Emails Reveal Cozy Relationship Between Tar Sands Lobbyist & State Department

Emails retrieved under the Freedom of Information Act reveal a cozy relationship between a top Tar Sands lobbyist and the US State Department.

The groups are calling on President Obama to revoke pipeline permitting authority from State Department.

The documents provide definitive evidence that the State Department’s review of TransCanada’s controversial Keystone tar sands pipeline has been irreparably tainted by department employees’ pro-pipeline bias and complicit relationships with industry executives, including an oil lobbyist who was once a top Hillary Clinton campaign aide.

The internal State Department documents, which pertain to the review of TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline, show that a State Department official cheered "Go Paul!" after TransCanada lobbyist Paul Elliott announced his firm had obtained new support for the pipeline.

They reveal multiple department officials’ understanding that TransCanada planned to reapply to pipe oil at potentially dangerous pressures after the Keystone XL was approved (TransCanada announced in August 2010 that it was withdrawing its application for a permit to use high pressures).

And they provide further evidence of inappropriately cozy relationships between multiple department employees and lobbyist Elliott, who was lobbying illegally for as long as two years due to his failure to disclose his lobbying as required by the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

"The contents of these newly released documents are shocking. They expose a rigged State Department process conducted in close coordination with oil firm TransCanada," says Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth. "These revelations should disqualify the State Department from playing any further role in the pipeline review. If President Obama is true to his campaign pledge to end the days of lobbyists setting the agenda in Washington, he must revoke the State Department’s authority to approve this pipeline."

"If President Obama removes the State Department from the process, a fair-minded reading of the evidence will force him to reject this dirty and dangerous pipeline, and that is exactly what he should do," Pica says.

The documents made public today were obtained by Friends of the Earth, the Center for International Environmental Law and Corporate Ethics International via the Freedom of Information Act.

The State Department initially refused to release the documents, so the groups, represented by Earthjustice, filed suit in May to force their release. More documents are expected to be forthcoming.

On Thursday, September 22, the Washington Post reported on the first round of documents. Those documents indicate that State Department officials provided inside information and coaching to TransCanada.

The additional evidence of State Department bias and an irreparably flawed process is substantial. For example:

  • Last fall Secretary of State Clinton said she was "inclined" to approve the pipeline even though an analysis of the pipeline’s potential environmental impacts was not finished.
  • A Wikileaked document reported on by the Los Angeles Times indicates that State Department officials "alleviated" Canadian officials’ concerns about whether the pipeline might be approved and provided them with "messaging" advice.
  • The firm hired by the State Department to prepare the environmental impact statement and hold public hearings – Cardno Entrix– recently listed TransCanada as one of its "major clients."
  • The environmental impact statement released by the State Department in August included an appendix written by two TransCanada employees and a TransCanada consultant but did not identify TransCanada as the author. The appendix was a response to an independent report by University of Nebraska professor John Stansbury, Ph.D., about what the worst Keystone XL spills could look like. Though the TransCanada-authored response was included in the environmental impact statement, Stansbury’s report itself was not.

Here’s an overview of key contents of the newly released documents, as well as links to the documents. 

In August, the State Department said the tar sands pipeline poses little environmental risk if managed properly and is currently conducing public hearings. The administration expects to make a final decision on the pipeline by the end of the year.

For 2 weeks at the end of August through Labor Day, over 1000 protesters were arrested at the White House during a protest against the pipelin. Leading environmental NGOs, unions, businesses and the NY Times have called for denial of the permit for the pipeline. 

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