Hillary Clinton’s Biggest Campaign Bundlers Are Fossil Fuel Lobbyists

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WASHINGTON — Nearly all of the lobbyists bundling contributions for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign have at one time or another worked for the fossil fuel industry.

A list of 40 registered lobbyists that the Clinton camp disclosed to the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday revealed a number of Democratic Party lobbyists who have worked against regulations to curb climate change, advocated for offshore drilling, or sought government approval for natural gas exports.

Clinton, the former secretary of state, has called climate change the most “consequential, urgent, sweeping collection of challenges we face as a nation and a world” and says it would be a major focus of her administration if she wins the White House. But having so many supporters who have sold their services to fossil fuel companies may complicate her emphasis on pro-environment policies.

Scott Parven and Brian Pomper, lobbyists at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, have been registered to lobby for the Southern California-based oil giant Chevron since 2006, with contracts totaling more than $3 million. The two bundled Clinton contributions of $24,700 and $29,700, respectively. They have helped Chevron over the years resist efforts to eliminate oil and gas tax breaks and to impose regulations to reduce carbon emissions.

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The two Clinton bundlers also were part of a much-criticized campaign by Chevron to manipulate Congress into inserting language into the Andean Trade Preferences Act that would require Ecuador to dismiss a longstanding lawsuit against the company for polluting the Amazon jungle. Democratic lawmakers pushed back against the campaign and the lawsuit is continuing. 

One prominent lobbying topic embraced by Clinton bundlers is the expansion of liquefied natural gas exports and federal approval of new LNG terminals.

Ankit Desai, vice president for government relations at top LNG exporter Cheniere Energy, bundled $82,000 to the Clinton camp, with much of it coming from Cheniere Energy executives. Cheniere executives, including Desai, have donated $38,800 to Clinton’s campaign.

The company has lobbied hard in Washington and maintains close ties to the Obama administration. The company won the first approval to export gas to countries outside of U.S. free-trade agreements. The company is seeking approval to open additional terminals to export LNG, and will likely need a friend in the White House come 2017.

ML Strategies’ David Leiter lobbied in 2014 on behalf of Sempra Energy when the company received approval for its LNG export facility in Hackberry, Louisiana. Leiter, who bundled $36,550 for Clinton’s campaign, also is a lobbyist for ExxonMobil. Steve Coll noted in a New Yorker article derived from his book on the oil giant, Private Empire, that Leiter, an ex-staffer to former Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), was retained, along with a host of others, to increase the company’s reach into the Democratic Party it had ignored for years.

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ExxonMobil’s top lobbyist in Washington, Theresa Fariello, may not be a bundler for Clinton’s campaign, but she is a donor. Fariello, who was a Department of Energy official in President Bill Clinton’s administration, gave $2,700 to Clinton’s campaign. Another Washington-based Exxon lawyer, Judith Batty, donated $2,700.

Clinton also got contributions from others involved in the fossil fuel business. Her campaign received $2,700 from BP America’s Mary Streett, formerly the top lobbyist for the nuclear power utility Exelon. Anadarko Petroleum lawyers Amanda McMillan and Richard Lapin each gave $2,700. Sarah Venuto and Martin Durbin, both lobbyists for America’s Natural Gas Alliance, the top gas industry lobbying group, gave $2,910 and $1,000, respectively. Celia Fischer, an America’s Natural Gas Alliance representative who is not a lobbyist, gave $2,700.

Aside from lobbyists currently working to advance fossil fuel interests, there is one Hillblazer bundler — the name for Clinton boosters raising more than $100,000 — who stands out.

Bundler Gordon Giffin is a former lobbyist for TransCanada, the company working to build the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. Giffin sits on the board of Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, an investor in the pipeline. The Canadian bank paid Clinton $990,000 for speeches in the months leading up to her presidential announcement. Another Canadian financial institution with an interest in Keystone XL, TD Bank, paid her $651,000 for speaking engagements.

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Clinton’s position on Keystone XL — or lack thereof — may prove the biggest challenge for her in gaining support from progressive activists. Whether to grant a permit for the leg of the pipeline that crosses the Canadian border into the U.S. is up to the State Department, which has been considering it since Clinton’s time as secretary of state. In October 2010 remarks, Clinton said the department was “inclined” to sign off on the pipeline, a statement that enraged environmental groups working to stop it. On the campaign trail, Clinton has largely evaded questions about the pipeline.

But the issue has dogged Clinton. The speaking fees from Canadian banks came to light in May. In June, Clinton’s campaign announced the hiring of former TransCanada lobbyist Jeff Berman as a consultant. 

The issue of campaign donations from fossil fuel interests has become a topic in the Democratic Party primary, as both Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley have pledged they will not accept contributions from oil, gas or coal companies. Clinton has not signed that pledge.

Fossil fuel campaign contributions came up at a town hall event Clinton hosted in New Hampshire on Thursday.

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“I’m disappointed about the answer you gave to climate change,” Giselle Hart, an activist with 350 Action, told Clinton.  I’m wondering if your answer … is due to contributions from the fossil fuel industry to your campaign.”

Activists unfurled banners and demanded that Clinton support a ban on fossil fuel extraction on public lands. Clinton responded that she would phase out extraction over time, though not immediately. “We still have to run our economy, we still have to turn on the lights,” she said.

Reached for comment, a representative for the campaign simply pointed HuffPost to Clinton’s remarks at the Thursday’s town hall. 

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California Just Issued Its First Fine for Using Too Much Water

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California’s Water Resources Control Board proposed a $1.5 million fine today for a farming district’s unauthorized use of water—the first such fine in the state’s four-year drought. The Board alleged that the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District, a region serving 160 farmers just east of San Francisco, illegally diverted nearly 700 million gallons of water over the course of two weeks in June.

Byron-Bethany is one of about 5,000 water-rights holders notified this year that there isn’t enough water to pump from lakes and rivers, and it’s illegal to divert water after receiving such notifications. In response, several water users, including Byron-Bethany, have sued the state for cutting off its water supply.

“We will vigorously defend our rights,” said Rick Gilmore, general manager of the district, to the San Jose Mercury News last month. “All our sweet corn and tomatoes—they won’t make it to harvest. Almonds and cherries will suffer damage,” he said. “They’ll lose the water they need for July and August.”

The proposed fine, which the district will likely contest in a coming hearing, is the first fine sought by the Board under a new structure in which water rights holders can be penalized for past unauthorized use of water, even if they have stopped diverting since. But Byron-Bethany probably isn’t alone; Andrew Tauriainen, a lawyer for the state’s Division of Water Rights, says, “It’s highly likely that additional enforcement actions will follow in weeks and months ahead.”

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Green Subsidies? Sustainable Energy? We don’t need them!

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A cabinet source has said that a “big reset” on subsidies paid by consumers, which push up household energy bills, is coming in the autumn.

“There is a hardening view in the cabinet that we’ve got to deal with green subsidies,” the source added.

Last month, the government announced that new onshore wind farms would be excluded from a subsidy scheme from April next year.

Within a few weeks, the solar power industry is expecting its subsidies will be cut.

The issue of renewable energy subsidies was discussed at the weekly meeting of the government’s most senior ministers on Tuesday.

Subsidies to the renewable energy industry, paid for by consumers, are expected to add up to £4.3bn this year.

‘Best deal’

This week, the think tank Policy Exchange said the average household energy bill has risen by £120 over the last five years due to what they called “ill-thought through energy and climate policies”.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Energy and Climate Change said:

“Reducing energy bills for hard-working British families and businesses is this government’s priority. We’ve already announced reforms to remove subsidies for onshore wind, and that work to make sure bill payers are getting the best possible deal is going to continue.”

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But the renewable energy industry fears a cut now could seriously damage an industry at a crucial point in its development.

“We are getting very anxious about what might be coming,” Leonie Greene, from the Solar Trade Association, told the BBC.

“The British industry is already very significant today. It employs over 30,000 people and turns over billions of pounds. It is quite clear that globally this industry is going to be worth trillions. So it is incredibly important that in terms of the global race that the prime minister talks about, that we make sure we have a strong solar industry in the UK.”

In a speech last month, the Energy Secretary Amber Rudd warned the renewables industry and campaigners that support for the environment has to be weighed against the impact on energy bills.

“All that support costs money,” she said. “We cannot ignore the fact that, obviously, people want subsidies if they are on the receiving end of subsidies, but we have to ensure that we get the good measure of it.”

And there lies the conundrum for the government: attempting to keep bills low, supporting emerging industries and keeping to climate change targets – with the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris just a few months away now in December.

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BBC 2015

UK faces worst power crunch in a decade this winter

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Britain’s electricity supplies will be at their tightest level in a decade this winter, forcing the country to rely on emergency measures to ensure the lights stay on, according to official forecasts.

The closure of three power stations has increased the risk of blackouts since last winter, new analysis by National Grid shows.

The ‘safety buffer’ margin between peak winter electricity demand in and the output from Britain’s ageing power stations is likely to fall to just 1.2 per cent – down from 4.1 per cent last year, it finds.

But an emergency system of backup power plants, first introduced last winter, will be in place again this year to help prevent blackouts, the company said.

Even with the backup plants in place, the effective spare margin last winter was 6 per cent and this year will fall to 5.1 per cent – the lowest since 2007-08, Grid data shows.

The backup power plant operators will be paid £37 million to guarantee they can fire up if needed in an emergency, and more if they are actually called upon.

Cordi O’Hara, National Grid’s director of market operation, said: “It’s clear that electricity margins for that coldest, darkest half hour of winter are currently tighter than they have been, due to power stations closures.

“As system operator, we feel we’ve taken a sensible precaution again this winter to buy some extra services. Together with the tools we already use to balance the network these additional services will significantly increase the energy reserve available this winter.”

The backup measures were not needed last winter because the weather was particularly mild, National Grid said.

Peter Atherton, analyst at Jefferies, said: “The underlying position of the network is becoming more and more fragile, which is requiring more emergency measures. Only three or four things could go wrong and we would have a serious problem.

“The reason we have this issue is that the new build [power plant] programme is running late and the closure programme is running to time.”

New solar farms had been built but that was “not useful on a dark winter evening”, he said.

Experts have also questioned how much wind can be relied upon, with some of the coldest periods of last winter coinciding with the lowest wind power output.

Offshore-wind-farmExcerpt taken from article written in ‘The Telegraph’ 2015

 

Across The Globe, Wildfire Season Is Lasting Longer

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With 35 active large fires currently burning up and down the West Coast — and with dry, hot conditions sparking an unprecedented number of fires throughout Western Canada — the 2015 wildfire season has started strong, and shows no sign of slowing down.

Now, a new report out in Nature Communications has a some more bad news for the West, and wildfire-prone regions around the world: In the last 35 years, wildfire season has gotten longer, and the global area affected by wildfire has doubled.

Though several studies have looked at the relationship between climate change and regional wildfire patterns, scientists lacked a comprehensive assessment of how climate change might be influencing wildfire seasons on a global scale. Using a combination of fire danger indices and surface weather data, a group of American and Australian scientists looked at how “fire weather” — weather conditions that are especially conducive to fire — has changed around the world over the last three and a half decades.

They found that as global temperatures have increased (by about .2 degrees Celsius per decade since 1979), the length of wildfire season has also increased by 18.7 percent around the world. Across nearly a quarter of the world’s vegetated areas, the length of fire season increased. Only 10 percent of vegetated areas saw a decrease in the length of fire season — Australia was the only vegetated continent that did not exhibit a significant increase in both fire season length and affected area.

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Over the last several decades, the report notes, the United States has seen a particularly marked increase in the frequency and duration of large wildfires, especially in the Northern Rocky Mountains. The report links this increase to earlier snowmelt, which creates drier conditions earlier in the summer. In general, the report found, areas with the greatest changes in local weather are the most likely to see changes in their wildfire season:

Our results extend these findings by demonstrating that areas with the most significant change in fire weather season length occur where not only temperature but also changes in humidity, length of rain-free intervals and wind speeds are most pronounced. In 2012, for example, longer-than-normal fire weather seasons across an unprecedented 47.4% of the vegetated area of the US culminated in a near-record setting ~3.8 MHa of burned area.

The tropical and subtropical forests of South America have also experienced what the report refers to as a “tremendous fire weather season length changes,” with a median 33 day increase over the last 35 years.

The average length of fire season, the report notes, does not perfectly equate with fire activity — even if the conditions are right for fires to occur, wildfires still need some sort of ignition spark and ample fuel. But the researchers warn that “if these fire weather changes are coupled with ignition sources and available fuel, they could markedly impact global ecosystems, societies, economies and climate.”

GOLETA, CA - JULY 06:  U.S. Forest Service Hot Shots set a backfire to try to contain the Gap fire, officially the top priority fire in the state, on July 6, 2008 near Goleta, California. The 6,860-acre Gap fire is spreading across the chaparral-covered Santa Ynez Mountains of the Los Padres National Forest, drawing closer to many houses that were rebuilt after the1990 Painted Cave fire destroyed 400 homes. An estimated 4,000 people have evacuated from about 1,700 homes in the path of the fire.  President Bush has declared a state of emergency for all of California in response to more than 1,400 fires that were mostly started by dry lightning storms crossing the state on June 20. More than 300 continue to burn. Making matters worse for the more than 19,000 firefighters from 42 states battling the California wildfires, drought is wicking moisture from the vegetation which leads fire experts to fear a possible repeat of the firestorms of 2003 and 2007 that destroyed thousands of homes in southern California.  (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

An increase in fire activity could impact everything from public health to the economy. When fires burn, they emit smoke that can travel hundreds of miles, impacting air quality and exposing residents in places removed from the direct dangers of wildfire to harmful particles that can exacerbate existing health conditions, especially in the very young and very old. Fighting wildfires is also expensive, costing the U.S. government an average of $1.13 billion a year in the last decade. As climate change exacerbates wildfires, one study estimates that fighting wildfires could cost as much as $62.5 billion annually by 2050.

An increase in wildfires can also lead to an increase in climate change. As wildfires last longer, and cover a greater area, more trees burn, releasing carbon into the atmosphere and turning some forests from carbon sinks into carbon sources. And as places like Alaska experience longer wildfire seasons, carbon-rich permafrost could melt more quickly, releasing even more carbon into the atmosphere.

Article from Climate Progress: Natasha Geiling

No shortage of money for renewable energy, but there is a denial of that truth

 This is ridiculous beyond madness (and comes from the Guardian this morning with an addendum from the estimable Richard Murphy):

The government is struggling to pay for new clean energy supplies which could result in a rise in household bills or a major cut in investment in renewable technologies.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has already overspent its budget to support renewable energy projects over the next five years by £1.5bn, senior sources said.

Unless ministers increase the budget still further, the UK could struggle to meet legally binding commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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This is mad for four reasons.

First, it’s mad because we need renewable energy.

Second, it’s mad because renewable energy creates jobs in the UK and potential competitive advantage for UK business outside it.

Third, it’s mad because we could find £375 billion of quantitative easing to bail out banks (which is what it achieved, even if it was not quite what was planned).

Fourth, it’s mad because Green Infrastructure Quantitative Easing could, without a shadow of a doubt fund this programme at almost no net cost to society.

The argument that ‘there is no money’ is just not true. There is always money available to a government with its own central bank and a mechanism for repurchasing its own debt (which is what all QE does). To argue otherwise is to either deny the truth or turn a willing blind eye to it to achieve another political aim. It’ up to you to decide which one is going on here.

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Navitus Bay Launches £8.6 Mln Local Skills Fund

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Navitus Bay has announced the creation of £8.6 million (€12.1 million) in funding for skills and supply chain engagement as part of its commitment to maximise the benefits felt across the South Coast from the proposed offshore wind park.

The funding is part of the s.106 Agreement, negotiated with the local authorities within the project area and submitted alongside the planning application.

Local employers and training providers will have access to the £4.3 million Skills Fund. It will enable the skills and employment needs of the project – and offshore wind in the country more generally – to be met. To facilitate the distribution of funding, Navitus Bay has also set up a Skills Forum, which meets later today in Dorset. This Forum consists of representatives from local councils, Local Enterprise Partnerships, employment and skills boards, Higher and Further Education bodies, as well as representatives from Tier 1 project suppliers.

The £4.3 million Supply Chain Engagement Fund will be used to promote and support supply chain opportunities for local businesses in the area. Navitus Bay has engaged extensively with the local business community to ensure that the economic benefits of the project are felt across the region. The announcement follows on from the highly successful ‘Meet the Buyer’ event at SeaWork 2015 in Southampton in June. This provided over 100 local businesses with a chance to find more about supply chain opportunities and meet MHI Vestas Offshore Wind, the preferred turbine supplier.

The funding agreed as part of the s106 Agreement will be made fully available if the project achieves development consent, due to be announced in September.

Mike Unsworth, Project Director of Navitus Bay, said: “Navitus Bay is committed to ensuring that the economic benefits of the project are felt across the South Coast. This includes opening up supply chain opportunities to the local business community and ensuring that the skills and training needed to ensure job creation are provided. The creation of £8.6 million in funding will ensure that these opportunities are maximised and that the local authorities, employment bodies and business representatives can be involved in the process.”

Chris Brammall, Economic Development Project Officer, Isle of Wight Council, added: “For the region to gain maximum economic benefit from this exciting project, it is vital that the necessary skills are in place. Navitus Bay working with their partners in the Skills Forum will ensure that this is the case.”