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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.

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Frackademia: University of Tennessee Set to Lease Forest For Fracking, Enriching Governor’s Family

3:34 pm in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Gov. Bill Haslam

8,600 acres of the Cumberland Forest owned by University of Tennessee-Knoxville will be leased off to the oil and gas industry this August in a new form of “frackademia” – and one of the top financial beneficiaries will be the family of Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, who sits on UT-Knoxville’s Board of Trustees.

“Frackademia” is usually thought of as “studies” conducted by university-based “frackademic” researchers and funded by Big Oil, the old “Tobacco Playbook” in action. But UT-Knoxville has taken the game to a whole new level, leasing off land it owns so that it can study “best practices” for fracking in the Volunteer State.

“It would create a rare, controlled environment in which experts could study the environmental impact of the controversial drilling technique, while also generating revenue to finance research,” explained a New York Times article on the proposal.

The deal with the oil and gas industry for the acerage includes an initial fee of $300,000, plus $300,000 per year, 15-percent royalties on any gas sold and aminimum of $35 per acre paid to UT-Knoxville.

The 8,600 acres sits within the Chattanooga Shale basin, a field still untapped by the industry via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), the toxic horizontal drilling process through which oil and gas is obtained from shale rock basins. Atlas Energy – purchased as a subsidiary by Chevron in Nov. 2010 - owns 105,000 acres in the Chattanooga, a clear example the industry has its cross-hairs on the untapped Chattanooga basin.

UT-Knoxville’s new “leasing agency” program will be run under the auspices of the university’s Institute of Agriculture, officially referred to as the UT Institute of Agriculture Gas and Oil Research Initiative and a pre-bid proposal conference for prospective industry partners is set for June 21. Leases will be five years long, with a maximum allowance of three renewals, or 20 years total.

Fracking could become a major source of revenue for UT-Knoxville during a time of severe budget cuts to the UT System. In 2010, the state government slashed $56 million from the UT-Knoxville budget, following another $75 million in budget cuts in 2009 for the UT System at-large.

And one of the top beneficiaries of the fracking frenzy – overlooked thus far – will be the powerful Haslam family.

Haslam Family: Leveraging UT-Knoxville Ties for Fracking Profits

Gov. Haslam, the former Mayor of Knoxville, took $398,110 from the oil and gas industry before his Nov. 2010 gubernatorial race victory.

The Haslam family is an oil and gas family through and through, standing to profit immensely from a fracking boom in Tennessee and nationwide.

In 2012, the Haslam family – owners of Pilot Flying J truck fueling stations, a corporation where Bill Haslem used to serve as president - purchased Western Petroleum and Maxum Petroleum. Both Western and Maxum are major suppliers of fuel and lubricants for fracking operations. Pilot Flying J is the nation’s No. 1 retailer of diesel fuel and is the 6th most profitable corporation in the U.S., earning over $29 billion in 2012.

Pilot Flying J also has 63 of its stations nationwide retrofitted with natural gas pumpsfor 18-wheelers owned by T. Boone Pickens‘ Clean Energy Fuels Corporation (CEF) as part of CEF’s “America’s Natural Gas Highway.” Some perspective: CEF currently has 67 U.S. fueling stations in total.

By the end of 2013 - an article in EcoWatch explains - Pilot Flying J ”plan[s] to have 100 truck stops capable of fueling 18-wheelers with … natural gas.”

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FrackNation Part Two: The Koch Astroturf Ties That Bind

9:12 am in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Gasland Promo image

Gasland Part 2 is under fire from an competing astro-turf documentary.

Part one of the DeSmogBlog investigation of FrackNation - a film made in response to Gasland 2 – honed in on the past track records and funding streams of co-directors Phelim McAller and Ann McElhinney.

We revealed that Donors Trust/Donors Capital - the “dark money ATM of the right” – partially funded their first two films, Mine Your Own Business and Not Evil, Just Wrong.

We also revealed that Not Evil, a climate change denial documentary, was utilized by a partner of Americans for Prosperity (AFP) to push the Balanced Education for Everyone (BEE) campaign.

That campaign calls for a “balanced” scientific teaching of the climate change “controversy” and parallels ones pushed for via an American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) model bill, by the Discovery Institute, and by the Heartland Institute.

Yet, what about FrackNation? Who bankrolled it and are the screenings and is the tour really a grassroots endeavor?

It might seem that way based on its marketing, but as Jean de La Fontaine once said, “Beware, so long as you live, of judging men by their outward appearance.”

Grassroots or Astroturf? Follow the Email List

Interested in where FrackNation and its film-making team are getting their funding from, I signed up for its email list. In so doing, I learned that Market Aces LLC runs it.

“From the start, Market Aces had a vision to offer low-cost website development solutions to small businesses and a niche market within the political and non-profit sector – but only those who are dedicated to protecting the American Dream and freedom,” its website reads.

Market Aces LLC shares an office with The Leadership Institute (LI).

According to LI’s website, it “teaches conservative Americans how to influence policy through direct participation, activism, and leadership.” Its website also explains that “since 1979, [it] has trained more than 119,000 conservative activists, leaders, and students.”

Playing by API’s Employee Advocacy Playbook?

Beyond getting email list building help from one of the key “feeder” nodes in the right-wing network, it’s also questionable how many of the funders of FrackNation were of the grassroots variety. As the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette explained,

[T]he roster of “executive producers” who have donated at least $1 includes scores of energy industry associates. The filmmakers said Thursday they plan to return any donations given by “senior” workers in the industry, which they define as executives.

Among those who donated money to the KickStarter campaign: ”the director of an Ohio-based oil and gas outreach program and the head of external affairs at Cabot Oil and Gas, the company that’s fought accusations of water contamination in Dimock, Pa., for the past several years,” according to the Post-Gazette.

Within four weeks of the Kickstarter fundraising campaign’s launch, FrackNation had already raised over $150,000, raising over $22,000 in the first two days of fundraising.

Perhaps FrackNation is playing by the American Petroleum Institute‘s employee advocates’ “corporate citizen” playbook.

In a presentation given at an industry PR conference attended by DeSmogBlog in Houston, TX titled, “Educating Employees On Key Issues To Encourage Brand Management Energy Nation: Empowering Employee Advocates,” API’s Director of External Mobilization Tara Anderson explained how – in essence – to create an armada of fracking advocates from within the employee base of oil and gas corporations.

“Employees are the best brand ambassador you can come by…The most important principle to remember is to create a culture of advocacy,” she said in Houston. “This is really a community that regularly communicates and engages in the political process. It gives them all the necessary tools and empowers them to get involved and make a difference.”

This may explain why the film not only raised money with such rapidity, but also has full industry backing for its nationwide tour

FrackNation Tour’s Americans for Prosperity Pitstops

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Astroturf Documentary FrackNation Is Tea-Party Backed Attack on Gasland 2

9:57 am in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Big Oil has deployed the “Tobacco Playbook” once again, this time in response to the release of Gasland 2.

Gasland Promo image

Gasland Part 2 is under fire from an astro-turf competing documentary.

It comes in the form of a documentary film titled, FrackNation, whose co-directors’ funding in the past came from Donors Capital and Donors Trust, referred to by Mothers Jones‘ Andy Kroll as “the dark money ATM of the right” and a major source of funding for climate change denial.

Both Gasland 2 and FrackNation cover hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), the toxic horizontal drilling process via which unconventional oil and gas is obtained from shale rock basins around the country and world. Co-produced and co-directed by Irish couple Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney, FrackNation purports to be “funded by the 99 percent to combat the misrepresentations by the 1 percent of urban elites who want to tell rural Americans how to work and live.”

McAleer and McElhinney also say they are independent journalists working independently of corporate funding. McAleer was referred to by the San Francisco Chronicle as “climate denial’s Michael Moore” and both McAler and McElhinney are listed as “experts” by the climate change-denying Heartland Institute.

FrackNation is an independent film and we want to remain independent of the Gas industry and be funded by ordinary people,” it says on its KickStarter page that it used to raise $212,265 from 3,305 backers of the film between February-April 2012.

This isn’t the first dip in the “doubt is our product” pond for McAleer and McElhinney. In the past, they co-directed and co-produced a pro-mining documentary titled Mine Your Own Business and a climate change denial documentary titled, Not Evil, Just Wrong.

Both McAleer and McElhinney have made a living in recent years deploying the “Tobacco Playbook,” mutating settled scientific debates on energy and climate catastrophe into false two-sided affairs, which corporate-funded news media take and run with as “he-said, she-said” stories. 

Filmmaker’s History of Tobacco Playbook Deployment

FrackNation made its public debut in Jan. 2013, coinciding with the release of Promised Land, a Hollywood drama starring Matt Damon.

“It’s time Hollywood celebrities and environmentalists were asked some difficult questions about their anti-fracking activities and ideologies. And that’s what FrackNation does,” McAleer said in a press release announcing the world premiere.

McAleer and McElhinney are now singing a similar tune about Gasland 2, as it approaches its July 8 HBO release date.

Mine Your Own Business

Countering popular environmental struggles and luminaries is the modus operandi for McAleer and McElhinney, with a track record of doing so dating back to the mid-2000′s. Their first public foray into the world of “marketing doubt” came with the release of their Mine Your Own Business: The Dark Side of Environmentalism.

Released in 2006, the film was produced in response to the anti-mining protests that popped up against Gabriel Resources proposed open-pit gold mines in Romania, slated to be the largest in Europe. McAleer said it was “the world’s first anti-environmentalist documentary.”

One key funder: Gabriel Resources. This moved local Romanian citizen Eugen David to write that the film was pure propaganda.

“Because the gold lies squarely under and around the village of Rosia Montana, Gabriel needs to move out the local population — roughly 2000 people all in all. But it’s not only the people that will need to go,” David wrote in Jan. 2007. ”Gone also would be our mountains, pastures, rivers and our churches, cemeteries and school – our community with its social fabric and traditions.”

The purpose of the film was obvious: complicate the narrative on the proposed mine through ad hominem attacks on environmentalists, rather than addressing environmental issues associated with the mine itself. David and fellow citizens living in the proposed mining area didn’t buy the bluff.

“After a first unannounced test screening in Bucharest, Gabriel Resources had to stop the film after 15 minutes because people were so revolted by what they saw,” he further explained.

Mine Your Own Business, however, did have a loyal fan base: the right-wing echo chamber.

Steve Milloy, a tobacco industry front man-turned-fossil fuel industry front man, wrote two favorable reviews for Fox News. The Salt Institute and Atlas Society (named after Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”) echoed Milloy’s efforts.

Not Evil, Just Wrong

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“Gasland 2″ Grassroots Premiere in Illinois Highlights Industry PSYOPS and Ongoing Fracking Fights

11:10 am in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

 

Gasland Promo image

Gasland Part 2 continues documenting energy industry spin and climate change.

Gasland 2 screened yesterday in Normal, IL and DeSmogBlog was there to gain a sneak peak of the documentary set for a July 8 HBO national premiere.

Josh Fox’s documentary played at the Normal Theater, the second-ever screening since the film officially premiered on April 21 at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City

The movie builds on Fox’s Academy Award-nominated Gasland, further making the case of how the shale industry’s hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) boom is busting up peoples’ livelihoods, contaminating air and water, polluting democracy and serving as a “bridge fuel” only to propel us off the climate disruption cliff. 

A central theme and question of the film is, “Who gets to tell the story?” That is, industry PR pros and bought-off politicians utilizing the “tobacco playbook” and saying “the sky is pink,” or families directly injured by the industry? Fox explains how the industry has gamed the system, ensuring the communities have their voices drowned out. The Gasland films seek to tell some of the victims’ stories. 

Another theme is the bread and butter of following any big industry’s influence: following the money. In depicting the financial clout of Big Oil, Gasland 2 shows that the oil and gas industry has gone to the lengths of deploying warfare tactics – literally – on U.S. citizens to ram through its agenda. 

PSYOPs Use by Gas Industry PR Flacks Featured

Much of the content in Gasland 2 has also been covered on DeSmogBlog over the past few years.

Robert Howarth’s and Anthony Ingraffea’s prominent “Cornell Study” receives some good play in the film. Howarth and Ingraffea demonstrated that from cradle to grave, fracked gas has a more dangerous global warming effect than coal, a death knell to the “natural gas as a bridge fuel” meme. President Obama’s deployment of American Petroleum Institute “jobs” talking points for fracking is in there too.

Former head of the Dept. of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush and Republican Gov. of Pennsylvania, Tom Ridge, also takes a beating in the film. His appearance on “The Colbert Report” is righteously roasted, the same appearance in which he lied to U.S. citizens and declared he was “not a lobbyist” even though he was registered to lobby at that time for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Tailsman Terry the Fracosaurus,” which demonstrates the industy’s willingness to utilize propaganda on young children, receives a similar round of ridicule in Gasland 2. Fox also explains the oil industry’s use of Big Tobacco’s Playbook through interviews with Naomi Oreskes, author of Merchants of Doubt, a major theme of our coverage of both the shale gas industry and the Tea Party

Steve Lipsky, who was left in the dust by Range Resouces and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is one of the central characters of the film. The major villain of that tale is former PA Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell, who helped derail and censor the EPA’s fracking groundwater contamination study motivated by Lipsky’s water contamination in Weatherford, TX.

While the prospective shale gas export boom is covered in some depth in the film, so too is the concept of the government-industry revolving door, particularly as it pertains to Pennsylvania. The Public Accountability Initiative’s study “Fracking and the Revolving Door in Pennsylvania” is featured in the film, a study we also covered.

Last but certainly not least, Gasland 2 devotes an entire section to the industry’s admitted use of psychological warfare tactics (PSYOPs) on U.S. citizens, as we first revealed in Nov. 2011.

The Houston PR conference referred to in the film is one I attended and covered in some depth. It was a gathering of industry public relations executives talking among friends about how to best manipulate mainstream media journalists, divide and conquer anti-fracking activists, and intimidate local communities to go along with fracking operations that endanger their health and drinking water.

Gasland 2 presents the audio of Range Resouces Director of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs Matt Pitzarella revealing that Range hires PSYOPs Iraq War veterans to use their skills to pressure local communities. The film also features Anadarko Petroleum External Affairs Manager Matt Carmichael advising gas industry PR pros to read the Army “Counterinsurgency Field Manual” and “Rumsfeld’s Rules,” because “we are dealing with an insurgency.”

Both audio clips were obtained by Earthworks’ Sharon Wilson at the conference and provided to media by Earthworks and DeSmogBlog. CNBC first broke the story on Nov. 8, 2011.

Illinois Fracking Fight Wages On

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Smoke and Mirrors: Obama DOE Fracked Gas Export Study Contractor’s Tobacco Industry Roots

4:19 pm in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

At first, it was kept secret for months, cryptically referred to only as an “unidentified third-party contractor.”

Finally, in November 2012, Reuters revealed the name of the corporate consulting firm the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) hired to produce a study on the prospective economic impacts of liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports.

LNG is the super-chilled final product of gas obtained – predominatly in today’s context – via the controversial hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) process taking place within shale deposits located throughout the U.S. This “prize” is shipped from the multitude of domestic shale basins in pipelines to various coastal LNG terminals, and then sent on LNG tankers to the global market.

The firm: National Economic Research Associates (NERA) Economic Consulting, has a long history of pushing for deregulation. Its claim to fame: the deregulation “studies” it publishes on behalf of the nuclear, coal, and oil/gas industry – and as it turns out, Big Tobacco, too.

Alfred E. Kahn, the late “Father of Deregulation,” founded NERA in 1961 along with Irwin Stelzer, now a senior fellow and director of the right-wing Hudson Institute’s Center for Economic Policy. 

The NERA/Obama DOE LNG export economic impact study, released in early-December 2012, concluded that exporting the U.S. shale gas bounty is in the best economic interest of the country. 

This conclusion drew metaphorical hisses from many analysts, including prominent shale gas market economist and former Wall Street investor Deborah Rogers, who now maintains the blog Energy Policy Forum. Her critique cut straight to the very foundation of the study itself, stating that “economic model[s] are only as good as their inputs.”

She proceeded to explain,

In fact, it is neither difficult nor unusual for models to be designed to favor one outcome over another. In other words, models can be essentially reverse engineered. This is especially true when the models have been commissioned by industries that stand to gain significantly in monetary terms. Or government agencies which are perhaps pushing a political agenda.

Beyond its history working as a hired gun for the fossil fuel industry, NERA also has deeper historical roots producing “smoke and mirrors” studies on behalf of the tobacco industry. The long view of the firm’s past is something NERA would likely rather see “go up in smoke,” forever buried in the historical annals. But that would be a disservice to U.S. taxpayers since NERA continues to receive government contracts to produce tobacco-era disinformation to this day. 

NERA and the “Tobacco Playbook”

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