The findings of a State Department investigation into the conflict of interest between contractors hired to perform the environmental review of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline reveal the inherent flaws of the process, say environmental campaigners, who add that nothing in the Inspector General's report negate the fact that President Obama has all the information he needs to reject the tar sands pipeline project once and for all.
Conducted by the office of the Inspector General, the report—released late Wednesday—found that that the firm hired to carry out the review, London-based Environmental Resources Management (ERM) and a dues-paying member of the American Petroleum Institute (API), followed all the necessary guidelines as it won and carried out the contract to review the pipeline project proposed by Transcanada on behalf of the State Department.
"Secretary Kerry and President Obama can let their climate legacies be tarred by this dirty process or they can do the right thing and reject the Keystone XL pipeline once and for all." —Jason Kowalsk, 350.org
To the extent that's true, said climate campaigners and opponents of the pipeline, the IG's findings simply show how dysfunctional this kind of privatized review process has become.
“Far from exonerating the State Department of wrongdoing, the Inspector General report simply concludes that such dirty dealings are business as usual,” said 350.org Policy Director Jason Kowalski. “While allowing a member of the American Petroleum Institute to review a tar sands oil pipeline may technically be legal, it’s by no means responsible."
Co-founder of the group, Bill McKibben, added: “The real scandal in Washington is how much is legal. This process has stunk start to finish."
And Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth, which filed suit over the review process, says the Inspector General's report "reveals serious errors in the State Department’s process for vetting conflicts of interest."
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Among the notable failures in the process, said Pica is the fact that "ERM only disclosed its relationship with TransCanada after they were awarded the contract; even though conflicts of interest were supposed to be one of the criteria. This is not reassuring."
Despite their critiques of the overall review process and the findings of the Inspector General, the groups say that nothing contained in either change the fact that the Keystone XL pipeline, if built, would be a "carbon bomb" that would be disastrous for the ecosystems, communities, and the planet's climate.
The campaigners continued to express hope that President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry would stick to their commitments to judge the project on its climate impacts which would give them no choice but reject its construction.
"Secretary Kerry and President Obama can let their climate legacies be tarred by this dirty process or they can do the right thing and reject the Keystone XL pipeline once and for all," said Kowalski.
And Pica added, "President Obama has more than enough information to deny the pipeline, and we remain confident that he will do so.”
Together, 350.org and Friends of the Earth, released this graphic to explain the sinister conflicts of interests they perceive between ERM, TransCanada, and the flawed process that has allowed for the tacit influence of the oil industry's lobbying arm to help push through the Keystone XL pipeline: