Keystone XL: Friends of the Earth files for release of State Department records on massive lobbying operation by TransCanada and Province of Alberta

Keystone XL: Friends of the Earth files for release of State Department records on massive lobbying operation by TransCanada and Province of Alberta

FOIA request shines light on Kerry and Obama links to pipeline proponents

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The environmental watchdog group that uncovered conflicts of interest between the State Department led by Hillary Clinton  and lobbyists for the Keystone XL pipeline today demanded the release of records that could illuminate a continued  cozy relationship between pipeline proponents and Clinton’s successor John Kerry, as well as President Obama.

Friends of the Earth filed a sweeping Freedom of Information Act request for the release of all communications since October 2011 between the State Department and lobbyists for TransCanada and the Province of Alberta. Because State is in the final stages a new environmental review that is key to whether it recommends that the president approve or reject a permit for the controversial Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline, Friends of the Earth asked for expedited compliance with the FOIA.

The FOIA request identifies more than two dozen Washington lobbyists, lawyers and consultants helping to push the pipeline who have close ties to Obama, Kerry, Clinton or other elected officials with a stake in the outcome.

Heading the list is Anita Dunn, a former White House communications director and senior advisor to the president’s re-election campaign and the former communications director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee under then-Senator Kerry. Dunn is now a principal with the lobbying firm SDKnickerbocker, which represents TransCanada. According to The New York Times, Dunn has met with top White House officials more than 100 times since leaving the Administration in 2009.

After Friends of the Earth revealed in 2011 how Keystone lobbyists tainted the first environmental review of the pipeline, the State Department promised to tighten its lobbying rules to assure objectivity in the next round. But Friends of the Earth said it is clear that the permit process remains compromised by conflicts of interest, secrecy and deceit.

The new environmental review is being conducted by consultants with deep financial ties to TransCanada and oil companies who would benefit from the pipeline — connections the State Department tried to cover up. Like the earlier review, which had also been prepared by a consultant firm with deep ties to the oil industry, a draft of the one now being finalized contends that the pipeline will cause little environmental harm and absurdly suggests that the pipeline will not spur development of the climate-wrecking tar sands in northern Alberta.

“The State Department’s handling of the environmental review of the Keystone pipeline has been hopelessly compromised by TransCanada, the Province of Alberta and their army of lobbyists,” said Ross Hammond, senior campaigner for Friends of the Earth. “It is clear that Sec. Kerry inherited a flawed review process in which TransCanada and Alberta continue to call the shots. A full investigation of the role played by pipeline lobbyists and consultants in inappropriately influencing the review is needed to give Americans the truth before the president makes this momentous decision.”

Friends of the Earth’s investigation has yielded a dossier of Keystone lobbyists and their connections to Obama, Kerry and Clinton. Besides Dunn, the list includes:

  • Paul Elliott, chief lobbyist for TransCanada, a top Clinton operative in her 2008 presidential campaign and a key figure in the 2011 conflict of interest scandal over the earlier environmental review.
  • David Castagnetti of Mehlman, Vogel & Castagnetti, who was director of Congressional relations for Kerry’s 2004 campaign for president; and Brandon Pollak of Bryan Cave LLP, who also worked on Kerry’s campaign.
  • Three former U.S. ambassadors to Canada: David Wilkins of Nelson, Mullins et al, which has been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by the Province of Alberta; Gordon Giffin of Long & Albridge, a top fundraiser in Clinton’s presidential campaign; and Jim Blanchard of DLA Piper, also a top Clinton fundraiser.

“Release of these records will shed more light on lobbyists’ influence on the State Department’s Keystone review, but it is already clear that State can not be trusted to manage the review process objectively,” said Damon Moglen, energy and climate director at Friends of the Earth. “Sec. Kerry has been a champion of bold action on climate change. His response to the State Department’s scandalous conduct will signal whether a new era of transparency has arrived at the department, or whether the insider clout and money of the oil industry will prevail once again.”


Ross Hammond, (415) 559-5082
Bill Walker, (510) 759-9911

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