Natural Gas Exports: Bush Administration Aides and LNG

Bush Administration Aides and LNG

Many ex-Bush Administration officials have passed through the government-industry revolving door and now lobby for or directly own key LNG industry assets.

One example is Main Pass Energy Hub, which planned to be a Gulf of Mexico-based LNG export terminal co-developed by United LNG and Freeport McMoRan, Inc. United LNG has since disbanded and taken down its website due to legal problems, but an archived version of the website shows it was set to be headed by several former ex-Bush Administration officials. These included chairman Stephen Payne, senior advisor David Merkel, and director W. Christopher Caudill. All three served in a senior capacity for the Bush Administration, either directly for the White House or at the State Department.

The exploratory memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Freeport McMoRan Energy and United LNG expired on Dec. 31st 2013,” former United LNG director Erik Saenz told DeSmogBlog in an interview. “It has not been renewed nor does United LNG expect it to be renewed. My assumption is that the non-renewal of the MOU has effectively put United LNG out of business.”

But United LNG did not go down without a lobbying fight. During quarter one of 2014, the company deployed Joe Davis – former principal deputy director of public affairs and spokesman for Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham and communications director and policy advisor for Abraham when he was a U.S. Senator – for one last counterpunch.

We renewed our contract with Artemis in Q1 with the hopes that McMoRan would renew the MOU with United LNG,” Saenz told us. “However, McMoRan has since decided not to renew our MOU, thus putting the company out of business.”

Aides and staffers to Spencer Abraham also have provided crucial support for Cheniere’s lobbying efforts. Abraham, who now heads up the lobbying firm and corporate energy consulting group, The Abraham Group LLC, brought some of his senior-level Energy Department staffers with him. Other top Abraham aides now work directly in-house for Cheniere. Abraham himself does not directly lobby for the company, according to lobbying disclosure forms.

According to investigative reporter Peter Mantius, who writes for the publication DC Bureau, Cheniere has deployed Abraham staffers-turned-lobbyists to assist the company in fast-tracking its way through the permitting process. These ex-Abraham staffers include Majida Mourad, Raquel Cabral (formerly Raquel Sours), and Bob Carey.