(MintPress) – When the State Department released a report in early March indicating the proposed Keystone XL pipeline would have no impact on climate change, environmentalist groups like the Sierra Club scoffed. Now, a new report released by Mother Jones reveals that experts who contributed to the report had worked for TransCanada, the company pouring in billions into lobbying efforts to build the Canadian-American pipeline.
While the initial release of the report was shrouded with criticism, red flags regarding the inclusion of industry leaders didn’t go off — this is because the history of contributing experts was left out. It wasn’t until Mother Jones got its hands on a unredacted version of the State Department study that it was discovered who exactly was behind the “findings.”
Documents uncovered by the news organization detail the “second-in-command” on the State Department report, which was conducted by Environmental Resources Management (ERM), an international consulting firm. That person was none other than Andrew Bielakowski, who has worked on pipeline projects for TransCanada for more than seven years. His resume also includes partnerships with ExxonMobil, BP and ConocoPhillips.
When the news organization questioned ERM regarding the redaction, it claimed the burden was on the State Department to decide what — and what not — to reveal to the public.
“The Department of State was responsible for posting the conflict of interest statements and has complete control over all activities of ERM,” the company’s spokesperson wrote in an email to Mother Jones. “TransCanada does not direct or control ERM’s actions in any way. TransCanada does not speak for the State Department with respect to the details of how it manages its review process.”
The State Department claims the redaction helped protect the “private information of ERM’s previous clients.”
Applauded by industry, good enough for president
The State Department report was met with applause by TransCanada’s management. Its CEO Russ Girling said in a statement the report was an “important step toward receiving a presidential permit for this critical energy infrastructure project.”
He was right. President Barack Obama has twice delayed a decision regarding the Keystone XL pipeline, claiming more studies regarding environmental impact needed to be conducted before he would issue the final nod of approval.
In his January 2012 State of the Union address, Obama spoke directly about climate change, claiming he would act on the matter if Congress failed to do so.
“I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy,” he said.
When the State Department released the report indicating the pipeline would not contribute to climate change, it painted a favorable scenario for the president — he could sign off on the project, while still staying true to his word. Obama is likely to make his decision next month in April.
What did the study say?
The State Department report indicated the pipeline would have no impact on climate change. It came to the conclusion through the following logic: Even without the pipeline, the process of extracting oil from Alberta’s tar sands would continue. It was a classic tragedy of the commons argument — and it caused environmentalists to speak up.
“Transporting this dirty fuel to U.S. markets has proven to be extremely dangerous, unpredictable and uncontrollable, as evidenced by the hundreds of devastating spills over the past decade,” The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) said in an open letter to the president. “The Keystone XL pipeline’s route would put our natural resources and communities at risk for a similar catastrophe.”
The Sierra Club referred to the report as having little merit, claiming that it’s only enabling the process of extracting oil from Alberta’s tar sands, an energy-intensive process that has caused climate scientists to speak out.
“It’s impossible to fight climate change while simultaneously investing in one of the dirtiest, most carbon-intensive fossil fuels on the planet,” the organization said in a statement.
In January, 17 climate scientists wrote a letter to the president, urging him to reject the project.
“Eighteen months ago some of us wrote you about the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, explaining why in our opinion its construction ran counter to both national and planetary interests,” the letter states. “Nothing that has happened since has changed that evaluation; indeed, the year of review that you asked for on the project made it clear exactly how pressing the climate issue really is.”
Extraction of tar sand oil emits three times more carbon dioxide than is released by standard, conventional oil extraction, according to Friends of the Earth, a global environmental lobby organization active in more than 74 countries throughout the world.
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