Friends of the Earth, an environmentalist political advocacy organization, has successfully secured, through the Freedom of Information Act, the release of email communications from the State Department regarding TransCanada, the company charged with building the Keystone XL pipeline. The emails reveal bias in the State Department's environmental impact study, according to Friends of the Earth.
The Keystone XL pipeline would carry oil from Canada through the United State's midsection to refineries in Texas.
Proponents of the pipeline argue it would bring wealth and jobs to the states the pipeline would run through, and it would make the United States less reliant on oil from the Middle East.
Opponents of the pipeline argue there is too much risk to the environment at stake, particularly when the pipeline runs through the Ogallala Aquifer, an important water source for much of the Midwest.
Since the pipeline is a transnational project, the State Department has been tasked with conducting an environmental impact study for the project. The State Department also has an interest in the project due to the foreign policy implications of reducing dependence on oil from the Middle East.
Friends of the Earth has long been a critic of the involvement of the State Department due to the relationship between TransCanada's top Washington lobbyist, Paul Elliot, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Elliot was an official in Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign.
“The contents of these newly released documents are shocking," Eric Pica, President of Freinds of the Earth, said in a press release. "They expose a rigged State Department process conducted in close coordination with oil firm TransCanada. These revelations should disqualify the State Department from playing any further role in the pipeline review. If President Obama is true to his campaign pledge to end the days of lobbyists setting the agenda in Washington, he must revoke the State Department’s authority to approve this pipeline.”
Some of the emails appear to show State Department officials excited about the prospect that the pipeline may be approved. “Go Paul!,” Marja Verloop, an official in the U.S. Embassy in Canada, wrote to the U.S. ambassador to Canada. Verloop was praising Paul Elliot's progress after discovering that Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) was supporting the project.
Other emails, however, show the State Department concerned about keeping a professional distance from TransCanada. State Department officials turned down several requests from TransCanada executives for personal meetings. The emails reveal that these officials were concerned about appearances of a cozy relationship with TransCanada.
President Obama had the strong support of environmentalists during his 2008 campaign, but has come under mounting criticism for his support of the TransCanada pipeline, offshore drilling, and his recent decision to revoke a planned tightening of smog regulations.