State Department Keystone XL Study Done by Oil Industry-Connected Firm with Big Tobacco, Fracking Ties

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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.   

TransCanada Utilizes Tobacco Playbook in Hiring ERM Group

ERM Group - headquarted in the City of London - a square mile sub-section of London infamous for its role in serving as a tax shelter for multinational corporations - has aided the tobacco industry in pushing the “Tobacco Playbook.”

Many fossil fuel industry public relations flacks learned the tactics of mass manipulation by reading the “tobacco playbook,” meticulously documented in Naomi Oreskes' and Erik Conway's classic book, “Merchants of Doubt.”

Doubt is our product,” a tobacco industry document once laid out the playbook, “since it is the best means of competing with the 'body of fact' that exists in the minds of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy.”

ERM has done studies on behalf of both R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris, penning a report titled “Fundamentals of Environmental Management” for the latter.

It was also a former member of the American Tort Reform Association, a group that fights to limit the tort law rights of citizens to sue for damages inflicted upon them by corporations and featured in the documentary film, “Hot Coffee.”

ERM: In-Service to Big Oil, like Big Tobacco

In the 2000 version of its website, ERM referred to climate change advocates as having an “agenda.”

“[T]he gloabl (sic) climate change agenda has very specific implications for the oil and gas industry, and factoring CO2 emissions into operations is a key concern,” read ERM's website at the time.

The firm has also boasted of doing its studies in service to the oil and gas industry's bottom lines.

ERM works around the world with the private sector assessing how their business is likely to be impacted by environmental and social issues, new regulations, consumer concerns, and supply chain issues and help companies develop appropriate policies and management systems to manage these business risks,” its website proclaimed in 2000

This all sits, of course, in juxtaposition to the needs of the decaying ecosystem and increasingly severe and horrifying climate crisis

The ICF/New York Fracking Decision Connection

ICF Consulting is a thread tying the forthcoming fracking decision in New York by Democratic Party Gov. Andrew Cuomo to the Obama State Department decision on the Keystone XL

Though ICF doesn't list its clients on its website, its vice president Karl Hausker is the husband of Kathleen (“Katie”) McGinty, one of the members of the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Hydraulic Fracturing Advisory Panel.

McGinty formerly served as Vice President Al Gore's top climate aide under the Clinton Administration, segueing from that position into one as chair of the Clinton Council on Environmental Quality from 1993-1998. From 2003-2008, she served as head of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection under Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell, helping usher in the state's ongoing fracking boom. 

Named as a member of the industry-stacked Obama DOE fracking subcommittee in May 2011, McGinty now works as an Operating Partner alongside Rendell at Element Partners, a Philadelphia, PA-based firm that has capital investments in several firms operating in Pennsylvania's portion of the Marcellus Shale. McGinty also serves on the Board of Directors of NRG Energy, an electricity-generating utilities corporation that owns natural gas-fired power plants around the U.S.

Tying it all together, Ernest Moniz is leaving his position on ICF's Board and his professorship at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he was a major “frackademic,” to serve as head of the Obama DOE.

In chess, moves of this sort are known as “check” and “checkmate.”

The weeks and months ahead will demonstrate if the chess match is over with regards to the destiny of the Keystone XL pipeline and fracking in the Empire State. 

Photo Credit: ShutterStockLeonid Ikan

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Characterizing the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) as “a group that fights to limit the tort law rights of citizens to sue for damages inflicted upon them by corporations,” as Steve Horn does here, is to telegraph the bias of one whose work is in part supported by money from the parasitic plaintiffs' bar. For ATRA works only to limit the craven abuse of the U.S. civil justice system – abuse that limits access to health care, drives health care costs and consumer prices ever higher, and more broadly erodes economic growth and job creation by pushing production of goods and services to less litigious and thus less costly competing nations overseas.

Speaking of foreign competition, what do Steve Horn and his loyal readers think will happen to crude from Canadian tar sands if the XL pipeline isn't built to facilitate the low-cost and relatively low-risk flow of said crude to our Gulf Coast refineries? It'll be transported by rail to those Gulf refineries at higher environmental risk, or to Canada's west coast where it'll be shipped to China for inferior refinement at still higher risk. Either way, the threat to our environment will only increase, and not a drop less of recoverable fossil fuel will be burned before all is said and done. So we can create American jobs and wealth while insuring lower energy costs and minimal environmental risk for the next few decades as truly market-ready renewable energy technologies are developed. Or we can let the Chinese create the jobs and moderate their energy costs while not giving a dead-pig-in-the-river's ass about the environment.

Personally, I have nothing against the Chinese people, but I do detest their totalitarian leaders who throw dissidents in prison and censor media opinions (just as I may be censored here). And at the risk of sounding like an uncool capitalist patriot, I'd just as soon have my fellow Americans benefit from the jobs and more stable energy prices that crude from the tar sands can help provide. Not that any of this has anything to do, necessarily, with working to make our civil justice system more equitable, predictable, and less welcoming to self-serving parasites who'd sue their own mother if they thought they could make a quick few million dollars doing so. But I did feel the need to set the record straight.

-Darren McKinney, American Tort Reform Association, Washington, DC

You will need to back your statements with more than rhetoric.

  1. You've demonstrated a marked ignorance for why folks are concerned.  Its about Climate Change, and nothing else.  Everything else is just the sand getting thrown in your face.  Focus on climate change you'll have a win.
  2. You haven't demonstrated that train is more dangerous than pipelines.  Can you cite your source for that information?  Or is this just more propaganda being touted?
  3. This oil is slated for export from the US 85% of the oil going to Gulf refineries, is exported. After Keystone goes through, 85% of the oil will still be slated for export.
  4. Exported oil generates no revenue for the USA These refiners are in a tax exempt zone.  If its exported from the tax exempt refineries, the US earns no tax revenue, except personal income tax.  The biggest refineries in the gulf region have stated this is the reason the upgraded their refineries. The CEO of Enbridge, refused to say before congress that this oil was for US consumption. He said that he wouldn't be able to get subscriptions to put oil in the pipeline if he made 'US Consumption' requirement.
  5. There are no jobs created by the Refineries. They already exist, and they will not generate any more income for the US.
  6. There are very few jobs provided by Pipelines. Oil Industry Papers in Canada state clearly that the province of British Columbia will see a mere $50 million a year in tax revenue for a pipeline, and a shipping port.  This is hardly anything to get excited about.
  7. If you indeed think this oil will reduce your energy prices, you are wrong.  You will pay more for your oil. American's are currently buying Canada's Bitumen at a steep discount.  In Alberta this is being called a bitumen bubble, and Alberta politicians are trying to promote the pipeline TO MAKE MORE MONEY.  So you are saying that you want to pay more for it?
  8. You'll be happy to know that this oil isn't subject to NAFTA and is in fact subject to foreign import taxes.  It has considerable foreign content in the form of Deluent.  The stuff doesn't flow in pipes without deluent mixed in, and we don't have enough in Canada to run the pipeline as it is.  We are currently importing this deluent from all the nations hated by the US.  Venezuela, Iran… we need them all, or you can't get your oil.  This also means that Canada can tax US bound oil differently than Canada.  (We can legally fuck with you.)
  9. As you will continue to be reliant on your hated enemies for your oil, you will not improve your energy security.  Read above.

As for me Darren. I live and work in the oil industry in Alberta Canada.  Half of what I've said is information commonly talked about in Alberta by Alberta politicians who are currently down there trying to tell you the opposite.  In short, Canadian politicians like the premier of Alberta appear to contradict what you are saying.

PS. I support this pipeline if the US actually does something about Climate Change.

Did I mention the Climate Change?  Would it help if I rephrased that as Global Warming?

For a guy purportedly from the oil industry, you seem oblivious to the fact that the U.S. just imported considerably less oil in 2012 than it did at a peak in 2005, and that the trend line is improving further as our ever higher-tech domestic production is on the rise.  And since I didn't argue that the XL pipeline would make the U.S. independent from all other oil imports, I don't understand your assertion about the need to continue importing oil from our “hated enemies” (even though we certainly don't hate Canada).

As for train v. pipeline safety, any sentient human being's cursory glance at history will support my assertion.  I'm a big fan of rail and its general safety record, but every real oil man knows full well that that the XL design and operation will be considerably safer than any affordable rail-based alternative. Obfuscating that point serves no one.

Of course, you're certainly free to declare that “it's all about climate change.”  But you can't and won't make others agree with you – especially those who stand to gain good-paying jobs when pipeline construction, operation and additional refining begin.  Climate has been changing since the dawn of time and will continue to do so long after humankind is gone.  Which is not to be pessimistic or suggest we won't last long enough to become truly expert in climate science.  But meanwhile, it seems the height of hubris to think our computer modelers, whose grants-based livelihoods largely depend on their allegiance to climate catastrophe dogma, can reasonably predict conditions a hundred years from now, much less justify an abrupt abandonment of all fossil fuel burning and subsequently forced reversion to hunting and gathering. 

In any case, the inarguable bottom-line is this: Barring a truly world-changing, near-term breakthrough in renewable energy technology (and mind you, my fingers are crossed), every last drop of Canadian tar sands crude will eventually be extracted, transported, refined and burned.  And I'd rather keep most of that action in North America, as opposed to letting China or others in on it. 

Your true colors are showing.

With Climate Change, the target number is zero.  Not a reduction.  An 80% reduction is a catastrophe.

Climate Change as being discussed here is not about natural cycles which have occured in the past.  We are talking about human induced Global Warming.  Try to stay on topic.

There is no evidence contradictory to these facts.  You have high school graduates (Anthoney Watts) fueled by oil and gas industry funding providing your information.  You might want to take a serious look at who advises you before you speak.

In the mean time you might want to IGNORE the computer models, and look at the measured data.  (BEST and UAH are supplied climate deniers, and are therefore kosher for you to look at.)

Pipeline construction jobs are a short term gain, with a serious long term consequence, called, Global Warming.

I will sell equipment and make money if this pipeline is built.  (Although my livelyhood is hardly on the line.) Most of my work deals with oil wells, refineries, and natural gas pipelines.  I have a patent for technology that prevents natural gas pipelines from exploding.

It would be unethical for me to read and use scientific papers to do my work, then turn around and pan other science simply because it is in conflict with my source of income.

If you actually watched that Bill Gates talk, then you'd know that there is only one key technology missing for renewables.  Its called a battery, and lots of people are working on it. (Oh look!  They're hiring! They weren't looking for people last year!)

In the mean time, increasing dependance on oil is a bad bad idea.  Especially when you use so much energy to produce each barrel of oil.