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Obama Approves Major Border-Crossing Fracked Gas Pipeline Used to Dilute Tar Sands

8:39 pm in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Kinder Morgan logo

Kinder Magic?

Although TransCanada’s Keystone XL tar sands pipeline has received the lion’s share of media attention, another key border-crossing pipeline benefitting tar sands producers was approved on November 19 by the U.S. State Department.

Enter Cochin, Kinder Morgan’s 1,900-mile proposed pipeline to transport gas produced via the controversial hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) of the Eagle Ford Shale basin in Texas north through Kankakee, Illinois, and eventually into Alberta, Canada, the home of the tar sands.

Like Keystone XL, the pipeline proposal requires U.S. State Department approval because it crosses the U.S.-Canada border. Unlike Keystone XL – which would carry diluted tar sands diluted bitumen (“dilbit”) south to the Gulf Coast – Kinder Morgan’s Cochin pipeline would carry the gas condensate (diluent) used to dilute the bitumen north to the tar sands.

“The decision allows Kinder Morgan Cochin LLC to proceed with a $260 million plan to reverse and expand an existing pipeline to carry an initial 95,000 barrels a day of condensate,” the Financial Post wrote.

“The extra-thick oil is typically cut with 30% condensate so it can move in pipelines. By 2035, producers could require 893,000 barrels a day of the ultra-light oil, with imports making up 786,000 barrels of the total.”

Increased demand for diluent among Alberta’s tar sands producers has created a growing market for U.S. producers of natural gas liquids, particularly for fracked gas producers.

“Total US natural gasoline exports reached a record volume of 179,000 barrels per day in February as Canada’s thirst for oil sand diluent ramped up,”explained a May 2013 article appearing in Platts. ”US natural gasoline production is forecast to increase to roughly 450,000 b/d by 2020.”

Before Eagle Ford, Kinder Morgan Targeted Marcellus

Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale basin was Kinder Morgan’s first choice pick for sourcing tar sands diluent for export to Alberta. It wasn’t until that plan failed that the Eagle Ford Shale basin in Texas became Plan B.

Known then as the Kinder Morgan Cochin Marcellus Lateral Project proposal, the project fell by the wayside in February 2012.

“The company’s Cochin Marcellus Lateral Pipeline would have started in Marshall County, West Virginia, and transported natural gas liquids from the Marcellus producing region of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio,” wrote the Mount Vernon News of the canned project. [It] would [then] carry the [natural gas] liquids to processing plants and other petrochemical facilities in Illinois and Canada.”

“Kinder Magic”: More to Come?

Industry market trends publication RBN Energy described Kinder Morgan’s dominance of the tar sands diluent market as “Kinder Magic” in a January 2013 article.

“These are still early days for the developing condensate business in the Gulf Coast region,” RBN Energy’s Sandy Fielden wrote. “Plains All American and Kinder Morgan are developing the potential to deliver at least 170,000 barrels per day of Eagle Ford condensate as diluent to the Canadian tar sand fields in Alberta by the middle of 2014.”

Fielden explained we could see many more of these projects arise in the coming years.

“We have a sense that before too long there will be many more condensate infrastructure projects showing up like ‘magic’ in midstream company presentations.”

While the industry press coverage sounds optimistic, it doesn’t account for the concurrent rise of public opposition to dirty energy pipelines and expansion plans in the fracking and tar sands arenas, so only time will tell the fate of Cochin and its kin.

Keystone Kops: TransCanada Spent $280,000 Lobbying For Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline In First Quarter

9:23 am in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

TransCanada, the multinational corporation hoping to build the controversial northern half of the Keystone XL pipeline, spent over $280,000 on lobbying the U.S. government in the first quarter (Q1) of 2013, according to lobbying disclosure records.

In addition to the $250,000 paid to Paul Elliott - TransCanada’s infamous in-house lobbyist and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s national deputy campaign manager during her 2008 run for president – three outside firms lobbied on TransCanada’s behalf to promote KXL.

The outside firms: Bryan Cave LLP, which reported $20,000 in earnings from TransCanda in Q1; McKenna, Long & Aldridge, which was paid $10,000 by TransCanada during Q1; and Van Ness Feldman, which TransCanada paid an amount under $5,000, falling under the mandatory reporting ceiling.

$280,000 is a tiny drop in the bucket compared to TransCanada’s $446 million first quarter profits.

The southern half of Keystone XL is currently under construction due to a March 2012 Obama Adminstration Executive Order. The northern half is still in the proposal phase. It would carry Alberta tar sands dilbit to the Gulf Coast refineries in Port Arthur, Texas, where much of it would be exported to the global market.

As seen in an earlier investigation conducted by DeSmogBlogmany of TransCanada’s lobbyists for KXL have direct ties to the Obama administration. The U.S. State Department has been tasked with the final decision on the pipeline’s cross-border northern section, a risky conduit between the carbon intensive Alberta tar sands and further global climate disruption.

Bryan Cave

The two Bryan Cave lobbyists on the KXL file are Brandon Pollak and David Russell. Pollak formerly served as Deputy National Director of Grassroots Fundraising for John Kerry’s 2004 run for President. Kerry now serves as the head of the U.S. Department of State, the body assigned to make the final call on KXL.

Bryan Cave signed termination papers with TransCanada on April 26 and will no longer be lobbying on behalf of KXL beyond the recently-ended quarter.

“Professionals from Bryan Cave were engaged for a period of time, but we recently determined that we did not need the same level of support from them,” TransCanada Shawn Howard said of the termination decision. “As a result, they updated their disclosure of clients and activities, in keeping with U.S. rules and regulations.”

McKenna, Long & Aldridge

The two hired guns tasked to lobby on behalf of KXL and CAPP at McKenna are Alex McGee and Andrew Shaw.

Alex McGee formerly served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and liaison to Congress on behalf of Secretary of Energy under President George W. Bush, Spencer Abraham. His biography on the McKenna website explains that “McGee was also a strategic player in the passage of the Energy Policy Act of 2005,” a bill that made the chemicals found within hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) fluid a “trade secret” and made exemptions to the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act for fracking via the “Halliburton Loophole.” He also worked on the Bush-Cheney 2000 Presidential Campaign and staffed Bush’s Presidential Inauguration Committee.

Andrew Shaw also passed through the revolving door as a paralegal at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under both President Obama and former President George W. Bush.

McKenna, Long & Aldridge also lobbies for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), describing its duty on the disclosure form as lobbyists on “U.S. energy or environmental legislation or policies with implications in regard to oil sands production and development in Canada.”

Van Ness Feldman

Van Ness Feldman KXL lobbyists include J. Curtis MoffattTom Roberts,Jonathan Simon and Lisa Epifani.

In Q3 and Q4 of 2012, Moffatt also lobbied on behalf of pipeline giant Kinder MorganRoberts served as Legislative Director of the EPA under former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton from 1990-1995, getting his gig at Van Ness in 1998. He joined Moffatt in lobbying on behalf of Kinder Morgan in Q3 and Q4 of 2012.

Epifani formerly worked alongside McKenna’s McGee as a Deputy Assistant Secretary for Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs for the DOE under President George W. Bush, also serving as his Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy for the White House Economic Council before that. She joined Moffatt and Roberts in lobbying for Kinder Morgan in Q3 and Q4.

“Keystone Kops”

The revolving door between the agencies designated to make a good-faith science-based policy decision on the merits of the northern half of the KXL and the firms lobbying on behalf of TransCanada spins with rapidity.

Keystone Kops“ were fictional incompetent and corrupt policemen featured in silent film comedies in the early 20th century. As demonstrated over and over again by the Obama Administration’s ”State Department Oil Services” — aka the “police” asssigned to make a decision on the pipeline’s future — the decision over Keystone XL seems merely a 21st Century version of these legendary silent films.