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NEWS: Investigation launched into US State Department handling of KXL permitting process

The Globe and Mail reports this hour, “The office of the US Inspector General has launched a ‘special review’ of the Keystone XL permitting process, following conflict allegations brought forward by several US senators.” The Inspector General of the Department of State is responsible for detecting and investigating waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement in the United States Department of State. “The review will examine ‘the Department of State’s handling of the Environmental Impact Statement and National Interest Determination for TransCanada Corporation’s proposed Keystone XL permit process’, and comes as another potential setback (siting legislation in Nebraska) for a controversial pipeline that is under attack on many fronts.”

What is being investigated? “In mid-October, several US senators wrote Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State, with ‘serious concern’ over the handling of the review process. They pointed in particular to the hiring of Cardno Entrix, an environmental consultant that conducted the review despite stating on its website that TransCanada was a ‘major client’. According to a report in the New York Times referred to by the senators, TransCanada played a role in helping select Cardno Entrix to review Keystone XL.”

“The review comes amid suggestions from the US State Department that its review could be extended beyond December, when it had expected to make a final determination. It also comes amid a potential threat to Keystone XL in Nebraska, where the pipeline’s route through the Sand Hills, a sensitive ecological region, has stirred strong opposition.” To encourage the members of the Nebraska legislature to pass siting legislation to re-route the Keystone XL pipeline, and by doing so very likely derailing the whole pipeline proposal, please go to http://canadians.org/blog/?p=11646.

Postmedia News adds, “In a letter released Monday, the inspector general’s office said it would examine whether there had been any breach of ‘federal laws and regulations’ in the State Department’s handling of its environmental-impact study of the pipeline. The news came a day after an estimated 10,000 pipeline opponents protested at the White House, urging President Barack Obama to deny TransCanada a permit to build the 2,700-kilometre oilsands pipeline. ‘I once again urge President Obama to defer any decision on the pipeline until the State Department investigation has been completed,’ said Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who joined a dozen other lawmakers in seeking the investigation.”

In late-August, the US State Department concluded that the Keystone XL pipeline would not have an undue environmental impact on air and water, nor lead to greater greenhouse gas emissions. That report has been widely criticized, http://canadians.org/blog/?p=10140. In early-October, e-mails were made public that suggested a pro-Keystone XL bias within the State Department, http://canadians.org/blog/?p=10936.

This news comes the day after the Council of Canadians was in Washington, DC to #Surround the White House in opposition to KXL. For more on that intervention, please go to http://canadians.org.

Bill McKibben, who led yesterday’s protest, said in response to the news of the investigation, “It’s good to see the administration beginning to listen to responsible lawmakers, and we look forward to the results of this inquiry about the warped environmental review process. But it’s important to understand that the process has always been the smaller of our objections. while we’ve been dismayed by the corrupt conduct of the state department, our real problem has from the start been the fact that these tar sands are the second largest pool of carbon on earth. Since the State Department didn’t even bother to study that global warming question, the only real answer is to send this back for a whole new review — or, better yet, for the President to simply back up his campaign promises and deny the permit outright.”