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As State Department begins additional Keystone XL review, new documents raise fresh concerns

Posted Nov. 17, 2011 / Posted by: Kelly Trout

For Immediate Release

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

As State Department begins additional Keystone XL review, new documents raise fresh concerns

Washington, D.C. -- A new tranche of internal State Department documents released today by public interest groups is raising fresh concerns about pro-pipeline bias -- just as the department begins a new review of the proposed Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline’s likely impacts.

“What we see in these new documents is additional evidence that State Department officials acted as though they were on the same team as TransCanada, rather than meeting their obligation to be independent regulators,” Friends of the Earth climate and energy director Damon Moglen said. “There are also a surprising number of redactions and withheld documents, begging the question: what is it that the State Department is covering up?”

Redactions litter a series of email exchanges around two internal State Department Keystone XL meetings, raising cover-up concerns. The excisions include correspondence involving Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Dan Clune and Assistant Secretary for Oceans, Environment, and Science Kerri-Ann Jones.

The documents were obtained via the Freedom of Information Act by Friends of the Earth, the Center for International Environmental Law and Corporate Ethics International, after the groups, represented by Earthjustice, sued the State Department to force their release.

Among other concerns, the documents:

  • Indicate State official Matthew McManus viewed a meeting with TransCanada as an opportunity to “be able to address the Nebraska/water issues with one voice,” raising the alarming possibility that State was collaborating with TransCanada to push back against Nebraskans’ concerns.
  • Demonstrate that in at least one lobby meeting orchestrated by Paul Elliott between TransCanada and the State Department, the controversial contractor Cardno Entrix was present.
  • Suggest State and TransCanada may have been coordinating on media strategy.
  • Show that State official Michael Stewart, who was called State’s “guru on all things Keystone XL” in one email, took a special tour of the Keystone I control room in Calgary with a TransCanada executive and in turn advocated high-level access for that executive.
  • Reference other documents that should have been provided or listed in response to the FOIA request but were not.

Earlier in November, the Inspector General of the State Department announced it was launching an investigation into wrongdoing in the department’s review of the Keystone XL pipeline. The investigation came in response to concerns raised by more than a dozen members of Congress led by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Congressman Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.).

“The further evidence of collaboration between State Department officials and TransCanada that these documents provide should disqualify the unrepentant State Department from playing any role in the new environmental review,” Moglen said. “Given that the State Department is already under investigation by its own Inspector General for conflicts of interest and potential malfeasance in its handling of the pipeline review process, it is neither appropriate nor acceptable that the department would remain in charge.”

The new tranche of documents, and a memo providing a more detailed overview of their contents, can be found at: http://www.foe.org/news/blog/new-keystone-xl-documents-raise-fresh-concerns-about-state-department

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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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