For Immediate Release
Watchdog Groups Appeal State Department’s Refusal to Disclose Communications with Oil Lobbyist
FOIA targets correspondence between agency and former high-ranking Clinton aide turned lobbyist
WASHINGTON - Three watchdog groups today filed an appeal
with the U.S. State Department over its refusal to release
correspondence between the agency and a former high-ranking presidential
campaign staffer of Hillary Clinton's, Paul Elliott. In his role as oil
lobbyist, Elliott is seeking Secretary of State Clinton's approval for
the controversial Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline.
The groups allege that the failure of the State Department to comply
with its responsibility under the Freedom of Information Act further
calls into question Secretary Clinton's impartiality on the oil
pipeline, which is proposed by Elliott's employer TransCanada and, if
approved by the Obama administration, would cross six U.S. states on its
way from Canada to refineries in Texas.
"By refusing to disclose any documents, we contend that the State
Department is violating the Freedom of Information Act," said Marcie
Keever, legal director for Friends of the Earth. "We are hopeful that
with this appeal the State Department will release communications
between the oil lobbyist and Secretary Clinton and her staffers. If the
agency doesn't, we will take it to court if necessary."
Earlier this month, the State Department notified
Friends of the Earth, Corporate Ethics International, and the Center
for International Environmental Law that it had denied their Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The State Department's rejection of the groups' FOIA request was criticized by independent FOIA experts and, unless overturned, threatens to force the issue into the courts.
"The State Department is making a mockery of President Obama's pledges
to end the influence of lobbyists and improve transparency in
Washington," said Damon Moglen, climate and energy project director for
Friends of the Earth.
"In this year's State of the Union address, the president said that,
‘Because you deserve to know when your elected officials are meeting
with lobbyists, I ask Congress to do what the White House has already
done: put that information online.' It would seem that Secretary Clinton
and the State Department did not get the memo," Moglen added.
Related recent developments have exposed the extent of TransCanada's
manipulation of landowners along the pipeline's proposed route. In South
Dakota, TransCanada has filed more than a dozen lawsuits
to condemn land along the pipeline's proposed route, even though the
company has not received the federal permit required for construction.
In Oklahoma, a farm family is suing TransCanada to defend its property, claiming that the company's attempt to use eminent domain is unlawful.
The outrage from landowners has fueled already mounting local
resistance to the pipeline -- resistance based on concern about public
health and environmental dangers, including the threat of spills
contaminating the Ogallala Aquifer, which provides irrigation and
drinking water to eight states.
In coming weeks, Secretary Clinton is expected to decide whether to
fast-track a final recommendation on the project or order a Supplemental
Environmental Impact Statement, which would facilitate a more rigorous
review and provide more opportunity for public input.
The revelation of Secretary Clinton's relationship to the TransCanada
lobbyist was not the first alarm bell casting doubt on her neutrality.
Groups urged Secretary Clinton to recuse herself from the Keystone XL
pipeline decision following statements
in October that she was "inclined" to approve the project and would
"probably not" change her mind, even though the department has not yet
completed the legally mandated review.
The appeal filed with the State Department today, and all other
documents related to the Freedom of Information Act request, are
available at: http://www.foe.org/groups-question-role-oil-lobbyist-state-departments-review-tar-sands-oil-pipeline
More information about the Keystone XL pipeline is available at: http://www.foe.org/keystone-xl-pipeline
Friends of the Earth is the U.S. voice of the world's largest grassroots environmental network, with member groups in 77 countries. Since 1969, Friends of the Earth has fought to create a more healthy, just world.