Environmental Resources Management (ERM Group), the consultancy selected by TransCanada to conduct the environmental review for Keystone XL's northern leg on behalf of the U.S. State Department, is no stranger to scandal.
Exhibit A: ERM once bribed a Chinese official to ram through major pieces of an industrial development project. ERM was tasked to push through the project in Hangzhou Bay, located near Shanghai.
Accepting the bribe landed Yan Shunjun, former deputy head of the Shanghai Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau, an 11-year prison sentence.
Yan “allegedly took bribes of 864,000 yuan (126,501 U.S. dollars), 20,000 U.S. dollars and 4,000 euros from seven contractors,” explained Xiuhuanet. “Yan was also accused of illegally setting up a channel to speed up environmental impact assessment processes, which are essential for companies wanting to build factories.”
BP, one of the companies standing to gain if Keystone XL North receives a presidential permit from the Obama administration as a major Alberta tar sands producer, was also mired in the Chinese ERM Group scandal.
“Two firms on ERM's bluechip client list, BP and Sinopec, are big investors in a petrochemical complex on the site, but the Chinese authorities apparently saw no conflict of interest in awarding the environmental evaluation to ERM,” explained London's Sunday Times.
In a sense, history has repeated itself.