Americans want a level playing field with Big Oil. We want to know before any major oil project crosses our land and water that it has been studied with an independent and unbiased eye.

A major conflict of interest and serious questions about the validity of the Environmental Impact Statement for the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline need the immediate attention of state officials, Congress, Secretary Clinton, and President Obama.

The company hired by the State Department to do the environmental study on the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline is called Entrix; they also happen to work for oil companies, including TransCanada.

too close for comfort

Any elected official who cares about basic pipeline safety and government transparency must step in now to avoid the undisputable risks to Nebraska’s Ogallala Aquifer, Sandhills, landowner rights, and agriculture economy.

Bottom line: the oil industry is preparing “environmental studies” for the government’s “independent” analysis.

Entrix, affiliated lobbyists, and even some State Department staff are literally coaching each other on what to say in order to gain support for the risky TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline.

All of this adds up to the old saying, “the fox is guarding the hen house.”

Entrix Clients: BP, TransCanada and US Government Agencies

Entrix happens to be the same company who worked hand and hand with BP as their “environmental” lead for the Deepwater Horizon project.

Just about every American knows how safe the Deepwater project ended up being, claiming 11 lives with devastating economic and environmental consequences in the Gulf.

On the Entrix website, not only does their logo look strikingly similar to TransCanada’s logo, what becomes crystal clear is this “environmental” consulting firm is just a front for the oil industry that also has an unnervingly cozy relationship with government agencies.

Here is a partial list of Entrix’s clients:

ExxonMobil, BP, ConocoPhillips, TransCanada, Dow Chemical Company, US Department of Energy, US Federal Emergency Management Authority (FEMA)

If the State Department did not have the qualified staff in-house to conduct an analysis of the TransCanada pipeline, that fundamentally calls into question their ability to be the lead agency that grants or denies the permit. Other questions also come up, like how much did Entrix get paid to conduct the assessment? Why is Entrix maintaining the State Department’s website of information on the pipeline?

Go on over to the State Department’s website for the Keystone XL pipeline, if you look on the bottom of the page you will see not only did Entrix prepare the EIS, they are also maintaining the website where the public goes for what we thought was unbiased, independent information.

All of the documents for the pipeline are housed on an Entrix server, just click on any of the executive summaries or other documents and look in your browser window.

Key Players

It is not only Entrix we are worried about and how their “independent environmental impact statement” for the pipeline is clearly biased, documents released this week show State Department staff and TransCanada lobbyists have a very cozy relationship.

Former State Department key staff member, David Goldwyn, is now a tarsands lobbyist. While still at the State Department, he coached TransCanada staff and their lobbyists on messaging and “studies” they needed in order to alleviate all of the valid concerns being raised about the safety of the project.

Shortly after leaving the State Department, Goldwyn then testified in front of Congress in support of the TransCanada pipeline. He pushed the message to Congress that the dangers and concerns of tarsands production will happen with or without the TransCanada pipeline, an important point to keep in mind as you read further down in this blog post.

David also went on the press circuit saying “that with a positive environmental review and national interest determination Clinton would approve the pipeline.” He was confident then and today of approval of the pipeline because he helped grease the wheels for that decision. 

Paul Elliot, a former key campaign staff member for Hillary Clinton and now lobbyist for TransCanada, has unprecedented access to Clinton’s staff members including her chief of staff, Cheryl Mills (who is also a former campaign staffer).

An avid emailer and requester of meetings, Elliot also promised the State Department as much help as they need from high-level Canadian officials.

Emails and Documents Released

In the documents obtained by Friends of the Earth through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request it is evident that Goldwyn coached TransCanada and urged them to come up with responses for big problems that TransCanada is facing.

The emails also show Elliot’s constant injection of himself and TransCanada into what is supposed to be an independent environmenta review of the pipeline.

“The issue is whether they would still produce the oil if we did not permit the pipeline. If so the emissions would be produced anyway. If not then denying the permit forestalls those emissions.”

This quote is from State Department staff member Goldwyn in response to an email from fellow staff member Mills who was asking the question on behalf of TransCanada lobbyist Paul Elliot, former campaign manager of Sec. Clinton. Mills, now Sec. Clinton’s chief of staff, worked with Elliot on Clinton’s campaign. This talking point is one of not only TransCanada’s staff main points, Sec. Chu and other government officials use this line as justification of the pipeline as well. Goldwyn, now a tarsands oil lobbyists, also uses this as one of his main points to support the pipeline.

“TransCanada’s senior executive leadership team would welcome any guidance you might share on background — U.S. government messaging and expectation — specific to developments at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, if there is a message and or topics that the State Department would welcome us to encourage with Canadian government officials, I am happy to pass on that direction to the senior executive leadership team of TransCanada. TransCanada can be an asset for the state department and I hope you might see us as such.”

The above quote was taken from an email that Elliot, TransCanada’s lobbyist, sent to Mills’ assistant clearly suggesting typical back scratching.

In other documents obtained by Friends of the Earth through a FOIA request things got personal for our state and the majority of Nebraskans concerned about the proposed route through the Sandhills and Ogallala Aquifer.

Paul Elliot, remember he is the former campaign staffer to Clinton and now lobbyist for TransCanada, forwarded a letter from TransCanada CEO to push back on Sen. Johanns letter he sent with concerns about the pipeline route. TransCanada’s letter essentially says ignore Senator Johanns because they looked at alternative routes that “satisfy the State Department’s obligations and the public’s interest in that regard.” 

For one the public in Nebraska is NOT satisfied and no in-depth or independent study has been done for alternative routes. For that matter, no study has ever been done on how tarsands and the chemicals mixed with that type of oil will affect the Ogallala and the Sandhills. Secondly, I did not realize TransCanada is the one that determines whether or not the State Department’s obligations to safety have been met.

Call to Action

We cannot let an oil industry backed consulting firm conduct the independent environmental study for this pipeline…and that is exactly what is happening.

Right in front of our eyes, the fox is guarding the hen house.

You can help stop this.

1. Join us for a rally before each upcoming State Department meeting and then stay to testify and show your support on why this pipeline is not in Nebraska’s, our nation’s or our families’ best interests.

2. Call Governor Heineman, 402-471-2244, tell him it is time to call a special session NOW to put proper state-based oil pipeline regulations in place and to re-route the pipe out of the Sandhills and Ogallala Aquifer.

3. Write a letter to the editor expressing your concern about the pipeline and the way too cozy relationship between TransCanada, Entrix, the State Department and lobbyists.

It is time America declares energy independence once and for all. It is time to stop the TransCanada pipeline.