November 19, 2014

Natural Gas Exports: Key Findings

LNG-Exports-Obama-macroRepublic Report and DeSmogBlog released this report about natural gas lobbying on November 20, 2014. Co-authored by Lee Fang and Steve Horn, the report is the result of ongoing investigations into natural gas industry lobbying for LNG exports. Click the title to read the full PDF version, or read the series indexed online below. Natural Gas Exports: Washington’s Revolving Door Fuels Climate Threat (click to download PDF) Image credit: Simon Fraser University via Flickr

Part II

Key Findings

The Obama Administration and Key Democratic Leaders Increasingly Embrace LNG Interests: While the Obama White House and Democratic Party have presented themselves as leaders in addressing climate change, moving away from fossil fuels and toward alternative energy sources, LNG exporters have bought their way into the Democratic Party, securing a close relationship with the White House, key federal agencies, and Democratic Party leaders.

One very public example is Heather Zichal, who left her job as President Obama’s top White House climate and energy advisor to join the board of Cheniere Energy, the first company approved for LNG export operations back in 2012.

Another example, further behind the scenes, is David Leiter, the president of government relations consulting group ML Strategies, LLC. Leiter served as chief of staff for then-U.S.Senator John Kerry and as deputy assistant secretary of energy under President Bill Clinton. Leiter now lobbies on behalf of Sempra Energy, owner of the Cameron LNGexport facility in Louisiana, which received final approval from the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) earlier this year.

Many Ex-Bush Administration Officials Now Lobby For or Own LNG Industry Assets: The fracking boom exploded under the Bush Administration thanks to the passage of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which contained the Halliburton Loophole and other favors for industry at the behest of then-Vice President Dick Cheney, the formerCEO of Halliburton. Many of those former Bush Administration officials have passed through the government-industry revolving door and now lobby for the LNG industry or own key LNG industry assets.

A case in point is David Merkel, who formerly worked for the State Department under the Bush Administration. Until it disbanded, Merkel served as an executive for LNG export company United LNGMerkel also serves as a fellow at the industry-funded Atlantic Council.

The LNG Industry Has Purchased Support In Congress: Not only are key congressional committees now directed by former gas industry and LNG lobbyists, but a steady stream of staffers have also left Capitol Hill to lobby their former colleagues. The LNG industry also plowed a flood of donations into key congressional elections this year and into influential non-profits with close ties to key lawmakers. A good example of that is NewDeal, co-run by Maryland Democratic Governor Martin O’Malley, which is financed by the gas industry lobbying powerhouse, America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA).

The Koch Brothers Are Profiting From, And Promoting, LNG Exports: Support for LNG exports has surged as natural gas interests have developed strong ties to top Republicans and conservative organizations. Koch Industries, the privately held corporation run by Charles and David Koch, has emerged as a leading LNG trading company via its subsidiary Koch Supply & Trading. Meanwhile, Koch-backed interests have increasingly promoted LNG exports by using their well-financed echo chamber that some refer to as the “Kochtopus.”

LNG Interests Are Manipulating Public OpinionLNG and gas industry groups have made aggressive efforts to shape and mold public opinion so that LNG exports are perceived as a geopolitical trump card. The LNG industry uses public relations efforts to convince lawmakers and the public that LNG exports will fix the crisis in Ukraine, solve climate disruption, and improve other issues facing the U.S.

Think tanks and media organizations have played host to well-publicized events at which conflicts of interest go undisclosed and serious policy debate serves as a non-starter. The Brookings Institution recently hosted such an event, in which Brookings fellow David Goldwyn, an industry consultant and the former head of the Obama State Department’s Bureau of Energy Resources, spoke in support of LNG and oil exports without disclosing his numerous industry clients.