Steve Horn, reporter for the award-winning DeSmogBlog, right now is the public’s point guard for information on government and corporate collusion in climate change issues. This year the DeSmogBlog celebrates 10 years in publication covering climate change and are a go-to source for major media on the subject.
After he covered the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission’s annual conference earlier this month, the organization tried to have him arrested when he visited their offices on an interview request.
We corresponded with Steve about what happened and what it means.
FYI, Wikipedia defines the IOGCC as “a United States organization, representing the governors of 30 member and eight associate states, that works to ensure the nation's oil and natural gas resources are conserved and utilized to their maximum potential while protecting health, safety and the environment. Established in 1935, it is the oldest and largest interstate compact in the nation.”
Lisa Loving— A government agency called the police on you for coming to their office on an information request?
Steve Horn—IOGCC called the police (9-1-1 to be precise) on me because I showed up to its office to ask what its stance was on climate change. It wasn't a surprise "gotchya"-type appearance by me, either. I was given a press pass to attend its annual conference in Oklahoma City just down the road at the Hilton Skirvin Hotel (and other area locales in downtown Oklahoma City) in the days prior, and had sent them a follow-up email after its meeting ended asking for an interview.
Being in the area anyway for reporting-related research they day after the annual meeting ended, as I told them I would be, I dropped by its office and rang the door bell/knocked on its door. Instead of answering the door, which most other government agencies and offices would, they hid from me and ended up calling 9-1-1 on me, reporting me to the Oklahoma City Police Department as "suspicious" as conveyed to me by the cop who showed up and the 9-1-1 call log report.
Lisa -- Is there any basis in law for what the IOGCC did?
Steve—Legally, there might be some basis in law for what they did if I was just some random stranger doing strange things outside of its office. You know, being "suspicious." But IOGCC's narrative falls apart immediately because I am not that and they know I'm not that and they know exactly who I am. Indeed, one of the woman who was in the office at the time -- IOGCC communications manager Carol Booth -- had just done a 41 minute interview with me the year before at IOGCC's Columbus, OH meeting.
Lisa--Describe your work at the DeSmogBlog. Is this the first time government agencies have blocked your requests for information? (Although calling the police goes beyond that?)
Steve—I consider myself an investigative journalist whose work serves the public interest. I cover climate change, energy (particularly oil and gas and things like fracking and the tar sands), pipelines, and public relations/propaganda machinations for DeSmogBlog.
This isn't the first time I've been blocked (speaking to IOGCC blocking me from getting records from them via both state- and federal-level open records laws, despite its by-laws claiming its records are open to the public) from getting information and am often impeded from getting records, especially from the federal government. It's sometimes very easy to get records from agencies, but can be very hard if not impossible sometimes too.
It's also not the first time the cops have confronted me for doing journalistic work. Indeed, this is now the third time in the third big city. The other two times were in Chicago and Charlotte. Now Oklahoma City. Luckily, no arrests for me yet, but sometimes doing real investigative journalism can be risky and you have to be willing to take said risks.
Lisa--What is the most important thing you are reporting on by being in Oklahoma City?
Steve—I was in Oklahoma City to expose the IOGCC as a very powerful player in the universe of U.S. domestic oil/gas drilling that no one really knows about, but should. One cannot understand things like fracking and how it got to be the widespread thing it is today, for example, without a thorough understanding of the history of the IOGCC. IOGCC -- unlike American Petroleum Institute, America's Natural Gas Alliance and other industry lobbying shops -- is taxpayer subsidized as a collective of state oil/gas permitters/regulators and exists due to an act of Congress in 1935. Thus, citizens should understand and know about what they're bank-rolling with their tax-dollars and that is a huge driving force of the ongoing investigation as well.
Read Steve Horn’s article about the arrest threat here, “Congress-backed Interstate Oil Commission Call Cops When Reporter Arrives To Ask About Climate”
IMAGE: A tornado in Kansas on May 22, 2008, courtesy National Weather Service, via Wikipedia