Environmentalists Sue State Department Over Keystone Documents

Wednesday, 17 Jul 2013 03:39 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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The environmentalist group Friends of the Earth filed lawsuit Tuesday against the State Department seeking the release of communications it had with lobbyists who were seeking approval for the controversial Keystone XL oil-sands pipeline project.

In its lawsuit, the group says the department failed to provide critical information that shows several lobbyists had either worked for Secretary of State John Kerry or former Secretary Hillary Clinton, reports The Hill.

The group claims the documents would allow it to find out how decisions were made and the role lobbyists are playing in the process to approve the pipeline.

State refused to process a Freedom of Information Act request in April for the documents and the green group says the records will lose value as the review process moves forward.

Because the pipeline is an international project, bringing oil from Alberta across the border and into Gulf Coast refineries, the State Department is heading up the review. The final say over the pipeline rests in President Barack Obama's hands, and Friends of the Earth is also pointing at ties he may have with pro-Keystone lobbyists.

Friends of the Earth also claimed last week that London-based Environmental Resources Management, a firm the State Department hired to assess the pipeline's impact, has a conflict of interest with TransCanada Pipelines Ltd., which owns Keystone, along with other oil companies, reports The Financial Post.

State Department Spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki denied that there is any conflict of interest, however, saying the department's "rigorous conflict of interest procedures ensure that no contractors or subcontractors have financial or other interests in the outcome of a project."

And while she didn't specifically address the Friends of the Earth allegations, she emphasized that the contractor "certifies that it has not had, and does not have, any direct contracts with the applicant."

The pipeline, if approved, will carry about 830,000 barrels a day from the oil sands of Alberta and shale formations in the U.S. across six U.S. states. The administration has already approved the line’s southern leg to relieve an oil glut in Cushing, Okla., and oil and gas producers say the project will create thousands of jobs and boost U.S. energy security.

Environmentalists argue that the process for turning oil sands into fuel releases greater greenhouse gases than traditional oil, and that there are risks the pipeline could burst, spewing toxic sludge into communities along the route.

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