Climate & Energy Blog

Groundhog Day with State Dept conflicts of interest

Posted Jun. 11, 2013 / Posted by: Adam Russell

Below is a statement from Friends of the Earth president Erich Pica given at a press conference regarding the conflicts of interest in the Keystone XL review process:

Good morning, my name is Erich Pica; I am president of Friends of the Earth, United States. Friends of the Earth is a national environmental advocacy organization representing more than 200,000 members and activists and is part of Friends of the Earth International, the world’s largest federation of grassroots environmental groups with member groups in 74 countries.  

Today feels like Groundhog Day with the Department of State. More than a year ago, Friends of the Earth, along with members of Congress including Sen. Sanders of Vermont and Rep. Cohen from Tennessee, charged the State Department with gross negligence for failing to properly vet the consulting firm Cardio Entrix for improper conflicts of interest. Now, more than a year later, we are at a similar juncture with the State Department apparently actively trying to hide potential conflicts of interests with their new contractor, Environmental Resources Management. 

I wish this were a surprise. Since TransCanada first submitted its application in 2008, the State Department’s handling of the Keystone review has been plagued by conflicts of interest, insider influence and a heavy pro-pipeline bias.

The State Dept. should be an honest broker, not a cheerleader for the oil industry. Just like the last time, the Clinton State Department hired a company with deep ties to the oil industry. So it should be no surprise that also like last time that report showed no significant climate or environmental effects. What else would you expect from a paid-in-full member of the American Petroleum Institute?

On the one hand the EPA and the scientific community agree that the State Department report is a joke, and that it glosses over the huge climate impacts of the pipeline. On the other hand, the oil industry and its supporters in Congress are ecstatic about the report and have been touting this report as proof that the pipeline is in the national interest. This should tell you all you need to know. 

TransCanada and Alberta have hired an army of lobbyists, many of them former Obama and Kerry advisers, to make sure the administration approves this dirty, dangerous and unnecessary pipeline. So the question is will Secretary Kerry listen to the EPA and the scientific community, or will the oil industry triumph once again? A good first sign would be to launch an investigation into how ERM, a company that should have been rejected out of hand for its clear conflicts of interest, was awarded the pipeline review in the first place and why staff at the State Department attempted to cover up its ties with the oil industry.

Secretary of State Kerry has been an environmental and climate champion throughout his career in Senate. There he was one of 100 voices working the legislative process. As Secretary of State he is the head executive of the State of Department. His singular voice can release information requested through the Freedom of Information Act, his singular voice can instruct his staff and employees to do better by the American people and produce an environmental impact statement report that isn’t tainted by conflicts of interests, and his singular voice can ensure that the scientific communities concern of the climate impacts of the tar sands development is fully incorporated in the environmental impact statement. 

Today feels like Groundhog Day. Fortunately, Secretary of State Kerry has the authority to end this ridiculous rerun. He just needs to exercise his authority. According to this weeks International Energy Agency report, the 1.4 percent increase in energy related carbon dioxide emissions, dictates that we can do nothing less.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons

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