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Obama’s Former PR Flack Anita Dunn Pitches “Ethical Oil” Keystone XL Ad

12:07 pm in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Anita Dunn

Anita Dunn – Obama advisor and TransCanada PR flack

Ezra Levant is the man behind an attempt to re-frame the Alberta tar sands as “ethical oil.” “Ethical” – Levant’s deceptive public relations campaign argues of the tar sands “carbon bomb” - because it doesn’t come from the war-ridden and human rights-abusing Middle East.

Now, the “ethical oil” campaign has a new backer: Anita Dunn, former White House Communications Director for President Barack Obama and current Principal of SKDKnickerbocker, a public relations firm with offices in Washington, D.C.; New York City and Albany.

SKDK – as covered here on multiple occasions by DeSmogBlog - does PR for Transcanada, the company behind the controversial Keystone XL tar sands export pipeline. Transcanada has paid SKDK – and by extension, Dunn – to place ads in strategic television and radio markets in the Washington, D.C. area.

“America imports millions of barrels of oil from the Middle East every week,” anarrator says in an ominous tone in the most recent ad, as images of violent protests in the Middle East blare across the screen. “But we don’t have to.”

The TV ad then switches to serene music and landscape views with pipeline stretched across it, alluding to “ethical oil” coming from Canada if the northern half of Transcanada’s Keystone XL pipeline is approved by both the U.S. State Department and President Barack Obama.

The radio ad - also singing the “ethical oil” tune – claims that building the northern half of the Keystone XL will create “over 40,000 good American jobs.” Independent studies point to it creating 35 full-time jobs and 3,950 temporary construction jobs.

The New York Times explained that Transcanada paid Dunn and SKDK to place the “ethical oil“-style ad “to reach power players in Washington’s media market.”

Dunn’s husband is Robert “Bob” Bauer, President Obama’s personal attorney since he arrived in Washington, D.C. as a U.S. Senator in 2005; Obama’s election law attorney for his 2008 and 2012 electoral campaigns; former Obama White House Counsel during his first term in office and former Counsel for the Democratic National Committee.

A decision on the northern half of the pipeline is not expected for months, yet one thing remains certain: the deceptive “ethical oil” meme and theme will pollute the airwaves throughout that time period, and it just found a new promoter in Anita Dunn.

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Fracking’s Myriad Ties to Greenwashed State Dept Keystone XL Environmental Review

8:04 am in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Most don’t think of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) when pondering the future of TransCanada’s Keystone XL tar sands export pipeline - but they should.

There are numerous ties between key members of the fracking industry and groups pushing for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. And these threads all lead back, one way or another, to Environmental Resources Management, Inc. (ERM Group).

ERM Group did the official U.S. State Department’s environmental review for Keystone XL pipeline. The review, published in March 2013, determined the pipeline will have negligible climate change impacts (the review dealt with the northern segment of the pipeline as the southern half, now known as the “Gulf Coast Pipeline,” received an expedited Executive Order permit by President Barack Obama in March 2012).

ERM is also a paying member of the American Petroleum Institute (API), which has spent over $22 million lobbying on Keystone XL since June 2008.

In its bid to provide the environmental review for the Keystone XL pipeline, ERM overtly lied on its conflict-of-interest form, saying it has no current business ties to TransCanada. ERM has an ongoing consulting relationship with the company responsible for the Alaska South Central LNG Project, also known as Alaska Gas Pipeline Project. The company, South Central LNG, is co-owned by TransCanada.

On top of lying about its current business ties, ERM stated on the conflict-of-interest form it had no “direct or indirect relationship (financial, organizational, contractual or otherwise) with any business entity that could be affected in any way by the proposed work.” In so doing, ERM may have broken federal law - 18 USC § 1001 - by making a false claim on a federal contract.

The State Department’s Office of Inspector General has officially launched an inquiry into how and why State overlooked ERM’s omission, allowing ERM to potentially commit a crime.

In addition to potentially fraudulent claims about its connection to TransCanada, ERM also has significant ties to major gas industry groups and major players supporting the fracking boom in the US.

The details will follow below, but for starters, here are the connections in a nutshell:

Exhibit AKathryn “Katie” Klaber, departing head of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, one of the most powerful gas industry lobby groups in the US.

Prior to serving as Executive Director of the lobbying powerhouse, Klaber began her career at Environmental Resources Management, Inc. (ERM Group). ERM is a former dues-paying member of the Marcellus Shale Coalition.

Exhibit BICF International, an additional firm contracted by the State Department to perform the environmental review.

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Obama State Dept. Leaving Citizens in the Dark About Exact Keystone XL Pipeline Route

3:45 pm in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Tar Sands Blockade - two activists locked to each other

Two members of a recent Tar Sands Blockade action by Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance. The pair are locked to each other at a construction site.

Believe it or not, the precise route of TransCanada’s Keystone XL tar sands pipeline remains shrouded in mystery.

Of course, both TransCanada and the U.S. State Department have revealed basic Keystone XL route maps. And those who follow the issue closely know the pipeline would carry Alberta’s tar sands diluted bitumen or “dilbit” southward to Port Arthur, TX refineries and then be exported to the global market.

But the real path is still a secret: the actual route of KXL is still cloaked in secrecy. Case in point: the travails of Thomas Bachand, Founder and Director of the Keystone Mapping Project.

“I started out wanting to scout the route for a potential photography project. So I went looking for a map, and discovered there wasn’t one,” Bachand explained in a Nov. 2012 interview with National Public Radio. ”I went over to the State Department website, and found some great information, but then I discovered there wasn’t any route information.”

His experience with TransCanada was even worse.

“TransCanada [also gave me] the runaround. Their excuse was that [releasing the information] was a national security risk, which is just a joke.”

Due to lack of transparency on the part of President Barack Obama’s State Department and TransCanada, what was once merely an ambitous photo-journalism project has morphed into a full-fledged muckraking effort – and a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request battle royale – that’s now lasted about a year and a half for Bachand. The State Department still has yet to give him the goods.

“I was initially told that 8-12 months was a typical turn around time for a FOIA,” Bachand explained to DeSmogBlog in an interview. ”Keep in mind that many FOIA requests to the State Dept. require extensive searches through years of diplomatic cables. My request deals with a single project handled by a single department.”

Why the long delay on such a seemingly straight-forward request?

“I have been told that the main obstacle to my FOIA request with the Dept. of State for the…Keystone XL is that the information is ‘politically sensitive,’” Bachand explained of the situation in a June 26, 2012 blog post.

Missing the Forest for the Trees?

Bachand believes even the most ardent advocates fending off KXL are missing the forest for the trees on the State Dept. KXL Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS).

The SEIS was penned by Environmental Resources Management (ERM Group), a dues-paying member of the American Petroleum Institute (API) which said KXL will have negligible climate change impacts, along with two other industry-tied contractors. API has spent $22 million lobbying on behalf of its members on KXL and tar sands since its initial June 2008 proposal, on top of the cash it has spent on its relentless public relations and advertising efforts.

“What’s been lost in the debate over the Keystone is that, as written, the EIS makes it impossible to determine the project’s environmental impacts,” Bachand told DeSmogBlog in an interview. ”As all key features and landmarks are referenced to the nearest pipeline milepost marker, without milepost marker longitude and latitude data, one cannot make sense of the report.”

As of now, U.S. citizens aren’t even privy to information as basic as what water bodies the pipeline crosses, Bachand says. As seen in Mayflower, AR – when tens of thousands of gallons of tar sands crude from ExxonMobil’s Pegasus Pipeline spilled into Lake Conway from a pipeline few even knew existed until the latest “dilbit disaster” – knowledge is power and lack of it vice versa. Not knowing the exact route of the pipeline leaves impacted communities unable to anticipate threats to waterways where their local knowledge would be invaluable.

“Waterbody crossings are another key feature that is largely missing,” Bachand explained to DeSmog. “If the pipeline crossed a mile upstream from one’s property, or neighborhood, or community park, or aquifer, most people would want to know about it. Keep in mind that I am only looking at GIS data. One has to wonder what else is missing from the EIS.”

Bachand also believes that President Obama’s statement about deciding the fate of KXL exclusively on its climate change impact – at the expense of numerous significant ecological impacts – is foolhardy.

“Obama said that the KXL would only be approved if it did not contribute to climate change in his Climate Action Plan speech,” Bachand said. “Yet, one cannot determine global impacts without first giving due diligence to the immediate environmental impacts. Also, by focusing strictly on the impact of tar sands on the climate, pipeline opponents largely disassociate the debate from the pipeline’s ecological impacts.”

Next Steps for Bachand on Keystone Mapping Project

Although FOIA battles over basic KXL details were never the initial intention of Bachand’s project, he is now committed to work on the project for months, if not years to come.

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