SYS-CON MEDIA Authors: Roberto Medrano, Dmitriy Stepanov, Gilad Parann-Nissany, Srinivasan Sundara Rajan, Sean Houghton

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Statement from NextGen Climate Action Keystone Campaign Manager Mike Casey on the Need for Senate Investigative Hearings

WASHINGTON, Feb. 4, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- There's a lot Americans deserve to know about the work and the conduct of the State Department staff who pushed the Keystone XL Environmental Impact Statement into its final form last week.

The foremost concern is the omission of the strikingly clear, recent statements by tar sand executives (here, here and here) that the pipeline is essential to their ability to drive the extraction of tar sands oil. Together, these statements directly contradict the premise of the Final Environmental Impact Statement – that there is no carbon pollution impact from this project because the oil will be coming out of the ground one way or another.

These industry statements form yet another proof point that Keystone fails the President's climate change test that he established in June and that this Environmental Impact Statement fails Secretary Kerry, the President and the American public.

Important constituencies need and deserve information on this Keystone XL decision: The President, who just last week reiterated that climate change is a fact, has worked to make significant progress on climate; Secretary John Kerry, a historic champion for addressing the global climate change crisis; and the American people, who are affected every day by the consequences of climate change, including extreme weather.

We call on the Senate to use its oversight authority to ask tough questions and get answers on a troubling fact pattern:  

  • The State Department hired a TransCanada contractor, Environmental Resources Management, to draft the Environmental Impact Statement.
  • There is a pending investigation by the State Department's Inspector General's office into the apparent conflicts between Environmental Resources Management and TransCanada, including the handling of information about the conflicts by State Department staff.
  • There are serious concerns that Environmental Resources Management's ties to TransCanada tainted its analysis in favor of building the Keystone XL pipeline.
  • Despite the pending Inspector General's investigation, State Department officials continued to insist the Environmental Resources Management was vetted via a "rigorous" process to root out conflicts of interest.
  • A Canadian Press story last week suggested that the Harper government received advance, insider notice regarding the substance of the Environmental Impact Statement before the Americans were provided the information. 

NextGen Climate Action has long contended that the pipeline will enable the extraction of the world's dirtiest oil for export to China and other U.S. economic competitors. Given last week's Canadian Press story, it would appear that not only does the pipeline go through – and not to – the U.S., but that there is a direct pipeline between bureaucrats at the State Department and foreign interests.

Given last year's revelations that the Harper government spies on its own citizens in order to brief TransCanada and other tar sands companies on anti-tar sands citizen groups, is it realistic to think that Ottawa did not brief TransCanada on the intelligence it received? More importantly, did TransCanada get direct intelligence from these same State Department bureaucrats?

We see no circumstances under which aiding foreign interests ahead of Americans would be a service to the President, Secretary John Kerry, or the American public.

It is worth noting that all of this is taking place in the context TransCanada continuing to skate around the question how much crude or refined oil from Keystone XL will be exported overseas – despite repeated assurances that Keystone is "energy from a trusted ally" for America.

This situation demands the U.S. Senate, which oversight responsibility, to immediately hold hearings that force people to testify under oath what insider information was provided to foreign interests and when such insider information was provided. 

Before this process moves forward, the public deserves to know answers to some simple questions:

  • Who approved the hiring of Environmental Resources Management?
  • Once the Inspector General's investigation was under way, who authorized the repeated assertion of "rigorous conflict of interest procedures?" These procedures apparently don't include simple Internet searches that would have shown Environmental Resources Management's connection to TransCanada.
  • Who in the State Department drove this process, and what were their qualifications for producing the Environmental Impact Statement?
  • How many times has Environmental Resources Management, or the group of State Department staff that worked on the Environmental Impact Statement, found an unacceptably high environmental impact for any project?
  • Most importantly, who provided advance warning to a foreign government about the contents of the Environmental Impact Statement before telling our own Senate?
  • As a result of communications with foreign interests, was TransCanada and/or the American Petroleum Institute informed of the Environmental Impact Statement's contents in advance? If so, who at the State Department told them?
  • Why were the recent statements by TransCanada and the tar sands industry about the critical need for Keystone XL to escalate the extraction of tar sands not factored into the Environmental Impact Statement, when that document released Friday asserted the exact opposite? What did these State Department bureaucrats know that the tar sands industry doesn't?
  • Why won't TransCanada and the tar sands lobby provide sworn statements about how much of Keystone's oil, once refined, would stay in the U.S.?

Where there is smoke there is fire. Given the smoke swirling around this Environmental Impact Statement, it is critical that the Senate ask these important questions on behalf of the American people — the people Senators represent.

SOURCE NextGen Climate Action

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