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FOIA docs show CRA windfall to Exxon, Trump cronies

Posted Feb. 3, 2017 / Posted by: Kate Colwell

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Companies like ExxonMobil stand to gain millions from taxpayers as Congress moves to reverse a recent federal regulation limiting the waste of natural gas on public and tribal lands.

Using the Congressional Review Act, the GOP is planning to cancel a federal regulation designed to limit royalty-free waste of taxpayer-owned natural gas through uses like flaring, venting, and onsite use. An annual $330 million worth of gas is lost to venting and flaring alone, and over the next decade this could translate into as much as $800 million in foregone royalties for taxpayers.

“They are giving away a taxpayer-owned resource for free,” said Lukas Ross, climate and energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth. “Trump and the GOP reversing this rule would be a huge win for cronyism.”

As Congress prepares to strike this rule, Friends of the Earth is publishing the results of a freedom of information (FOIA) request filed in 2015. It details the total volumes of natural gas individual companies have flared, vented, and used to power onsite equipment on public lands between 2004 and 2014. This is the clearest picture available of resources lost without royalties paid to taxpayers.

These are some of the highlights:

  • ExxonMobil and its subsidiary XTO received over 40 million mcfs of free natural gas throughout the dataset, totaling over 38 million mcfs of onsite use and 2.5 million mcfs of flaring. The estimated market value for the lost gas is over $203 million and the flaring alone is the climate change equivalent to burning over 330,000 barrels of oil.
  • Incoming EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is so friendly with fracking giant Devon Energy that he copy-and-pasted a complaint they wrote to the EPA onto his letterhead as Oklahoma Attorney General.  The company received 17 million mcfs of natural gas throughout the dataset, totaling 14.45 million mcfs of onsite use and 2.8 million mcfs of flaring.  The total value of lost gas is estimated at over $83 million.
  • Encana Energy is a client of Michael Catanzaro, a Koch-connected lobbyist who helped manage Trump’s energy transition.  The company received 20.1 million mcfs of natural gas throughout the dataset totaling an estimated market value of over $102 million. This includes over 137,000 mcfs of venting and 1.1 million mcfs of flaring—the climate change equivalent to burning nearly 70 million pounds of coal.

“This is what kleptocracy looks like,” said Ross. “If Congress and the GOP vote to stop this common sense regulation, some of the clearest winners will be the Big Oil cronies closest to Trump.”

More: An in-depth analysis of the rule can be found online.

Read: The full content of the FOIA request filed by Friends of the Earth. Letter 1 | Letter 2 | Responsive Documents

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Expert contact: Lukas Ross, (202) 222-0724, lross@foe.org
Communications contact: Brett Abrams, (516) 841-1105, brett@unbendablemedia.com

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