Government launches probe of Keystone XL process for corruption

  • Published on November 7th, 2011

The Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry dirty tar sands oil from Canada all the way to Texas, has hit a major roadblock.

Politico broke the story: The State Department’s Office of the Inspector General will conduct an investigation into serious allegations that the Keystone approval process has been corrupted. As Politico notes, there have been “allegations of bias, influence peddling and conflicts of interest raised by environmental activists and more than a dozen congressional Democrats.”

“This is a critically important issue for our environment and the energy future of our country,” said Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT). “At a time when all credible scientific evidence and opinion indicate that we are losing the battle against global warming, it is imperative that we have objective environmental assessments of major carbon-dependent energy projects.”

Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN) issued a press release that welcomed the investiation:

“Given the significant economic, environmental, and public health implications of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, the American people deserve an accurate, unbiased review,” said Congressman Cohen, who was the only member of Congress to attend yesterday’s anti-Keystone rally outside the White House.  “The recent allegations of corruption and conflicts of interest are disconcerting, and I appreciate that the Office of Inspector General is investigating the State Department’s review process.  As stated in a previous letter to the President, I ask that he withhold any final decision on the pipeline until the investigation is complete.”

Cohen has been a leader on this issue; he’s one of the 14 members of Congress who pushed for the investigation, and was also the only member of Congress to make an appearance at yesterday’s rally at the White House, where more than 12,000 people asked President Obama to block the pipeline.

The biggest problem this investigation will address:

  • The State Department is supposed to vet TransCanada’s pipeline and give a thumbs up or down based on factors such as environmental impact. But it outsourced the research to a company called Cardno ENTRIX – which also lists TransCanada as a “major client”. Conflict of interest much?

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she has “no reason” to suspect the company might not have done a thorough job… other than the fact that the review completely papered-over and possible environmental impacts, despite the fact that Trans-Canada’s other tar sands pipeline has already had 12 major spills, and the Keystone XL route will take it through Nebraska’s Sand Hills region, where a blow-out would contaminate the Ogallala Aquifer, the source of drinking and irrigation water for most of the states of America’s heartland and a huge percentage of US agriculture.

Erich Pica, President of Friends of the Earth, (via A Siegel) also applauded the investigation:

“There is overwhelming evidence that the pipeline review process has been a sham, corrupted by bias, lobbyist influence and conflicts of interest. It should be obvious to the White House that it would be wholly inappropriate to continue moving forward with this rigged process while violations of law and federal regulations are being investigated.

“In contrast to what we have seen emerge thus far from the State Department, a fair, impartial review would take into account the tremendous harm that the pipeline and tar sands extraction linked to it would cause, as well as the risks of spills and other environmental damage. If a fair review that accurately reflects the true costs of the pipeline is conducted, President Obama will have little choice but to stop the pipeline.”

It’s not clear whether this investigation will also look at the fact that Broderick Johnson, a lobbyist who was recently paid $240,000 to lobby Congress, the State Department and the White House in favor of the Keystone XL pipeline – was hired last month by the Obama re-election campaign in a senior role.

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More on tar sands and the fight to prevent the Keystone XL pipeline:

(Photo Credits: Josh Lopez and Christine Irvine)



About the Author

Jeremy Bloom is the Editor of RedGreenAndBlue. He lives in New York, where he combines his passion for the environment with his passion for film, and is working on making the world a better place.

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