Azerbaijan

Emails: How State Department Secretly Approved Expanding Piece of Enbridge's "Keystone XL Clone"

State Department Enbridge Emails

DeSmogBlog has obtained dozens of emails that lend an inside view of how the U.S. State Department secretly handed Enbridge a permit to expand the capacity of its U.S.-Canada border-crossing Alberta Clipper pipeline, which carries tar sands diluted bitumen (“dilbit”) from Alberta to midwest markets. 

The State Department submitted the emails into the record in the ongoing case filed against the Department by the Sierra Club and other environmental groups in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota. Collectively, the emails show that upper-level State Department officials hastened the review process on behalf of Enbridge for its proposed Alberta Clipper expansion plan, now rebranded Line 67, and did not inform the public about it until it published its final approval decision in the Federal Register in August 2014.

According to a March 17, 2014 memo initially marked “confidential,” Enbridge's legal counsel at Steptoe & Johnson, David Coburn, began regular communications with the State Department on what the environmental groups have dubbed an “illegal scheme” beginning in at least January 2014. 

Enbridge State Department Emails
Image Credit: U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota

Environmental groups have coined the approval process an “illegal scheme” because the State Department allowed Enbridge to usurp the conventional presidential permit process for cross-border pipelines, as well as the standard National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process, which allows for public comments and public hearings of the sort seen for TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline.

Further, the scheme is a complex one involving Enbridge's choice to add pressure pump stations on both sides of the border to two pipelines, Enbridge Line 3 and Enbridge Line 67, to avoid fitting under the legal umbrella of a “cross-border” pipeline.

Hastening the approval process — and thus dodging both the conventional presidential permit and NEPA process — came up in a June 6, 2014 memo written by Coburn and his Steptoe co-counsel Josh Runyan. Enbridge's legal argument centered around ensuring profits for its customers “consistent with its obligations as a common carrier.”

State Department Enbridge Emails
Image Credit: U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota

ExxonMobil and Shell Stamp Huge Oil and Gas Deals in Iraq

Just a few weeks after President Barack Obama announced U.S. troops are “leaving” the war-torn country, ExxonMobil and Shell each announced major new oil and gas production agreements in Iraq.

On November 12, ExxonMobil signed an oil production deal with the Kurdish Regional Government to drill in Iraqi Kurdistan, located in northern Iraq. This comes on top of an existing oil deal it landed in 2009, to drill for oil in the West Qurna Field, located in southern Iraq.

The New York Times explained both deals:

Exxon and its partners agreed to invest $50 billion over seven years to increase output by about two million barrels of oil per day there, at West Qurna Phase 1, bringing more new oil to market than the United States currently produces in the Gulf of Mexico. Margins, though, are low. Kurdistan offers more lucrative production-sharing agreements, allowing the company to earn a larger share of revenues and to count more of the crude on its books, which helps boost stock prices.

Days later on November 15, Royal Dutch Shell signed a $17 billion natural gas production deal with the Iraqi government. Shell will utilize the natural gas by-product from oil produced at the West Qurna Field, the Rumaila Field, and the Az Zubair Field, and transform it into a usable product. “Shell said it would sell the gas to electrical utilities in Iraq, but that it may also eventually export some,” explained The New York Times.

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