I wish I were surprised by the news that the State Department relied on oil and pipeline consulting firms to shape its new and improved Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the Keystone XL pipeline.
The State Department's recent conclusion that the Keystone XL pipeline "is unlikely to have a substantial impact" on the rate of Canada's oil sands development was based on analysis provided by two consulting firms with ties to oil and pipeline companies that could benefit from the proposed project.Song digs into the pedigree of the two companies in question.
EnSys Energy has worked with ExxonMobil, BP and Koch Industries, which own oil sands production facilities and refineries in the Midwest that process heavy Canadian crude oil. Imperial Oil, one of Canada's largest oil sands producers, is a subsidiary of Exxon.The State Department has not responded to press inquiries. Transparency is so last century.
ICF International works with pipeline and oil companies but doesn't list specific clients on its website. It declined to comment on the Keystone, referring questions to the State Department.
Here is the double talk. Canada wants the pipeline expansion to speed tar sands development, but we are told that the pipeline will have no impact on tar sands development. Meanwhile, the consultants insert mush about how the real rate-limiting factors are rail transport and tanker port development. Apparently, they think we are stupid. Both rail and tanker transport ratchets up the cost of delivery and tightens margins on tar sands crude.
Canada, TransCanada, and the oil industry have spent a fortune on lobbying for this pipeline. Their interests are clear. Expanding the tar sands will make money and they could not care about climate effects. Everyone understands their destructive agenda.
The consultants used by the State Department matter because these firms stand to benefit from additional business if the pipeline is approved. Here is how David Driesen, an environmental lawyer, frames the issue.
"I think the question of conflict of interest is a legitimate one," Driesen said. If consulting firms are "used to working for industry clients, it's possible they would subtly orient their analysis in a certain way, and that could be reflected" in the document.The head of EnSys claims they had no choice.
"If we'd shied clear of an assignment from the Department of State because sometime in the past we've worked for a company that could benefit [from the Keystone XL]—and if we did that consistently—we would be out of a business," he said.Outsourcing of complex reports is standard operating procedure for the State Department. The question is why you would tap firms that service oil industry clients rather than find expertise about the carbon footprint of the tar sands? The report cites life cycle estimate for emissions that low balls extraction emissions and ignores refinery emissions.
The lack of transparency is also a problem. The State Department has not been willing to answer questions about the report. We are left with little more than submitting a comment to the Federal Register when the comment period opens.
By the way, this is not the first time the State Department has raised eyebrows for its choices of consultants to help write the environmental impact statement for the Keystone XL pipeline. They used a firm connected to TransCanada to produce the 2011 version.
When the third version was released in August 2011, the agency came under fire for allowing Cardno Entrix, a consulting firm that lists TransCanada as one of its clients, to work on the report.The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers estimates very little growth in tar sands development without new pipeline projects, particularly Keystone XL.
In this forecast, oil sands production rises from 1.6 million b/d in 2011 to almost double at 3.1 million b/d by 2020 and 4.2 million b/d by 2025 and 5.0 million b/d byUpdate: (h/t Laurence Lewis)
the end of the forecast period in 2030. If the only projects to proceed were the ones in operation or currently under construction, oil sands production would still increase by 54 per cent to 2.5 million b/d by 2020 and then remain relatively flat for the rest of the forecast.
Brad Johnson has an article in the Huffington Post that further extends this ugly story. The State Department contracted with a company paid by TransCanada to write part of the environmental impact statement.
The State Department's "don't worry" environmental impact statement for the proposed Keystone XL tarsands pipeline, released late Friday afternoon, was written not by government officials but by a private company in the pay of the pipeline's owner. The "sustainability consultancy" Environmental Resources Management (ERM) was paid an undisclosed amount under contract to TransCanada to write the statement, which is now an official government document. The statement estimates, and then dismisses, the pipeline's massive carbon footprint and other environmental impacts, because, it asserts, the mining and burning of the tar sands is unstoppable.
The department's contractor-written Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement even says the pipeline will be safe from the climate impacts to which it will contribute.
The documents from the ERM-TransCanada agreement are on the State Department's website, but payment amounts and other clients and past work of ERM are redacted. In the contract documents, ERM partner Steven J. Koster certifies that his company has no conflicts of interest. He also certifies that ERM has no business relationship with TransCanada or "any business entity that could be affected in any way by the proposed work" (notwithstanding the impact statement contract itself). In a cover letter, Koster promises State Department NEPA Coordinator Genevieve Walker that ERM understands "the need for an efficient and expedited process to meet the demands of the desired project schedule."
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