alliance supports Trambley’s position. Responses showed that “prior to any presentation of the facts, almost a majority (49%) of voters support” the use of fracking. However, “if and when the public understands what industry is doing to protect their safety and the environment, their support for hydraulic fracturing increases up to 71%.”

I firmly believe that government closest to the people is the best. I’ve rallied with hundreds of people from other New Mexico counties who are fighting federal overreach that denies them their economic freedoms. But, when an out-of-state entity is driving an issue by spreading fear, uncertainty, and doubt, and when the Commission has to hide the time and location of the meeting to get the vote through—that is not the true voice of the locals.

Commissioner Olivas defends his actions by claiming that his vote followed through on a campaign promise. Sources tell me that his campaign was heavily funded by a single source that doesn’t primarily live in the county and whose money comes from the Progressive Insurance fortune.

While this is a New Mexico story, beware. CELDF has its sights set on a national movement. Emboldened by its success in Mora County, they may be coming to a community near you. You may find that your local leadership voted for permanent poverty.

A tweet from Occupy New Mexico following the Mora announcement: “After the victory in Mora, the #communityrights movement is spreading across New Mexico. Next up, #SantaFe #NM! @OccupyWallStNYC @350 #NMPOL” You can be sure they are not just “spreading across New Mexico.”

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Article 3: A six-pack of scandals could define and destroy the Obama presidency

It’s been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week at the White House—and it isn’t looking like next week will be any better. You probably know about Obama’s trifecta of troubles: the Benghazi story about the attack that killed four Americans and the aftermath that falsely blamed a YouTube video that “continues to smolder on the far-right side of the dial,” the IRS targeting conservative groups for extra scrutiny while giving liberals a pass, and, the one that got the mainstream media engaged: the “broad and potentially chilling probe” conducted by the Justice Department on journalists’ phone calls at the Associated Press (AP).

The place in which the President finds himself has been compared to that of Nixon on May 17, 1973, about which US News and World Report states: “The scandal and cover-up came to define and destroy Richard Nixon’s presidency. It’s too early to tell if the scandals plaguing President Barack Obama … rise to a similar level.”

It may be too early to tell whether the three scandals will “define and destroy” Barack Obama’s presidency—but they do reveal a propensity to massage the message and reward their friends while destroying their enemies. And, there are more than the trifecta of troubles that make this point, there’s a six-pack of scandals.

In addition to the three-widely covered stories, there are three more with the same characteristics.

EPA Favors Friendlies

We see favoritism in the EPAs treatment of friendly groups vs. a “concerted campaign to make life more difficult for those deemed unfriendly.” A few days ago, the Washington Examiner reported on the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s (CEI) review of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to see how equally the agency applies its fee waiver policy. The results are shocking.

Chris Horner, Senior Fellow at CEI, told me: “The IRS and EPA revelations are near-identical uses of the state to enable allies and disadvantage opponents. Granting or denying tax-exempt status can make or break a group. The same is true with FOIA fee waivers being tossed like Mardi Gras beads at greens, and denied to opponents of a bigger regulatory state. Fees for FOIA document productions can run into the six-figures.”

We’ll be hearing more about the EPA friendlies scandal. On Friday, May 17, Senator Vitter’s office sent a letter to EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe requesting “your prompt attention to this matter as we investigate EPA’s process for granting FOIA fee waivers.” The letter was signed by David Vitter, Ranking Member, Committee on Environment and Public Works, U.S. Senate; Darrel Isa, Chairman, Committee on Government Oversight and Reform, U.S. House of Representatives; James Inhofe, Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Oversight Committee on Environment and Public Works, U.S. Senate; and Charles E. Grassley, Ranking Member, Committee on the Judiciary, U.S. Senate.

The May 17 letter states: “According to documents obtained by the Committees, EPA readily granted FOIA fee waivers for liberal environmental groups–effectively subsidizing them–while denying fee waivers and making the FOIA process more difficult for states and conservative groups. This disparate treatment is unacceptable, especially in light of the recent controversy over abusive tactics at the Internal Revenue Service, which singled out conservative groups for special scrutiny.”

It reveals that the “EPA manipulated the FOIA fee waiver process.” Fee waiver requests sent by environmental groups were granted for 92% of the requests while EPA denied a fee waiver for 93% of requests from CEI and overall only granted fee waivers for other think tanks 27% of the time. “The startling disparity in treatment strongly suggests EPA’s actions are possibly part of a broader effort to collude with groups that share the agency’s political agenda and discriminate against states and conservative organizations. This is a clear abuse of discretion.”

The Washington Examiner reports: “all requests from Franklin Center and the Institute for Energy Research were denied.”

Wind farms get a pass

We see the same “startling disparity in treatment” in the way the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act is applied. Under both acts, the death of a single bird—without a permit—is illegal. On May 14, the AP reported on an investigation that showed that nearly 600,000 birds are killed each year by wind farms, including an average of about one golden eagle a month in Converse County, WY—which the AP calls: “one of the deadliest places in the country of its kind.” California’s Altamont Pass wind farms “kill more than 60 per year”—making it the “industry’s deadliest location.”

Yet, “so far, the companies operating industrial-sized turbines here and elsewhere that are killing eagles and other protected birds have yet to be fined or prosecuted—even though every death is a criminal violation. The Obama administration has charged oil companies for drowning birds in their waste pits, and power companies for electrocuting birds on power lines. But the administration has never fined or prosecuted a wind-energy company, even those that flout the law repeatedly.”

Back in August 2011, oil company executives were hauled into court, by Timothy Purdon, the US Attorney for North Dakota, over the death of 28 migratory birds—including ducks. Businessweek reported: “The maximum penalty for each charge under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act is six months in prison and a $15,000 fine.”

The case was thrown out of federal court in January of 2012 by district Judge Daniel Hovland, who rejected US Attorney Purdon’s “expansive interpretation of the law” because it “would yield absurd results.” The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) called the ruling “withering” and said: the “selective prosecution was probably an expression of its political hostility to oil and gas companies.” The report concludes with: “Mr. Purdon takes the prize for dodo prosecutor of the year.”

The WSJ didn’t point out Purdon’s resume. The LA Times reports: “Purdon is a prominent Democratic donor and fundraiser,” who served on the Democratic National Committee and who “has no experience as a prosecutor.” Purdon was chosen over several, apparently, more qualified candidates, who probably didn’t have Purdon’s pedigree. He was selected because he’s a loyalist who’d do what the White House wanted—and that included prosecuting oil companies for duck deaths.

Similarly, the AP reports that ExxonMobil paid $600,000 for killing 85 birds and BP was fined “$100 million for killing and harming migratory birds during the 2010 Gulf oil spill. And PacifiCorp, which operates coal plants in Wyoming, paid more than $10.5 million in 2009 for electrocuting 232 eagles along power lines and at its substations.”

“Meanwhile, the Obama administration has proposed a rule that would give wind-energy companies potentially decades of shelter from prosecution for killing eagles.” The wind-energy industry has been part of the committee that drafted and edited the guidelines that the Interior Department updated last year that “provided more cover for wind companies that violate the law.” The AP states: “In the end, the wind-energy industry … got almost everything it wanted.”

Former US Fish and Wildlife Service enforcement agent Tom Eicher aptly sums up the scandal: “What it boils down to is this: If you electrocute an eagle, that is bad, but if you chop it to pieces, that is OK.” Yet, in an interview with the AP before his departure, former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar “denied any preferential treatment for wind.”

Expect more coverage of the preferential application of regulatory enforcement. Rep. Doc Hasting, Chairman of the House Natural Resources committee, made the following statement through spokeswoman Jill Strait: “There are serious concerns that the Obama administration is not implementing this law fairly and equally.” The Committee is in “the beginning stages of an investigation.”

Propping up green energy

We see similar favoritism across the bigger energy spectrum. Despite President Obama’s frequent touting of increased domestic oil and gas production, “federal government policies are suppressing development,” says Kathleen Sgamma, Vice-President of Government and Public Affairs for the Western Energy Alliance (WEA). “Unfortunately, the federal government is standing in the way of increasing production of valuable energy resources that could spur further job creation, economic growth, and energy security.”

To support her comments, the WEA press release offers the following numbers: “From FY2008 to FY2011 the Bureau of Land Management offered 81% less acreage, which has resulted in a 44% drop in leasing revenue, down from $356 million to $201 million. Nationwide, royalty and leasing revenue have declined 12% from $4.2 billion to $3.7 billion.” Meanwhile production and revenue on private lands increased.

Additionally, despite numerous reports regarding the positive economic impacts and environmental safety of the Keystone pipeline it has been continuously delayed—now for more than 1700 days. On Thursday, the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee passed a bill that, according to the WSJ, “effectively pushes through approval of the 875-mile pipeline by eliminating the need for Mr. Obama to issue a special permit for it.” Transportation committee chair Rep. Bill Shuster said: “After more than four years of bureaucratic delays, this bill will finally allow construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. This project has been studied more than any other project of its kind.”

While federal policies are suppressing traditional energy that is effective, efficient and economical, they are propping up projects that have been repeatedly found to be failures—but that benefit Democratic donors.

Through Obama’s 2009 Stimulus Bill—which Democratic donors such as John Doerr, and George Soros (personally and through the Soros-funded Apollo Alliance) helped craft—nearly $100 billion dollars have been made available for green energy projects. With the help of researcher Christine Lakatos who’s been working on it since 2009, I’ve been extensively covering the green-energy crony-corruption scandal for the past 12 months. We’ve found that nearly all of the Department of Energy-funded projects had meaningful political connections and many got special treatment—such as fast-tracked approvals with little scrutiny over environmental damages that would have taken any other energy company months, if not years, to get—from the Department of Interior. The policies benefitted insiders such as Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Secretary of State John Kerry—just to name a few. To date, 25 have gone bankrupt and four are about to go under—though 29 others have various issues. Denying the dismal record, Obama’s 2014 budget calls for more taxpayer dollars for green energy projects. It’s scandalous.

Now that The Hill is holding hearings and investigations on Benghazi, the IRS, the AP, the EPA, and the green energy industry’s not-so-green slaughter of protected species, it is time to look at the financial and regulatory favors extended to friendlies while erecting obstacles to anything or anyone they oppose—and that includes the green-energy crony-corruption scandal that could be the biggest of them all.

These six scandalous stories illustrate the standard operating procedure of the Obama White House—and, as such, there’s likely to be even more. It may be too early to tell whether these scandals will “define and destroy” Barack Obama’s presidency, but they are certainly a distraction to his second-term agenda and display a side the administration didn’t want made public.

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Article 4: Americans fighting their own government for economic survival

No wonder the national debt is at nearly $17 trillion—and ticking higher every day. Polls repeatedly show most Americans believe that reducing the budget deficit should be a top priority, yet policy gets in the way of democracy and prevents practical solutions.

I’ve previously participated in, and reported on, various public meetings and hearings where the local citizens rally to draw media attention to their plight and plead with the government agencies that control their economic future.

Some of these stories include the Otero County Tree Party where hundreds of residents of a small mountain community, who live in fear of fires fed by overgrown forests—due to management designed to save the habitat of an endangered species—gathered to force the Forest Service to stop fighting them and start cooperating. I was honored to play a part in the Tree Party.

They’ve had success! County Commissioner Ronny Rardin told me it would have never happened without the public outcry. Using a newly created County Compliance Program, non-violent people charged with a misdemeanor avoid jail time and do community service by cutting down selected trees and thinning the forest—saving money for both the county and the Forest Service, while saving the community from a wildfire’s devastation.

Hundreds of people gathered in an airplane hangar to protest the endangered-species listing of the sand dune lizard that could have severely hampered oil and gas extraction and ranching in the region and killed the economic base of local communities. I was one of the speakers at the rally. At the post-rally hearing, people waited into the night for the opportunity to express their opinion to the bureaucrats from the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).

After an 18-month battle, the answer came back from Washington, DC. The sand dune lizard escaped listing, oil and gas development and ranching activities continue in the Permian Basin region of Texas and New Mexico.

Now, the people in the Permian Basin are joined by those in Colorado, Kansas, and Oklahoma to fight the proposed listing of the lesser prairie chicken—which would wreak similar economic havoc as the sand dune lizard listing (this time to a larger region). In February, I emceed the hangar-held rally and attended the public comment session manned by FWS staff.

The comment period was cut off before everyone who wanted to could voice their opinion—leaving angry, unheard, citizens. Pressure has been put on Senators, as their constituents inundated their offices with calls asking them to use their weight to stop the lesser prairie chicken listing. As a result of the effort, on May 9, Senator Tom Udall’s (D-NM) office released a statement supporting the plan to prevent the listing of the lesser prairie chicken: Senator Udall “believes that the Five State Plan, if done correctly, can be a win-win solution resulting in habitat protection and regulatory certainty for the farmers, ranchers, and the oil and gas industry. Senator Udall continues to be engaged with the Administration to ensure the Five State Plan receives proper consideration and has every opportunity to succeed in its goal.”

On May 8, I drove 2.5 hours to attend a public meeting about a new management plan for federal lands in three New Mexico counties—it was the last of three such public meetings. The plan was outlined, but attendees were not allowed to ask questions or comment during the presentation. Maps lined the room’s perimeter. In short, myriad acts and laws have to be taken into account in the management of public lands including the Endangered Species Act, the Federal Lands Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA)—just to name a few.

By the time all of these layers of regulation are applied to nominated portions of federal lands, virtually all economic activity is prohibited or severely limited—including ranching/grazing, mining, and oil and gas extraction. Even recreational uses, such as off-highway vehicles (OHV), can be banned or severely restricted.

After the 2-hour session, I felt agitated and frustrated. In the brief public presentation, we were told that they were holding these meetings because NEPA requires public participation. However, unlike the other public meetings I’ve attended, no public comment was allowed at the meeting. Additionally, when attendees were instructed on how provide written comment, we were told that we were to offer only “substantive comments” on the data and/or the science—not to vote in favor of, or opposition to, the Resource Management Plan (RMP).

Following the meeting, I spent time with Bill Childress, the District Manager for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for the Las Cruces office and Dave Wallace, the Assistant District Manager. I pointed out that their format discourages public comment, as no average person is ever going to read the 500+ page document—or be able to offer comment on the science or the data. “That’s the way it is,” was the response.

Regarding the BLM’s comment process, Joanne Spivack, an activist fighting the closure of roads and trails to motorized use, told me: “The only thing that matters are comments that specifically challenge how the RMP analysis is being done. That’s what ‘substantive’ means. 99.999% of the public don’t understand what that means.

It takes a firm understanding of the NEPA process to write a comment that can challenge the agency and lead to an appeal (and lawsuit). The only things we can submit that can be used for our appeals, or in a lawsuit, are our formal comments submitted by the deadline. Those comments must be based solely on what is in the written Draft RMP and its associated documents.”

With Childress and Wallace, another meeting attendee and I discussed the known oil and gas resources and the potential presence of rare-earth elements. The TriCounty RMP designates several ACECs (Area of Critical Environmental Concern)—which are essentially managed as “wilderness areas,” though ACECs are not designated by Congress. Childress and Wallace explained that the process of creating ACECs is at the discretion of the Bureau; it is qualitative not quantitative, and subjective. They told us that generally conservation groups nominate the ACECs. Spivack noted: “There is no place or time in the process for the public to oppose the ACECs.”

Surprise! The Wilderness Society’s website offers their “Wish List for the BLM in 2013”—which includes: “Designate Otero Mesa as an ACEC in the TriCounty RMP and initiate an administrative mineral withdrawal for the area to protect its innumerable natural and cultural resources.”

The proposed 198,511-acre ACEC for Otero Mesa includes the following potential resource-use limitations:

  • Exclusion and limitations of new rights-of way,
  • Closure to mineral sales and geothermal leasing,
  • Closure to vegetation sales, and
  • Limitation of vehicle use to designated routes.

Spivack explains it this way: “The RMP doesn’t have specifics about what will be banned, why or where. There are no facts, no analysis and no proof that an ACEC is needed. But the RMP lays the groundwork for future lock-downs, by creating ‘conceptual’ frameworks such as ‘desired conditions’ and by creating new designation areas like ACECs.

The RMPs have vague wording about future restrictions, which could be imposed in order to ‘protect the values’ of the ACEC. The ACEC is a way of creating management ‘goals’ which trump multiple use. The ACEC is a blank check and can be used restrict any activity under any excuse they want to cook up.”

The Otero Mesa portion of the BLM managed lands has the potential for oil and gas resources, and rare-earth elements. Due to existing land-use restrictions—before the proposed RMP is even implemented—a company interested in developing the rare earths was required to do its minimal-impact exploration with 19th century technology: horses and hand tools.

When the exploration was complete, a hand rake was used to erase the footprints and restore the land. A company executive reported: “The RMP has the potential to adversely impact future mineral development.”

Commissioner Rardin and all his fellow county commissioners in Otero County are excited about the potential economic benefit the rare-earth mining project could bring: $25 million in the first year alone. Rardin believes one of the goals of the RMP is to stop the mining project.

He told me: “The BLM is taking away our ability to make a living. As long as I am commissioner, I will challenge them and look to properly use our lands.” In Otero Country—a county as big as the state of Connecticut with 62,000 residents, only 12% of the land is taxable. The potential for mineral extraction, including oil and gas, is important for the community—and the people want it. Locking up the resources constitutes a government taking.

Ranchers in the region feel the same way. Steve Wilmeth, a rancher from southern New Mexico whose family came to New Mexico beginning in 1880, wrote about these attacks on the culture and customs of the West: “Increasingly, Westerners are governed not by laws, but by policy and regulations. Local governance isn’t planning or crafting solutions for communities. Rather, local governance is defending itself against the latest project being driven by conservation cooperation agreements.”

Regarding the policies to be instituted and policed by the agencies, Wilmeth, in The Westerner, writes: “There is no grassroots land planning in this debacle. This is an end-run legislative proxy. It is being engineered by the environmental brokers.”

Addressing the proposed ACECs, Wilmeth’s comments echo Spivack’s. He told me: “The BLM, by FLPMA authority, can designate ACECs. In the draft, you will notice they are intending to manage the Nutt Grassland ACEC (newly declared) as a Wilderness Study Area, as if it is being prepped for “Wilderness” status. FLPMA does not make that a mandatory action. So, we might not be immediately forced out of an ACEC, but the BLM, in their conservation cooperative action with environmental groups, is shaping and managing toward de facto wilderness without Congressional authority.”

In addition to his dawn-to-dusk ranching responsibilities, Wilmeth, representing the Council of Border Conservation Districts, the New Mexico Coalition of Conservation Districts, and the Doña Ana Soil and Water Conservation District; County Commissioners such as Rardin; oil and gas companies with a stake in the outcome; and OHV organizations are each working through the Draft RMP to address their opposition to this latest federal land grab and will have their comments in by the July 11 deadline. Will you join them?

This may seem like just a New Mexico issue, but the same thing is happening in many locales throughout the West—where most states have a high percentage of federally managed land. I am sure readers could tell me similar stories from the surrounding states.

When the ranchers hate it; the county commissioners oppose it; the OHV folks are fighting it; and the miners and oil and gas companies can’t stand it—but, the environmental organizations in cooperation with the government agencies are for it—you know you’ve got a project that will stop all potential economic input. Once again, policy trumps growth and economic potential.

When Americans have to fight their own government for their economic survival, you know something has to change.

——

Article 5: Environmentalists are killing the US economy

Last month, Earth Day came and went. Perhaps you missed hearing about it. For 2013, the theme was “The Face of Climate Change.” Other than a change in the Post Office cancellation mark on your letters from the usual wavy lines, to the four stick-like wind turbines and a sun symbol, there was little note of what was once an event celebrated by 20 million Americans. Tim Wagner, Utah representative for the Sierra Club’s Our Wild America Campaign, groused: “Media coverage of global warming has virtually disappeared.”

According to EarthDayCentral.com, one of the goals of Earth Day is to help you “Discover what you can do to save the environment.”

Perhaps, people no longer see the need for planetary salvation.

The Christian Science Monitor offered an Earth Day 2013 report card on global warming. The author starts with: “When Earth Day observances first began in 1970, Cleveland had recently doused a pollutant-fueled fire on a section of the Cuyahoga River. Cities were often shrouded in thick blankets of smog. And large portions of Lake Erie were so fouled by industrial, farm, and sewage runoff that sections of the 241-mile-long lake were pronounced dead.”

And later, he reports: “Since that first Earth Day, the air over major cities is cleaner. Lake Erie is healthier. So is the Cuyahoga River, which groups in Cleveland would like to turn into a centerpiece of urban life. The improvements have come with ‘yes, but…’ as other environmental challenges have elbowed their way to the fore. But for the most part, tools are in place to deal with them.”

As Patrick Moore, a co-founder of Greenpeace, explains, the ‘80s ushered in the age of environmental extremism. The basic issues, for which he and Greenpeace fought, had largely been accomplished, and the general public was in agreement with the primary message. In order for the environmentalists to remain employed, they had to adopt ever more extreme positions.

Moore says: “What happened is environmental extremism. They’ve abandoned science and logic altogether.” Their message today is “anti:” anti-human, anti-science, anti-technology, anti-trade and globalization, anti-business and capitalism, and ultimately, anti-civilization.

Moore’s view helps understand how the environmental movement has gone from trying to save the planet to killing the US economy.

The American economy has some basic problems. We need more well-paid jobs, increased revenue, and our trade balance is out of whack. Each of these issues could be easily addressed, but environmentalists are doing everything they can to kill potential solutions. Three such examples are coal mining and exporting; natural gas extraction and conversion to liquefied natural gas (LNG) that can then be exported; and the Keystone pipeline—all of which face extreme opposition from environmentalists.

COAL

The US has the world’s largest economically recoverable coal resources—with more than one-fourth of the world’s reserves. Unfortunately, our policies have stymied growth in the mining industry. Bill Bissett, President of Kentucky Coal Association, told me: “Our industry is accustomed to market fluctuations and competition with other fuel sources, but having a federal government place additional regulations on one geographic region (Eastern KY and WV) and one industry (coal mining) is absolutely unfair.”

Last month, environmental groups (including the Sierra Club and Greenpeace) sent a letter to newly-confirmed Interior Secretary Sally Jewell calling for a moratorium on the leasing of federal lands for coal mining in the Powder River Basin (PRB) of Montana and Wyoming—which accounts for about forty percent of US coal reserves.

The results of a recent lease sale in Wyoming, offers insight regarding the economic importance of leasing these federal lands for coal mining. Peabody Coal paid nearly $800 million to the US Government for the rights to expand an existing coal mine and maintain their current workforce. The $800 million was a “bonus payment” and gives them the right to lease the coal and pay 12.5% of the sales price as a royalty. According to data from the Bureau of Land Management, 13 active coal mines in the Wyoming portion of the PRB alone, employ more than 6800 workers.

While, as Bissett addressed, policy under this administration has harshly singled out coal and the coal miners for punishment, coal’s low cost and abundance continues to make it a highly preferential fuel for power generation in developing countries like China and India. And, as I’ve previously written, even Europe is increasing its use of coal for electricity generation, as they’ve discovered the prohibitively high cost of renewables. In 2011, exports to European and Asian markets represented 76% of total US coal exports—up 31% compared to 2010.

Currently, US coal is easily shipped to Europe from ports on the east coast, but the US is missing out on the important Asian market—now being met by more expensive Australian competitors—due to infrastructure opposition from environmental groups. In the Los Angeles Times (LAT), Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org and a legend in the world of climate activism, wrote: “Those exports can’t really take off, however, unless West Coast ports dramatically expand their deepwater loading capacity. … Environmentalists are trying desperately to block the port expansion.”

Addressing the situation, the Wall Street Journal states: “there are now no major coal exporting facilities on the US West Coast. Washington State, with its proximity to coal-rich Wyoming and Montana, is seen as the best place to start.” PRB coal is being shipped to China and India through Vancouver. Additionally, the countries’ needs are being filled by Australian and Indonesian coal—so environmentalists’ fears that shipping US coal will undermine “everything we’ve accomplished,” as Sierra Club spokesman David Graham-Caso says, are wrong.

The coal is being shipped and used—but the US is losing out on the jobs (which would be mostly union jobs), the revenue, and the benefit to the trade deficit. The LAT/McKibben piece cites KC Golden, policy director of Seattle’s Climate Solutions group: “Can you imagine standing at the mouth of the Columbia River, watching ships sail in from Asia carrying solar panels and electric car batteries and plasma TVs, passing ships from America carrying coal?” Worse, can you imagine all those goods coming in—manufactured using Australian coal-fueled electricity, and nothing going out? That’s what we have now.

A report from the Energy Policy Research Foundation states: “US production will merely replace higher cost production. … Neither net world coal combustion nor GHG emissions will change as a result of an expansion of US coal exports.” The report concludes: “The higher net value received is in effect a wealth transfer from foreign consumers to US producers and the national economy.

This net gain to the national economy shows up in higher returns to invested capital, greater employment opportunities from expanded investment, higher revenues to state, local and federal governments, and higher lease values on coal reserves from federal and state lands.”

But environmental groups don’t want this “net economic gain to the national economy.” Apparently, they’d prefer that we continue to borrow from China’s Australian coal-fueled economy.

LNG

LNG faces a similar problem. Natural gas was once the favored choice of environmentalists—until privately funded hydraulic fracturing (or high pressure drilling) advancements made it plentiful and, consequently cheap. The low-cost fuel snatched away the fossil fuel-free dream that seemed to be almost within reach. Now environmentalists oppose natural gas as well. The Sierra Club’s Beyond Natural Gas site claims: “Increasing reliance on natural gas displaces the market for clean energy.”

Many countries want US natural gas. Unlike coal, natural gas cannot just be put on a ship and sent to the awaiting customer. It must first be liquefied—hence the term LNG. The liquefaction process requires costly facilities, which, for economic reasons, need a large customer base—many with which the US does not have free trade agreements (though the Energy Department can permit them, provided it determines that such ventures are consistent with the public interest).

The International Business Times, on March 1, 2013, reports that: “As of this date, 17 applications for multibillion-dollar facilities to turn the commodity into liquefied natural gas, or LNG, for export are under review by the Energy Department.” Let’s hope they don’t take as many years and as many reviews as the Keystone pipeline.

LNG exports could have a tremendous positive impact on the US economy. A recent IHS global insight report concluded that LNG exports would “result in the creation of over 100,000 direct, indirect, and economy wide jobs and have an immediate economic impact resulting in $3.6 to $5.2 billion in potential annual revenues.”

And, LNG exporting would not only create jobs and increase revenue, it would also reduce trade deficits. A just-released report from the Rio Grande Foundation states: “The United States currently runs a $6 billion trade deficit with Japan. That nation is particularly eager to import LNG from the US due to the nuclear accident at Fukushima.”

Once again, environmentalists oppose jobs, revenue, and trade-deficit reduction. Earlier this year, more than 40 groups and individuals took out a half page ad in the New York Times that said: “Exporting Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) to overseas markets will mean more drilling and fracking on US land, which are dirty and dangerous practices.”

KEYSTONE

Like coal mining and export, natural gas extraction, liquefaction, and export, the Keystone pipeline would create thousands of union jobs and increased service employment in supporting communities; benefit local and state economies, and provide additional revenues to the federal coffers; and help balance the trade deficit, as some of the refined product would be exported. But once again, environmental opposition has targeted the pipeline—causing delay after delay that has now postponed the economic benefit of the pipeline.

Last week, Russ Girling, TransCanada, CEO, said: “I believe that those that are fundamentally opposed to our pipeline are getting louder and more shrill as we move towards a decision.” He announced that the potential start date must be moved from the previously planned late 2014 or early 2015 to late 2015.

The Keystone pipeline saga is the same song, another verse.

These are just three current examples of how the influence of environmental organizations is driving policy in the name of planetary salvation that is, in reality, resulting in economic devastation that could lead to humanity’s ultimate starvation. Environmental motivations are less about saving the planet and more about killing the global economy—while enriching themselves at taxpayers’ expense.

The above articles were submitted by the author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon, who serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). Together they work to educate the public and influence policy makers regarding energy, its role in freedom, and the American way of life. Combining energy, news, politics, and, the environment through public events, speaking engagements, and media, the organizations’ combined efforts serve as America’s voice for energy.

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