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  January 27, 2017

Executive Order on Pipelines Will Benefit Billionaire Trump Donor

Harold Hamm is the CEO of a major fracking company that would see its product flow through the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, says DeSmogBlog's Steve Horn
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Steve Horn is a San Diego, CA-based Research Fellow for the climate/energy website, a contributing investigative journalist for TYT Investigates and contributing editor for Counterpunch Magazine. His writing has been published by Al Jazeera America, The Intercept, The Guardian,Vice News and beyond.


DHARNA NOOR: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Dharna Noor, joining you from Baltimore.

U.S. President Donald Trump signed executive orders to advance the construction of both highly controversial pipelines, Keystone XL and the Dakota Access Pipeline, at the White House in Washington, January 4th, 2017. There's already been a massive amount of protests for the President's actions. Our next guest says that key Trump donor and trusted advisor oil billionaire Howard Hamm stands to profit from the president's order to approve Keystone XL and the Dakota Access pipelines.

My guest is, of course, Steve Horn. Steve is a Research Fellow for DeSmog blog and a freelance investigative journalist whose work is featured in the Intercept, the Guardian, The Nation and Truthout. Thanks for joining me again, Steve. Welcome back.

STEVE HORN: Good to be on. Thanks for having me.

DHARNA NOOR: So talk about Trump's relationship to Harold Hamm and Hamm's connection to both the Keystone XL and the Dakota Access pipelines.

STEVE HORN: So, really, the first time where Hamm became a political story, not just an industry story, but where the oil industry intersects with politics -- and, in this case, presidential politics -- was in 2012, where Reuters broke a pretty big investigative story that showed that Hamm had created both a Super PAC and a lobbying organization called the Domestic Energy Producers Alliance, which, at that time, in the years leading up to the 2012 election between Romney and Obama had created, basically, this advocacy effort to push through a Bakken Shale onramp.

So a ramp onto the Keystone XL that would load 100,000 barrels a day of oil obtained from fracking in the Bakken Shale, which is the same basin through which the Dakota Access pipeline runs. And because Keystone XL never ended up going through for the northern leg of it, the one that would have crossed through that area where the onramp was going to be situated, Hamm a couple of years later, pretty famously came out and said, "Hey look, Keystone is now 'irrelevant.'" It just so happens that about that same time the Dakota Access Pipeline was proposed in the various states that it runs through and got the permits it needed in all those states. To this day the only permit it doesn't have is the one that it leads to the Army Corps of Engineers. And if you look at recent filings and corporate presentations that Continental Resource is the company that Harold Hamm founded and is now still the CEO of, the biggest fracker in the Bakken Shale. Its presentation says that it plans to load its oil onto the Dakota Access. And so, Keystone may have become "irrelevant" for them and that’s because what became very relevant for them was the Dakota Access pipeline which still needs that outstanding permit from the Army Corps of Engineers.

So, if you look at these two presidential memos or Executive Orders issued by Trump, it's unclear what the deal is with Hamm's current ties to Trans Canada. I think that Trans Canada would put out new calls for contracts to load for companies to put their oil through that pipeline. But it's definitely clear that he used to have a direct tie to the Keystone XL and it's extremely clear that he has a contractual tie to the Dakota Access pipeline as both the biggest pumper of oil through fracking in North Dakota and also as one of the contractors that will pump its oil through that pipeline.

DHARNA NOOR: Howard Hamm was interviewed the other day on CNBC, it was actually the day before Trump's inauguration. Let's take a look at a clip from that interview.

HAROLD HAMM: There are just dozens, hundreds, if you will, of over-regulation examples. You know, in all those areas, all gas, clean coal power. The government has been into picking winners and losers, as you know, for the past eight years and certainly they'd get out of that business, so--

DHARNA NOOR: When asked about energy regulations Hamm also said, "Consumers are also paying for that so it's very costly to the American economy." Steve, talk about that assertion that consumers pay for regulation. For instance, the GOP has thrown around numbers for years that the Keystone Pipeline would create as many as tens of thousands of jobs. President Trump is echoing that. Is he right? How many permanent jobs would the Keystone XL pipeline actually create and how many temporary jobs?

STEVE HORN: So the answer to the regulations question, I'll get to that second, but the jobs question -- Trump said 28,000 jobs, the State Department in its Environmental Impact statement they put out under Obama to the State Department, that it would create somewhere between 2,500 to 4,500 ball park range of temporary jobs. And then it went ahead and said once the ... to build the pipeline and construct it, all the work that goes into that, but once it's actually in the ground it will actually only create 35 fulltime jobs. So that's not to scoff at those jobs, whether it's 35, whether it's several thousand, those are still jobs. But it's far less jobs than the 28,000 that Trump cited when he signed that particular executive order for the Keystone XL.

And then the other question about regulations and Hamm's statements about those, of course, what he doesn't mention is that there are people who live in the communities that would be deregulated, pay the consequences in terms of health impacts, of breathing in that dirty air. For example, Cancer Alley is a good example, I’ll just use that one. If you look at where the Dakota Access Pipeline terminates, that's down in the Gulf coast in a refinery row, where there’s lots of oil and gas refineries. And that particular row of refineries is known as Cancer Alley because so many people developed cancer from the air impacts of those refineries. So there are, of course, jobs that would be created by actually regulating that sort of thing, if you look at it from that perspective, but then there's just the big question of how much profit do these companies need compared to the health impacts. And then the bigger question is, of course, regulating carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that are emitted from these particular facilities. Those, I would say, supersede any sort of worries that these particular companies have about a little bit of profit that they would end up losing from having to abide by regulations.

DHARNA NOOR: And I want to finish just by asking you about the resistance we're seeing to Trump's Executive Orders to advance both of these pipelines. The Real News has been covering some of the actions that have been going on in D.C., talk about the momentum that that resistance is getting.

STEVE HORN: So I think that we're going to see more of what we already saw. With Keystone XL, we saw one of the biggest grassroots mobilizations nationwide against a pipeline in U.S. history. We saw that even bigger, in a way, for Dakota Access because that was a prolonged occupation of the site around the Dakota Access Pipeline. I expect -- I don't know if those same exact actions will repeat themselves -- but I expect actions like them to be most likely escalated given that lots of the groups that were involved in those protests at the time had somewhat close ties to the Democratic Party, to President Obama, and were pretty cautious about how they worded their opposition. I don't expect that same caution to exist with Donald Trump in office. I expect there to be even more direct action-oriented, civil disobedience-oriented. Those are just my guesses, but we’re already seeing mobilizations popping up even without any major call for actions, so I wouldn't be surprised if we see many calls to actions in the coming days and weeks by major environmental groups and other grassroots groups around the country.

DHARNA NOOR: And we'll be sure to keep you posted on those actions here on The Real News Network. So, Steve, thanks so much for joining us again today.

STEVE HORN: Thanks for having me.

DHARNA NOOR: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.




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