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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

No Bias but Some Shortcomings in the State Dept's Review of Proposed Keystone XL Pipeline

Published: August 11, 2012


By Eileen Bolinsky


A pipeline north of Dallas. (Photo: Rick Kimpel, Flickr Creative Commons)

A new report released by the State Department's Office of Inspector General says that a review of the Keystone XL Pipeline was handled properly.

The State Department handled its review of the Keystone XL pipeline proposal properly. That’s according to a new report released by the agency’s Office of Inspector General. The OIG “found no evidence that TransCanada had improperly influenced the Department’s selection of Cardno Entrix.” Cardno Entrix was hired by the government as an independent contractor to conduct an Environmental Impact Statement for the pipeline project.

The OIG review was conducted in response to a Congressional request by Democratic Representative Steve Cohen of Tennessee, and Independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who oppose the project. They sought the independent review before President Obama delayed his decision on the pipeline in November. On January 18, 2012 the president rejected TransCanada’s Keystone bid but left open the possibility of a new pipeline proposal using an alternative route to avoid environmentally sensitive areas.

There are mixed readings on OIG report findings.
"It gave the environmental review process a clean bill of health and concludes that the review was correct and was done well and so there's no excuse not to move forward with this pipeline," American Petroleum Institute President and CEO Jack Gerard told POLITICO. "It's clear that another excuse has been removed, so we can only ask ourselves what's the excuse now in not moving the Keystone pipeline?"

But Damon Moglen, climate and energy director at Friends of the Earth said “The report reveals that the department failed to follow even its own flowed procedures…. The evidence contained in this report must disqualify the State Department’s Keystone XL environmental impact statement from being used in any shape or form when future proposed pipelines are reviewed.”

The OIG report conclusion acknowledges that the State Department’s “limited technical resources, expertise, and experience impacted the implementation” of the environmental review process and the Department had to rely on outside parties to address risks and safety issues. It recommends the Department hire at least one civil servant “with staff who have expertise in handling National Environmental Policy Act issues and the environemtnal impact statement process.”

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