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Is the State Department Being Downright Fraudulent in Assessing the Risks of the Keystone XL Pipeline?

At least one of the several oil-friendly corporate authors was apparently paid by Trans-Canada, the corporate applicant for -- and the owner of -- the Keystone pipeline. And that's not all.

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So it turns out that friends of the oil industry wrote the environmental impact  statement issued by the State Department about the Keystone XL pipeline on March 1. That's the report that assured people tar sands oil was going to be developed no matter what, and anyway, climate change wouldn't hurt the pipeline.

And it turns out that at least one of the several oil-friendly corporate authors was apparently paid by Trans-Canada, the corporate applicant for - and the owner of - the Keystone pipeline.

And it also turns out that the State Department, while noting (on page 1.5-1) that as "the lead agency, the Department directed the preparation" of the impact statement, the title page lists only one person, Genevieve Walker, as "Project Manager," along with more than 14 cooperating and assisting government agencies - and no reference to any other possible direct or indirect report authors.

And it further turns out that the State Department, without giving credit to specific contributors for specific sections, does include - at the end of volume 2 of the 4-volume, 2,000-page report - a "list of preparers," 58 of them, almost all from three private oil industry consulting firms.

And it finally turns out that little if any of this has appeared in mainstream media, which may be less of a surprise than it should be, since cynicism about government integrity is so widespread. One might be tempted to ask why the State Department made even this much effort at deception just to hide a fundamental conflict of interest that hardly seems unusual. And news media might cynically ask, what's the news here?

When the Conclusion Is Predictable, Who Cares Who Wrote It?

While environmentalists and  others promptly characterized the report's analysis as fraudulent or worse as soon as it came out, mainstream coverage was more like  Fox News’s headlining of an Associated Press story the next day: "No major objections to Keystone XL oil pipeline, State Department says."

On March 4, three days after the Friday release of the report, the Heritage Foundation complained that "Obama Administration Buries Good News on Keystone Pipeline" - basing its claim on the choice of a Friday release. Based on the same fact of a late Friday release, the Sierra Club made the opposite claim, that the administration was trying to bury bad environmental news. But Heritage went on to push discredited job-creation numbers, along with the false assertion that the "Keystone pipeline has passed its environmental reviews."

The current review is not complete. The March 1 report will be held at least until mid-April, when the 45-day public comment period ends. Comments on the Draft SEIS [Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement] can be submitted via email to  keystonecomments@state.gov for the next several weeks, or from the State Department web site.

Lisa Song of  Inside Climate News was apparently the first to write about the State Department's use of highly conflicted providers when State decided not to do the work itself, for whatever reason. Her March 6 article concentrates on the three main contractors in the report's list of preparers:

1. EnSys Energy (3 preparers) - the company's president, Martin Tallett said "We don't do advocacy."  EnSys clients have included the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy, and State, as well as the World Bank, ExxonMobil, BP, Koch Industries, and the American Petroleum Institute. Tallett refused to discuss the Keystone pipeline.

2. ICF International (7 preparers) - the company's web site client list is generic, and all categories are within the oil and gas industry.  ICF recently won an award for its work in "Climate Risk Management and Adaptation" for such clients as coastal cities, the World Bank, and the U.S. Agency for International Development. ICF has more than 60 offices worldwide, employing more than 4,500 people. The company refused to talk to a reporter.

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