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Internal State Department emails provide evidence of bias in Keystone XL pipeline review

Posted Sep. 22, 2011 / Posted by: Kelly Trout

For Immediate Release
September 22, 2011

Contact:
Kelly Trout, 202-222-0722, ktrout@foe.org
Emilie Openchowski, 202-222-0723, eopenchowski@foe.org

Public interest groups call on Obama to heed credible independent experts’ analyses and reject dangerous tar sands oil pipeline

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Email correspondence between State Department employees and a TransCanada pipeline lobbyist who served as a top aide on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign provides evidence of bias in the review of the proposed Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline.

The emails, released by Friends of the Earth after they were obtained via the federal Freedom of Information Act, are between the Office of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Paul Elliott, the TransCanada lobbyist. They indicate that officials at the State Department provided information about the agency’s internal thinking and coached TransCanada on what to say during the legally mandated environmental review process.

“Nearly one year ago, Secretary Clinton said she was ‘inclined’ to approve this dangerous pipeline. Now we have evidence that her employees sought to help TransCanada get a rubber stamp,” said Damon Moglen, climate and energy director at Friends of the Earth. “The pro-industry bias exhibited in these emails and elsewhere show the State Department has failed to live up to President Obama’s pledge to ensure that lobbyists’ ‘days of setting the agenda are over.’”

On top of showing the existence of a cozy relationship between Elliott and State Department employees, the emails raise serious questions about an oily State Department revolving door. A key State official who, according to the emails, coached TransCanada on what to say during the environmental review process subsequently left the department, joined a firm that represents oil interests and testified before Congress in favor of the Keystone XL pipeline. The same official, David Goldwyn, was described in a WikiLeak from 2009 as having “alleviated” Canadian officials’ concerns about pipeline approval and providing them with public relations advice, as reported by the Los Angeles Times in July.

“While the State Department has failed to act in the public interest, President Obama can still do the right thing. If the president heeds credible, independent analyses about the dangers of tar sands oil and listens to the concerns of communities, he will have no choice but to reject this pipeline,” Moglen said.

The emails were obtained by Friends of the Earth, the Center for International Environmental Law and Corporate Ethics International after the groups, represented by Earthjustice, were forced to sue the State Department in May 2011 to make it to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request originally filed in December 2010.

“This is the kind of thing that was supposed to end with the MMS scandal,” said Kenny Bruno, campaign director at Corporate Ethics International. “With the country in need of breaking dependence on oil, we’re asking the president to make sure that bias toward the oil industry is not allowed to rule the day at any agency, including the State Department.”

“The State Department dragged its feet and refused to release these documents in a timely matter, which is the reason we filed a lawsuit to force it to do so,” said Stephen Porter, senior attorney with the Center for International Environmental Law. “The public has a right to know the extent of the State Department’s dealings with this oil lobbyist.”

“These are just the first documents released by the State Department. The department has a legal obligation under the Freedom of Information Act to release all additional communications it has had with Paul Elliott, so more correspondence between the State Department and Elliott should be immediately forthcoming,” said Sarah Burt, an attorney with Earthjustice.

The Washington Post reported on the emails this morning: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/transcanada-pipeline-lobbyist-works-all-the-angles-with-former-colleagues/2011/09/16/gIQAYq3BnK_story.html

The State Department documents released so far in response to the FOIA request are available at: http://www.foe.org/news/blog/2011-09-internal-state-department-documents-raise-concerns-n

More information on our FOIA request, appeal and lawsuit is available at: http://www.foe.org/news/archives/2011-01-groups-question-role-of-oil-lobbyist-in-state-depart

More information on the Keystone XL pipeline is available at: http://www.foe.org/keystone-xl-pipeline

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Friends of the Earth fights to defend the environment and create a more healthy and just world. Our campaigns focus on promoting clean energy and solutions to climate change, keeping toxic and risky technologies out of the food we eat and products we use, and protecting marine ecosystems and the people who live and work near them.

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