Mother Jones Magazine has uncovered a new twist in the fight against the Keystone XL pipeline. As it turns out the authors who drafted the environmental review of the Keystone XL pipeline worked for TransCanada, Koch Industries, Shell Oil, and other oil corporations that stand to benefit from building the Keystone XL. Not only did the State Department know about these conflicts of interest, they redacted this information from public filings in attempt to conceal the truth.
For background, the Keystone XL is a proposed oil pipeline that would ship sour crude oil from the Canadian tar sands to the Gulf coast of Texas. The oil would then be refined and shipped abroad.
In order to build the pipeline, Transcanada, the company who proposed Keystone XL, must get the OK from the State Department. The State Department bases its decision on whether or not to approve the pipeline on an environmental review, conducted by a third party group overseen by the State Department and paid for by Transcanada.
This review, called the "draft supplemental environmental impact statement" was released earlier this month. It has been widely criticized as downplaying the impact that building Keystone XL will have on the climate, and all but paving the way for approval for the project.
The review was conducted by a company called Environmental Resources Management (ERM). When ERM released its review of Keystone, it also released a 55 page filing claiming that there was no conflicts of interest in writing the report. However, the State Department redacted information from this filing, including the biographies of key experts involved in writing the report.
According to Mother Jones, those redactions were meant to keep ties between the report authors and Transanada a secret from the public. Here is what the State Department was covering up:
- 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 and increased extraction of heavy crude oil taken from the Canadian tar sands.
- 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 itself has worked for Chevron, which has invested in Canadian tar sands extraction, according to its website.
However, this is not the first time that the State Department has been criticized for conflicts of interests involving TransCanada and Keystone XL.
From Mother Jones:
In October 2011, Obama's reelection campaign hired Broderick Johnson, who had previously lobbied in favor of Keystone, as a senior adviser. Emails obtained by Friends of the Earth, an environmental group that opposes the Keystone pipeline, revealed a cozy relationship between TransCanada lobbyist Paul Elliott and Marja Verloop, an official at the US Embassy in Canada whose portfolio covers the Keystone project. Before he lobbied for TransCanada, Elliott worked as deputy campaign manager on Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential bid. Clinton served as secretary of state until recently.
The question is, how can the State Department get away with routinely ignoring or burying connections between the oil industry and regulators responsible for Keystone XL?
As many people who watch the oil industry know, oil spills are not avoidable, preventable, or unlikely. From extraction to combustion, oil is a destructive and dirty business, based on sacrificing the health of environments and peoples for corporate profits.
This fact was especially evident last week, when Exxon’s Pegasus pipeline spilled over 150,000 gallons of toxic tar sands crude oil into Lake Conway and adjoining neighborhoods in Mayflower, Arkansas.
However, Exxon’s Mayflower spill is not an isolated incident. In fact, there were three other significant oil spills that occurred last week.
The spills, which were the result of both train derailments and pipeline ruptures, spilled many hundreds of thousands of gallons of toxic crude oil in and around neighborhoods, marshes, and rivers.
March 26 - Train Derailment in Minnesota - 30,000 gallons of crude oil spilled
Last week's cacophony of oil industry irresponsibility began with a train derailment in Minnesota, which spilled 30,000 gallons of crude oil. The oil was from Canada which has become a top exporter of crude to the United States because of their exploitation of the tar sands in Alberta.
In a fit of ill-timed opportunism, supporters of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would pump tar sands oil from Canada to the gulf coast, used this this spill as a justification for building the tar sands pipeline. A spokesman for North Dakota Senator John Hoeven, who has been one of the chief political proponents of the Keystone XL pipeline, had this to say:
"It should be clear that we need to move more oil by pipeline rather than by rail or truck...This is why we need the Keystone XL. Pipelines are both safe and efficient."
March, 29 - Lake Conoway, Arkansas - 156,000 gallons of tar sands crude oil spilled
In an incident that should make anyone question the "safety and efficiency" of oil pipelines, Exxon’s Pegasus Pipeline spilled 157,000 gallons of tar sands crude into Lake Conway and surrounding neighborhoods in Arkansas. Since the spill, Exxon has limited press access to the spill site, oiled animals, and even the skies above the spill area. Exxon has even claimed that Lake Conway has been unaffected by the oil spill, though Arkansas Attorney General Dustin Mcdaniel has set that particular record straight.
"Of course there's oil in Lake Conway"
April, 3 - Houston, Texas - 30,000 gallons of crude oil spilled
Four days after Exxon's Pegasus pipeline ruptured and seven days after Keystone XL pipeline proponents claimed "pipelines are both safe and efficient," a Shell pipeline running through a bayou outside of Houston spilled 30,000 gallons of oil into the Texas marsh. The actual amount of oil spilled by Shell's West Columbia Pipeline is still unknown, as the cause of the leak has not been released by Shell.
April, 3 - White River, Ontario - 16,642 gallons of crude oil spilled
At the same time that Shell was spewing oil into the wetlands of Texas, a train derailment in White River, Ontario was leaking oil in Canada. Most people know White River as the original home of Winnie the Pooh, but it is also a major train depot for shipping crude oil. The company responsible claimed that 4 barrels of oil were spilled, though the actual number turned out to be 10 times larger, at 400 barrels. That's 16,642 gallons of toxic crude oil. Sorry Winnie.
As the oil industry proved this week, they are incapable of protecting people and the environment from their product. As Micheal Brune of Sierra Club said:
"In Ontario, the company said it spilled four barrels when it had actually spilled 400. In Arkansas, Exxon learned about the spill from a homeowner but kept pumping tar sands crude into the neighborhood for 45 minutes, and is bullying reporters who want to tell the public what's going on. In Texas, a major oil spill came to light that Shell had been denying for days. Transporting toxic crude oil -- and tar sands in particular -- is inherently dangerous, more so because oil companies care about profit, not public safety. This is why Keystone XL, at nine times the size of the Arkansas Pegasus pipeline, must never be built.”
If built, the Keystone XL pipeline will spill. Stop the Keystone XL pipeline.
Tomorrow, the American Legislative Exchange Council--known as ALEC--will host their 2012 Spring Task Force summit in Charlotte, NC. At tomorrow's meeting, the corporate front group will round up its various committees and prepare to peddle new state-level legislation to attack clean energy laws, protect polluting industries, privatize education, and suppress voters, among other big business schemes.
Need a refresher on ALEC? It's the group that brings state legislators to the table with representatives from major corporations in the sectors of energy, healthcare, tobacco, private prisons, and other groups to manipulate state politics to maximize their profits and limit their liabilities. These companies help craft template bills for state legislators to bring home and introduce in their respective statehouses.
Documents obtained and published by Common Cause now give us a roster of specific attendees at ALEC's environmental meetings, a consortium of state legislators and a who's who of the most offensive polluting political heavyweights including: Koch Industries, ExxonMobil, Duke Energy and Peabody. Participating legislators know well they're walking into a dirty party, sometimes using state taxpayer money to foot the bill.
The corporations that fund ALEC are well known for their political spending on both sides of the aisle. ALEC funders include Koch Industries, known for its coordinated political spending against President Obama, and Duke Energy, which is laying down a ten million dollar line of credit to host the Democratic National Convention in their hometown of Charlotte, NC. But these polluting companies are co-conspirators under the banner of ALEC, where partisan politics are set aside to focus on the mission of destroying environmental protections, clean energy competition and liability for crimes against both people and the ecosystems sustaining us.
So what exactly are ALEC and these oil, coal, chemical and public relations companies focusing on tomorrow?
According to their newest meeting memorandum, ALEC's Energy, Environment and Agriculture task force is going to discuss some pending model laws that ALEC will likely be approved for state distribution:
- The "Electricity Freedom Act" (really? Electricity Freedom?!) is a new attack on states with plans requiring companies to get a certain percentage of their electricity from renewable sources. This new bill is similar to other legislation ALEC has already peddled in several states and compliments an "email and telephone campaign" against state renewable energy standards, according to the Guardian.
- The "Coal Intrastate and Use Act" serves to prevent EPA from overruling state permits for coal mining and producing dirty coal products (like liquid coal for fuel) if all the coal operations are conducted within the borders of a single state.
- The "Resolution on U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement Accountability" mandates a report be filed on cities and states that have fallen short of their goals to reduce greenhouse gases through the Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, which has over 1,000 signatories. ALEC's new resolution then demands that any program that hasn't met its goal be canceled out right, voiding the Climate Protection Agreement altogether. Keeping in mind that ALEC's members like Koch and Exxon have fought greenhouse gas programs at every turn for years, it is obvious that this ALEC bill is meant for one thing, attacking programs that address carbon emissions.
- A resolution demanding the passage of the notorious federal REINS Act, which would give Congress the power to block the enforcement of just about any federal protection--clean air and water laws, safeguards for mine workers, prohibiting tobacco sales to kids, protection from discrimination, you name it. It's the ultimate gift from Congress to their corporate fundraisers who would like to avoid responsibility for...everything.
- The exhaustively-titled "Resolution Supporting a Reasonable Compliance Timeline and Economy-wide impact study of EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Rule" has a simple purpose: delay when coal-burning utilities have to reduce mercury pollution and other severely hazardous emissions. For major mercury polluters like Energy Future Holdings, American Electric Power, and Duke Energy, this is likely to be a popular item tomorrow.
Documents obtained and published by Common Cause also show us what ALEC's focal points have been for other meetings in the last two years. Here are a few examples:
- A resolution urging Congress and the State Department to push through TransCanada's Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. ALEC recycles a lofty jobs lie in their reasoning for this resolution, ignoring State Department KXL job estimates under 2,000 and a Cornell study warning that "There is evidence to suggest that the effects of KXL construction could very well lead to more jobs being lost than are created." How many jobs does ALEC assume? 120,000 -- see Greenpeace's letter to the SEC to understand how they were calculated by politics rather than reality. Go figure--the American Petroleum Institute and its largest members were in the room when this resolution was forged.
- A deceptive ALEC bill pushed by ExxonMobil that "discloses" chemicals used by the oil industry in fracking operations, but actually inserts loopholes to avoid disclosure of certain fracking chemicals. This bate-and-switch comes at a time when doctors are concerned about signing confidentiality agreements if they ask for disclosure of fracking chemicals when treating people who are exposed to chemicals from gas drilling.
- A resolution that would prevent EPA from recognizing coal ash as a hazardous substance (it contains neurotoxins, carcinogens and radioactive elements). This may well have served as the model for the coal ash amendment that is currently being tacked on to the federal transportation bill by Rep. David McKinley (R-WV). Coal ash was a repeated topic of discussion at ALEC's energy task force meetings over the last two years, according to their meeting documents.
Who exactly attends these events? Beyond ALEC staff and dozens of corporate representatives, industry front groups are also represented. Tomorrow will feature John Felmy of the American Petroleum Institute in a presentation on gas prices (spoiler alert: this crowd will probably blame the President). Next up: presentations from representatives of the Edison Electric Institute (utility trade group) and the Nuclear Energy Institute (nuclear industry lobby).
Perhaps most intriguing will be a chat about "The Dirty Truth Behind Reusable Bags" led by Charles Gerba, who will warn attendees that reusable bags will give them "projectile vomiting and diarrhea." Gerba may not mention this dramatic and messy sickness can be avoided by simply washing one's reusable bags, since Mark Daniels of Hilex Poly (a plastic bag company) regularly attends these meetings, and Gerba serves as an advisor to Hilex Poly.
ALEC always gets some of industry's most interesting mouthpieces to set the rhetorical tone for those attending ALEC's anti-environmental jamborees. Looking back to last August at ALEC's Energy, Environment, and Agriculture task force meeting in New Orleans, presenters included:
- Robert Bradley of the Institute for Energy Research, which made press recently when its sister group the American Energy Alliance spend $3.6 million on ads blaming the President for high gas prices. IER has a former Koch lobbyist on staff and has received $175,000 from Koch foundations in recent years as part of the climate denial network.
- Gerry Angevene of the Fraser Institute, another longtime player in the Koch- and Exxon-funded climate denial machine
- James Taylor of the Heartland Institute, which has helped champion ALEC efforts to confuse K-12 students about climate science. Heartland is currently in the middle of a crisis as corporate funders are distancing themselves from its comparison of terrorists and serial killers to those who recognize the reality of global warming. Seriously, they put the Unabomber on a billboard saying, "Do you still believe in global warming? I do. www.heartland.org"
- Craig Idso, whose nutjob Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change has been paid by the coal industry and the Heartland Institute to tell people that global warming is good for the planet. Craig Idso explained this nonsense to state legislators in August. As is the pattern here, see the Center's history of Koch- and Exxon-funding, as well as Idso's former employment at Peabody and work for the Western Fuels Association.
- Stephen Miller of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, which spends big on national advertisements promoting the idea that perhaps coal isn't inherently dirty, dangerous and deadly (it is). Miller, who is resigning from ACCCE this year after serving as a dilligent coal apologist for the last decade, came under Congressional fire in 2009 when it was revealed that ACCCE contractors forged letters on behalf of groups "representing senior citizens, minorities and veterans," including the NAACP.
Likely due to the publicity of ALEC Exposed and the recent mass migration of 16 companies and 34 state politicians away from ALEC (in response to controversial bills on voter suppression and Stand Your Ground laws that protected Trayvon Martin's killer), ALEC no longer includes the specific members of its task forces in the documents it mails to participants beforehand. ALEC's Energy task force as of June, 2011 shows the nefarious people who run this dirty operation, by name. People representing the following groups have been consistently present at recent ALEC meetings over the last couple years:
Oil and gas industry:
- Shell Oil
- American Petroleum Institute
- Occidental Petroleum
- Marathon Oil
- Continental Resources
- American Gas Association (trade association)
- Peabody Energy
- Cloud Peak Energy
- Duke Energy & Progress Energy (which are merging into the nation's largest utility company)
- Energy Future Holdings
- American Electric Power
- PacifiCorp (a MidAmerican subsidiary, owned by Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway)
- Alliant Energy
- Pinnacle West
- MDU Resources
- NV Energy
- Edison Electric Institute (trade association, membership includes all utilities above)
- American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (membership includes AEP, Peabody, and Energy Future Holdings subsidiary Luminant)
- Salt River Project
- National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (an aggressive lobbying group for electrical utility cooperatives and top political donor in the energy sector)
- Nuclear Energy Institute (trade association)
- Duke, Progress, AEP, and Pinnacle West all have notable nuclear generation capacity
Other major polluters:
- Dow Agrosciences
- International Paper
- American Chemistry Council (top trade association for chemical companies)
- Bayer Healthcare (Bayer is the country's top air polluter according the Political Economy Research Institute at U-Mass, Amherst)
- Honeywell (#31 on PERI's toxic air polluters list)
- General Motors (GM has a history of climate denial, although GM Foundation just dumped the Heartland Institute)
- LyondellBasell Industries (third largest chemical company in the world)
Front groups, all involved in climate science denial (Koch funding since 2005):
- Americans for Prosperity ($5,760,781)
- Atlas Economic Research Foundation ($152,600)
- Commonwealth Foundation ($84,532)
- Goldwater Institute ($70,427)
- John Locke Foundation ($47,472)
- Heartland Institute ($25,000)
Public Relations Firms
Dezenhall Resources, which Businessweek calls the "Pit Bull of Public Relations." Dezenhall Resources is currently included in a Greenpeace lawsuit due to its role in hiring spies on behalf of chemical companies to track Greenpeace's internal campaign plans.
Posted on behalf of Phil Radford, Greenpeace's Executive Director in the U.S.
TransCanada has some explaining to do.
Greenpeace just sent a letter to TransCanada's CEO, Russ Girling, as well as the company's board of directors asking for complete documentation of how it came to its inflated conclusions on Keystone XL pipeline jobs here in the U.S. That letter is posted in full below (click here to see it).
We are following up on a letter Greenpeace sent to the Securities and Exchange Commission last week noting that TransCanada's job claims per mile of U.S. pipeline are 67 times higher than the estimates they provided to the Canadian government for its portion of Keystone XL. SEC notified us that our complaint was sent to their enforcement division.
TransCanada has already bit back at our complaint, insinuating that Greenpeace doesn't know anything about pipelines. Perhaps TransCanada can explain why its existing Keystone pipeline leaked 14 times in less than 18 months when it anticipated a rate of 1.4 leaks per decade -- check out this infographic for descriptions of the first twelve leaks. Nebraska's ecologically sensitive Sandhills region and the Ogallala aquifer cannot be subject to TransCanada's insufficient pipeline safety standards, especially when that pipeline carries corrosive tar sands for almost 2,000 miles. And with well over 1,000 miles of pipeline proposed in our country, it's alarming that as little as 50 people may be employed to monitor and maintain it, as Cornell's Global Labor Institute suggests. Read the independent Cornell report yourself.
TransCanada has also boosted its employment statistics by equating one job to one full year of employment for one person. This is part of how TransCanada and its allies inflated State Department estimates of less than 7,000 jobs, while the Cornell assessment concludes that Keystone XL could kill more jobs than it would create. Meanwhile, the American Petroleum Institute, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others are paying big for advertising campaigns that re-hash TransCanada's flawed 20,000 jobs claim, and from there claim hundreds of thousands of jobs from indirect employment. By indirect employment I mean services the oil industry isn't actually providing, which would would dry up after pipeline construction ends.
Unfortunately, the media is buying TransCanada's lies despite some reporting from the Washington Post and others that have already called the jobs numbers into serious question. According to Media Matters, 0% of broadcasters covering Keystone XL were critical of the jobs claims. Things weren't much better in coverage on cable news (11%) or print news (5%) either. Excluding USA Today and the Los Angeles Times, all major media outlets quoted more Keystone XL pipeline supporters than opponents. That's pretty bogus--Jack Gerard must have been popping the champagne over at the American Petroleum Institute headquarters as he put millions of dirty dollars to work through advertising campaigns like "Vote 4 Energy."
It's ridiculous although unsurprising that TransCanada and Big Oil act as if pipeline jobs are the only ones that exist. Why mention that any dollar invested in a polluting, outdated, climate-destroying industry is better invested in creating jobs in the clean energy sector? Big Oil would never be that forthcoming. They'd rather keep Americans fenced within the Kingdom of Crude, where not only are they the most profitable industry on earth, but taxpayers still pay handouts for their multi-billion dollar operations.
Dear Mr. Girling:
I read with considerable interest your company’s response to our request to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that it investigate the possible illegal use of misleading and deceptive job claims to win approval for the Keystone XL pipeline, which would boost your company’s bottom line considerably:
“These groups have never built or operated a pipeline,” said company spokesman, Terry Cunha, to Politico.
Mr. Cunha is correct; Greenpeace has never built a pipeline funneling corrosive tar sands crude oil across the heartland of the United States, endangering America’s groundwater, and then selling the oil overseas. What we do have experience in, however, is examining facts. Your claims just don’t add up. How will your pipeline create 67 times more jobs in the U.S. than your company told Canadian officials it would in Canada?
Greenpeace calls for an end to destructive tar sands mining, which you must be aware is fueling global climate disruption and poisoning indigenous people in northern Alberta. Our opposition extends to projects like Keystone XL that aim to solidify continued decades of carbon pollution. I must admit that we probably won’t ever try to build something that will spill oil, threaten aquifers and create a several thousand mile-long terrorist target.
However, you clearly do have such expertise, both in building pipelines and watching them spill, as demonstrated by 12 reported leaks in the first year of your existing Keystone pipeline’s operation. That’s why I’m inviting you to (possibly) head off SEC action and significant public embarrassment by explaining how TransCanada created such contradictory job creation claims.
I invite you to provide a detailed, plain-language explanation of this remarkable difference in job creation rates. Several groups of people await this important explanation, including investors, dozens of politicians and pundits who have recycled your company’s fictitious job creation numbers, and SEC enforcement officials eyeing SEC Rule 10b(5) – Employment of Manipulative and Deceptive Practices.
Greenpeace also would appreciate it if you could direct your contractor, Ray Perryman, to give a detailed accounting of the assumptions and methodology of the calculations he performed for your company on the pipeline’s supposed benefits.
We’ll gladly post any detailed, credible explanation of this wide discrepancy in job creation numbers on our website.
Cc: TransCanada Corporation Board of Directors
Sent by email, fax and direct mail.
Two days ago, President Obama denied the permit for the destructive Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, much to the dismay of Big Oil's top lobbyist and propagandist. Speaking at the National Press Club to an audience dominated by oil, coal and nuclear representatives and lobbyists, American Petroleum Institute (API) president Jack Gerard continued to lash out at President Obama over the pipeline decision. However, activists attending their event fact checked Jack's big oil talking points.
Shortly after asking the president, "what are you thinking?!" a group of activists stood and delivered a call-and-response "fact check" over Gerard's speech -- see the full Fact Check video. After the event, PolluterWatch's Connor Gibson approached Jack Gerard on camera and repeatedly asked him how much the American Petroleum Institute (API) is spending on its new "Vote 4 Energy" advertising campaign (which, as Mr. Gerard has absurdly claimed, is "not an advertising campaign"). Jack refused to answer:
Vote 4 Energy, which was mocked by a parody commercial during its public release, is the American Petroleum Institute's newest money dump to pretend that most Americans support politicians who represent Big Oil more than their own constituents. Wrapping its talking points in patriotic rhetoric, API's real intent is to continue getting billions of taxpayer dollars each year to corporations like ExxonMobil, Shell and Chevron, which rank among the most profitable companies in the world.
Today, the American Petroleum Institute unveiled its 2012 Vote 4 Energy astroturf campaign, centered around a major election-linked CNN advertising package that PolluterWatch helped expose last month with audio recordings from inside the studio. Vote 4 Energy attempts to show 'real Americans' who are 'energy voters,' meaning they are committing to vote for whichever politicians support Big Oil's dirty agenda in this election year. Typical. API also bought the back page of the A section of the Washington Post with a Vote 4 Energy ad, space that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to normal people.
Anticipating this new misinformation campaign, PolluterWatch created a mock commercial to show how API and it's oil company members (Exxon, BP, Shell, Chevron and all the usual suspects) have to fake citizen support for the oil industry:
The American Petroleum Institute (API) is Big Oil's top lobbying firm, using a $200 million budget to push dirty energy incentives and tax handouts for oil companies into our national laws. They have been caught in the past staging rallies for their Energy Citizens astroturf campaign, as revealed by Greenpeace in a confidential API memo to oil executives. Why do they fake citizen support? Probably because Americans overwhelmingly support clean energy over dirty oil development.
Knowing that API is rolling out the astroturf on cable TV, we decided to roll out actual astroturf at the location of their press conference today, literally making attendees walk down a long astroturf 'green carpet' shrouded by Big Oil logos as they entered the event. The K St lobbyists seemed downright confused by seeing the corporate logos that are normally invisible at API events.
Inside, API CEO Jack Gerard announced the campaign and promoted dirty energy development like the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline in his "State of American Energy" address. Apparently Jack thinks he's the President of United States of Energy, I thought he was just an oil lobbyist. Reporters leaving the session spoke about how bogus the event was--same old same old from Jack.
Jack Gerard may want to trick Americans into his Vote 4 Energy nonsense, but he demonstrates the same predictable rhetoric that oil companies always use to make themselves sound somewhat responsible, when everyone knows they aren't--see our profiles for ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, Chevron and ConocoPhillips, all multi-billion dollar corporations, making record profits even in a global recession, and looking for more tax breaks and handouts. If you are watching election coverage on CNN and spot API's astroturf ad, don't buy the lie. Vote for yourself, not oil executives.
Written by Brendan DeMelle, crossposted from DeSmogBlog.
Hillary Clinton and the State Department have the final word on whether to approve the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, unless President Obama intervenes. The influence of tar sands industry lobbyists connected to Hillary Clinton is finally getting some media attention, but there is still more to this story.
Clinton's State Department is finally complying with a FOIA request for documents, after a lawsuit filed in May by three watchdog groups over an alleged lack of transparency regarding contacts with TransCanada lobbyist Paul Elliott, a former staffer on Hillary Clinton's presidential run. Elliott has earned at least $310,000 as TransCanada Pipelines’ in-house lobbyist to influence Congress and several federal agencies, including the State Department, on the Keystone XL pipeline.
However, the tar sands industry’s use of former Clinton associates to lobby on the controversial project extends beyond Mr. Elliott. DeSmogBlog has uncovered seven other influencers or lobbyists with ties to Clinton and Obama who have lobbied on behalf of tar sands interests for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.
These lobbyists are spread out over three firms, including one that was the largest single source of funds of any corporate entity to Clinton’s 2008 presidential run. Included in their midst is a lobbyist with close ties to top Obama adviser David Plouffe, and a former Koch Industries operative now lobbying for the Koch-friendly Keystone XL project.
The extent of the contacts between these lobbyists and Secretary Clinton, or her political appointee-led staff, remains to be determined. Today, **Earthjustice, representing** Friends of the Earth, Corporate Ethics International and the Center for International Environmental Law, filed an amended FOIA request asking the State Department to release all contacts between this web of lobbying firms and her department. The groups credited DeSmogBlog's research as the impetus for the revised FOIA request.
The presence of so many former Clinton associates on the lobbying roster for polluter clients on a high-profile controversy suggests a clash with the repeated campaign pledges of greater transparency and tougher dealings with lobbyists by Secretary Clinton’s boss, President Obama.
On the campaign trail, Obama contrasted his view of lobbyists with the view of his opponent, Senator John McCain:
“This is somebody who’s been in Congress for twenty-six years, who put seven of the most powerful Washington lobbyists in charge of his campaign, and now he tells us that he’s the one who will take on the ol' boy network,”Obama said before a crowd in Elko, Nev. "The ol’ boy network? In the McCain campaign, that’s called a staff meeting," Obama said.
The lack of disclosure about contacts with lobbyists regarding the Keystone XL builds upon growing questions about the Obama Administration’s commitment to open government, particularly on environmental issues. DeSmogBlog has cataloged the Obama Administration’s failure to report contacts with lobbyists on several key climate and energy matters, including coal ash regulations and the BP disaster. Now let's take a closer look at tar sands lobbyists.
WEB OF TAR SANDS LOBBYISTS TIED TO CLINTON/OBAMA
Below is a description of the influence peddling firms and lobbyists that DeSmogBlog has identified as having close connections to Hillary Clinton and President Obama that are working to convince the State Department to approve Keystone XL.
McKenna Long & Aldridge is one of the key outside firms registered to lobby for TransCanada Pipelines, which paid the McKenna firm at least $190,000 over the last 5 years to lobby on their pipeline issues, including $40,000 in the first half of 2011. McKenna employees donated $41,650 in campaign contributions to Hillary Clinton in 2008, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
In addition, McKenna lobbies for the Canadian American Business Council, which has played a major public relations role on behalf of the Keystone XL project. McKenna lobbyist Maryscott “Scotty” Greenwood is Senior Advisor (and former Executive Director) at the CABC, which is now headed up by another McKenna associate.
UPDATE Oct 6, noon EST: Guess who serves on the Board of Directors of the Canadian American Business Council? Paul Elliott. (Also, Susan Carter, the ExxonMobil executive on the recipient list of Scotty Greenwood's email referenced below. Small world.)
McKenna Long & Aldridge lobbies for Nexen Inc., a company with present growth strategies that include “oil sands, including our 65% operated interest in the Long Lake project.” Nexen has paid McKenna over $1.8 million since 2007 in lobbying fees. Talisman, another major energy company in Canada, has paid McKenna $90,000 over the last two years for lobbying.
Frank McKenna, the first-named principle of McKenna Long & Aldridge, served as Canadian ambassador to the U.S. from 2005-6. [Correction: Frank McKenna has no affiliation with McKenna Long & Aldridge. I regret the error.]
Gordon Giffin, a partner at McKenna Long & Aldridge, served as U.S. Ambassador to Canada during the Clinton administration (1997 to 2001), and was a key fundraiser and donor to Hillary Clinton’s Senate and White House campaigns. Giffin was one of 22 “Bundlers for Hillary Clinton who have registered as Federal Lobbyists” cataloged by Public Citizen. He’s also been a donor to Bill Clinton’s campaigns and the William Jefferson Clinton Foundation. Giffin sits on the boards of four Canadian companies, including Canadian Natural Resources Limited, a major tar sands player.
Maryscott “Scotty” Greenwood, another McKenna lobbyist, was appointed by President Bill Clinton to serve as Chief of Staff to Gordon Giffin when he was U.S. ambassador to Canada. Considered by The Hill Times as one of the “Top 100 Most Influential People in Government and Politics in 2010,” Greenwood is valued by McKenna for her ability to reach Secretary Clinton on the phone, according to a biography on the firm's principal Frank McKenna: “Because of her up attitude and the jobs she has held, [Scotty Greenwood] can get through on the phone to virtually anyone of influence within the US Democratic ranks, including the likes of U.S. secretary of the state Hillary Clinton.”
Greenwood was a member of the important Credentials Committee at the 2008 Democratic Convention - the committee appointed by Chairman Howard Dean that was responsible for deciding how to handle Hillary Clinton's delegate challenges. She was also the Executive Director of the Georgia Democratic Party, where she met Giffin.
Giffin lobbied officially on TransCanada’s behalf until 2008 on "U.S. pipeline permit policy," and
Greenwood lobbied officially for TransCanada from 2007 until as recently as Q1 2010 on the same issues. Since then, they seem to have handed the official lobbying reins to juniors and now serve as advisors. But their Clinton connections raise important questions about their possible influence over her decision regarding the Keystone XL pipeline.
Indeed, one of the emails obtained by FOE et al in their FOIA request shows Scotty Greenwood emailing news that "Sen Lugar calls for approval of KXL" to Gordon Giffin, Paul Elliott, Marja Verloop and an ExxonMobil lobbyist. (See pg 137 of this PDF)
David Pollak joined McKenna as a “Senior Strategic Advisor” in August 2009. Pollack served as Co-Chairman of the New York State Democratic Party from 2006 – 2008, and was a Hillary Clinton Super-Delegate.
In May 2010, McKenna Long & Aldridge hired Alex McGee, who previously worked for Koch Industries as the Director of Federal Affairs for Koch Companies Public Sector (KCPS). Prior to that, he spent five years as the Department of Energy's (DOE) Principal Deputy Assistant
Secretary for Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs. McGee’s bio claims he was “a strategic player in the passage of the Energy Policy Act of 2005.” McGee now lobbies on behalf of TransCanada.
Bryan Cave LLP reported earnings of $1.08 million between 2009-2011 lobbying on behalf of TransCanada, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Bryan Cave staff reported lobbying the State Department directly about the Keystone XL Pipeline.
Broderick Johnson, a former Bryan Cave LLP lobbyist registered on the Keystone XL account, reported lobbying President Obama’s legislative affairs staff in 2010, a post he’s familiar with, having served in the Clinton administration in the White House Office of Legislative Affairs from 1998-2000. He was named deputy assistant to the president and House liaison, acting as the Clinton administration’s primary advocate before the U.S. House of Representatives in 1999 and 2000.
Jeff Berman is listed as another Bryan Cave lobbyist on the Keystone XL account who reports lobbying the State Department and the President’s office. Berman, a friend of David Plouffe, has been referred to as the “unsung hero” of Barack Obama’s 2008 primary victory over Hillary Clinton. According to TalkingPointsMemo coverage, “Berman’s in-depth understanding of every state and every congressional district drove the campaigning strategy that Plouffe laid out.”
DLA PIPER employees and PACs contributed $480,150 to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 run, making it the largest single source of funds for a corporate entity to Clinton.
DLA PIPER partner James Blanchard, a former Governor of Michigan, served as Michigan Chairman of Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign, and was rewarded by President Clinton with the post of U.S. ambassador to Canada (1993-96). He also was a key fundraiser for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign. According to Public Citizen, Blanchard was one of 22 “Bundlers for Hillary Clinton who have registered as Federal Lobbyists.”
The government of Alberta retained Blanchard to lobby Washington last year. According to lobbying disclosure records reviewed by Climate Action Network Canada (p. 9), Blanchard and other DLA Piper lobbyists had more than 80 interactions with U.S. officials and politicians in the year beginning March 1, 2009, on behalf of the Government of Alberta. Blanchard alone billed over $300,000 in fees.
Blanchard sits on the board of major tar sands pipeline company Enbridge, which spilled roughly 20,000 barrels of oil into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River last year, and tried to hide the fact that the spill involved tar sands crude. Enbridge's pipelines move the lion's share of tar sands crude into the U.S.
The web of tar sands lobbyist cronies with ties to Hillary Clinton pressuring the State Department to approve Keystone XL shows that President Obama must take personal responsibility for the transparency and objectivity of this permit decision. It appears that Secretary Clinton is too compromised by this web of polluter influence peddlers from her past to say no to Keystone XL.
Saying no to this filthy tar sands pipeline is the only viable option for President Obama, who campaigned not only on a platform of strong climate action and ending our oil addiction, but also for transparency and minimizing the role of corporate lobbyists in policy decisions.
Right now, the State Department’s capitulation to lobbyists – and secrecy about Secretary Clinton’s contacts with lobbyists – stinks to high heaven, as the recently released emails demonstrate. Hopefully this amended FOIA request will compel the State Department to reveal all the facts about lobbyist influence over Hillary Clinton’s position on Keystone XL.
DeSmogBlog's Emma Pullman contributed research to this report.
** Clarification added to note that Earthjustice, which represents the environmental groups, filed the amended FOIA today on their behalf.
Most of the time, polluter lobbyists manage to operate behind the scenes, pushing their agenda without public scrutiny. But today, newly published internal emails offer a glimpse into how a major tar sands polluter has been using insider access to get special treatement at the State Department. The emails, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by Friends of the Earth, reveal improper conduct between State Department officials and Paul Elliott, a lobbyist pushing the tar sands Keystone XL pipeline for Transcanada. As the Washington Post reported this morning, the emails "show how Elliott tried to exploit relationships built in political campaigns, with mixed results. The e-mails are almost all between Elliott and a special assistant to Cheryl Mills, Clinton’s chief of staff. All three knew one another from working on Clinton’s presidential campaign."
It's clear that the State Department's determination that the Keystone XL pipeline would have "no significant impact" on the environment is seriously flawed (see It's Easy to Find "No Significant Impact" if You Do No Significant Study...), and these emails provide some clues why. Instead of performing a rigorous environmental impact statement, a senior State Department official was busy helping TransCanada's CEO with "insight on what he'd like to see by way of on the record comment during this public comment period of this Keystone KXL draft environmental impact statement.” according to one email from Elliott. In yet another example of the revolving door between polluting industries and our public officials, that senior State Department official, David Goldwyn, is now himself a polluter lobbyist, and testified before Congress in favor of the tar sands pipeline.
The State Department has clearly heard a lot from polluter lobbyists pushing tar sands oil and the Keystone XL pipeline. Let's make sure they hear from us: join Tar Sands Action on October 7th for a rally at the final hearing for the Keystone XL pipeline in Washington DC. We might not get special "insight" from the State Department about what kind of public comment they'd like to see - but I think we'll have some ideas of our own.