Keystone XL Pipeline: Why Are Big Oil's Hired Guns Getting Paid by the Government?

This article has been cross-posted from DeSmogBlog.

The contractor the Obama U.S. State Department hired to write the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) of the northern half of TransCanada’s Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline overtly lied on its conflict-of-interest disclosure form that it signed and handed to the State Department in June 2012.

A major research dossier unfurled today by Friends of the Earth-U.S. (FOE-U.S.) and The Checks & Balances Project (CBP) shows that Environmental Resources Management, Inc. (ERM Group) played “Pinocchio” in explaining its ties — or as they say, lack thereof — to Big Oil, tar sands, and TransCanada in particular on its conflict-of-interest form.

The two groups dug deep and revealed State’s contractor ERM and its subsidiary Oasis Environmental both have ongoing contractual relationships with the Alaska Gas Project — now known as the South Central LNG Project — co-owned by TransCanada, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, and BP. Further, ERM’s Socioeconomic Advisor Mark Jennings served as a “consultant to ExxonMobil Development Company for the Alaska Pipeline Project," according to his now-scrubbed LinkedIn profile.

ERM’s own documents, FOE-U.S. and CBP further explain, also reveal the multinational firm has business ties with over a dozen companies active in the Alberta tar sands, including Exxon, Shell, Chevron, Conoco Phillips, Total, and Syncrude.

On its conflict-of-interest form, ERM said it had no “direct or indirect relationship … with any business entity that could be affected in any way by the proposed work.” Clearly, that’s far from the case.

In March, ERM Group — a City of London-based dues-paying member of the American Petroleum Institute (API) with a history of rubber-stamping ecologically hazardous oil and gas infrastructure projects — said KXL’s northern half ”is unlikely to have a substantial impact on the rate of development” of the tar sands in its SEIS. Thus, it will also have little impact on climate change, according to ERM’s SEIS, contracted out by TransCanada on behalf of the State Department.

FOE-U.S. says these most recent developments further call the entire SEIS into question, and that doesn’t include the fact that State recently revealed it’s clueless as to the exact route of the Keystone XL.

“From the beginning, the State Department’s review of Keystone has been plagued by influence peddling and conflicts of interest,” said FOE-U.S.’s Ross Hammond in a press statement. “This is more serious: If ERM lied about its relationship with TransCanada, how can Secretary Kerry, President Obama, or the American people believe anything the company says about the pipeline’s environmental impact?”

As PLATFORM London explains, ERM Group, which was also a dues-paying member of fracking industry lobbying force Marcellus Shale Coalition up until Oct. 2011, is part of the “Carbon Web.” That’s shorthand for “the network of relationships between oil and gas companies and the government departments, regulators, cultural institutions, banks and other institutions that surround them.”

Given the state of play, both FOE-U.S. and CBP have called for State’s Office of the Inspector General to conduct a thorough investigation, examining how and why ERM was chosen. They’ve also called for a complete halt in the KXL review process until that transpires.

“Secretary Kerry must halt this flawed review process and direct the State Department to conduct a full, unbiased review of the Keystone XL pipeline’s impact,” Gabe Elsner, director of CBP, said in a press statement.

“In addition, the State Department Inspector General should pursue a full investigation into how a contractor with clear conflicts of interest was allowed to write the U.S. government’s assessment of Keystone XL and why the State Department failed to bring those conflicts of interest to light. Finally, the State Department should determine appropriate disciplinary actions for ERM to discourage contractors from lying to the federal government in the future.”

How likely are you to make Mic your go-to news source?

Steve Horn

Steve Horn is a Research Fellow at DeSmogBlog, Contributing Editor at CounterPunch and regulator contributor for TruthOut.

MORE FROM

Democrats on Neil Gorsuch's first Supreme Court term: "We've got another Scalia"

Some say Gorsuch's even-handed performance during his confirmation hearings "might be more an act than it was a real persona."

Fox News just hired US Rep. Jason Chaffetz as a correspondent

Chaffetz is headed to Fox.

Here are the key rulings from the Supreme Court's busy June term

The court's term ended with rulings on immigration, the First Amendment, LGBTQ rights and more.

These 3 Republican governors could pose the biggest threat to the Senate health care bill

Why some Republican governors oppose their own party's health care bill

When it comes to upholding the Paris climate agreement, America's mayors are leading the way

In spite of an uncooperative U.S. government, mayors around the world are working together to set the agenda on climate change.

The fatal Hillsborough Stadium Disaster is back in the news 30 years later. Here's why.

What was the Hillsborough Stadium disaster?

Democrats on Neil Gorsuch's first Supreme Court term: "We've got another Scalia"

Some say Gorsuch's even-handed performance during his confirmation hearings "might be more an act than it was a real persona."

Fox News just hired US Rep. Jason Chaffetz as a correspondent

Chaffetz is headed to Fox.

Here are the key rulings from the Supreme Court's busy June term

The court's term ended with rulings on immigration, the First Amendment, LGBTQ rights and more.

These 3 Republican governors could pose the biggest threat to the Senate health care bill

Why some Republican governors oppose their own party's health care bill

When it comes to upholding the Paris climate agreement, America's mayors are leading the way

In spite of an uncooperative U.S. government, mayors around the world are working together to set the agenda on climate change.

The fatal Hillsborough Stadium Disaster is back in the news 30 years later. Here's why.

What was the Hillsborough Stadium disaster?