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From Hurricane Maria to COVID, Gas Lobbyist-turned-Trump Energy Lawyer Uses Crises as ‘Opportunity’

From Hurricane Maria to COVID, Gas Lobbyist-turned-Trump Energy Lawyer Uses Crises as ‘Opportunity’

Bill Cooper being sworn in by Rick Perry

Among a string of recent environmental rollbacks, President Donald Trump’s U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) aims to vastly narrow the scope of environmental reviews for those applying for liquefied natural gas (LNG) export permits. The proposal has been guided by Bill Cooper, a former oil and gas industry lobbyist who’s now a top lawyer for the DOE.

On May 1, the DOE issued a proposal to limit environmental reviews for LNG export permit proposals so that the review applies to only the export process itself — literally “occurring at or after the point of export.” The rule would take off the table for consideration lifecycle greenhouse gas analyses, broader looks at both build-outs of pipelines and power plants attached to the export proposals, and other potential environmental impacts.

It comes as many larger forces up the pressure on LNG projects: The oil and gas industry is facing financial crisis, exports of fracked gas to the global market are steeply waning, and the COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying economic nosedive are marching on in the United States.

The DOE’s Bill Cooper, an oil and gas attorney by background with a long history of navigating the industry through crises both inside and outside of the federal government, signed off on the regulatory proposal.

Now DOE General Counsel, Cooper has proven instrumental in creating today’s U.S. regulatory regime both for fracking for natural gas and exporting it. This attempted rule change is just the latest chapter in that story. For Cooper, crisis has consistently served as an opportunity to implement regulatory change to favor the oil and gas industry.

As DeSmog has reported, Cooper played a critical role in getting regulatory exemption language now known as the “Halliburton Loophole” inserted into the 2005 energy bill

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