Scientists Slam Keystone XL Review Process as Conflicts-of-Interest Probe Deepens

Published on
by
Common Dreams

Scientists Slam Keystone XL Review Process as Conflicts-of-Interest Probe Deepens

Called 'without merit' by scientists and blasted for its hidden corporate influence, KXL review comes under additional fire

by
Jon Queally, staff writer

"Without merit."

That's what dozens of prominent scientists are saying about key parts of the US State Department's supplemental environmental impact study (SEIS) of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

What's more, the growing concern over the scientific integrity of the State Department analysis comes as accusations of impropriety by at least one of the companies hired to perform the review.

As Inside Climate News reports, the letter from dozens of scientists—with expertise in the fields of climate change, public health and ecology—is "one of the more striking criticisms of the EIS to emerge from the bulging docket of more than a million public comments, which are being posted online by the State Department while it considers whether to adjust its findings."

The draft SEIS, which was released in March, is now under review for final approval as the State Department also pours over the enormous number of public comments submitted following the draft's release. The climate justice group 350.org claims that they and other anti-pipeline groups were able to collect and submit over one million comments against the project.

"Despite the claims of the EIS that the environmental impacts are minor these assertions are not supported by the science," the scientists wrote in their official submission to the State Department.

"The assertion that the tar sands will not significantly increase global warming is simply not supported by the facts," they wrote.

And concluded, "Our scientific judgment is that the actual and potential environmental damage are sufficiently severe to reject the Keystone XL pipeline proposal in order to protect the climate human health and the multiple ecosystems this project threatens."

Inside Climate News adds:

Many of the 29 signatories, like retired NASA scientist James Hansen and Penn State professor of meteorology Michael Mann, are already well known for their opposition to the pipeline. Fourteen of the signatories were among a group of 18 leading climate scientists who wrote President Obama in January urging him not to approve the pipeline.

Several have played prominent roles in the decades-long work of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, which has produced the overarching scientific consensus on the risks of climate change due to human pollution, mostly from burning fossil fuels.

This letter is significant not only because the group of luminaries is large and their arguments elaborate, but because they wrote specifically to discredit the justification for the pipeline laid out in the State Department's March 1 draft environmental impact statement, or EIS. The controversial draft EIS said the pipeline wouldn't have much effect on the environment or climate. It was widely seen as opening the door to the project, which would carry tar sands oil from Alberta to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

Environmental groups and concerned citizens have been highly critical of the draft and controversary was heightened when it emerged that one of the firms hired by the State Dept. to conduct the environmental review, Environmental Resources Management (ERM), had done previous work for TransCanada, the Canadian pipeline company hoping to build the Keystone XL.

As the Huffington Post reports, the Inspector General at the State Department is now reviewing those allegations of conflict-of-interest.

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