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Obama’s Former PR Flack: Thread Tying Keystone XL, PA Gov’s Race Together

10:11 am in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Pennsylvania Democratic Party gubernatorial candidate and former head of the PA Department of Environmental Protection, Kathleen “Katie” McGinty, has hired powerful PR firm SKDKnickerbocker for her campaign’s communications efforts.

Katie McGinty hired powerful PR firm SKDKnickerbocker

SKDKnickerbocker – once known as Squier Knapp Dunn - is co-owned by President Barack Obama’s former Communications Director Anita Dunn and a member of Obama’s national media team for his 2008 run for President, Bill Knapp. Both Dunn and Knapp previously did PR for U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s 2004 run for President, as well.

One of SKDKnickerbocker’s key clients is TransCanada, owner of the Keystone XL tar sands export pipeline.

Another key SKDKnickerbocker client: Association of American Railroads, that industry’s version of the American Petroleum Institute. Rail is an increasingly viable alternative to pipelines for bringing tar sands - and fracked oil - to market.

Both McGinty and Dunn also have key marital connections with skin in the game for the looming decision over the prospective northern half of Keystone XL: Karl Hausker and Robert “Bob” Bauer, respectively.

Like Husband, Like Wife

Hausker is the former Vice President of ICF International, one of the three contractors chosen by TransCanada to do the now hotly contested U.S. State Department Keystone XL environmental review.

ICF and the more-publicized Environmental Resources Management, Inc. (ERM Group)concluded that Keystone XL’s northern half would have negligible climate change impacts. Keystone XL’s southern half - TransCanada’s Gulf Coast Pipeline - is 95-percent built and ready to send 700,000 barrels a day of tar sands from Cushing, Oklahoma to Port Arthur, Texas by year’s end.

A previous DeSmog investigation also revealed Hausker and McGinty have myriad ties to the controversial horizontal drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), both at the federal and state level.

Bauer is President Obama’s personal attorney, former White House Counsel and Obama’s election law attorney for the 2008 and 2012 elections, as well as John Kerry’s 2004 election law attorney. Best known for bending election law to help corporations flood electoral races with more and more money, the private law firm he works at – Perkins Coie – has an attorney-client relationship with TransCanada in Alaska.

Pennsylvania’s Fracked!

The top three front-runners for governor in Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial campaign are all fracking cheerleaders: McGinty; DEP head after McGinty, Democrat John Hanger; and the incumbent, Republican Tom Corbett.

McGinty currently works for the shale gas industry as a business partner of Ed Rendell’s at Element Partners, which provides investment capital to shale gas industry start-ups.

She also sat on the industry-stacked U.S. Department of Energy Fracking Subcommittee, which penned the fracking chemical disclosure standards that would eventually become an American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) model bill and part of President Obama’s Department of Interior’s rules for fracking on public lands.

John Hanger – a key character in Gasland - has increasingly become a fracking apologist since leaving the DEP when Corbett won the 2010 election. So much so, in fact, he was interviewed for the Energy In Depth-produced propaganda film, Truthland.

Last winter, Hanger penned an article criticizing DeSmog‘s coverage of the shale gas bubble, and he recently wrote a telling piece for The Guardian titled, “If you care about the environment, you should welcome natural gas fracking.” Telling because Cornell University scientists have discovered fracking is dirtier than coal production when measured over its entire lifecycle.

And under Corbett, Pennsylvania has more or less become a “banana republic” run by a “Banana Republican,” with the industry running roughshod over rural communities left and right with little accountability – nay, rewarded for doing so. Corbett raised over $1.8 million from the frackers for his 2010 electoral campaign and the same is likely in the cards for 2014.

To put it bluntly and succinctly: Pennsylvania’s fracked. Which means at the end of the day, we all are. Read the rest of this entry →

Fracking’s Myriad Ties to Greenwashed State Dept Keystone XL Environmental Review

8:04 am in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Most don’t think of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) when pondering the future of TransCanada’s Keystone XL tar sands export pipeline - but they should.

There are numerous ties between key members of the fracking industry and groups pushing for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. And these threads all lead back, one way or another, to Environmental Resources Management, Inc. (ERM Group).

ERM Group did the official U.S. State Department’s environmental review for Keystone XL pipeline. The review, published in March 2013, determined the pipeline will have negligible climate change impacts (the review dealt with the northern segment of the pipeline as the southern half, now known as the “Gulf Coast Pipeline,” received an expedited Executive Order permit by President Barack Obama in March 2012).

ERM is also a paying member of the American Petroleum Institute (API), which has spent over $22 million lobbying on Keystone XL since June 2008.

In its bid to provide the environmental review for the Keystone XL pipeline, ERM overtly lied on its conflict-of-interest form, saying it has no current business ties to TransCanada. ERM has an ongoing consulting relationship with the company responsible for the Alaska South Central LNG Project, also known as Alaska Gas Pipeline Project. The company, South Central LNG, is co-owned by TransCanada.

On top of lying about its current business ties, ERM stated on the conflict-of-interest form it had no “direct or indirect relationship (financial, organizational, contractual or otherwise) with any business entity that could be affected in any way by the proposed work.” In so doing, ERM may have broken federal law - 18 USC § 1001 - by making a false claim on a federal contract.

The State Department’s Office of Inspector General has officially launched an inquiry into how and why State overlooked ERM’s omission, allowing ERM to potentially commit a crime.

In addition to potentially fraudulent claims about its connection to TransCanada, ERM also has significant ties to major gas industry groups and major players supporting the fracking boom in the US.

The details will follow below, but for starters, here are the connections in a nutshell:

Exhibit AKathryn “Katie” Klaber, departing head of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, one of the most powerful gas industry lobby groups in the US.

Prior to serving as Executive Director of the lobbying powerhouse, Klaber began her career at Environmental Resources Management, Inc. (ERM Group). ERM is a former dues-paying member of the Marcellus Shale Coalition.

Exhibit BICF International, an additional firm contracted by the State Department to perform the environmental review.

Read the rest of this entry →

Investigation: State Dept Contractor ERM Lied About TransCanada Ties

4:10 pm in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

The contractor the Obama U.S. State Department hired for the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) of the northern half of TransCanada’s Keystone XL (KXL) tar sands export pipeline overtly lied on its conflict-of-interest disclosure form that it signed and handed to State in June 2012.

A major research dossier unfurled today by Friends of the Earth-U.S. (FOE-U.S.) and The Checks & Balances Project (CBP) shows that Environmental Resources Management, Inc. (ERM Group) played “Pinocchio” in explaining its ties – or as they say, lack thereof – to Big Oil, tar sands and TransCanada in particular on its conflict-of-interest form.

The two groups dug deep and revealed State’s contractor ERM and its subsidiary Oasis Environmental both have ongoing contractual relationships with the Alaska Gas Project- now known as the South Central LNG Project - co-owned by TransCanada, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips and BP. Further, ERM’s Socioeconomic Advisor Mark Jennings served as a “Consultant to ExxonMobil Development Company for the Alaska Pipeline Project, according to his now-scrubbed LinkedIn profile.

ERM’s own documents – FOE-U.S. and CBP further explain – also reveal the multinational firm has business ties with over a dozen companies active in the Alberta tar sands, including Exxon, Shell, Chevron, Conoco Phillips, Total and Syncrude.

On its conflict-of-interest form, ERM said it had no “direct or indirect relationship … with any business entity that could be affected in any way by the proposed work.” Clearly, that’s far from the case.

In March, ERM Group – a City of London-based dues-paying member of the American Petroleum Institute (API) with a history of rubber-stamping ecologically hazardous oil and gas infrastructure projects – said KXL’s northern half ”is unlikely to have a substantial impact on the rate of development” of the tar sands in its SEIS. Thus, it will also have little impact on climate change, according to ERM’s SEIS, contracted out by TransCanada on behalf of the State Department.

FOE-U.S. says these most recent developments further call the entire SEIS into question, and that doesn’t include the fact that State recently revealed it’s clueless as to the exact route of the Keystone XL.

“From the beginning, the State Department’s review of Keystone has been plagued by influence peddling and conflicts of interest,” said FOE-U.S.’s Ross Hammond in a press statement.

“This is more serious: If ERM lied about its relationship with TransCanada, how can Secretary Kerry, President Obama or the American people believe anything the company says about the pipeline’s environmental impact?”

As PLATFORM London explains, ERM Group – also a dues-paying member of fracking industry lobbying force Marcellus Shale Coalition up until Oct. 2011 - is part of the “Carbon Web.” That’s shorthand for “the network of relationships between oil and gas companies and the government departments, regulators, cultural institutions, banks and other institutions that surround them.”

Given the state of play, both FOE-U.S. and CBP have called for State’s Office of the Inspector General to conduct a thorough investigation, examining how and why ERM was chosen. They’ve also called for a complete halt in the KXL review process until that transpires.

“Secretary Kerry must halt this flawed review process and direct the State Department to conduct a full, unbiased review of the Keystone XL pipeline’s impact,” Gabe Elsner, director of CBP said in a press statement.

In addition, the State Department Inspector General should pursue a full investigation into how a contractor with clear conflicts of interest was allowed to write the U.S. government’s assessment of Keystone XL and why the State Department failed to bring those conflicts of interest to light. Finally, the State Department should determine appropriate disciplinary actions for ERM to discourage contractors from lying to the federal government in the future.

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog