Texas Railroad Commissioner David Porter released a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry Monday in which he calls for greater enforcement of U.S. sanctions against the Russian gas firm Gazprom over the Ukraine conflict.
The letter comes a week after the Center for Public Integrity reported Gazprombank, the financial arm of the gas company, had hired former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and former U.S. Senator John Breaux to lobby to end the sanctions.
“Gazprom Bank is currently under U.S. sanctions as a result of Russia’s role in shooting down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which resulted in the death of 283 passengers, 15 crew members, and at least one American citizen,” Porter wrote (see letter below). “I am greatly concerned that a blacklisted, government owned, Russian bank is able to continue its campaign to weaken the American oil and gas industry and to hire two former United States Senators to exert pressure on American policymakers.”
But Porter, an accountant who was elected to the commission as a Republican in 2010, is worried about more than sanctions.
He accused the Russian gas giant of attempting to undermine the U.S. and European natural gas industries to increase its own market share.
“Their apparent strategy includes funding anti-hydraulic fracturing environmental organizations, placing misinformation in the public, and even mass media propaganda — namely their assistance with the distribution of Gasland, an incredibly deceitful film about hydraulic fracturing in America,” Porter writes. “Gazprom’s effort, with the assistance of the Kremlin and Ketchum [a public relations firm], has already resulted in the ban of hydraulic fracturing in many EU countries, and now, they have their sights set on the U.S.”
Gazprom did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Railroad commissioners are charged with regulating and promoting the Texas oil and gas industry. And a spokeswoman for Porter’s office explained the commissioner’s decision to speak out followed “recent reports highlighting Gazprom expanding their influence in the U.S. despite their sanctions. The commissioner felt he could no longer sit by idly.”
In the letter Porter cites a report authored by the D.C. think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies on security around Europe’s natural gas supply. It cites comments made by Gazprom executive Alexander Medvedev likening the shale boom to the internet bubble and declaring Russia was ready to “wage its war on shale.”
In 2011 The Financial Times published a Q&A with Medvedev and reported he was interested in finding a way to “promote” Gasland.
On Monday Jill Calcaterra, an executive with Gasland’s U.S. distributor Cindedigm, said director Josh Fox denied Gazprom had any role in financing or distributing his film.
“There’s zero connection,” she said.
RRC Sec State Kerry Letter 09082014