In light of new evidence showing gross conflicts-of-interest and a 'fatally flawed' assessment, a host of voices have once again come out against the State Department's draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) on the impact of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
As the Obama administration mulls over the final stages of evaluation, the group commissioned to produce the SEIS, Environmental Resources Management Inc. (ERM), has reportedly "played Pinocchio" in acknowledging their extensive ties to Big Oil, according to new research released Wednesday by Friends of the Earth and The Checks & Balances Project.
According to the groups, both ERM and their subsidiary Oasis Environmental have "ongoing contractual relationships with the Alaska Gas Project," (otherwise known as the South Central LNG Project, which is co-owned by TransCanada, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips and BP) and had attempted to "scrub" the employment record of an ERM employee with a prior record as a consultant on the Alaska Pipeline Project.
Further, the groups cite ERM's own publicly available documents which show that the firm has had business "with over a dozen companies with operating stakes in the Alberta tar sands."
These connections fly in the face of ERM's disclosures on their conflict-of-interest form, on which they claimed to have no "direct or indirect relationship [...] with any business entity that could be affected in any way by the proposed work."
"Clearly," writes DeSmogBlog's Steve Horn reporting on these developments, "that's far from the case."
"If ERM lied about its relationship with TransCanada, how can Secretary Kerry, President Obama or the American people believe anything the company says about the pipeline's environmental impact?" -Ross Hammond, Friends of the Earth
"From the beginning, the State Department's review of Keystone has been plagued by influence peddling and conflicts of interest," said Ross Hammond, senior campaigner for Friends of the Earth. "This is more serious: If ERM lied about its relationship with TransCanada, how can Secretary Kerry, President Obama or the American people believe anything the company says about the pipeline's environmental impact?"
In the wake of this new evidence, the groups are asking Secretary of State John Kerry to "halt this flawed review process" and throw out the ERM study saying it is "impossible for the State Department to fairly evaluate whether the pipeline is in the national interest when its environmental review was conducted by a company with deep ties to the oil industry."
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Environmentalists are not the only ones questioning the validity of the upcoming State Department decision in light of this calamitous assessment.
Citing the Friends of the Earth report, even Bloomberg Businessweek laments that these conflicts of interest may mean "game over" for the Keystone XL.
And in a letter sent Wednesday, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) urged the State Department to correct the "significant mistakes" in the draft SEIS, which include underestimating the costs of transporting the crude tar sands and the falsity of calling the project 'inevitable.'
As Anthony Swift of the Natural Resources Defense Council observed:
[The Lawmaker's] letter compiles an enormous body of evidence demonstrating the fatal flaws in the analysis that led the State Department to ignore Keystone XL’s significant climate impacts. The Congressmen note the recent rejection of the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline by British Columbia and the growing public opposition to tar sands pipelines throughout Canada demonstrates that tar sands expansion isn’t inevitable.
Blasting the State Department's tabulation of increased emissions, which omits emissions from co-products of tar sands besides gasoline and diesel, the legislators estimate that replacing conventional crude with tar sands from Keystone XL would amount to 24.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MMTCO2e) each year or 1.2 billion MMTCO2e over the project’s minimum lifetime.
“[I]f the climate change effects of the Keystone XL pipeline are not considered to be significant, it is unclear whether there is any individual project in the US that would ever be considered significant,” they write, referring to comments made by President Obama during his June climate change speech.
"We request the State Department to acknowledge that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would have significant consequences for climate change," they conclude, adding that a "thorough and meaningful analysis" must be done in order to properly assess the effect of the pipeline on "emissions of carbon pollution and the threat of climate change."