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Chat with Koch Bros Biographer, the Koch-Kansas Crisis & the IRS’ Duty

1:59 pm in Uncategorized by Connor Gibson

In case you missed yesterday’s chat with Daniel Schulman, author of Sons of Wichita: How the Koch Brothers Became America’s Most Powerful and Private Dynasty, check out the question and answer archive from two hours of engaging with FireDogLake Book Salon users.

Some concluding thoughts on my part, as someone who has closely followed the Kochtopus for the last four years and often ends out tangling with some of its primary tentacles. As I wrote in the intro to yesterday’s Book Salon, Schulman’s tone in promoting his book has surprised many for its middle-of-the-road feel:

Schulman’s tomb of ‘Kochology‘ has been received with surprise for its non-condemning tone. [...] On the surface Schulman’s descriptions are unexpectedly favorable to Koch in the eyes of, say, this Greenpeace researcher.

A bit more on this. One thing I learned yesterday is that Schulman recently placed four questions he’d like to ask Charles and David Koch into the Columbia Journalism Review. Those four questions are the type of critical inquiry that I expected to hear from someone who just devoted a chunk of their life to studying the Koch family in extreme detail (without being part of their circle). Schulman looks for answers on some key contradictions in KochWorld relating to their denial of climate change science, their selective emphasis on “liberty” (liberty for whom?), and Charles Koch’s preference for an almost non-existent government, keeping in mind his company has repeatedly violated the law (and his nonprofit personnel, like Sean Noble of American Encore).

I’ll admit that after watching Mr. Schulman on The Daily Show, Reason TV, Huffington Post live and other forums where he seemed to dismiss the notion that the Kochs often act in their own self interest, the questions on CJR are the type of journalism I’d prefer to see as a major critic and skeptic of the Koch brothers and their motives (Note that what Schulman really says is the Kochs are “true believers” whose ideology comes first, sometimes overlapping with Koch Industries profits to be sure…but this nuance seems to get lost in the noise).

But I think unlike many hardcore Koch-critics, perhaps because of my own ideology rooted in Greenpeace’s core foundation in nonviolence, I didn’t feel particularly confused or conflicted over the real empathy one feels when reading about the various personal tragedies of the Kochs, keeping in mind their secure root in a privileged upbringing, harsh as that upbringing sounds.

If you have yet to read Sons of Wichita, Schulman’s extensive research conveys a surprising feel: a chronic, underlying heartache felt by Koch brothers Charles, David and Bill alike amid decades of sibling lawsuit warfare over the fortune of the company their father built. Money aside, anyone capable of empathy and compassion feels a familiar inner tug when reading these passages of how clearly hurt each of the three brothers were as they traded blows.

But the Kochs’ own compassion has widely corroborated limits. Their business-funded political activities seem to consistently crush society from the middle class down and violate their self-stated ideologies. This indicates that Charles Koch’s rhetoric of “liberty” and “prosperity” is either dishonest, or indicative of the type of ignorance that only the out of touch, hyper wealthy could hold. Lest we forget that while Koch Industries now employs more people globally, Koch’s US employment just fell by 20,000 while the two brothers made an estimated $48 billion.

If Schulman’s research of the Koch brothers’ upbringing explains some of their psychology, it doesn’t excuse the decisions they have made as grown men that adversely impact their fellow country-people. Making a billion while funding groups that demonize those on the financial margins as lazy and unproductive members of society is dishonest and malicious.

The Kochs’ home state of Kansas is a perfect contemporary case study, where numerous tentacles of the “Kochtopus” succeeded in pushing an income tax cut that has tanked the state’s revenue, increased poverty rates and led to a Moody’s downgrade of Kansas’ debt. Governor Sam Brownback is directly supported by Koch Industries and its billionaire owners, and backed by Koch-funded groups coordinated through the State Policy Network (SPN), a network of national and state-level organizations operating across all 50 states. SPN includes groups like the Kansas Policy Institute–a supporter of Brownback’s tax cut disaster, and national affiliate groups controlled or financed by the Kochs, like Americans For Prosperity, the Heritage Foundation and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

Through ALEC its affiliates in the State Policy Network, Art Laffer pushed what New York Times contributing economist Paul Krugman called an “embarrassingly bad” plan ratcheting down corporate income taxes used by Gov Sam Brownback, who is now facing mass backlash from his own party.
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Climate Change Explained in Cartoons by Humorous Economist

6:47 am in Uncategorized by Connor Gibson

A comedian economist presents climate change in a new way.I just read the Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change, which I’m about to highly recommend to you and anyone you have ever known. I’ll even tease you with pretty previews of the book’s pages, below. But first, let me start with an admission:

Environmentalists have a reputation for lacking in the humor department.

This stereotype is unfortunate. My colleagues here at Greenpeace and most of my own crunchy friends are genuinely witty people with good senses of humor. Good enough to make me laugh soy-milk out of my nose once I’m alerted to the kale that was stuck in my teeth all day.* And websites like Grist have done a great job bringing some LOL’s to the WTF’s inherent in environmental reporting.

But our subject matter can be overwhelming in scope: global climate disruption, deforestation, human rights violations abound, freshwater depletion, ocean acidification…..sorry, I just stopped listening to myself to avoid the temptation to hide in bed forever.

Much like environmentalists, today’s economists don’t typically earn a popular reputation for being especially funny. But Dr. Yoram Bauman, the “Stand Up Economist,” has a flair for humor in face of serious problems that he’s solving with well-established economic tools and analyses. Through the quirky cartoon illustrations of Grady Klein, Dr. Bauman has cranked out a series of light-hearted guides to microeconomics, macroeconomics, and now … The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change!

This graphic book takes readers on a eyeball-friendly journey through our Earth’s history, the tumultuous evolution of its climate system, explanations of key science supporting our understanding of climate change, and specific economic solutions that Dr. Bauman say we’ll need to employ to insure ourselves from potentially catastrophic global warming. You’ll also learn why our climate is like a compost pile, the types of one-liner jokes told by single-cell organisms, and why human’s aren’t so great at cleaning up dog poop in public spaces (hint: Garrett Hardin).

Not only is it entertaining, it’s packed full of facts, presented as cartoons and peppered with a few transparently-unrealistic zingers. You can read it in an afternoon, and so could your kid, or your grandparent. And thanks to the illustrations and simple analogies, I’d bet they will retain more of the information.

Here’s a rundown of why I liked the book, with a few minor critiques at the end.

 

Real Climate Science, Trans-disciplinary Presentation

Core to this book’s utility is its accurate portrayal of science. Dr. Bauman’s work cites the most contemporary data from scientific authorities like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the National Climate Data Center. When graphs and exact scientific models are used, Bauman and Klein attribute the work right there on the page, so you can check the source yourself. This is the coolest climate context since SkepticalScience.com. #GeekingRightNow.

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Years of Living Dangerous Examines Climate Deniers & Kansas Wind Power

11:28 am in Uncategorized by Connor Gibson

 

Next Monday, SHOWTIME’s Years of Living Dangerously series will air an episode focused in part on wind energy in Kansas. Teaser clips posted by SHOWTIME review how wind energy has been a lifeline for farmers suffering from increased drought due to climate change, and interview fossil fuel industry lobbyists who are still peddling climate science denial in Kansas. Watch a teaser here: Years of Living Dangerously – Next on Episode 6

Wind energy is very popular in Kansas. According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), Kansas’ wind industry employs thousands of people each year as new wind turbines are rapidly constructed. Kansas currently has 800 megawatts of wind energy capacity under construction, on top of almost 3,000MW in existing capacity.

The news gets better, because Kansas has enormous potential for more clean energy growth. While Kansas is currently ranked 8th among US states’ current wind energy generation, it has the 2nd most potential of any state, after Texas.

Caricature of Climate Change Denier James Taylor

Climate Change Denier James Taylor

Don’t try telling that to James Taylor though. No, not the singer-songwriter, but the climate change denier James Taylor you see in the SHOWTIME teaser above. This obscure lawyer at The Heartland Institute has made his cozy career undermining public recognition of how serious global warming is, and fighting against policy solutions to climate change. Here’s how that works:

Fossil fuel companies extract, distribute and burn dirty energy like coal, oil and gas. These companies don’t like the explosion in clean energy competition, an industry that itself is a lot less explosive, corrosive and polluting (have you seen coverage of the massive, deadly coal mine disaster in Turkey??). Rather than innovate their companies to respond to the needs of the 21st Century, polluting companies like Koch Industries, ExxonMobil, Peabody coal and Duke Energy are funding a vast, coordinated network of political front groups, fake grassroots organizations and lobbying firms to kill clean energy incentives in Kansas and other at least 14 other states.

Just two weeks ago, Kansas state politicians narrowly defended the state’s renewable portfolio standard. The RPS law is a major incentive for clean energy jobs, requiring utility companies to gradually phase in electricity sources that don’t exacerbate global climate change, or poison the air we breathe and the water we drink. As reported in the Washington Post, this attack on clean energy was the third within the last two years introduced by Kansas politicians affiliated with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), backed by ALEC’s friends in the State Policy Network, like climate change deniers at The Heartland Institute, political heavyweights like Grover Norquist and the Koch brothers’ main political group, Americans for Prosperity.

SHOWTIME’s Years of Living Dangerously will take a closer look at how these front groups and politicians conspired against Kansas’ clean energy industry, siding with fossil fuel billionaire Charles Koch instead of the farmers and wind industry employees who are building the infrastructure of today’s energy landscape. Here’s a longer preview of SHOWTIME’s forthcoming episode about the effort to build wind energy in Kansas, and the fossil fuel industry-funded enemies of that effort: Years of Living Dangerously Season 1: Episode 6 Clip – Droughts

Crossposted from Greenpeace’s The EnvironmentaLIST: Years of Living Dangerously: Climate Change Denial and Kansas Wind Energy

ALEC Doesn’t Care About Free Markets: Explaining ALEC’s Shill Bills

8:51 am in Uncategorized by Connor Gibson

Update 8/11/2014: I asked ALEC staffer John Eick about the ALEC free markets contradiction on camera, to no avail:

Today in Kansas City, Missouri, the American Legislative Exchange Council is bringing your state legislators to a closed-door meeting with corporate lobbyists to ghostwrite “model” laws to bring to your state.

ALEC Logo: Limited Government, Free Markets & Federalism crossed out in favor of Corporate LobbyingAs usual, ALEC’s latest conference will be painted with patriotic rhetoric and all of the typical buzzwords: “free markets,” “liberty,” “Jeffersonian,” “Prosperity,”…you get the gist. But in typical political & public relations fashion, these words are a feeble shell obscuring an anti-populist, Big Business lobbying campaign.

The American Legislative Exchange Council doesn’t care about free markets. I know it says it does, and I know they’re Tweeting with the #FreeMarkets hashtag today, but ALEC doesn’t honor the concept by any means. This is easily proven by the extremely narrow range ALEC’s own pay-to-pollute policies.

A simple glance through ALEC’s catalog of dirty energy bills reveals a limited range of work serving the corporations and billionaires bankrolling its operations–not exactly a genuine libertarian utopia. Of ALEC’s 25 “energy” model bills, 24 serve fossil fuel interests and undermine clean energy, as documented in full below.

This may interest ALEC’s friends who actually do care about free markets, since ALEC actively works against the concept when its member companies demand so. Case in point: tea party and free market groups like Tell Utilities Solar won’t be Killed (TUSK) are pushing back on ALEC and its monopolistic utility members for attempting to impose fees on distributed solar electricity generation.

ALEC considers people installing solar panels on their rooftops and feeding extra electricity into the grid to be “freeriders,” and will host a luncheon today to discuss how ALEC legislators can help utilities and the Koch brothers make small-scale solar electricity generation more costly.

Greenpeace just confirmed that at least six utility companies quietly dumped ALEC in recent years. These utilities made no promise to maintain disassociation but responded with a rhetorical defense of their commitments to climate and sustainability initiatives, which is completely counter to ALEC’s ongoing work.

Undeniable Anti-Free Market Trend in ALEC’s Polluter Policies

ALEC has many bills in a few narrow categories that all expand power and government resources for fossil fuel and nuclear companies, complimented by model bills to stifle competition from renewable energy and fuel interests.

How many of these ALEC bills promote renewable energy or renewable fuels? How many ALEC bills propose repeals of coal, oil, gas or nuclear subsidies?

Zero.

The closest ALEC comes is a single model bill to exempt some energy efficient appliances from state & local sales and use tax focuses on consumer-level activity rather than broad systemic issues of infrastructure, pollution reduction, 0r science-based climate policy. This means 24 of ALEC’s 25 “energy” bills are handouts to polluters.

Here’s a rundown of ALEC’s dirty energy bills, which ALEC’s staff routinely characterize in order to sell these bad ideas to the American public. Check for yourself, and call out the only thing ALEC has ever recycled: dishonesty.

ALEC bills Promoting, Protecting or Expanding the Use of Fossil Fuel & Nuclear Fuels: 16

  • Power Plant Siting Actstreamlines coal & nuclear plant construction siting
  • Resolution in Support of Energy Security, Production, Distribution, Environmental Protection and Economic Growth in the United Statesurges Congress to offer special protection to the coal industry as clean energy growths creates more competition
  • Resolution on Mandatory Electricity Consumer Disclosure Informationurges Congress to forbid mandatory disclosure by utilities of their electricity sources. This would cut off consumers’ ability to make decisions about which types of energy they prefer. For instance, a consumer wouldn’t be able to access information on an energy source’s “nonpower attributes” like pollution, carbon intensity, and fuel type, and wouldn’t be able to chose which energy sources to support. This is a way for polluting companies to reduce attention to benefits of clean energy.
  • Resolution on Best Available Control Technology For Coal-Based Electric Generation“interprets” coal pollution control laws in ways that are more favorable to coal companies
  • Utility Construction Review Actwith key provisions of Construction Work In Progress (CWIP), this bill allows utility companies to charge their ratepayers for construction projects before the construction begins, placing financial burden and risk on consumers. CWIP is most commonly associated with prohibitively expensive nuclear projects.
  • Intrastate Coal and Use Actremoves federal environmental oversight of coal that is mined and used within a single state
  • Intrastate Oil and Gas Use Actremoves federal environmental oversight of oil & gas that is extracted and used within a single state
  • Resolution on Responsible Resource Developmenta resolution pressuring federal politicians and agencies to remain absent from oil & gas fracking oversight, placing all regulatory burden on the states, which lack capacity for safe oversight.
  • Resolution Requesting that the Federal Government Confer and Consult with the States on Management of Public Lands and Energy Resourcesone of ALEC’s model policies to decrease federal control of public land. Fossil fuel extractors generally have an easier time lobbying and obtaining land through state authorities where political resources are more limited.
  • Resolution to Retain State Authority over Hydraulic Fracturing – created to block pending US Environmental Protection Agency regulation of fracking by placing oversight with state regulators, who lack capacity for safe oversight.
  • Resolution Urging Congress to End the Outer Continental Shelf Moratorium on Oil and Natural Gas Exploration and Productionputs state-level pressure on Congress to expand offshore oil drilling on the U.S. coastline and give states jurisdiction over offshore drilling near their coastal borders. ALEC “retired” this model bill at its December 2013 meeting in Washington, DC.
  • Pipeline Replacement and Infrastructure Modernization and Enhancement Actwould allow gas pipeline operators to replace pipes on the dime of electricity ratepayers
  • Resolution in Support of the Keystone XL Pipelinestate legislative pressure on Congress and the U.S. State Department to fully-approve TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline. TransCanada Pipelines is a member of ALEC’s Energy, Environment and Agriculture task force.
  • The Disclosure of Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid Composition Actpushed through ALEC by ExxonMobil, this false “disclosure” bill actually serves to keep fracking chemicals secret from the public
  • Resolution Urging Quick Congressional Action on the Recommendations of The Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Futurestate pressure on Congress and the Executive branch to fast track a non-permanent radioactive nuclear waste disposal locations
  • Resolution Urging the President and Congress to Act Expeditiously in Procuring a Site or Sites for the Storage of High-Level Radioactive Wastestate pressure on Congress and the President to hasten finding storage sites for radioactive nuclear waste

 

ALEC bills Promoting, Protecting or Expanding the Use of Renewable Energy & Renewable Fuels: 0

  • None.

 

ALEC bills to Undermine Clean Energy Incentives or Development and promote use of Fossil Fuel and Nuclear Energy: 8

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Oops! CEO of Corporate Front Network Lied to Reporters

9:21 am in Uncategorized by Connor Gibson

Last week, the Center for Media and Democracy and ProgressNow released a series of reports on how the State Policy Network coordinates an agenda carried out by affiliate “Stink Tanks” in all 50 states. Responding to questions from reporters, SPN’s CEO Tracie Sharp demanded that each of the seemingly independent groups were “fiercely independent.”

Koch Bros Caricature

Koch money is behind SPN’s state “stinktanks.”

But Jane Mayer at the New Yorker reports Tracie Sharp said the opposite to attendees of SPN’s recent annual meeting. In Oklahoma City last September, Ms. Sharp plainly told her associates how to coordinate a broad agenda and pander directly to the interests of billionaire funders like the Koch brothers and the Searle family for grants:

Sharp went on to say that, like IKEA, the central organization would provide “the raw materials” along with the “services” needed to assemble the products. Rather than acting like passive customers who buy finished products, she wanted each state group to show the enterprise and creativity needed to assemble the parts in their home states. “Pick what you need,” she said, “and customize it for what works best for you.”

During the meeting, Sharp also acknowledged privately to the members that the organization’s often anonymous donors frequently shape the agenda. “The grants are driven by donor intent,” she told the gathered think-tank heads. She added that, often, “the donors have a very specific idea of what they want to happen.” She said that the donors also sometimes determined in which states their money would be spent.

Tracie Sharp responded to the New Yorker with a generic statement that didn’t address her contradictory statements. And who knows if there’s anything useful she could say at this point, The State Policy Network was just caught with its pants down.

For those who don’t spend their days reading about the inner workings of the corporate-conservative political machine, the State Policy Network isn’t a familiar name. But it’s an important entity. SPN serves as the umbrella of ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) and all of its state and national allies pushing a coordinated corporate-friendly agenda through all 50 states.

SPN and ALEC have led the coordinated attack on clean energy in states like North Carolina, Kansas and now Ohio. Dozens of SPN groups are longtime players in the Koch-funded climate change denial movement. By orchestrating against policies to lessen global warming impacts or by directly undermining the science, SPN’s efforts have ranged from urging inaction on global climate treaties and forcing teachers to misrepresent climate science to their students.

Beyond shilling for the coal, oil, gas and nuclear companies bankrolling ALEC and SPN’s operations, these coordinated entities attack  public employee unions, wages and pensions, block Medicaid expansion, suppress legitimate voters, push to defund and privatize schools, and undermine choice in women’s health.

And who pays for SPN’s work in all 50 states?

SPN’s main purpose is to advance the interests of its corporate funders: dirty coal and petrochemical industries, the tobacco giants, agribusiness, pharmaceutical companies, private education firms, tech and telecom companies, and the usual web of trade associations, law firms and lobby shops paid to represent each of those industries. Corporations use SPN to advance political campaigns they are typically embarrassed to associate with publicly.

The State Policy Network also serves to advance an ideological agenda that tends to undermine the interests of most Americans in favor of those who are particularly wealthy and well-connected.

The Koch brothers fit this description, of course. But they’re joined by a legion of lesser known multi-millionaires and billionaires, sometimes coordinating directly with the Kochs.

These SPN funders include Richard Mellon Scaife, Phil Anschutz, Art Pope, the Coors family, the DeVos family, the Searle family, and the remains of the Bradley family fortune, to name a few of the better known of these sources of dark money. Few citizens recognize the names of this quiet minority of political puppetmasters, but people still feel the bruise of plutocratic spending as state and national politics are pushed to new extremes.

More on the State Policy Network can be read in the National Stink Tanks report. SourceWatch has the full list of SPN members and affiliates and SPN funders.

Check Greenpeace.org for more Koch Facts.

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REPORT: Tobacco-style Climate Denial – Greenpeace’s “Dealing in Doubt”

11:08 am in Uncategorized by Connor Gibson

Written by Cindy Baxter, crossposted from Greenpeace: Dealing in Doubt.

Who likes being lied to by people paid by the oil industry who pose as “experts” on climate change?

Did you know it’s been going on for 25 years?

In a couple of weeks, the UN’s official advisors on climate change science, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will update its global assessment on the issue. Yet in the background, more attacks on the climate science are underway.

For the last quarter century, the climate science denial machine, its cogs oiled by fossil fuel money, has been attacking climate science, climate scientists and every official US report on climate change, along with State and local efforts – with the aim of undermining action on climate change.

Our new report, Dealing in Doubt, sets out the history of these attacks going back to the early 90s. These are attacks based on anti-regulatory, so called “free market” ideology, not legitimate scientific debate, using a wide range of dirty tricks: from faked science, attacks on scientists, fake credentials, cherry-picking scientific conclusions: a campaign based on the old tobacco industry mantra: “doubt is our product”.

We give special attention to perhaps today’s poster child of the climate denial machine’s free market think tanks, the Heartland Institute, which is about to launch a new version of its “NIPCC” or “climate change reconsidered” report next week in Chicago.

Unlike the real IPCC, with thousands of scientists involved from around the world, the Heartland Institute’s handful of authors is paid. Several of them claim fake scientific credentials. They start with a premise of proving the overwhelming consensus on climate science wrong, whereas the real IPCC simply summarizes the best science to date on climate change.

This multi-million dollar campaign has been funded by anti-government ideologues like the Koch brothers, companies like ExxonMobil and trade associations like the American Petroleum Institute.

More recently, less visible channels of funding have been revealed such as the Donors Capital Fund and Donors Trust, organization that that has been called the “ATM of the conservative movement”, distributing funds from those who don’t want to be publicly associated with the anti-environmental work product of organizations like the Heartland Institute.

In the last week we’ve seen new peer-reviewed science published, linking at least half of 2012’s extreme weather events to a human carbon footprint in the atmosphere and on the weather and climate.

As the scientific consensus strengthens by the day that climate change is happening now, that carbon pollution is causing it and must be regulated, the denial machine is getting increasingly shrill. But today, while they are being increasingly ignored by a majority of the public, their mouthpieces in the US House of Representatives, for instance, have increased in number.

They’re still fighting the science – and they’re still being funded, to the tune of millions of dollars each year, to do it.

Dealing in Doubt sets out a history of these attacks. We show how the tactics of the tobacco industry’s campaign for “sound science” led to the formation of front groups who, as they lost the battle to deny smoking’s health hazards and keep warning labels off of cigarettes, turned their argumentative skills to the denial of climate change science in order to slow government action.

What we don’t cover is the fact that these organizations and deniers are also working on another front, attacking solutions to climate change. They go after any form of government incentive to promote renewable energy, while cheering for coal, fracking and the Keystone pipeline.

They attack any piece of legislation the US EPA puts forward to curb pollution. Decrying President Obama’s “war on coal” is a common drumbeat of these anti-regulation groups. One key member of the denial machine, astrophysicist Willie Soon from the Smithsonian Institute for Astrophysics, has portrayed himself as an “expert” on mercury and public health in order to attack legislation curbing mercury emissions from coal plants.

This recent history, as well as the prior history of denial by the tobacco companies and chemical, asbestos and other manufacturing industries, is important to remember because the fossil fuel industry has never admitted that it was misguided or wrong in its early efforts to delay the policy reaction to the climate crisis. To this day, it continues to obstruct solutions.

The individuals, organizations and corporate interests who comprise the ‘climate denial machine’ have caused harm and have slowed our response time. As a result, we will all ultimately pay a much higher cost as we deal with the impacts, both economic and ecological.

Eventually, these interests will be held accountable for their actions.

Exact Keystone XL Route Is a Mystery to the U.S. State Department?!

9:30 am in Uncategorized by Connor Gibson

Crossposted from PolluterWatch.

Greenpeace activists from Canada, France and the U.S. block the giant tar sands mining operation at the Shell Albian Sands outside of Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada on Tuesday, September 15, 2009 .

The U.S. government doesn’t know exactly where TransCanada wants to lay pipe for the northern section of its Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, according to the results of a 14-month Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request to the U.S. State Department. In its final answer to a FOIA request by Thomas Bachand of the Keystone Mapping Project, the State Department admitted:

Neither Cardno ENTRIX nor TransCanada ever submitted GIS information to the Department of State, nor was either corporation required to do so. The information that you request, if it exists, is therefore neither physically nor constructively under the control of the Department of State and we are therefore unable to comply with your FOIA request.

Yes, you read that right. The U.S. State Department published its draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS)–supposedly an official account of the potential hazards of TransCanada’s proposed pipeline on U.S. waterways, wildlife and other major considerations like global climate change–without knowing exactly where TransCanada wants to dig. Check out the full letter from State to Mr. Bachand at the Keystone Mapping Project.

Ongoing Conflicts of Interest in State Department Environmental Assessments

The State Department is already facing legitimate criticism for contracting companies with ties to TransCanada and other oil companies for its environmental impact estimates, which the Environmental Protection Agency has slammed for being “insufficient.” State looked no further than oil industry contractors to run the draft SEIS–companies like Cardno ENTRIX, which calls TransCanada a “major client,” and ERM Resources, a dues paying member of the American Petroleum Institute which is being investigated by the State Department’s Inspector General for trying to hide its prior consulting for fossil fuel giants like ExxonMobil, BP and Shell. In fact, TransCanada chose ERM Resources to do the Keystone XL SEIS review for the State Department, and one of ERM’s people working on the review was formerly employed by TransCanada. 

TransCanada has stacked the deck, wagering American waterways and private property against the promise to profit from continued extraction of dirty tar sands petroleum.

Tar Sands Pipelines Spill

The potential is too high for Keystone XL to leak just like TransCanada’s existing Keystone I pipeline has repeatedly done, or rupture like ExxonMobil’s Pegasus tar sands pipeline in Mayflower, Arkansas earlier this year, or Enbridge’s tar sands pipeline spill in the Kalamazoo River. The southern leg of Keystone XL is already under construction, and the if the cracks, dents and other faults in the ‘new’ pipe are any indication, pollution from oil spills looks inevitable. Beyond being a disaster waiting to happen, KXL guarantees the continued disaster that is tar sands mining, a process that has already poisoned entire regions–and peoples’ communities–in northern Alberta, Canada.

With President Obama’s recently unveiled Climate Action Plan, it would be a limp gesture to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. You’d think with the State Department having its environmental analysis run by oil industry consultants, they’d listen to the oil industry’s own guarantees that Keystone XL would increase demand for tar sands mining. That’s bad news for our climate — something the State Department cannot ignore if they do a reasonable review of the “unprecedented” amount of public comments on its draft SEIS on KXL.

What remains to be seen is if the State Department will be reasonable in the last leg of its review, or if it will continue letting TransCanada and Big Oil control the process to the bitter end.

Greenpeace Executive Director Phil Radford is arrested at the White House to urge President Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline, August 29, 2011. Radford was among 1250 people arrested at the White House gate over the course of two weeks.