Ellen Cantarow: An Environmental Occupy Fracks Corporate America

7:37 am in Uncategorized by Tom Engelhardt

This article originally appeared at TomDispatch. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

They say you can’t keep a good man down, but the “good” part of that equation is often negotiable.  If you thought you had seen the last of the then-disgraced Newt Gingrich in the 1990s, you know what I mean.  The same goes for corporations.  Even scandals, swindles, and sanctions don’t seem to matter — at least when the company is valued in the tens of billions of dollars.

Founded in 1919, Halliburton — a Houston-based oil services company — always did well, but it catapulted to fame and further fortune during the 2000s as it made a killing off the killing in Iraq.  With former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Dick Cheney in the White House, Halliburton, mostly through its subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root, or KBR, reaped billions in Iraq War contracts.  As the money piled up, so did the scandals.  As Politifact.com observed in 2010:

“Government officials have raised many questions about KBR’s fulfillment of its contracts, everything from billing for meals it didn’t serve to charging inflated prices for gas to excessive administrative costs. Government auditors have noted that KBR refused to turn over electronic data in its native format and stamped documents as proprietary and secret when the documents would normally be considered public records.

“Over the course of several years, the Defense Contract Audit Agency found that $553 million in payments should be disallowed to KBR, according to 2009 testimony by agency director April Stephenson before the bipartisan Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

In 2007, amid outrage over its actions, Halliburton sold off KBR.  But like a bad penny, the company continued to pop up in all the wrong places for all the wrong reasons.  In February 2009, KBR pled guilty to violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act for bribes paid out in Nigeria while it was still part of Halliburton.  In the spring of 2011, the New York Times reported, a lawyer “accused of helping steer bribe money” from KBR (then still part of Halliburton) to Nigerian government officials in exchange for “more than $6 billion in contracts for liquefied natural gas facilities,” pled guilty to federal charges and was ordered to forfeit almost $150 million.

And then there’s the Gulf of Mexico where, in 2010, an oil rig explosion killed 11 people, injured dozens more, and resulted in the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.  This past fall, the Department of the Interior cited Halliburton, along with BP and another company, “for numerous safety and environmental violations in the operation of the doomed Deepwater Horizon well.”

It’s hardly surprising then that, as TomDispatch regular Ellen Cantarow reveals in groundbreaking reporting from the front lines of the latest grassroots uprising in America, Halliburton also has a down and dirty history when it comes to the controversial natural gas drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing or “fracking.”  This time, however, Halliburton may have met its match in the towns and hamlets of upstate New York.  Nick Turse Read the rest of this entry →