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State Department IG Investigation of Keystone XL Pipeline Could Halt Approval Process

The news that the State Department Inspector General will investigate the process involving State’s environmental impact study on the Keystone XL pipeline that allegedly was the product of a massive conflict of interest throws a significant spanner in the gears moving to get the pipeline approved. With an open investigation, it would simply be difficult for the President to rubber-stamp the pipeline. Not to mention the environmental community’s insistent pressure on the President to block it.

This is an issue where the activist community and allies in Congress combined to move things forward:

Reports have surfaced that a company involved in the environmental review had listed developer TransCanada as a “major client” […]

The review request was led by Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Representative Steve Cohen of Tennessee, both Democrats.

“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,” Mr Sanders said.

In an October letter, Mr Sanders and Mr Cohen specifically asked the state department’s inspector general to look at all contractual or financial ties between the consultant, Houston-based Cardno Entrix and TransCanada.

They also asked for a review of state department emails related to a TransCanada lobbyist who had worked in Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign.

Adam Siegel writes that enviro groups leaped on the news of the investigation. Friends of the Earth lauded the review, “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.” Tar Sands Action had more.

I think the Obama Administration finds this to be a hassle that they just want to go away, and this investigation gives them an opportunity. They can tell the oil industry that they have to wait for the results of the review. Obviously vigilance is needed, but the IG report is helpful to the cause.

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David Dayen

David Dayen