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The Checks and Balances Project has announced that the U.S. State Department's Office of Inspector General (OIG) has launched a conflicts-of-interest investigation into dirty dealings pertaining to the contractor tasked to perform the environmental review for the northern half of TransCanada's Keystone XL tar sands pipeline on behalf of State.

Environmental Resources Management, Inc. (ERM Group) declared the northern portion of Keystone XL as environmentally safe and sound on behalf of State in March, in defiance of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's assessment, among others.

The northern half of Keystone XL will connect to the over 75-percent complete southern half and - if built - will carry Alberta's tar sands bitumen south to Texas refineries, with most of the final product shipped to the highest bidder on the global market. State and eventually President Barack Obama have the final say over the proposal because the northern section of pipeline crosses the international border.

The overarching problem with that ERM assessment, as first revealed on Grist by Brad Johnson: ERM Group was chosen not by the State Dept., but by TransCanada itself. Furthermore, as first revealed on Mother Jones by Andy Kroll, the State Dept. redacted biographical portions of the EIS that pointed to ERM's ongoing close consulting relationship with ERM Group and TransCanada.

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

The Checks and Balances Project has announced that the U.S. State Department's Office of Inspector General (OIG) has launched a conflicts-of-interest investigation into dirty dealings pertaining to the contractor tasked to perform the environmental review for the northern half of TransCanada's Keystone XL tar sands pipeline on behalf of State.

Environmental Resources Management, Inc. (ERM Group) declared the northern portion of Keystone XL as environmentally safe and sound on behalf of State in March, in defiance of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's assessment, among others.

The northern half of Keystone XL will connect to the over 75-percent complete southern half and - if built - will carry Alberta's tar sands bitumen south to Texas refineries, with most of the final product shipped to the highest bidder on the global market. State and eventually President Barack Obama have the final say over the proposal because the northern section of pipeline crosses the international border.

The overarching problem with that ERM assessment, as first revealed on Grist by Brad Johnson: ERM Group was chosen not by the State Dept., but by TransCanada itself. Furthermore, as first revealed on Mother Jones by Andy Kroll, the State Dept. redacted biographical portions of the EIS that pointed to ERM's ongoing close consulting relationship with ERM Group and TransCanada.

"The American public was supposed to get an honest look at the impacts of the Keystone XL pipeline," writes Checks and Balances' Gabe Elsner. "Instead...a fossil fuel contractor, hid its ties from the State Department so they could green light the project on behalf of its oil company clients."

Instead of an honest look, the public got deception, perhaps not surprisingly given ERM's historical contracting relationship with Big Tobacco, as first revealed here on DeSmogBlog. ERM seems to have blatantly lied to the State Dept. - which apparently did no homework of its own, or turned a blind eye at least - and answered "no" to the question of whether or not it had done any business with anyone with a financial stake in the project in the past three years.

ERM also told State it was not an energy interest, when the facts say otherwise.

"The State Department question defines an energy interest in part as any company or person engaged in research related to energy development," wrote Eslner. "Yet, ERM has worked for all of the top five oil companies and dozens of other fossil fuel companies. In other words, ERM is clearly an energy interest."

For these reasons, a dozen groups (including DeSmogBlog), ranging from environmental NGOs, faith-based groups and government accountability watchdogs called for the Inspector General to investigate why State allowed TransCanada to choose ERM Group.

OIG Special Agent Pedro Colon, Checks and Balances reported, confirmed OIG is "reviewing the matter" in a voicemail left with Elsner. Not satisfied with Colon's oblique answer, Elsner followed up with OIG via email to ask for more details.

An email exchange with another OIG officer led Checks and Balances to believe that OIG is engaged in a serious, methodical probe into ERM Group's activities related to the Keystone XL SEIS environmental review. The group questions why the State Department didn't recognize a serious conflict-of-interest in choosing ERM.

The question still remains: will it be a serious investigation or a public relations window dressing act? Time will tell.

ERM Group's Sordid History

ERM Group has a sordid history of green-lighting ecologically perilous projects. Perhaps not surprising given that it is a dues-paying member of Big Oil's lobbying powerhouse, the American Petroleum Institute (API), which spent $7.3 million on lobbying in 2012 and another $8.6 million on lobbying in 2011.

As covered here on DeSmogBlog, ERM declared the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline that traverses from Azerbaijan, to Georgia and eventually to Turkey as environmentally and ecologically sound - even though it has proven neither. As also covered here, ERM said the Peru LNG and accompanying pipeline project was also environmentally and ecologically sound - again, even though it has proven neither.

So, unless OIG acts on the investigation it says it has opened and tells State to abide by federal contracting conflicts-of-interest law, it appears Keystone XL will be déjà vu all over again for ERM Group and the Obama Administration.

Originally posted to Steve Horn on Thu May 30, 2013 at 02:30 PM PDT.

Also republished by Climate Change SOS.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Good news indeed (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eyesbright, Roger Fox, 1BQ, Wino

    So often these revelations don't come out until way after the damage is done. It's great to have a serious look at this while it's still pending and the President hasn't signed off.

    I haven't been able to be actively involved in the KXL pressure, and am hugely gratefyl to those who have.

  •  Not shipped to the highest global bidder (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    1BQ, Ginny in CO

    Highest bidder in Western Europe.

    Assuming all but the largest supertankers offload most of their oil before going thru the Suez canal, and then reload, Louisiana to the UK is still 600-700 miles less than the Mid East to the UK.

    And the tar sands low sulfur light sweet syncrude is a perfect fit for western Europe refineries.

    TnR, thanks.

    .................expect us......................... FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

    by Roger Fox on Thu May 30, 2013 at 08:03:14 PM PDT

    •  republished to CLimate Change SOS (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      1BQ

      .................expect us......................... FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

      by Roger Fox on Thu May 30, 2013 at 08:04:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  You said: (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Wino
      And the tar sands low sulfur light sweet syncrude is a perfect fit for western Europe refineries.
      Tar sands syncrude shipped to the United States isn't
      "low sulfur light sweet syncrude"  

      It is heavy sour crude having a high sulfur content.

      All of the tar sands crude shipped to the midwest
      is heavy sour crude.

      It was heavy sour crude that spilled at Mayflower, Arkansas.

      You are mistaken in how you are describing the tar sands
      crude presently being shippped to the United States for use in U.S. refineries.

      •  Never said anything about what is shipped to the (0+ / 0-)

        US.

        And I dont appreciate you... trying to put words in my mouth. I dont believe I have treated you in that fashion (have I?), and I expect you wont treat me in that fashion in the future.

         photo Albertasyncrude.png

        The above may not be the best citation, but here it is. Both of these are below 2.0% sulfur, and may be a perfect fit for western European refineries. It is my understanding that half the crude feedstock used in Europe is light sweet.

        Alberta’s five upgraders produce various synthetic products. Suncor produces light sweet and medium sour crudes plus diesel. Syncrude, Horizon, and Long Lake produce light sweet synthetic crude. the Shell upgrader produces intermediate refinery feedstock for its Scotford refinery as well as sweet and heavy SCO.
        http://peakoil.com/...
        Syncrude Canada is the world’s largest producer of light sweet crude oil from oil sands, according to Hoover’s, a business information provider owned by Dun & Bradstreet
        http://dealbook.nytimes.com/...
        .
        What are the qualities of Syncrude Sweet Blend?

            Syncrude's product, Syncrude Crude Oil (SCO) is a 100% upgraded, high quality product with 30o to 32o API, low sulphur (0.1 - 0.2%), low residuals and excellent low temperature pour qualities.
        http://www.syncrude.ca/...

        Syncrude Sweet Blend crude oil, a high-naphtha, low-sulphur synthetic crude which is then sent to refineries in both Canada and the United States.
        http://www.mining-technology.com/...

        .................expect us......................... FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

        by Roger Fox on Fri May 31, 2013 at 02:12:21 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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