Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
The State Department has released the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the proposed northern leg of the controversial and long-embattled TransCanada Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
In a familiar “Friday trash dump” — a move many expected the Obama administration to shun — John Kerry’s State Department chose to “carefully stage-manage the report’s release” on Super Bowl Friday when most Americans are switching focus to football instead of political scandals.
Anticipating the report’s release, insiders who had been briefed on the review told Bloomberg News the SEIS — not a formal decision by the State Department on the permitting of the pipeline, but rather another step in the department’s information gathering — “will probably disappoint environmental groups and opponents of the Keystone pipeline.”
And, indeed, the new report reads:
Approval or denial of any one crude oil transport project, including the proposed Project, remains unlikely to significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands, or the continued demand for heavy crude oil at refineries in the United States.
This reiterates one of the earlier draft’s most heavily criticized conclusions that the pipeline is “unlikely to have a substantial impact on the rate of development in the oil sands,” and thus avoids a comprehensive assessment of those climate impacts.
In June 2013, President Obama said in a speech announcing his Climate Action Plan at Georgetown University that he would only approve the permit if it was proven that “this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.”
The final environmental review is being released on the heels of damning revelations about the close ties between the Canadian pipeline builder, TransCanada and Environmental Resources Management (ERM). ERM was hired by the State Department to conduct the environmental review.
Friends of the Earth president Erich Pica did not mince words in his reaction to the State Department’s new report, telling the National Journal, ”The State Department’s environmental review of the Keystone XL pipeline is a farce. Since the beginning of the assessment, the oil industry has had a direct pipeline into the agency.”
ERM Group: A History Tied to API
Over the past two years, DeSmogBlog has published a number of articles documenting controversial projects — in Peru, the Caspian Sea, Delaware and Alaska – that the ERM Group has approved. In each case the projects have been permitted and have eventually resulted in spills or severe environmental damage.
ERM Group is a dues-paying member of the American Petroleum Institute, which has spent over $22 million lobbying on behalf of Keystone XL.
Timing of the Release
The Final SEIS also precedes a heavily anticipated State Department Inspector General’s report addressing these potential conflicts-of-interest between TransCanada, ERM and the State Department, as has been covered here on DeSmogBlog. It also occurs on a Friday afternoon before the Super Bowl, with attention of much of the American public diverted.
Environmental groups and opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline were surprised by the timing and suddenness of the report’s release. The surprise was not shared by supporters of the pipeline.
For days, industry reps have been claiming that the SEIS would be released this week. The loudest voice was that of Jack Gerard, chief executive of the American Petroleum Institute (API), who speaking to Reuters last week said, “It’s our expectation it will be released next week,” citing sources within the administration.
ERM Group is a dues-paying member of API. Of this clear conflict and the timing of the release, Steve Kretzmann of Oil Change International wrote:
Jack Gerard was apparently briefed by ‘sources within the Administration’ on the timing and content of the report. Before the environmental community. Before Congress. Before anyone else.
If that doesn’t prove once and for all what a corrupt process this has been, I don’t know what will. The oil industry, which has had this process rigged since the word go, are the first to know, because of their cozy and corrupt role in this process.
Green Groups Respond
Jim Murphy of National Wildlife Federation asked this of the decision before the State Department:
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