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A polluted process: Keystone XL, the State Department and conflicts of interest

Posted Sep. 27, 2013 / Posted by: Ross Hammond

New infographic shows State Department Keystone XL review compromised from Day 1

The showdown over Obamacare isn't the only reckless political ploy that threatens to shut down the government.  Republicans in Congress pushing the Keystone XL pipeline say they will not vote to raise the nation's debt ceiling, which would allow the government to pay for what it has already spent, unless the Obama Administration fast-tracks approval of the project. It's a high-stakes gambit that, as Adam Kolton of the National Wildlife Federation says, amounts to "trying to take America’s economy hostage to deliver Canadian oil to the international market.”

Pipeline proponents are hoping to force President Obama's hand by short-circuiting the State Department's ongoing review of the pipeline's environmental impact. So far the White House is standing firm. A spokesman said: “The president has demonstrated his fidelity to the State Department finishing its review, as part of the transparent and rigorous process that will determine whether the pipeline is in the best interests of the United States. That’s how this merit-based determination will be made.”

But just how “transparent and rigorous” and "merit-based" has the review really been? The truth is that from day one, the State Department's review of the pipeline has been polluted by conflicts of interest, insider lobbying and the heavy hand of Big Oil. A new infographic just released by Friends of the Earth and 350.org gives the details: To conduct the crucial evaluation of the pipeline's environmental impacts, the State Department has repeatedly turned to contractors hand-picked by pipeline builder TransCanada. So it's no wonder that the Canadian government, TransCanada, Congressional Republicans and the oil industry have all along all lavished praise on the State Department's reviews of Keystone XL.

Following  scandals with the first two environmental reviews the job was given to Environmental Resources Management, which lied on its conflict of interest disclosure form when it said it had no business relationship with TransCanada or other oil companies with a stake in the tar sands. ERM's lies, and its longstanding deep connections with the global petroleum industry, have led to a conflict of interest inquiry by the State Department's inspector general, which is expected to be done early next year.

Follow the trail of the tainted process below, and it's clear that the pipeline's review has been severely compromised at every turn. The fact is that President Obama already has enough information to reject the pipeline. It will increase global warming, pose a risk to clean water and farmland along its 1,700 mile route from Alberta to the Gulf Coast, provide fewer than three dozen permanent jobs, and most of its oil will not end up in Americans' gas tanks but will be exported overseas. The bottom line: it's not in the national interest, and President Obama should reject it.  

 (Click here to view the backgrounder for this new infographic)

Photo: Julia Kilpatrick, The Pembina Institute

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