Updates: news releases and updates

State Department Refuses to Release Information on Tar Sands Oil Pipeline

Posted Jan. 12, 2011 / Posted by: Kelly Trout

For Immediate Release
January 12, 2010

Contact:
Kelly Trout, 202-222-0722, ktrout@foe.org
Alex Moore, 202-222-0733, amoore@foe.org

State Department Refuses to Release Information on Tar Sands Oil Pipeline

Freedom of Information Act request targeted correspondence between Secretary Clinton and her former high-ranking campaign staffer turned pipeline lobbyist

Former Clinton staffer also appears to have been lobbying without disclosing activities

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The U.S. State Department notified environmental groups last week that it has denied a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for correspondence between the agency and a former presidential campaign staffer of Hillary Clinton’s who in his new role as oil industry lobbyist is seeking Secretary of State Clinton’s approval for the controversial Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline.

The FOIA request was submitted by Friends of the Earth, Corporate Ethics International, and the Center for International Environmental Law and targeted Paul Elliott, lead Washington, D.C. lobbyist for TransCanada, the company aiming to build the pipeline.

In a related development, Environment and Energy Daily reported today that Elliott registered with the U.S. Congress as a lobbyist for TransCanada on December 16, 2010, three days after the groups publicly announced they had filed the FOIA request. Elliott’s registration form cites the Waxman-Markey climate and energy bill as one of his lobbying issues, which indicates that he has been lobbying without disclosing his activities for more than a year.

Marcie Keever, legal director for Friends of the Earth, characterized the State Department’s refusal to release the records as an “evasive maneuver.”

The State Department based its denial of the FOIA on two grounds, claiming the groups had not “reasonably described the records you seek in a way that someone familiar with Department records and programs could locate them” and citing the groups’ request for a waiver on the fees associated with the processing of the FOIA.

Keever concluded, “We do not believe that the State Department has legitimate legal grounds to deny our FOIA request, and assert that the agency is ignoring its own written guidance regarding FOIA requests and the release of public information. This is the type of delay tactic we would have expected from the Bush administration, not the Obama administration, which has touted its efforts to usher in a new era of transparency in government, including elevated standards in dealing with lobbyists.”

Friends of the Earth is committed to continuing its efforts to obtain the records from the State Department despite the initial denial.

The Keystone XL pipeline would be constructed by Canadian oil and gas giant TransCanada. If approved by the Obama administration, it would bring high-carbon, dirty tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas to Gulf Coast refineries near Houston at a rate of 900,000 barrels per day.

The Freedom of Information Act request submitted to the State Department is available at: http://www.foe.org/sites/default/files/FOIA-request-State-Department-Paul-Elliott-Keystone-XL-pipeline.pdf

The State Department’s notice denying the FOIA request is available at: http://www.foe.org/sites/default/files/FOIA-Response-State-Department.pdf

Paul Elliott’s lobbying registration form (signed December 16, 2010) is available at: http://www.foe.org/sites/default/files/Paul_Elliott_Registration.pdf

More information about the Keystone XL pipeline is available at: http://www.foe.org/projects/climate-and-energy/tar-sands/keystone-xl-pipeline


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