Posted by Steve Horn on July 26, 2011

On July 11, Chesapeake Energy, the second largest methane gas corporation in the United States, announced its "bold new plan": a "Declaration of Energy Independence" for America's energy future. ("Natural gas" is the public relations term the industry uses for methane gas, because it sounds so much more appealing than the real name.)

The plan is double-pronged and will no doubt lead to increased levels of fracking, the process drilling companies use to extract methane gas in areas like the Marcellus Shale and other shale deposits throughout the country. Fracking is a dirty process, as indicated by the Center for Media and Democracy's ongoing look into the state-by-state and federal legislative push for domestic gas drilling.

First, Chesapeake will pour $150 million into Clean Energy Fuels Corporation (CEF). Energy tycoon and hedge fund manager T. Boone Pickens sits on CEF's Board of Directors and owns a 41 percent stake, according to the company's March, 2011 10-Q filing. That money will go toward funding methane gas fueling stations along federal highways spanning the country.

Second, Chesapeake has purchased a $155 million, 50 percent stake in Sundrop Fuels, Inc. Chesapeake's CEO, Aubrey McClendon, is also the CEO of Sundrop Fuels.

While superficially a "bold new plan," the reality is that the plan serves merely as the embodiment of the vision outlined in House Resolution 1380, the NAT GAS Act of 2011 (New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions Act of 2011), with all of the same key players still in the fold.

Through the introduction of major federal-level legislation, the foundation of the plan has already been laid and now the vision is slowly but surely becoming a reality.

NAT GAS Act Rejoinder: Written By and For Methane Gas Industry Insiders

The NAT GAS Act currently has 183 co-sponsors representing both major political parties and calls for the creation of a new national liquefied and compressed methane gas infrastructure, while offering tax credits -- also known as corporate welfare -- to both methane gas fueling stations, and owners of vehicles that utilize methane gas, through 2016.

The most important parallel between the bill and the Chesapeake announcement is the fact that the money Chesapeake poured into Clean Energy Fuels (CEF) will go toward the building of fueling stations along national highways for trucks, and under the dictates of the bill, the larger the vehicle, the more tax credits it receives.

"This is a prime example of industry in cahoots with government for personal gain to a few," says Maura Stephens, a co-founder of the Coalition to Protect New York, which is currently fighting for a statewide ban on fracking. "By crafting this 'NAT GAS' Act -- also known as the 'Pickens Plan,' Pickens and his allies are manufacturing a 'need' where there was none. They stand to gain billions at a time when the dangers to water, air, soil, food supplies, and people's health of 'fracking' for 'natural' gas are being exposed daily. It would be imprudent, at best, to push for such a practice to become even more widespread. But Pickens seems to have Congress wrapped around his little finger and the media don't question him."

Though publicly unveiled in April, the bill still sits in various Congressional Committees and has been stalled since April 6, according to the Library of Congress' website. This makes Chesapeake's announcement even more timely and crucial, particularly since Pickens, McClendon, and the entities with which both men are affiliated, served as key behind-the-scenes lobbyists (and likely bill writers), as well as public spokespeople, for the NAT GAS Act.

As written on PRWatch back in April:

The first...entities to break the story (about the NAT GAS ACT) are all, as will be seen, in some way, shape and form, well-connected to Pickens:...Natural Gas Vehicles for America (NGVA),...the American Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA),...[and] Clean Energy Fuels (CEF). All...originally broke the story before the bill was publicly available.

ANGA [is an industry lobbying firm that] consists of all of methane's key players, including Cabot Oil and Gas, Chesapeake Energy, Seneca Resources, and EQT, among others...

NGVA, on the other hand, is called a "peer group partner" of the so-called "American Clean Skies Foundation." NGVA has a programming agreement through the Foundation's public relations channel, Clean Skies TV Network, and the Foundation is funded by...McClendon...

CEF is another "peer group partner" of the American Clean Skies Foundation that has a programming agreement with Clean Skies TV Network...The President and CEO of CEF, Andrew J. Littlefair, according to his biography on their website, is also the President of NGVA (He is now Immediate Past Chair, according to the NGVA website). According to that same biography, he formerly served as President of Pickens Fuel Corporation (which was formerly Mesa Petroleum). A glance at the American Clean Skies Foundation webpage shows that he also sits on the Board of Directors with McClendon.

Pickens Fuel Corporation is the predecessor of CEF, which Littlefair co-founded in 1997 with Pickens. It was reincorporated as CEF in 2001. CEF dedicated its first Liquefied Natural Gas plant to Pickens in May 2006, according to its website. The plant is called the "Pickens Plant."...

An e-mail exchange with the Editorial Director of School Transporation News (STN) and the author of STN's article on the House' introduction of the NAT GAS Act, John Gray, confirms that he had not yet seen a copy of the legislation when he wrote his article, but was first flagged about it via a direct contact from a representative from the NGVA. Gray predicts that NGVA "were likely key authors of the legislation. My hunch is that they helped write it. Standard procedure in DC. They are a lobby."

In addition to the information gathered in April, Chesapeake is also listed as a member company on the NGVA website, and its Senior Vice President, Tom Price, sits on the Board of Directors of the NGVA and the Clean Skies Foundation.

Furthermore, Pickens was the original head of NGVA, which formerly publicly went by the name Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition, the name it still registers under for lobbying purposes, according to the Center for Responsive Politics' Open Secrets lobbying database.

Pickens and Littlefair are also both on the Board of Directors of the T. Boone Pickens Foundation.

Pickens, McClendon, Littlefair, the Self-Enriching Trifecta, Make the "Declaration of Independence" Media Rounds -- Legislative Push Next?

NAT GAS Act Profiteers

Unsurprisingly, these same intertwined key players have again made the media rounds for the "Declaration of Independence" announcement, which would fatten their wallets at the expense of the environment.

On the day of the announcement, for example, Pickens made appearances on MSNBC's "Morning Joe with Joe Scarborough" and on Bloomberg TV, McClendon and Chesapeake sponsored an "Energy Breakfast Briefing" that was co-hosted by Politico, and also was a guest on CNBC and Bloomberg TV, and Littlefair was also a guest on CNBC's "Mad Money with Jim Cramer."

With the vital public relations, legislative, economic, and physical groundwork now in place, the next thing to ponder is when the next step in the legislative push will occur on Capitol Hill.

A phone interview with a staff member of the bill's sponsor, U.S. Rep. John Sullivan (R-Oklahoma), suggested that it could come sometime this fall, perhaps after the summer recess, as debt ceiling talks have stalled other items on the legislative agenda. A phone conversation with the head lobbyist for NGVA, Paul Kerkhoven, confirmed this plan.

All signs, then, point to sooner, rather than later.

Comments

"Manufacturing a need where there wasn't one"?? What the hell do you call Global Warming and Gasoline at $4 a gallon?? I for one am Happy about our Natural Gas Reserves in this country. Perhaps one day in the not to distant future, all of our sons and daughters who are fighting and dying for control of the OIL RESERVES in other countries will get to come home and raise their children. Praise God that we will soon be INDEPENDENT from OPEC and their ILK. I will switch ALL my Gasoline Burning Vehicles to Natural Gas, with or without a monetary incentive from Anyone. Because Natural Gas is CHEAP!!!! And FAR CLEANER than Gasoline!! I'm happy that we won't have to build Nuclear Power Plants, we can burn natural gas and make electricity, without having to mine for or pay for and then find a place to store Radioactive Material!! We can't have cake and eat cake too. Wake UP!!!

Where on earth did you learn that methane gas is "FAR CLEANER than Gasoline", or clean at all? From the industry's aggressive national advertising campaign telling you so? Please show us the science on that.

Wake up to reality: there isn't a one to one relationship between gasoline and methane gas, either in sourcing it, or using it as a fuel.

Here are some facts reported by the Pittsburgh Geological Society:

http://www.pittsburghgeologicalsociety.org/naturalgas.pdf

"There have been many incidents of water contamination and even buildings exploding because of natural gas hydro-fracturing operations. The most common problem is methane migration due to defective casing...methane migration occurs when natural gas escapes "from the reservoir rock, coal seam, pipeline, gas well, or landfill. If the gas migrates through the bedrock and soil, it can result in an explosion capable of damaging property and causing loss of life."

So dream on about that "energy independence", unless you're willing to live on top of a gas-producing well yourself. And stop selling your childrens' generation down the river to even more health and environmental problems, all because you're unwilling to face facts or make the change to less dangerous fuel sources.

Fossil fuels are for dinosaurs.

The Honda Civic GX, the only natural gas vehicle made by an auto manufacturer in this country has been voted cleanest internal combustion engine in the world by the EPA for years in a row.

It is the only vehicle to achieve EPA Tier 2 Bin 2 emissions!!!

That means cleaner than any gasoline or diesel car, cleaner than any hybrid, cleaner than any other internal combustion engine on the road.

I can assure you that the EPA uses empirical testing practices to make this determination.

The EPA rates vehicular emissions in tiers and bins and this is the only vehicle to achieve tier 2 bin 2 emissions.

Tier 2 Bin 2 can be explained empirically as the following:

0.01 Non-methane organic gas emissions
0.02 Nitrogen Oxide emissions
0.004 Total Hydrocarbon emissions
0.03 Highway Nitrogen oxide emissions
2.1 Carbon Monoxide emissions

THE BOTTOMLINE: NATURAL GAS IS THE CLEANEST FUEL FOR AN INTERNAL COMBUSTION ENGINE WITH THE EXCEPTION OF HYDGROGEN, AND IS THE MOST PRACTICAL SOLUTION TO ELIMINATE THE UNITED STATES DEPENDENCE ON FOREIGN OIL!!

And you people have the nerve to accuse those fighting for cleaner air and energy independence as some greed-stricken conspiracy

All that we need is a better method for fracking that does not contaminate ground water. Or maybe we should just drill for domestic petroleum, remember the BP oil spill? Want to go through that again?

I ask you what is easier to control: ground water contamination or dependence on foreign oil?

The answer is simple

Better fracking methods are needed, NOT anti-natural gas rhetoric.

ALSO,

I hope that you realize that only approximately 20% of the natural gas in this country is currently coming from the Marcellus Shale, where fracking is used. The other 80% comes from sources that do not have any significant detrimental environmental impact. Moreover, with the process of biomethane, natural gas can actually be created from landfills, making it an entirely RENEWABLE resource in an entirely environmentally friendly method.

The issues are really getting clouded in this article. Fracking is a problem, yes, Natural Gas as a whole is NOT the problem.

This article is over-simplifying an issue by focusing entirely on a small percentage of natural gas extraction to blame the entire resource, which is, in reality, clean, abundant, and an entirely domestic resource that could FINALLY eliminate the United State's dependence on foreign oil.

Natural Gas is an environmentally friendly alternative fuel!!!

The fact that the initial fracking process used for a newly discovered source of domestic natural gas, i.e. the Marcellus Shale, has proven to be problematic should NOT deter from all of the other positive environmental benefits of natural gas. Again, fracking accounts for 20% of natural gas extraction.

We should be arguing for better technology so natural gas can be extracted from the Marcellus Shale without contaminating ground water, NOT that we shouldn't be using natural gas

This article is extremely, extremely short-sighted

Yeah, I get it, I've seen Gasland too. I'm not for contaminating ground water. Who in their right mind would be.

Neither is T Boone, Chesapeake, NGV America, and the rest.

But what they know, that I know is that Natural Gas is an extremely clean fuel with significant greenhouse gas reduction, and that it is an entirely domestic fuel that can get us out of the stranglehold that OPEC has on this country.

You know how much oil we have in the Federal Reserve? Approximately 2 weeks worth. Does that scare you? It should

The accusation that everyone lobbying for this bill is trying to "fatten their wallets at the expense of the environment" is extremely offensive and also just flat out DEAD WRONG

You need to do more research on a topic before sensationalizing an issue this way, I'm sorry, but you do