State Department

Thu, 2013-05-30 03:00Steve Horn
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State Department Inspector General Investigating Keystone XL Contractor ERM's Conflicts of Interest

The Checks and Balances Project has announced that the U.S. State Department's Office of Inspector General (OIG) has launched a conflicts-of-interest investigation into dirty dealings pertaining to the contractor tasked to perform the environmental review for the northern half of TransCanada's Keystone XL tar sands pipeline on behalf of State. 

Environmental Resources Management, Inc. (ERM Group) declared the northern portion of Keystone XL as environmentally safe and sound on behalf of State in March, in defiance of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's assessment, among others.

The northern half of Keystone XL will connect to the over 75-percent complete southern half and - if built - will carry Alberta's tar sands bitumen south to Texas refineries, with most of the final product shipped to the highest bidder on the global market. State and eventually President Barack Obama have the final say over the proposal because the northern section of pipeline crosses the international border. 

The overarching problem with that ERM assessment, as first revealed on Grist by Brad Johnson: ERM Group was chosen not by the State Dept., but by TransCanada itself. Furthermore, as first revealed on Mother Jones by Andy Kroll, the State Dept. redacted biographical portions of the EIS that pointed to ERM's ongoing close consulting relationship with ERM Group and TransCanada.

“The American public was supposed to get an honest look at the impacts of the Keystone XL pipeline,” writes Checks and Balances' Gabe Elsner. “Instead…a fossil fuel contractor, hid its ties from the State Department so they could green light the project on behalf of its oil company clients.”

Instead of an honest look, the public got deception, perhaps not surprisingly given ERM's historical contracting relationship with Big Tobacco, as first revealed here on DeSmogBlog. ERM seems to have blatantly lied to the State Dept. - which apparently did no homework of its own, or turned a blind eye at least - and answered “no” to the question shown in the screenshot below. 

ERM also told State it was not an energy interest, when the facts say otherwise.

“The State Department question defines an energy interest in part as any company or person engaged in research related to energy development,” wrote Eslner. “Yet, ERM has worked for all of the top five oil companies and dozens of other fossil fuel companies. In other words, ERM is clearly an energy interest.”

Mon, 2013-05-13 15:05Farron Cousins
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Could NAFTA Force Keystone XL On United States?

As the public anxiously awaits the U.S. State Department’s final decision on the fate of the Keystone XL Pipeline, the discussion has largely ignored the elephant in the room: the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA.)

Thanks to NAFTA, signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994, the State Department will likely be able to do little more than stall the pipeline’s construction. In its simplest form, NAFTA removes barriers for North American countries wishing to do business in or through other North American countries, including environmental barriers. The goal of the agreement was to promote intra-continental commerce and help the economies of all involved in the agreement.

Tue, 2013-04-23 15:37Ben Jervey
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EPA Again Slams State Department's Keystone XL Assessment as "Insufficient"

On Monday, the State Department’s public comment period closed for the Keystone XL pipeline draft environmental impact statement. Over one million comments were submitted by citizens opposed to the tar sands pipeline. Then came the most damning comment of them all: from the Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA submitted a letter faulting the State Department’s environmental review of the Keystone XL pipeline for being “insufficient” and raising “Environmental Objections” to the project.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because the very same thing happened roughly two years ago, when the State Department was first assessing the proposed tar sands pipeline project.

In June of 2011, the EPA first wrote to criticize the draft environmental impact statement as “insufficient.”

That EPA letter certainly played a part – as did sustained grassroots advocacy efforts, exposes on conflicts of interest between State and the pipeline’s profiteers, and relentless debunking of false jobs and energy security promises – in the State Department’s move to punt the decision for a year, take a fresh look at the proposals, and go back to the drawing board to create a new supplemental environmental impact statement.

Thu, 2013-04-18 13:00Caroline Selle
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New Report, “Cooking the Books,” Highlights State Department’s Keystone XL Miscalculations

Cooking the Books Oil Change International

This is a guest post by Caroline Selle

A new report from Oil Change International, provides new evidence that, if built, the Keystone XL pipeline will have a devastating impact on the global climate.

The major findings of Cooking the Books: How the State Department Analysis Ignores The True Climate Impact of the Keystone XL Pipeline include:

• If constructed and operated as planned, the Keystone XL will “carry and emit at least 181 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) each year.”

• The Keystone XL would result in emissions of 6.34 billion metric tons of CO2e between 2015 and 2050.

To put those numbers in context, here are some additional figures. 181 million metric tons of CO2 is equivalent to the tailpipe emissions of more than 37.7 million cars. It’s also the equivalent of half of Spain’s total CO2 emissions for 2008, when Spain was the 19th highest emitting country in the world.

6.34 billion metric tons of CO2 is greater than the 2011 total annual carbon dioxide emissions of the United States. It’s also greater than the 2008 CO2 emissions of Russia, India, Japan, Canada, and Germany combined.

Thu, 2013-03-21 13:27Steve Horn
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Keystone XL Scandal: Obama State Dept. Hid Contractor's TransCanada Ties

Mother Jones has a breaking investigation out on another scandal pertaining to the Obama State Department's Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline. 

The skinny: the firm that DeSmogBlog revealed has historical ties to Big Tobacco and currently has a client list that includes Koch Industries, ConocoPhillips and BP, Environmental Resources Management (ERM) Group, also has a direct connection to TransCanada itself. ERM Group - DeSmog revealed - also rubber-stamped the controversial and environmentally hazardous Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan (BTC) Pipeline in 2003, which carries oil and gas produced in the Caspian Sea in Baku, Azerbaijan to Tbilisi, Georgia and eventually makes its way to Ceyhan, Turkey. 

Andy Kroll summed up Mother Jones' new discovery about ERM, writing,

ERM's second-in-command on the Keystone report, Andrew Bielakowski, had worked on three previous pipeline projects for TransCanada over seven years as an outside consultant. He also consulted on projects for ExxonMobil, BP, and ConocoPhillips, three of the Big Five oil companies that could benefit from the Keystone XL project and increased extraction of heavy crude oil taken from the Canadian tar sands. 

Embarassed by this act of blatant corruption, the State Department redacted the “biographies” portion of its EIS, an overt attempted cover-up. Mother Jones tracked down a non-redacted version, revealing the ties that bind the study to the corporation the EIS is technically supposed to stand independent of. 

Bielakowski's ties, coming full circle, are a logical next step in the story.

Brad Johnson, writing for Grist, revealed that the State Department actually allowed TransCanada to hire a contractor on its behalf. TransCanda, of course, went to a go-to-guy who can “deliver the goods.”

“Delivering the goods,” of course, has little to do with delivering good science and is yet another act of deploying the Tobacco Playbook: make a one-sided scientific debate a farcical two-sided one. 

Tue, 2013-03-12 05:00Steve Horn
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State Department Keystone XL Study Done by Oil Industry-Connected Firm with Big Tobacco, Fracking Ties

On March 1, the U.S. State Department published its long-awaited Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the TransCanada Keystone XL (KXL) tar sands pipeline

The KXL is slated to bring tar sands crude - also known as diluted bitumen or “dilbit” - from Alberta, Canada to Port Arthur, TX. From Port Arthur, it will be refined and exported to the global market

Flying in the face of the slew of scientific studies both on the harms of burning tar sands and on the KXL itself, State determined that laying down the pipeline is environmentally sound. 

Unmentioned by State: the study was contracted out to firms with tar sands extraction clientele, as revealed by InsideClimate News

“EnSys Energy has worked with ExxonMobil, BP and Koch Industries, which own oil sands production facilities and refineries in the Midwest that process heavy Canadian crude oil. Imperial Oil, one of Canada's largest oil sands producers, is a subsidiary of Exxon,” InsideClimate News explained. “ICF International works with pipeline and oil companies but doesn't list specific clients on its website.”

Writing for Grist, Brad Johnson also revealed the name of a third contractor - Environmental Resources Management (ERM) Group - which TransCanada hired on behalf of the State Department to do the EIS

”(ERM) was paid an undisclosed amount under contract to TransCanada to write the statement, which is now an official government document,” Johnson explained. “The statement estimates, and then dismisses, the pipeline’s massive carbon footprint and other environmental impacts, because, it asserts, the mining and burning of the tar sands is unstoppable.”

ERM, a probe into the University of California-San Francisco (UCSF) Tobacco Archives reveals, has deep historical ties to Big Tobacco. Further, a key employee at ICF International - via familial ties - is tied to the future of whether hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for shale oil and gas becomes a reality in New York's portion of the Marcellus Shale.   

Sun, 2012-09-23 23:39Steve Horn
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Climate SOS Ends with Shale Gas Outrage, Autumn Begins with Global Frackdown

Global grassroots activism is heating up alongside a scarily ever-warming climate.

Since the beginning of 2012, we've seen the Arab Spring, the Wisconsin Uprising, the Tar Sands Action, and the ongoing Keystone XL Blockade. In the climate justice movement, some have referred to the recently passed summer as the Climate Summer of Solidarity (SOS).

The SOS closed with an action organized by Protecting Our Waters called Shale Gas Outrage, which took place in the heart of the global fracking boom, Philadelphia, PA, home of the Marcellus Shale basin. Outrage was warranted, given that this year's Shale Gas Insight unfolded in the City of Brotherly Love. Insight was sponsored by Chesapeake Energy, Chevron, Range Resources, EOG Resources, Aqua America (who stands to profit off of water as a scarce resource via fracking), and many others.

Speakers at the pre-march rally included the likes of “Gasland” Producer and Director Josh Fox, author and ecologist Sandra Steingraber, environmental journalist and activist Bill McKibben and Food and Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter; former Pittsburgh City Council member and writer of the ordinance that banned fracking in the city, Doug Shields, as well as members of the Pennsylvania community whose livelihoods have been deeply affected at the hands of the shale gas fracking industry. 

Upon the rally's completion, activists zig-zagged up and down Philly's streets, making stops at the Obama for President campaign headquarters and Governor Tom Corbett's campaign headquaters.   

Fri, 2012-02-03 13:00Steve Horn
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Warren Buffett Exposed: The Oracle of Omaha and the Tar Sands

Credit: Pete Souza, Office of the President

On January 23, Bloomberg News reported Warren Buffett's Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF), owned by his lucrative holding company Berkshire Hathaway, stands to benefit greatly from President Barack Obama’s recent cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline

If built, TransCanada's Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline would carry tar sands crude, or bitumen (“dilbit”) from Alberta, B.C. down to Port Arthur, Texas, where it would be sold on the global export market

If not built, as revealed recently by DeSmogBlog, the grass is not necessarily greener on the other side, and could include increased levels of ecologically hazardous gas flaring in the Bakken Shale, or else many other pipeline routes moving the prized dilbit to crucial global markets.

Rail is among the most important infrastructure options for ensuring tar sands crude still moves to key global markets, and the industry is pursuing rail actively. But transporting tar sands crude via rail is in many ways a dirtier alternative to the KXL pipeline. “Railroads too present environmental issues. Moving crude on trains produces more global warming gases than a pipeline,” explained Bloomberg.

A key mover and shaker behind the push for more rail shipments is Warren Buffett, known by some as the “Oracle of Omaha” – of “Buffett Tax” fame – and the third richest man in the world, with a net worth of $39 billion. With or without Keystone XL, Warren Buffett stands to profit enormously from multiple aspects of the Alberta Tar Sands project. He also, importantly, maintains close ties with President Barack Obama.

Mon, 2011-11-07 10:45Brendan DeMelle
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Inspector General To Investigate Keystone XL Conflicts

NRDC's Switchboard blog reports that the Inspector General will investigate the conflicts of interest and incompetence surrounding the Keystone XL pipeline permitting process.

NRDC reports: 

One day after 12,000 protesters stood outside of the White House calling on President Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline, the Office of the Inspector General has announced an investigation into bias and conflicts of interest associated with the project’s permitting.  The review responded to a letter sent by in late October by Senator Bernie Sanders, Representative Steve Cohen and 11 other members of Congress.

Read the Inspector General's letter announcing the Keystone XL investigation [PDF]
  

Sat, 2011-10-22 22:14Farron Cousins
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Harry Reid to Hillary Clinton: Drop Keystone XL Pipeline Plan

Opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline have gained a new ally in the fight to prevent this disastrous oil boondoggle from moving forward: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D–NV).

Earlier this month, Sen. Reid sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging her to abandon the pipeline and instead focus on renewable energy. The Washington Post provided an excerpt of Reid’s letter to Clinton:

The proponents of this pipeline would be wiser to invest instead in job-creating clean energy projects, like renewable power, energy efficiency or advanced vehicles and fuels that would employ thousands of people in the United States rather than increasing our dependency on unsustainable supplies of dirty and polluting oil that could easily be exported.

This is the first time that Reid has publicly addressed the Keystone XL issue, and that signals a very powerful friend to the opponents of the pipeline. Already, some labor unions and Democratic lawmakers have thrown their support in favor of the pipeline, maintaining that the project would create much-needed jobs, despite evidence to the contrary.

Earlier this month, Congressman Henry Waxman (D–CA) called on the House Energy and Commerce Committee to investigate the Koch brothers' interests in the Keystone XL pipeline, as the majority of the members on the Energy Committee have received campaign contributions from Koch Industries and its employees.


The fact that Reid chose to single out Clinton on the issue shows that he is paying attention to the issue very closely. DeSmogBlog has put together some excellent pieces detailing Clinton’s ties to the lobbyists pushing the pipeline.

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