The State Department's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has finally weighed in on potential conflicts of interest in the environmental assessments of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Sort of.
The office just released its long-anticipated report, capping off an investigation on whether Environmental Resources Management, the contractor hired by TransCanada to conduct the environmental impact study, had too close a relationship with TransCanada, and whether it deliberately hid those ties in filings with the State Department.
On first look, the inspector general report takes an extremely narrow view of the potential conflicts, but does declare that the department's procedures for dealing with conflicts of interest are weak and need to be improved.
Specifically, from the OIG's findings:
OIG did find that the process for documenting the contractor selection process, including the conflict of interest review, can be improved.
OIG also found that the Department’s public disclosures concerning its conflict of interest review could be improved.
Finally, the Office of the Inspector General makes these specific recommendations:
OIG recommends that the Department’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, in coordination with the Office of the Legal Adviser, enhance its guidance to more fully articulate its selection and conflict of interest review processes.
OIG recommends that the Department explain in greater detail the definition of “organizational conflict of interest” relied upon by the Department.
OIG recommends that the Department specify in its guidance the documentation required in the contractor selection and conflict of interest processes and establish standard operating procedures to capture and retain this information.
OIG recommends that the Department enhance its guidance to integrate a process for public disclosure of
Attention will now turn to the Government Accountability Office, which will begin an investigation on the State Department's environmental review process. Earlier this week, Representative Raúl Grijalva of Arizona requested a GAO review, suggesting that the Keystone XL environmental assessment has been corrupted by conflicts of interest. “Nothing should be glossed over; nothing should be ignored,” Grijalva said. “The questions that we posed to GAO had to do with the State Department process. And if this is a tainted process, I suggest the president at that point shouldn't trust that information,”
DeSmogBlog will take a closer look at all the details in the report and update this post throughout the evening.