[Marxism] Odds favoring Obama approving Keystone XL pipeline

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Feb 27 06:15:49 MST 2014

NY Times, Feb. 27 2014
No Conflict of Interest Found in Favorable Review of Keystone Pipeline

WASHINGTON — A State Department contractor who prepared an environmental 
analysis of the Keystone XL pipeline did not violate 
conflict-of-interest rules, even though the contractor had previously 
done work for TransCanada, the company seeking to build the pipeline, a 
State Department inspector general’s investigation concluded on Wednesday.

The results of the investigation could further pave the way for the 
Obama administration to approve the 1,700-mile, $5.4 billion pipeline, 
which would move oil from forest in Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf Coast. 
The pipeline has become a critical cause to environmentalists, who view 
President Obama’s ultimate decision as a reflection of his commitment to 
fight climate change. They have rallied, protested and been arrested by 
the thousands in an effort to pressure him to reject the project.

Supporters of the pipeline, particularly Republicans and the fossil fuel 
industry, hailed the new report, saying it further strengthened their case.

“Another day and another government report that finds no reason to 
continue blocking this common-sense, job-creating project,” Brendan 
Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio, said in an 
email. “It’s long past time the president stop pandering to his 
extremist allies and just approve it so we can get people back to work.”

Opponents of the pipeline said the new report would do nothing to dampen 
their fight against it.

On Sunday, hundreds of protesters are expected to march on the White 
House, handcuff themselves to the gates and get arrested in a further 
effort to try to persuade Mr. Obama to reject the project.

“Secretary of State John Kerry inherited this mess, and now it’s time 
for him to bring it to a close by stating what is obvious — that this 
pipeline is not in our national interest,” said Elijah Zarlin, a 
campaign manager at Credo, a group organized against the pipeline. “If 
he doesn’t, more than 78,000 Americas stand ready to risk arrest to stop 
the White House and the State Department from putting the oil industry’s 
interest before our national interest, and recommending approval of 
Keystone XL.”

The inspector general’s report comes after a State Department 
environmental review last month concluded that construction of the 
pipeline would not substantially worsen carbon pollution because most 
future economic outlines project that the Alberta oil would be extracted 
and transported to market whether or not Keystone is built.

Environmentalists sharply criticized that report, as well as an earlier 
draft, which is what led to the inspector general’s investigation. The 
draft included analysis by a contractor, Environmental Resources 
Management, or ERM, which had previously done work for TransCanada. Last 
year, the Sierra Club and several other environmental groups wrote a 
letter to the State Department’s inspector general calling for an 
investigation into a possible conflict of interest in the preparation of 
that draft.

The inspector general’s report concludes that the State Department’s 
process in selecting ERM followed, and was at times more rigorous, than 
was prescribed by agency guidance.

The report concludes that ERM fully disclosed its prior work history — 
including its work with TransCanada — and completed all previous work 
with TransCanada before undertaking the Keystone review.

The inspector general’s office notes that it began the review in 
response to the environmental groups’ letter, but determined, after a 
preliminary inquiry into the situation, that it did not warrant a 
criminal investigation.

The report does note that in two instances the State Department made 
“deviations” from its prescribed guidance on conflict of interest, but 
concludes that those deviations “did not adversely affect the selection 
process.” The report does recommend that the State Department improve 
its conflict of interest procedures.

For the time being, the fate of the pipeline rests in the hands of Mr. 
Kerry, who is studying the 11-volume environmental review and 
determining whether the project is “in the national interest.” Mr. 
Kerry, who has made climate change a signature issue of his tenure as 
secretary of state, will make a recommendation on the project to Mr. Obama.

On Monday, governors meeting with Mr. Obama in Washington said the 
president indicated that he would make a decision on the pipeline soon.

“He seems to be on board with the pipeline,” said Gov. Gary R. Herbert 
of Utah, a Republican who supports the pipeline. “I’m encouraged by what 
he said. He didn’t say yes or no, but I’m encouraged that he’ll make the 
right decision.”

The inspector general’s report is unlikely to silence calls from 
environmentalists or liberal Democrats for Mr. Obama to reject the pipeline.

On Tuesday, Representative Raúl M. Grijalva, Democrat of Arizona, sent a 
letter to the Government Accountability Office asking for a separate 
investigation of the State Department’s process for selecting 
contractors to perform the environmental impact study.

On Wednesday, Senator Barbara Boxer, the California Democrat who is 
chairwoman of the Environment Committee, held a news conference calling 
on the Obama administration to conduct an investigation into the impact 
of the pipeline on public health.

“The Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement was woefully 
inadequate regarding human health impacts, and we believe it is 
critically important that peer-reviewed research on these issues is 
fully considered before any decision is made on the Keystone XL 
pipeline,” Ms. Boxer wrote in a letter to Mr. Kerry.

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