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Super Bowl Friday Trash Dump: State Dept Releases KXL Final Environmental Review

4:16 pm in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Protest at Whitehouse. Sign: Stop the Keystone Pipeline Project

Feds release a final report on Keystone XL’s safety when no one’s looking.

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.

According to documents obtained by the Sierra Club via Freedom of Information Act requests, TransCanada actually recommended ERM to conduct the study, and claimed, falsely, that the two companies had not worked together before.

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 SeaDelaware 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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Obama Approves Major Border-Crossing Fracked Gas Pipeline Used to Dilute Tar Sands

8:39 pm in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Kinder Morgan logo

Kinder Magic?

Although TransCanada’s Keystone XL tar sands pipeline has received the lion’s share of media attention, another key border-crossing pipeline benefitting tar sands producers was approved on November 19 by the U.S. State Department.

Enter Cochin, Kinder Morgan’s 1,900-mile proposed pipeline to transport gas produced via the controversial hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) of the Eagle Ford Shale basin in Texas north through Kankakee, Illinois, and eventually into Alberta, Canada, the home of the tar sands.

Like Keystone XL, the pipeline proposal requires U.S. State Department approval because it crosses the U.S.-Canada border. Unlike Keystone XL – which would carry diluted tar sands diluted bitumen (“dilbit”) south to the Gulf Coast – Kinder Morgan’s Cochin pipeline would carry the gas condensate (diluent) used to dilute the bitumen north to the tar sands.

“The decision allows Kinder Morgan Cochin LLC to proceed with a $260 million plan to reverse and expand an existing pipeline to carry an initial 95,000 barrels a day of condensate,” the Financial Post wrote.

“The extra-thick oil is typically cut with 30% condensate so it can move in pipelines. By 2035, producers could require 893,000 barrels a day of the ultra-light oil, with imports making up 786,000 barrels of the total.”

Increased demand for diluent among Alberta’s tar sands producers has created a growing market for U.S. producers of natural gas liquids, particularly for fracked gas producers.

“Total US natural gasoline exports reached a record volume of 179,000 barrels per day in February as Canada’s thirst for oil sand diluent ramped up,”explained a May 2013 article appearing in Platts. ”US natural gasoline production is forecast to increase to roughly 450,000 b/d by 2020.”

Before Eagle Ford, Kinder Morgan Targeted Marcellus

Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale basin was Kinder Morgan’s first choice pick for sourcing tar sands diluent for export to Alberta. It wasn’t until that plan failed that the Eagle Ford Shale basin in Texas became Plan B.

Known then as the Kinder Morgan Cochin Marcellus Lateral Project proposal, the project fell by the wayside in February 2012.

“The company’s Cochin Marcellus Lateral Pipeline would have started in Marshall County, West Virginia, and transported natural gas liquids from the Marcellus producing region of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio,” wrote the Mount Vernon News of the canned project. [It] would [then] carry the [natural gas] liquids to processing plants and other petrochemical facilities in Illinois and Canada.”

“Kinder Magic”: More to Come?

Industry market trends publication RBN Energy described Kinder Morgan’s dominance of the tar sands diluent market as “Kinder Magic” in a January 2013 article.

“These are still early days for the developing condensate business in the Gulf Coast region,” RBN Energy’s Sandy Fielden wrote. “Plains All American and Kinder Morgan are developing the potential to deliver at least 170,000 barrels per day of Eagle Ford condensate as diluent to the Canadian tar sand fields in Alberta by the middle of 2014.”

Fielden explained we could see many more of these projects arise in the coming years.

“We have a sense that before too long there will be many more condensate infrastructure projects showing up like ‘magic’ in midstream company presentations.”

While the industry press coverage sounds optimistic, it doesn’t account for the concurrent rise of public opposition to dirty energy pipelines and expansion plans in the fracking and tar sands arenas, so only time will tell the fate of Cochin and its kin.

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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Bogus State Department Keystone XL Climate Study the Basis of David Petraeus’ CUNY Seminar

1:24 pm in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Portrait of David Petraeus

The ongoing adventures of David Petraeus, frackademic.

Former CIA-head David Petraeus’ City University of New York (CUNY) Macaulay Honors College seminar readings include several prominent Big Oil-funded “frackademia” studies, a recent DeSmogBlog investigation revealed.

Further digging into records obtained via New York’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) also reveals “a survey of the global economy to set the stage for the course” – as stated in an email from Petraeus to an unknown source due to redaction – utilizes the U.S. State Department’s Keystone XL environmental review written by Environmental Resources Management (ERM Group) to argue that Transcanada’s tar sands export pipeline deserves approval.

“[Redacted], atttached is a document that my Harvard researchers and I put together for the seminar I’ll lead at Macaulay Honors College of CUNY,” wrote Petraeus in the email. “It is intended to be a survey of the global economy to set the stage for the course…[It] will have considerable value, I think, for the undergrads in the course.”

The “Global Economy” survey was penned on behalf of Petraeus by Vivek Chilukuri, one of Petraeus’ researchers at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Public Policy, where Petraeus sits as a Non-Resident Fellow. Chilukuri serves as Editor-in-Chief for the Harvard Journal of Middle Eastern Politics & Policy, and worked for Obama For America before the 2008 election.

It was at the Harvard Kennedy School where all of Petraeus’ troubles began. His biographer, Paula Broadwell, whom he had an affair with, met Petraeus while a Harvard graduate student, a scandal that ultimately drove him out of the CIA.

His CIA departure landed Petraeus his current gigs on Wall Street at Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) and as an adjunct professor at CUNY Honors College and University of Southern California - and coming full circle – back at Harvard, where the spool began to unravel.

Petraeus’ seminar survey includes an implied endorsement of industry-written fracking chemical disclosure via President Obama’s industry-stacked Energy Department Fracking Subcommittee, and the mythical “clean coal” – otherwise known as carbon capture and sequestration, as well as a cap-and-trade scheme that would include carbon trading of emissions from dirty coal plants for even dirtier shale gas production.

Petraeus’ Keystone XL Endorsement: No Mention of Men Behind Curtain

A call for the approval of Keystone XL’s northern half – the southern half is almost fully built via a March 2012 Obama Administration Executive Order - appears in the “Proposed Policies, Programs, Practices, Laws & Regulations” portion of Petraeus’ seminar survey. One of the proposed policy prongs: “accelerate domestic energy production consistent with environmental concerns.”

Prong “A” of “energy production consistent with environmental concerns,” according to the syllabus? “Authorize Keystone XL project given State Department’s favorable report,” states the survey.

Key context about the “favorable report” completely lacking from the course survey: it was written by API dues-paying member Environmental Resources Management, Inc. (ERM Group). Since the June 2008 proposal of Keystone XL, API has spent over $22 million lobbying for it.

ERM Group was chosen by TransCanada to do the report with the blessing of the State Department, and may have committed a federal crime by lying on its conflict-of-interest form when it said it did not have an ongoing business relationship with Transcanada. In fact, ERM has ongoing business ties with Transcanada in Alaska, contrary to what it said on its conflict-of-interest form, and is helping the company’s attempt to recieve approval of its South Central LNG pipeline project.

Beyond its claims that Keystone XL will have negligible environmental impacts, ERM has also given the “environmentally sound” rubberstamp to a Delaware tar sands refinery project, a Caspian Sea-area pipeline project and a Peruvian pipeline project. All of these projects ended up having negative impacts on the environment.

None of this information of “considerable value” will likely be included in Petraeus’ seminar, but ERM’s Keystone XL environmental review for the State Department will be one of the readings on his syllabus.

FracFocus Façade, “Embedded Environmentalists”

Prongs “B” and “C” of the energy portion of Petraeus’ overview of the global economy pertain to the controversial and ecologically toxic hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) process for oil and gas embedded deep within shale rock basins.

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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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State Department Inspector General Investigating Keystone XL Contractor ERM’s Conflicts of Interest

2:31 pm in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

The Checks and Balances Project has announced that the U.S. State Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) has launched a conflicts-of-interest investigation into dirty dealings pertaining to the contractor tasked to perform the environmental review for the northern half ofTransCanada’s Keystone XL tar sandspipeline on behalf of State.

Environmental Resources Management, Inc. (ERM Group) declared the northern portion of Keystone XL as environmentally safe and sound on behalf of State in March, in defiance of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s assessment, among others.

The northern half of Keystone XL will connect to the over 75-percent complete southern half and – if built – will carry Alberta’s tar sands bitumen south to Texas refineries, with most of the final product shipped to the highest bidder on the global market. State and eventually President Barack Obama have the final say over the proposal because the northern section of pipeline crosses the international border.

The overarching problem with that ERM assessment, as first revealed on Grist by Brad Johnson: ERM Group was chosen not by the State Dept., but by TransCanada itself. Furthermore, as first revealed on Mother Jones by Andy Kroll, the State Dept. redacted biographical portions of the EIS that pointed to ERM’s ongoing close consulting relationship with ERM Group and TransCanada.

“The American public was supposed to get an honest look at the impacts of the Keystone XL pipeline,” writes Checks and Balances‘ Gabe Elsner. ”Instead…a fossil fuel contractor, hid its ties from the State Department so they could green light the project on behalf of its oil company clients.”

Instead of an honest look, the public got deception, perhaps not surprisingly given ERM’s historical contracting relationship with Big Tobacco, as first revealed here onDeSmogBlog. ERM seems to have blatantly lied to the State Dept. – which apparently did no homework of its own, or turned a blind eye at least – and answered “no” to when questioned if it had done business with anyone tied to TransCanada in the past three years.

ERM also told State it was not an energy interest, when the facts say otherwise.

“The State Department question defines an energy interest in part as any company or person engaged in research related to energy development,” wrote Eslner. “Yet, ERM has worked for all of the top five oil companies and dozens of other fossil fuel companies. In other words, ERM is clearly an energy interest.”

For these reasons, a dozen groups (including DeSmogBlog), ranging from environmental NGOs, faith-based groups and government accountability watchdogs called for the Inspector General to investigate why State allowed TransCanada to choose ERM Group.

OIG Special Agent Pedro Colon, Checks and Balances reported, confirmed OIG is “reviewing the matter” in a voicemail left with Elsner. Not satisfied with Colon’s oblique answer, Elsner followed up with OIG via email to ask for more details.

In a May 14 email, Elsner was told the following by Erich Hart, General Counsel to the Inspector General, that Hart can’t comment on an ongoing investigation – implying, of course, that an investigation is happening.

It is this email that led Checks and Balances to believe that OIG is engaged in a serious, methodical probe into ERM Group’s activities related to the Keystone XL SEIS environmental review. The group questions why the State Department didn’t recognize a serious conflict-of-interest in choosing ERM.

The question still remains: will it be a serious investigation or a public relations window dressing act? Time will tell.

ERM Group’s Sordid History

ERM Group has a sordid history of green-lighting ecologically perilous projects. Perhaps not surprising given that it is a dues-paying member of Big Oil’s lobbying powerhouse, the American Petroleum Institute (API), which spent $7.3 million on lobbying in 2012 and another $8.6 million on lobbying in 2011.

As covered here on DeSmogBlog, ERM declared the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline that traverses from Azerbaijan, to Georgia and eventually to Turkey as environmentally and ecologically sound – even though it has proven neither. As also covered here, ERM said the Peru LNG and accompanying pipeline project was also environmentally and ecologically sound - again, even though it has proven neither.

So, unless OIG acts on the investigation it says it has opened and tells State to abide by federal contracting conflicts-of-interest law, it appears Keystone XL will be déjà vu all over again for ERM Group and the Obama Administration.

Keystone XL Scandal: Obama State Dept. Hid Contractor’s TransCanada Ties

3:15 pm in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

No KXL sign in front of cops

Protester at Valero HQ in DC. Activists committed acts of civil disobedience at the White House and other Tar Sands-related sites on March 21, 2013.

Mother Jones has a breaking investigation out on another scandal pertaining to the Obama State Department’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline.

The skinny: the firm that DeSmogBlog revealed has historical ties to Big Tobacco and currently has a client list that includes Koch Industries, ConocoPhillips and BP, Environmental Resources Management (ERM) Group, also has a direct connection to TransCanada itself. ERM Group -DeSmog revealed - also rubber-stamped the controversial and environmentally hazardous Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan (BTC) Pipeline in 2003, which carries oil and gas produced in the Caspian Sea in Baku, Azerbaijan to Tbilisi, Georgia and eventually makes its way to Ceyhan, Turkey.

Andy Kroll summed it up, writing,

ERM’s second-in-command on the Keystone report, Andrew Bielakowski, had worked on three previous pipeline projects for TransCanada over seven years as an outside consultant. He also consulted on projects for ExxonMobil, BP, and ConocoPhillips, three of the Big Five oil companies that could benefit from the Keystone XL project and increased extraction of heavy crude oil taken from the Canadian tar sands.

Embarassed by this act of blatant corruption, the State Department redacted the “biographies” portion of its EIS, an overt attempted cover-up. Mother Jones  tracked down a non-redacted version, revealing the ties that bind the study to the corporation the EIS is technically supposed to stand independent of.

Bielakowski’s ties, coming full circle, are a logical next step in the story.

Brad Johnson, writing for Grist, revealed that the State Department actually allowed TransCanada to hire a contractor on its behalf. TransCanda, of course, went to a go-to-guy who can “deliver the goods.”

“Delivering the goods,” of course, has little to do with delivering good science and is yet another act of deploying the Tobacco Playbook: make a one-sided scientific debate a farcical two-sided one.

Last time around the block, the State Department pulled the same trick, contracting the EIS out to Cardno Entrix, a contractor which lists TransCanada as one of its clients. Flying in the face of reality, a State Department Inspector General report concluded there was no evidence of conflict of interest or bias in the State Department’s review.

The Keystone XL will carry tar sands crude – also known as diluted bitumen or “dilbit” – from the Alberta tar sands project down to refineries in Port Arthur, TX. From there, it will be shipped to the global market. The export pipeline facts on the ground fly in the face of Big Oil’s often-deployed “gaining energy independence” charm offensive.

A final decision by President Obama and Sec. of State John Kerry is expected on the Keystone XL Pipeline in the next few months.

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State Department Keystone XL Study Done by Oil Industry-Connected Firm with Big Tobacco, Fracking Ties

7:42 am in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Tobacco

Transcanada and the oil industry are borrowing from the Big Tobacco playbook to spin their bad publicity.

On March 1, the U.S. State Department published its long-awaited Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the TransCanada Keystone XL (KXL) tar sands pipeline.

The KXL is slated to bring tar sands crude – also known as diluted bitumen or “dilbit” - from Alberta, Canada to Port Arthur, TX. From Port Arthur, it will be refined andexported to the global market.

Flying in the face of the slew of scientific studies both on the harms of burning tar sands and on the KXL itself, State determined that laying down the pipeline is environmentally sound.

Unmentioned by State: the study was contracted out to firms with tar sands extraction clientele, as revealed by InsideClimate News.

“EnSys Energy has worked with ExxonMobil, BP and Koch Industries, which own oil sands production facilities and refineries in the Midwest that process heavy Canadian crude oil. Imperial Oil, one of Canada’s largest oil sands producers, is a subsidiary of Exxon,” InsideClimate News explained. “ICF International works with pipeline and oil companies but doesn’t list specific clients on its website.”

Writing for Grist, Brad Johnson also revealed the name of a third contractor – Environmental Resources Management (ERM) Group - which TransCanada hired on behalf of the State Department to do the EIS.

“(ERM) was paid an undisclosed amount under contract to TransCanada to write the statement, which is now an official government document,” Johnson explained. “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.”

ERM, a probe into the University of California-San Francisco (UCSF) Tobacco Archives reveals, has deep historical ties to Big Tobacco. Further, a key employee at ICF International – via familial ties – is tied to the future of whether hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for shale oil and gas becomes a reality in New York’s portion of the Marcellus Shale.

TransCanada Utilizes Tobacco Playbook in Hiring ERM Group

ERM Group - headquarted in the City of London - a square mile sub-section of London infamous for its role in serving as a tax shelter for multinational corporations - has aided the tobacco industry in pushing the “Tobacco Playbook.”

Many fossil fuel industry public relations flacks learned the tactics of mass manipulation by reading the “tobacco playbook,” meticulously documented in Naomi Oreskes’ and Erik Conway’s classic book, “Merchants of Doubt.”

Doubt is our product,” a tobacco industry document once laid out the playbook, “since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the minds of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy.”

ERM has done studies on behalf of both R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris, penning a report titled “Fundamentals of Environmental Management” for the latter.

It was also a former member of the American Tort Reform Association, a group that fights to limit the tort law rights of citizens to sue for damages inflicted upon them by corporations and featured in the documentary film, “Hot Coffee.”

ERM: In-Service to Big Oil, like Big Tobacco

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