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PBS NewsHour

National energy boom blurs traditional political allegiances

Coast
         Project pipeline in Prague, Oklahoma, U.S., on Monday, March 11, 2013. The Gulf Coast Project, a 485-mile crude oil pipeline
         being constructed by TransCanada Corp., is part of the Keystone XL Pipeline Project and will run from Cushing, Oklahoma to
         Nederland, Texas. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A Gulf Coast Project pipeline is placed in Prague, Oklahoma, U.S., on Monday, March 11, 2013. The nation’s energy boom is blurring the political battle lines  typically drawn across the country. Credit: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

DENVER — The U.S. energy boom is blurring the traditional political battle lines across the country.

Democrats are split between environmentalists and business and labor groups, with the proposed Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline a major wedge.

Some deeply conservative areas are allying with conservationists against fracking, the drilling technique that’s largely responsible for the boom.

The divide is most visible among Democrats in the nation’s capital, where 11 Democratic senators wrote President Barack Obama this month urging him to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, which is opposed by many environmental groups and billionaire activist Tom Steyer. The State Department said Friday that it was extending indefinitely the amount of time that federal agencies have to review the project, likely delaying a pipeline decision until after the November elections.

Several senators from energy-producing such as Louisiana and Alaska have distanced themselves from the Obama administration, while environmental groups complain the president has been too permissive of fracking.

There is even more confusion among Democrats in the states as drilling rigs multiply and approach schools and parks.

California Gov. Jerry Brown was shouted down at a recent state convention by party activists angry about his support for fracking. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has kept fracking in his state in limbo for three years while his administration studies health and safety issues. In Colorado, Gov. John Hickenlooper has drawn environmentalists’ ire for defending the energy industry, and a ballot battle to regulate fracking is putting U.S. Sen. Mark Udall in a tough situation.

But the issue cuts across party lines.

Even in deeply Republican Texas, some communities have restricted fracking. In December, Dallas voted to effectively ban fracking within city limits.

“You’re looking at a similar boom as we had in tech in 1996,” said Joe Brettell, a GOP strategist in Washington who works with energy companies. “The technology has caught up with the aspirations, and that changes the political dynamics fundamentally.”

Those technological advances have made it possible for energy companies to tap deep and once-untouchable deposits of natural gas and oil. They include refinements in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which is the injection of chemicals into the ground to coax buried fossil fuels to the surface.

The U.S. is now the world’s largest natural gas producer and is expected to surpass Saudi Arabia soon as the world’s greatest oil producer, becoming a net exporter of energy by 2025.

The boom has brought drilling rigs into long-settled neighborhoods, raising fears of water contamination, unsafe traffic and air pollution, and outraging residents.

Pollster Steven Greenberg said Cuomo provides little notice before his public appearances because anti-fracking protesters will crash his events. Republicans blame the governor for stymieing growth. New York voters split evenly on fracking, with Democrats only modestly more likely to oppose it than Republicans.

“No matter what he decides, he’s going to have half the people upset with him,” Greenberg said. “From a purely political point of view, it’s hard to argue with his strategy – punt.”

In California, Brown has a long record of backing environmental causes, but he’s drawn the wrath of some environmentalists for supporting fracking. One group cited the $2 million that oil and gas companies have given the governor’s causes and campaigns since 2006. Democrats in the Legislature have proposed a freeze on fracking but are not optimistic Brown will support it.

The Democratic split is sharpest in Colorado.

Hickenlooper, a former oil geologist, has been a staunch supporter of fracking; at one point he said he drank fracking fluid, albeit a version without most of the hazardous chemicals. His administration has fought suburban cities that have banned fracking, insisting that only the state can regulate energy exploration.

In response, activists are pushing 10 separate ballot measures to curb fracking. One measure would let cities and counties ban it. The effort has the support of Colorado Rep. Jared Polis, a wealthy Democrat. At the state party’s recent convention, he gave a rousing speech nominating Hickenlooper for a second term but acknowledged “none of us … are going to agree on every single issue.”

Some Colorado Democrats worry that the ballot push is bringing energy groups who generally support Republicans into the state. One pro-fracking group has spent $1 million in TV ads.

Jon Haubert, a spokesman for the group, said leaders in both parties think the measures are economically dangerous. “We look at that and say this seems to be an extreme opinion,” he said, referring to the initiatives.

The ballot measures will force Democratic candidates to choose among environmentalists, labor groups and Colorado’s business community, whose political and financial support is vital to Democrats in the swing state.

Udall embodies this dilemma. He’s an environmentalist in a tight re-election campaign with Republican Rep. Cory Gardner, who represents an oil-and-gas rich, mostly rural congressional district.

In an interview, Udall declined to say if cities should have the right to ban fracking. “I’m not a lawyer,” he said.

Hickenlooper has put in place several landmark regulations – requiring that drilling occur a set distance from homes and schools and limiting methane emissions from energy exploration. But that has not assuaged activists such as Laura Fronckwiecz, a former financial worker who got involved in an effort to ban fracking in her moderate suburb of Broomfield after a drilling well was planned near her children’s elementary school.

A Democrat, she’s aghast at her party’s reluctance to embrace the cause. “Ten years ago, I’d say it was a progressive cause they’d get behind,” Fronckwiecz, 41, said, “but much has changed, and the politics of oil and gas are not what you’d expect.”

Fronckwiecz says she has Republicans and Libertarians in her coalition, as do activists pushing to limit fracking in energy-friendly Texas. While the GOP-dominated Legislature in Texas has rejected efforts to limit drilling, activists have earned small victories in towns and cities that have limited drilling, and one big win, the Dallas vote.

Sharon Wilson, Texas organizer for the environmental group Earthworks, says she gets a warm reception from conservatives and Libertarians. “When they come into your community and start fracking,” she said, “it does not matter what your political affiliation is.”

Associated Press reporter Nicholas Riccardi wrote this report. Follow him on Twitter.

The post National energy boom blurs traditional political allegiances appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

Shields and Brooks on Keystone politics, Nevada land dispute

shields and brooks

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JUDY WOODRUFF: And to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Welcome, gentlemen.

So, the State Department, the Obama administration announcing, I guess surprising everybody today, Mark, with this announcement that they’re delaying the decision on what to do about extending the Keystone oil pipeline. The reaction is all over the place. The Canadians are upset. We said, House Speaker John Boehner said it’s shameful. The environmental groups are happy.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes, and I think the last point is the key.

The people who care most passionately and intensely about the pipeline are those who are opposed to it, not unlike gun control, except an entirely different cast of people and voters. But the environmental groups are. And they are cheered. And they are an important constituency for the Democrats heading into what looks to be a stormy 2014 election.

And I don’t think the White House or the State Department, for that matter, wants to alienate that group at this point.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So you think it’s purely political, largely political?

MARK SHIELDS: I’m sure there are — I’m sure there are thoughtful, serious considerations here that I’m totally unaware of, but just looking at first blush, that would be my take.

JUDY WOODRUFF: David, how do you read this, the Keystone…

DAVID BROOKS: Pretty much the same.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Go ahead.

DAVID BROOKS: It’s been about six years since they have been entertaining this. And everybody in the White House that I have spoken over that time, you can tell what they believe, which is I think is that they want to approve this thing eventually, but they don’t want to do it at a politically inopportune time.

And politically inopportune times keep coming. The only thing I would say is, if you look at it nationally, about 65 percent of Americans support the thing and about 22 percent oppose it. It’s those 22 percent who happen to be in the Democratic base.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let’s — we could talk about this for a long time, but I do want to ask you about the story that we just heard Hari reporting a few minutes ago, Mark, and that is Nevada standoff between a cattle rancher and the federal government.

He has refused to pay his grazing fees over the last several decades. They’re saying he owes something like $1 million. There have been people armed, standing there saying that these — that these federal agents shouldn’t be there. Does this say something about what’s going on out West?

MARK SHIELDS: It does. This is where the Sagebrush revolution, rebellion started, Judy, a generation ago, more than a generation ago now.

But, I mean, you know, to — looking at the equities of the situation, this man, Mr. Bundy, is a freeloader. Other ranchers pay grazing fees, which are not onerous, so that their cattle can graze there. The responsibility of the Bureau of Land Management is to make sure that that land is available for the next generations for multi uses, not simply grazing, but for others as well and for the preservation.

So I don’t understand it. I mean, I give the folks at FOX News great credit. They have — this has been an orchestrated and produced operation there, but they have tapped into something that there are some peoples — people who are just totally outraged at anything the federal government does. They happen to own — the federal government, the United States owns 87 percent of Nevada, and has since — essentially for quite a while.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, David, is this something — I mean, does this man have a legitimate grievance against the federal government?

DAVID BROOKS: Not the way he’s doing it.

I mean, he’s self-discrediting, the way he’s doing it. You know, you go out West and you hear grievous against the BLM constantly. There’s — and I think there’s probably a lot of frustration with working with the BLM. But it comes in waves. And I would not say we’re at a high wave.

Certainly, in the Clinton years, you heard of real frustration. And that’s the Sagebrush — part of the Sagebrush revolution was at its peak, but now I think you hear low-level gripings. So I wouldn’t say this represents a mass movement of any sort. It does seem to me more like — more like pseudo-militia activity than a genuine rebellion among people who are otherwise politically un-ideological.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, no sense that this is going to spread to other parts of the West?

DAVID BROOKS: I certainly have not heard that in my visits out there.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let’s talk about what’s — what was the lead of our program tonight, Mark, and that’s — and that’s Ukraine, this surprise deal reached yesterday in Geneva between the United States, Russia, Ukraine, and the European Union, trying to defuse what’s been going on there.

Today, the reporting is all about these protesters in the eastern part of the country saying, we’re not going anywhere.

Where is this headed?

MARK SHIELDS: I honestly don’t know, Judy. I will say that it appears that Mr. Putin’s plan and the Russians’ plan is to partition Ukraine. And this certainly — they call it federalization, but it is a partition of — an eventual partition of sorts.

Whether it’s to destabilize or delegitimize the elections of May 25, we don’t know. But Putin made a statement. He said, the Russian Federation Council — Russia’s Federation Council has provided the president with the right to deploy armed forces in Ukraine.

Anybody who talks about himself in the third person makes me nervous. He’s referring to himself.

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SHIELDS: He says, I really hope that I am not forced to use this right.

I think that, you know, the situation has grown more serious and worse in the past week. And the lack of sense of celebration on the part of the president or Secretary Kerry in announcing the agreement, their expectations seem to be minimal.

JUDY WOODRUFF: David, worse, despite this deal yesterday?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I agree with Mark on that one.

Obama’s reaction was really remarkable. They have this pseudo-breakthrough, and the president really — was really quite realistic about it, that it’s really — probably not going to amount to much.

And I do think that’s right. What happens in Geneva may be about the timing of how fast Putin acts. What happens in Donetsk and the other places where some of the more militia groups are taking over buildings and stuff, that’s a sideshow.

The main show is in Vladimir Putin’s brain. It’s sort of striking how it’s just one person who really matters here. And the brain, as it’s revealed it to us, even in speeches this week, is pretty aggressive, pretty assertive, growing increasingly more assertive.

And it seems to me, in our response, we really need a psychiatrist more than a foreign policy apparatus. We need to understand what is going to upset him, what is going to disrupt him. And I’m afraid the way that we have done the sanctions has not been well-tailored to sort of a psychological campaign against Vladimir Putin.

We have sort of ratcheted them up slowly, partially hindered by the Europeans. But that’s the sort of thing, beginning slowly as we have, that is going to arouse his contempt, not his respect and certainly not his fear. It might have been smarter if we could have done it with the Europeans to have all the sanctions we did unleash right away just to send a little sharp shock at him.

The next debate is going to be what to do with the Ukrainian army, whether we want to help, how we want to help them, non-lethal, lethal aid. But somehow getting inside his head, which is the main arena here, seems to me the crucial task.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark, you — go ahead.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes, just — just one point.

I guess where I disagree with David is on the sanctions. You have to bring the Russians along — the — I’m sorry — the Europeans along to — in spite of the fact that we might have to get stronger ones. We are dealing here — and I give the president credit that he has not done the macho swagger — swagger or the sort to make this a matter of his manhood or he’s got to earn his varsity letter.

I think that has been strong, and to his credit. We are dealing with the third largest defense budget in the world in the Russians. Only the United States and China have larger defense budgets. I mean, they have got 270,000 troops, 50,000 of which are at the border of Ukraine. Ukraine has an army of 77,000, Judy.

It’s not a first-class, first-rank. I mean, we’re dealing with — to the point, if it comes to military confrontation, of realities here. And I think what may be a cautionary note for the Russians is that they have seen us in Iraq, for example, where invasion is a lot easier than occupation.

And I think, you know, perhaps that will hold things back. But I agree with David that the sanctions have to be accelerated and intensified. And that’s going to require the cooperation and some suffering on the part of the Europeans.

JUDY WOODRUFF: That’s interesting you point that out about Russian defenses, because there’s been a lot of focus on how relatively weak the Russian economy is compared to other countries.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But you’re pointing out — David, his point is that it’s the military establishment in Russia we should be worried about.

DAVID BROOKS: Right.

And we’re not going to send any troops. American troops are not going to Ukraine. But really we’re trying to deal with a dictator’s head or an autocrat’s head. How do you get him to think twice?

And I think the way you do it is sort of not through kind gestures, where he says, well, they’re being — they’re not being too provocative, I can relax, they’re not scaring me. I don’t think that’s the way he thinks. I do think he thinks in much more brutal terms.

Now, the debate going on within the White House — or at least was a couple of weeks ago — is do — if we send — if we’re aggressive in sending aid to the Ukrainian army, does that send a shock to Putin, or does it give him a pretext to invade?

And I think the administration decided — maybe correctly — that it’s more likely to give him a pretext to be more aggressive. Nonetheless, I do think he’s not a guy who’s going to respond to our own self-restraint. He’s going to respond to a unified sort of assertiveness.

JUDY WOODRUFF: All kinds of things I want to ask the two of you about in a few minutes left.

I want to ask you about — Mark, about the Pulitzer Prize this week. Among others, it went to The Guardian newspaper, to The Washington Post for the reporting they did on the national security leaks from Edward Snowden.

I guess my question is, what was your reaction? Did you see honoring the newspaper the same as honoring the man who delivered the leaks…

MARK SHIELDS: No.

JUDY WOODRUFF: … who’s been seen as both a traitor and hero?

MARK SHIELDS: No.

I mean, the Pulitzer award goes to the dominant, most important news story and coverage and reporting. And I think it’s hard to argue that this wasn’t the most important news story. And the reporting that was done on it was quite professional. The fact that along with it comes Edward Snowden is — is in no way, in my judgment, recognition of him as a heroic figure.

He was central to it. He was indispensable to it. But we saw the part he played yesterday in Mr. Putin’s press conference in Russia, where…

JUDY WOODRUFF: And that’s why I…

MARK SHIELDS: And he certainly — he certainly didn’t rise to heroic status, I wouldn’t say, in that capacity.

JUDY WOODRUFF: David?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, you know, I find him repellent. If somebody talked about internal conversations at the NewsHour, or at The New York Times and then broadcast them, I would find that person repellent, and doubly so when it’s national security secrets, after he’s sworn an oath to do so. So I’m no fan of him.

As for the press coverage and whether it deserves recognition, I guess I have sort of complicated views. I’m a little made nervous by the fact that they really did benefit by what I think of as a repellent, unpatriotic act.

On the other hand — and let’s be honest about what we do in the media — a lot of our leaks and a lot of our best stories come from people who are betraying a confidence, come from somebody who’s violating an oath, violating some secrecy, violating an understanding of what goes on.

And so we live in a business that — where we try to expose the truth, but, sometimes, as Janet Malcolm said years ago, we do it by relying on betrayal. We do it by some violated confidence. We do it sometimes by being not totally honest with the people we’re dealing with, by not being dishonest, but not — but by sort of seducing information out of people.

And so this is a morally complicated business we’re in, like most businesses. And I don’t have a total problem with what The Washington Post did, but I don’t have total comfort with it either.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You were saying yes.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

No, I understand. I think David’s — David’s point is well made and well taken. And I don’t know how you make — he is central to the story.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Snowden.

MARK SHIELDS: He is.

And what he’s done, he has not made himself accountable for it. He did break the law, break the oath that he took, and has not accepted the consequences and refuses to do so. But I think it’s impossible to deny that it started — and the president acknowledged this — a much-needed, long-overdue conversation.

I think we’re finally going to see as a consequence of these stories some element and some urgency in judicial review and congressional review of what’s been going on. And we found out that the NSA apparently was collecting a lot of information, simply because it could collect a lot of information.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Right. Right.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, it’s true that sometimes good people produce bad outcomes, and sometimes bad outcomes — bad people produce good outcomes. We’re sort of in that world.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, that leaves me only to say that, in your case, two good people do two good outcomes every Friday.

Mark Shields, David Brooks, we thank you both. Thank you.

The post Shields and Brooks on Keystone politics, Nevada land dispute appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

News Wrap: Keystone oil pipeline decision delayed again

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JUDY WOODRUFF: A final decision on a much-debated plan to add on to the Keystone oil pipeline has been delayed again, possibly until after the November elections. The U.S. State Department today extended the federal review of the project indefinitely. It cited a Nebraska court fight over the route.

The pipeline would extend from Canada to Nebraska, then connect with existing lines carrying crude oil to refineries in Texas. Environmental groups welcomed the delay, but Republican Speaker John Boehner called it shameful.

An avalanche on Mount Everest killed at least 12 Sherpa guides today and left four others missing. The disaster was the deadliest ever on the world’s highest peak, in Nepal. It happened just shy of 21,000 feet, about 8,000 feet below the summit. Guides had gone out early to fix ropes for climbers, including Australian Gavin Turner.

GAVIN TURNER, Climber: The experience was great. It was going well, and then suddenly there was a huge thud. We got covered by this enormous cloud of snow and snow dust. But, for a few seconds, I thought, wow, this is going to take me out.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Hundreds of climbers and guides are at Everest’s base camp, preparing to scale the peak next month, when the weather is mildest.

Hope dimmed even further in South Korea today for some 270 people, many of them high school students, who were on a ferry that capsized Wednesday. Rescue teams kept up their efforts even as the ship sank from view.

Jane Dodge of Independent Television News narrates this report.

JANE DODGE: A last glimpse of the Sewol before it disappeared beneath the waves early this morning. Two large inflatables now mark its position. The rescue operation has become more of a recovery process, as bodies are brought ashore. There has been progress of sorts. Divers managed to gain entry to part of the vessel.

KO MYUNG-SUK, Coast Guard, South Korea (through interpreter): Two divers entered the water and opened the door of the cargo compartment and went in. But they couldn’t get further due to obstacles, and they didn’t find any survivors.

JANE DODGE: Anger at the South Korean authorities once again boiled over today. Originally told their children were safe, families now wait to hear their fate, aware time is against them.

KIM CHANG-GOO, Father of passenger (through interpreter): They have to hurry to rescue survivors, but the divers are not going in. The number of survivors will reach its limit after today.

JANE DODGE: The captain is believed to be one of the group seen leaving the ship before it capsized. Here, he’s wrapping himself in a blanket. Lee Joon-Seok and two other members of the crew have now been arrested. It emerged today he wasn’t at the wheel when the vessel started to list.

The captain didn’t give an order to evacuate until half-an-hour later. And it’s not clear if passengers ever heard it. Most of those on board were schoolchildren. The teacher in charge has been found hanged in woods close to the gym where parents are waiting for news. He had been rescued from the ferry, but in a suicide note said he couldn’t live for himself and asked for his ashes be scattered at the site of the tragedy.

Investigators now believe it may have been an abrupt change of direction that caused cargo to shift to one side and the ferry to tilt over. But it’s not the answers families want right now; they’re desperate to get their children back.

JUDY WOODRUFF: For now, the confirmed death count stands at 29.

A powerful earthquake shook Central and Southern Mexico today, but there were no reports of major damage. The epicenter was northwest of the Pacific resort of Acapulco, but the quake was felt in Mexico City as well. The shaking lasted about 30 seconds and sent people running into the streets. The U.S. Geological Survey said it registered a 7.2 magnitude.

Around the world, Christians commemorated the crucifixion of Jesus on this Good Friday. In Jerusalem, thousands of pilgrims lined the cobblestone streets of the Old City. Some carried wooden crosses, tracing the traditional route that Jesus walked. And in the Philippines, some people had themselves nailed to crosses despite the Catholic Church’s efforts to discourage the rite.

There’s a new warning on marijuana, even as cities and states move to decriminalize it. A study of young adults finds even casual use of pot may harm parts of the brain that control emotion and motivation. It’s not clear if the damage can be reversed. The study was done at Harvard and Northwestern medical schools and Massachusetts General Hospital. It’s being published in “The Journal of Neuroscience.”

The post News Wrap: Keystone oil pipeline decision delayed again appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

Keystone pipeline review delayed by State Department

Photo by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Photo by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The State Department is giving federal agencies more time to review the Keystone XL pipeline before deciding whether to issue a permit.

That could push a decision about the controversial oil pipeline until after the midterm elections in November.

The State Department is citing a recent decision by a Nebraska judge that overturned a state law that allowed the pipeline’s path through the state. The State Department says that created uncertainty and ongoing litigation.

The government is not saying how much longer the review will take. But it says the process isn’t starting over.

The pipeline has become a politically fraught issue. Republicans criticize President Barack Obama for taking too long to decide. The State Department has jurisdiction because the pipeline would cross the border between the U.S. and Canada.

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