So, have you heard the one about how TransCanada (the Keystone XL people) recommended and paid for their own consultants to do the environmental impact report for Hillary Clinton’s State Department?
Pipeline Review Is Faced With Question of Conflict
By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL and DAN FROSCH, The New York Times
Published: October 7, 2011
The State Department assigned an important environmental impact study of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline to a company with financial ties to the pipeline operator, flouting the intent of a federal law meant to ensure an impartial environmental analysis of major projects.
The department allowed TransCanada, the company seeking permission to build the 1,700-mile pipeline from the oil sands of northern Alberta to the Gulf Coast in Texas, to solicit and screen bids for the environmental study. At TransCanada’s recommendation, the department hired Cardno Entrix, an environmental contractor based in Houston, even though it had previously worked on projects with TransCanada and describes the pipeline company as a “major client” in its marketing materials.
Environmental groups say the study underplays both the emissions impact of the new pipeline and the danger posed by a spill of crude from oil sands, called diluted bitumen, a hard-to-remediate mixture. An accident at a pipeline owned by Enbridge Energy in July 2010 dumped 843,000 gallons of such oil near Marshall, Mich.
A 35-mile stretch of the Kalamazoo River remains closed and cleanup has proved extremely difficult, running over budget and past deadlines set by the E.P.A. Estimates of cleanup costs have run well over $500 million. The E.P.A.’s regional administrator said her office had never seen a river system affected by so much submerged oil.
But the impact report for the Keystone XL project says that “response to a spill from the proposed pipeline would not require unique clean up procedures.”
The Enbridge spill is only mentioned briefly in addendums. And Cardno Entrix would have been aware of the challenges in Michigan: it was hired by Enbridge to assess the damage to natural resources caused by the spill.
State Department Admits Its ‘Independent’ Tar Sands Pipeline Review Was Paid For By TransCanada
By Brad Johnson, Think Progress
Oct 8, 2011 at 3:13 pm
The State Department has admitted their environmental review of the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline was conducted by a contractor paid for by the pipeline company itself, a potentially illegal conflict of interest first reported by ThinkProgress Green. The Canadian tar sands company TransCanada has applied to construct a major pipeline through the United States to pump tar sands crude to Texas refineries for the international oil market, and is awaiting approval by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama. The State Department’s approval hinges upon a positive Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), required by the National Environmental Policy Act to assess whether the pipeline is in the national interest.
A State Department official has admitted to the New York Times that the EIS was conducted by a company chosen and paid by TransCanada itself, flouting NEPA’s conflict-of-interest rules.
A spokesman for TransCanada, Terry Cunha, told the New York Times that his company had recommended contractors to the State Department based on “technical ability, experience, and appropriate personnel.” But he said the final contract for the environmental assessment “provides that Department of State directs Entrix. As a result, we don’t have a direct relationship with Entrix.”
Where Did the President’s Mojo Go?
By Bill McKibben, Tom Dispatch
9:31am, October 11, 2011
Four years ago at this time, the early adopters among us were just starting to get used to the regular flow of email from the Obama campaign. The missives were actually exciting to get, because they seemed less like appeals for money than a chance to join a movement.
What we completely missed was that Obama didn’t want us at his back — that the minute the campaign was over he would cut us adrift, jettison the movement that had brought him to power. Instead of using all those millions of people to force through ambitious health-care proposals or serious climate legislation or [fill in the blank yourself here], he governed as the opposite of a movement candidate.
As the months of his administration rolled into years, he only seemed to grow less interested in movements of any sort. Before long, people like Tom Donahue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, were topping the list of the most frequent visitors to the White House. And that was before this winter when — after they’d been the biggest contributors to GOP congressional candidates — Obama went on bended knee to Chamber headquarters, apologizing that he hadn’t brought a fruitcake along as a gift. (What is it with this guy and food? At any rate, he soon gave them a far better present, hiring former Chamber insider Bill Daley as his chief of staff.)
Now, his popularity tanking, Obama and his advisors talk about “tacking left” for the election. A nice thought, but maybe just a little late.
Increasingly, it seems to me, those of us who were ready to move with him four years ago are deciding to leave normal channels and find new forms of action. Here’s an example: by year’s end the president has said he will make a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry crude oil from the tar sands of northern Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico. The nation’s top climate scientists sent the administration a letter indicating that such a development would be disastrous for the climate. NASA’s James Hansen, the government’s top climate researcher, said heavily tapping tar-sands oil, a particularly “dirty” form of fossil fuel, would mean “game over for the climate.” Ten of the president’s fellow recent Nobel Peace Prize laureates pointed out in a letter that blocking the prospective pipeline would offer him a real leadership moment, a “tremendous opportunity to begin transition away from our dependence on oil, coal, and gas.”
But every indication from this administration suggests that it is prepared to grant the necessary permission for a project that has the enthusiastic backing of the Chamber of Commerce, and in which the Koch Brothers have a “direct and substantial interest.” And not just backing. To use the words of a recent New York Times story, they are willing to “flout the intent of federal law” to get it done. Check this out as well: the State Department, at the recommendation of Keystone XL pipeline builder TransCanada, hired a second company to carry out the environmental review. That company already considered itself a “major client” of TransCanada. This is simply corrupt, potentially the biggest scandal of the Obama years. And here’s the thing: it’s a crime still in progress. Watching the president do nothing to stop it is endlessly depressing.