For Immediate Release
Under Legal Threat, State Department Accepts Request for Information on Lobbyist Influence
FOIA targets correspondence between agency and former high-ranking Clinton aide turned oil lobbyist
WASHINGTON - Under threat of legal action, the State Department has reversed an earlier decision to withhold correspondence regarding a controversial pipeline that would carry tar sands oil into the U.S. from Canada and is currently under review by the agency.
The so-far withheld correspondence, sought by a Freedom of Information Act Request, is between the State Department and Paul Elliott, a former high-ranking presidential campaign aide for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Elliott is currently lobbying the State Department for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline for TransCanada Pipelines.
“I hope this move by the State Department is a sign of more transparency to come,” said Alex Moore, dirty fuels campaigner at Friends of the Earth, one of three watchdog groups that filed the FOIA request. “We are still waiting to see if the State Department indeed releases these documents, which will shed important light on whether it is oil lobbyists or the people this pipeline would endanger who truly have the agency’s ear.”
In a letter received by Friends of the Earth last week, the State Department stated that it would begin processing the FOIA request. In January 2011, Friends of the Earth, Corporate Ethics International, and the Center for International Environmental Law filed an appeal with the State Department over its initial refusal to release the correspondence, which the groups first sought in December 2010.
Transparency has been a central concern in the State Department’s review of the Keystone XL project. In coming weeks, the State Department will decide whether to allow members of the public to review and comment on a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement or to move forward with a fast-tracked decision on the project. Dozens of members of Congress, including Senator Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), have raised concerns about the pipeline’s potential environmental impacts and its massive financial costs and have urged the Obama administration to ensure a rigorous and transparent review process with maximum public input.
Previous events have cast doubt on Secretary Clinton’s 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 State Department letter 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
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