Three watchdog groups filed an appeal today with the U.S. State Department over its refusal to release correspondence between the agency and a former high-ranking presidential campaign staffer for Hillary Clinton. In his role as oil lobbyist, Paul Elliott is seeking Secretary of State Clinton’s approval for the controversial Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline that would bring 900,000 barrels of tar sands a day over 2,000 miles through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas to refineries on the Gulf Coast.
The coalition, including Friends of the Earth, the Center for International Environmental Law, and Corporate Ethics International submitted a FOIA request in December [PDF] targeted at Elliott, now lead lobbyist for TransCanada, the company aiming to build the pipeline. The request was rejected by the State Department, and Marcie Keever, legal director for Friends of the Earth, believes that the State Department did not have legitimate legal grounds to do so.
For the groups, the failure of the State Department to comply with its responsibility under the Freedom of Information Act is worrying, and further calls into question Clinton’s capacity to remain impartial on the pipeline decision.
“By refusing to disclose any documents, we contend that the State Department is violating the Freedom of Information Act,” said Keever. “We are hopeful that with this appeal the State Department will release communications between the oil lobbyist and Secretary Clinton and her staffers. If the agency doesn’t, we will take it to court if necessary.”