By Steve Horn
On Sept. 9, the Obama administration
for construction of the
Dakota Access Pipeline
(DAPL) on federally controlled lands and asked the pipeline’s owners, led by Energy Transfer Partners, to voluntarily halt construction on adjacent areas at the center of protests by Native Americans and supporters.
However, at the same time the pipeline and protests surrounding it were galvanizing an international swell of solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and its Sacred Stone Camp, another federal move on two key pipelines has flown under the radar.
In May, the federal government quietly approved permits for two Texas pipelines—the
and Comanche Trail—also owned by Energy Transfer Partners. This action and related moves will ensure that
fracked gas will be flooding the energy grid in Mexico.
Dakota Access Pipeline
is also set to carry oil obtained via
”), but in the northern U.S., from North Dakota’s
Formation through several Great Plains states to Illinois.
Within a two-week span in May 2016, as the Sacred Stone Camp was getting off the ground as the center of protests, the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued presidential permits for the
pipelines. Together, the pipelines will take natural gas obtained from fracking in Texas’ Permian Basin and ship it in different directions across the U.S.-Mexico border, with both starting at the Waha Oil Field.
Similar to the
of North Dakota oil wells whose oil will likely be transported via Dakota Access and
like the name Dakota itself
, the Comanche Trail Pipeline’s nomenclature originates from a Native American tribe.
is headquartered in the southwestern part of Oklahoma in Lawton and was removed from Texas in the aftermath of the
. As part of those wars, this nomadic tribe used the
which crossed West Texas and
what is now Big Bend National Park.
many other tribes
, the Comanche Nation has come out in
to the Dakota Access Pipeline. Some members have formed a support group called
Comanches on the Move
, which has taken caravans on the road from Oklahoma to the Sacred Stone Camp in North Dakota.
U.S.-Mexico Energy Business Council
The same month the Obama administration permitted the Comanche Trail and Trans-Pecos pipelines, the U.S. and Mexican governments announced the signing of an
creating the U.S.-Mexico Energy Business Council. This council’s objective is “to bring together representatives of the energy industries of the United States and Mexico to discuss issues of mutual interest.” Its membership list is a who’s who of major oil and gas players.
a senior-level lobbyist for Halliburton; the president of oil and gas industry services giant Honeywell Mexico; the CEO of
Hunt Consolidated Energy
(and former energy policy adviser for George W. Bush’s 2000 campaign); the CFO of Sempra Energy’s Mexican subsidiary, IEnova; and the president of the
Petroleum Equipment Suppliers Association
(PESA), who worked on the press team in the George W. Bush White House and 2000 presidential campaign.
—including Halliburton (Halliburton’s Robert Moran, a councilmember, serves on
PESA’s Board of Directors
) and other oil and gas industry services companies—will serve as among the
of Mexico’s ongoing energy sector privatization.
IEnova, the Sempra Energy subsidiary, owns numerous pipeline assets throughout Mexico and also owns the
Energía Costa Azul LNG
terminal on Mexico’s west coast. The Trans-Pecos Pipeline is
set to connect
to IEnova’s Ojinaga-El Encino Pipeline at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Hunt, meanwhile, serves as a symbol of the
existing between U.S.-Mexico energy relations and U.S.-Mexico immigration policy. Prior to its involvement in the U.S.-Mexico Energy Business Council, Hunt was actually the first company to have a “
holes in the wall
” open border policy. Under the George W. Bush administration, this policy allowed
energy to flow
between borders, with gas flowing to real estate owned by the powerful and wealthy
“Over the years, Hunt has transformed his 6,000-acre property, called the Sharyland Plantation, from acres of onions and vegetables into swathes of exclusive, gated communities where houses sell from $650,000 to $1 million and residents enjoy golf courses, elementary schools and a sports park,”
the Texas Observer in 2008. “The plantation contains an 1,800-acre business park and Sharyland Utilities, run by Hunt’s son Hunter, which delivers electricity to plantation residents and Mexican factories.”
Hunt was also one of the companies recently
to bid on offshore oil parcels on the Mexico side of the Gulf of Mexico.
Wall Won’t Block Pipelines
The creation of the U.S.-Mexico Energy Business Council comes as Mexico continues to make its push to privatize its energy sector under the auspices of constitutional amendments
signed into law
in 2013 and move away from the state-owned system run by Pemex (Petróleos Mexicanos). Under then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as first
by DeSmog, the U.S. State Department helped spearhead those privatization efforts.
“The council, comprised of private sector representatives from both countries, is expected to exchange information and industry best practices in order to provide actionable, non-binding recommendations to both governments on ways to strengthen the U.S.-Mexico relationship on trade, investment and competitiveness in the energy sector,” read the
announcing the council’s launch.
At a joint press conference featuring Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto and President Obama held at the White House on July 22, Obama mentioned the council and its looming first meeting.
“This fall, our new U.S.-Mexico Energy Business Council will meet for the very first time to strengthen the ties between our energy industries,”
. “And, Mr. President, I want to thank you for your vision and your leadership in reforming Mexico’s energy industry.”
With most eyes on the immigration debate and Republican presidential nominee
’s grandiose claims about building a “
” on the U.S.-Mexico border, it’s easy to forget that proverbial walls are coming down when it comes to energy, and in particular, the flow of oil and gas across the border.
“As long as the wall doesn’t go below ground,” one industry executive recently
told Financial Times
, “I think we’ll be OK.”
Thanks to the regulatory blessing of the Obama administration, Energy Transfer Partners may be the first beneficiary to go “under the wall” with its Trans-Pecos and Comanche Trail pipelines.