US State Department Inspector General Harold W. Geisel has said that he will investigate the Obama administration's handling of TransCanada's request for the Keystone XL project, the pipeline would carry oil derived from tar sands in Alberta, Canada, to refineries in Houston and Port Arthur, Texas.
The review is to determine "to what extent the Department and all other parties involved complied with federal laws and regulations relating to the Keystone XL pipeline permit process."
In October environmental groups had requested the IG review the permit process after evidence of pro-pipeline bias had emerged.
In a response today, Sen. Bernie Sanders said:
"This is a critically important issue for our environment and the energy future of our country. At a time when all credible scientific evidence and opinion indicate that we are losing the battle against global warming, it is imperative that we have objective environmental assessments of major carbon-dependent energy projects.
"I once again urge President Obama to defer any decision on the pipeline until the State Department investigation has been completed."
Erich Pica, president of environmental group Friends of the Earth issued this statement today:
“There is overwhelming evidence that the pipeline review process has been a sham, corrupted by bias, lobbyist influence and conflicts of interest. It should be obvious to the White House that it would be wholly inappropriate to continue moving forward with this rigged process while violations of law and federal regulations are being investigated.
“In contrast to what we have seen emerge thus far from the State Department, a fair, impartial review would take into account the tremendous harm that the pipeline and tar sands extraction linked to it would cause, as well as the risks of spills and other environmental damage. If a fair review that accurately reflects the true costs of the pipeline is conducted, President Obama will have little choice but to stop the pipeline.”
Environmentalist Bill McKibben, who helped organize the more than 10,000-strong protest against the tar sands at the White House yesterday, reacted to today's announcement from the IG with a call for Obama to deny TransCanada the right to the pipeline permit:
“It’s good to see the administration beginning to listen to responsible lawmakers, and we look forward to the results of this inquiry about the warped environmental review process. But it’s important to understand that the process has always been the smaller of our objections. while we’ve been dismayed by the corrupt conduct of the state department, our real problem has from the start been the fact that these tar sands are the second largest pool of carbon on earth. Since the State Department didn’t even bother to study that global warming question, the only real answer is to send this back for a whole new review — or, better yet, for the President to simply back up his campaign promises and deny the permit outright."