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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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3. ERM, Environmental Resources Management (45 preparers) -  the company lists clients from a wide variety of fields, including the oil industry (Chevron, Shell, Statoil, and Total). ERM's clients include more than half of all Global Fortune 500 companies. The company has over 4,700 people working more than 140 offices in 39 different countries.

Wait, TransCanada Assessed the Impact of Its Own Pipeline?

Also on March 6, Brad Johnson at Grist moved  the story from obvious conflict of interest to something that begins to smack of fraud, at least where ERM is involved. Under the headline "'State Department' Keystone XL Report Actually Written by TransCanada Contractor," Johnson links to  the contract and supporting documents that led him to conclude:

The "sustainability consultancy" Environmental Resources Management (ERM) was paid an undisclosed amount under contract to TransCanada to write the [environmental impact] 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 documents from the ERM-TransCanada agreement are on the State Department's web site, 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)….

On March 7, ThinkProgress  summarized the stories by Song and Johnson, adding a detail indicating that this kind of deception was not a new pattern for TransCanada or the State Department: "Several years ago, Cardno Entrix, another private consultancy, was contracted by TransCanada to handle the State Department's initial draft of the environmental impact statement, the Department's hearings on the pipeline, and even its Keystone XL web site.

N.Y. Times Favors Climate Over Pipeline

Without mentioning the State Department report's shady underpinnings, the New York Times took two strong shots against approval of the Keystone pipeline - first in a  column by Thomas Friedman on March 9, "No to Keystone. Yes to Crazy." Friedman uncharacteristically urged protestors to "go crazy" -

I'm talking chain-themselves-to-the-White-House-fence-stop-traffic-at-the-Capitol kind of crazy, because I think if we all make enough noise about this, we might be able to trade a lousy Keystone pipeline for some really good systemic responses to climate change.

The next day, the Times struck again, this time with  an editorial urging President Obama to deny a permit to Keystone:

He should say no, and for one overriding reason: A president who has repeatedly identified climate change as one of humanity's most pressing dangers cannot in good conscience approve a project that - even by the State Department's most cautious calculations - can only add to the problem.

Add the likelihood that the State Department report is likely a collusive fraud doesn't really improve the pipeline's case.

And guess what? The State Department position today is the same position officially expressed some 18 months ago during a press briefing related to an earlier Keystone report, when Assistant Secretary Kerri-Ann Jones  told reporters:

I think that the sense we have is that this oil sands is going to be developed and therefore there's not going to be any dramatic change in greenhouse gas from this pipeline, or if the pipeline was to go forward or without the pipeline, because the oil sands will continue to be developed and there are alternatives to pipelines to moving that fuel or potential crude around.

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