State Department

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. 

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.   

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.   

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.

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]
  

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.

Keystone XL Lobbyists Web of Corruption Infographic

Now that the web of Keystone XL tar sands industry lobbyists connected to Hillary Clinton has grown far beyond Paul Elliott, DeSmogBlog, Oil Change International, The Other 98% and Friends of the Earth have produced a new white board infographic to help everyone visualize this cast of characters. 



Be sure to visit the action page at RejectLobbyistsNoKXL.org as well.

Hillary Clinton's Keystone XL Crony Lobbyists Problem

Hillary Clinton and the State Department have the final word on whether to approve the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, unless President Obama intervenes. The influence of tar sands industry lobbyists connected to Hillary Clinton is finally getting some media attention, but there is still more to this story.

Clinton's State Department is finally complying with a FOIA request for documents, after a lawsuit filed in May by three watchdog groups over an alleged lack of transparency regarding contacts with TransCanada lobbyist Paul Elliott, a former staffer on Hillary Clinton's presidential run. Elliott has earned at least $310,000 as TransCanada Pipelines’ in-house lobbyist to influence Congress and several federal agencies, including the State Department, on the Keystone XL pipeline.

However, the tar sands industry’s use of former Clinton associates to lobby on the controversial project extends beyond Mr. Elliott. DeSmogBlog has uncovered seven other influencers or lobbyists with ties to Clinton and Obama who have lobbied on behalf of tar sands interests for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.  

These lobbyists are spread out over three firms, including one that was the largest single source of funds of any corporate entity to Clinton’s 2008 presidential run. Included in their midst is a lobbyist with close ties to top Obama adviser David Plouffe, and a former Koch Industries operative now lobbying for the Koch-friendly Keystone XL project.


The extent of the contacts between these lobbyists and Secretary Clinton, or her political appointee-led staff, remains to be determined. Today, **Earthjustice, representing** Friends of the Earth, Corporate Ethics International and the Center for International Environmental Law, filed an amended FOIA request asking the State Department to release all contacts between this web of lobbying firms and her department. The groups credited DeSmogBlog's research as the impetus for the revised FOIA request. 

Koch Brothers Dishonest About Keystone XL, Tar Sands Interest

On the heels of a 21-page investigative article by ​Bloomberg ​Magazine, which covered the high crimes and misdemeanors of the Koch Brothers, Koch Industries, and its numerous subsidiaries over the past several decades, more damning news arrives about their dirty deeds in Canada.

Today, ​InsideClimate News​ reported in a story titled “Koch Subsidiary Told Regulators It Has 'Direct and Substantial Interest' in Keystone XL”, that contrary to the narrative the Kochs have been dishing out to the U.S. government, Koch Industries has a huge fiscal stake in both the Keystone XL Pipeline and in Tar Sands production more generally. 

​Inside Climate reports:

​In 2009, Flint Hills Resources Canada LP, an Alberta-based subsidiary of Koch Industries, applied for—and won— 'intervenor status' in the National Energy Board hearings that led to Canada's 2010 approval of its 327-mile portion of the pipeline. The controversial project would carry heavy crude 1,700 miles from Alberta to the Texas Gulf Coast.

In the form it submitted to the Energy Board, Flint Hills wrote that it “is among Canada's largest crude oil purchasers, shippers and exporters. Consequently, Flint Hills has a direct and substantial interest in the application” for the pipeline under consideration.

To be approved as an intervenor, Flint Hills had to have some degree of “business interest” in Keystone XL, Carole Léger-Kubeczek, a National Energy Board spokeswoman, told InsideClimate News. Intervenors are granted the highest level of access in hearings, with the option to ask questions. The Energy Board approved Canada's segment of the pipeline with little opposition, and Flint Hills did not exercise its right to speak.

State Department Emails Reveal Cozy Relationship With TransCanada Lobbyist

Friends of the Earth today released “deeply disturbing” emails obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request illustrating “pro-pipeline bias and complicity at the State Department‚” over the controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

The 200 pages of new documents [PDF] show that TransCanada lobbyist Paul Elliott, who served as deputy national campaign director and chief of delegate selection to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign, exchanged troubling emails with Marja Verloop, a State Department official who works on energy and environmental issues at the U.S. embassy in Ottawa.

In one email, Verloop offers comforting words to Elliott, assuring him that “at the end of the day it's precisely because you have connections that you're sought after and hired.” [PDF]

Friends of the Earth recently called for the Justice Department to investigate Paul Elliott, who appears to have lobbied the Obama administration to approve the Keystone XL pipeline for more than a year without registering as a lobbyist.

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