Lobbyists for Canadian Pipeline Have Deep Ties to White House
By Pratap Chatterjee
June 01, 2013
Clearing House" -
TransCanada and the provincial government of Alberta are paying
former advisors to the Obama administration - as well as former
staff of the Hillary Clinton and John Kerry presidential
campaigns - to help them lobby for the proposed Keystone XL
pipeline to transport tar sands fuel to the U.S.
The pipeline from Alberta - which is to be built by TransCanada
- has been delayed for over four years pending approval from the
U.S. State Department which has final say because it crosses the
international border. President Barack Obama is expected to
announce a decision this fall in consultation with John Kerry,
who took over the State Department earlier this year from Hilary
conflicts of interest for these three top Democratic party
officials have been uncovered by Friends of the Earth U.S.
This came soon after Mother Jones magazine uncovered evidence
that TransCanada has had strong contractual relationships with
the firm that provided a positive environmental review of the
pipeline for the State department.
"No one can deny that
this kind of influence trading is not in the national interest
when it could sway a decision that is bad for the planet and
bad for the country," Ross Hammond, a senior campaigner for
Friends of the Earth told the Financial Times.
Tar sands are
thick, sticky, oil-bearing clay-like deposits (the industry
term is oil sands) that are laboriously extracted from locations
like Alberta's pristine boreal forests and then processed into
crude oil for gasoline. Canada is already the U.S.'s largest
shipping roughly 2.2 million barrels a day - much of which
is from tar sands. The Keystone XL pipeline will carry an
additional 1.1 million barrels of crude oil 1,700 miles south to
refineries in the U.S. Gulf Coast, where it can be processed for
Between two and four tons of tar sand and two to four barrels of
water are needed to produce a single barrel of oil, which
ultimately releases three times more carbon dioxide than typical
Activists like 350.org and the Sierra Club have campaigned
heavily against the pipeline because of the global warming
consequences as well as the potential pollution impact. "Tar
sands is not traditional oil," writes Van Jones, founder of
Rebuild the Dream. "It is a
pipe-eating, planet-cooking, water-fouling goo that nobody knows
how to get out of our water."
In order the resolve the matter, the State Department
commissioned an environmental impact assessment. In March 2013,
a 2,000 page draft was published that suggested that the impact
of the pipeline was not as bad as environmental activists
Environmental groups, as well as the administrationís own
Environmental Protection Agency, strongly disagree.
Recently is has come to light that for the last two years the
State Department has been lobbied by the individuals who had
previously worked for Clinton, Kerry and Obama.
* TransCanada has paid at least $1.1 million to Paul Elliott, a
former member of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign team in
2008. Eliott worked on setting up meetings between State
department officials and TransCanada executives in 2011.
* A public relations agency run by Anita Dunn, Barack Obama's
former communications director at the White House, was hired by
TransCanada to direct advertisements to support Keystone in
* Bryan Cave, another Washington lobbying firm, was paid just
over a third of a million dollars by TransCanada. The firm's
team included Brandon Pollak, a former member of John Kerry's
presidential campaign team. Major lobbyists like McKenna, Long
and Aldridge, who have deep connections to the Clintons were
also paid almost $100,000
* Graham Shalgian of Rasky Baerlein and David Castagnetti of
Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti - both of whom worked on John Kerry's
presidential campaign team -were paid by the government of
Alberta to "educate" US government officials about the province
and Keystone XL.
"We look for good, strong, experienced, capable and ethical
people who can give us the advice we need so we have a chance to
present the truth about our company, our operations or a new
project," Shawn Howard, a TransCanada spokesman, told the
Financial Times. "Some of the principals might know John Kerry,
but there's no end of people who know him," Cal Dallas,
Alberta's minister of international and intergovernmental
But TransCanada has other conflicts of interest also - it has
also employed staff at Environmental Resources Management (ERM),
the international consulting firm that conducted the impact
assessment for the State department that came out in March.
Activists were very critical of the draft. "The
number of problems identified was so numerous that you'd think
the oil industry itself had written State's report for them,"
wrote Steve Kretzmann of Oil Change International. "Well,
unfortunately it appears that may not be all that far from the
Days later Mother Jones magazine obtained a copy of the original
documentation for the assessment that showed some significant
conflicts of interest. "ERM's
second-in-command on the Keystone report, Andrew Bielakowski,
had worked on three previous pipeline projects for TransCanada
over seven years as an outside consultant. He also consulted on
projects for ExxonMobil, BP, and ConocoPhillips, three of the
Big Five oil companies that could benefit from the Keystone XL
project," wrote Andy Kroll.
"Another ERM employee who contributed to State's Keystone
report-and whose prior work history was also redacted-previously
worked for Shell Oil; a third worked as a consultant for Koch
Gateway Pipeline Company, a subsidiary of Koch Industries. Shell
and Koch have a significant financial interest in the
construction of the Keystone XL pipeline." ERM is also a paid
member of the American Petroleum Institute which has been
vociferous in its support for the pipeline.
Activists have also noted that in the documentation shows that
ERM replied in the negative to a question over whether it had
any relationship with TransCanada when applying for the
an oil company contractor to review an oil pipeline that its
clients have a financial interest in should be illegal - and it
is," wrote Gabe Elsner on a website called Checks and
Balances. "Instead...a fossil fuel contractor, hid its ties from
the State Department so they could green light the project on
behalf of its oil company clients.
In the meantime groups are calling for Kerry to halt the review
process and have the State Department conduct an Inspector
General investigation to look at ERMís ties to TransCanada and
the State Departmentís attempt to cover-up those ties.
Elsner submitted a complaint to the
State Department inspector general which may be looking into the
matter now although they have refused to confirm or deny
that an investigation is taking place.
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