Post image for Keystone XL Pipeline: Alleged Conflict of Interest Much Ado about Nothing?

Blocking the Keystone XL Pipeline — the $7 billion, 1,700-mile project that could create 20,000 construction jobs and eventually transport 830,000 barrels of tar sands oil from friendly, stable, democratic Canada to hubs in Oklahoma and Texas — has become the environmental movement’s top agenda item.

This is not surprising, because Canada’s booming oil sands industry demolishes two popular narratives of green ideology — the claim that oil is a dwindling resource from which we must rapidly decouple our economy before supplies run out, and the notion that most of the money we spend on gasoline ends up in the coffers of unsavory regimes like Saudi Arabia. In reality, more than half of all the oil we consume is produced in the USA, and we get more than twice as much oil from Canada as from Saudi Arabia.

Much of the anti-Keystone agitation is vintage ’60s stuff. In late August, during a weeks-long protest rally outside the White House, 800 demonstrators (including celebrities Margot Kidder and Daryl Hannah) were handcuffed and bused to local police stations. In late September, more than 100 demonstrators were arrested trying to enter Canada’s House of Commons. In October, 1,000 protesters showed up outside President Obama’s $5,000-a-head fundraiser in San Francisco, and organizers claim 6,000 demonstrators will encircle the White House on Sunday, Nov. 6.

Meanwhile, oil bashers on Capitol Hill are engaging in some political theater of their own. Last week, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), two other senators, and 11 congressmen requested that the State Department’s inspector general (IG) investigate an apparent conflict of interest in the preparation of State’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Sanders et al. point out that Cardno/Entrix, the firm State commissioned to conduct the EIS, listed TransCanada, the corportion proposing to build the pipeline, as a “major client.” This “financial relationship,” they suggest, could lead Cardno/Entrix to low-ball the project’s environmental risks. They even insinuate that Cardno/Entrix may have understated oil spill risk just so it could later get paid by TransCanada to clean up the mess.

Earlier this week, State responded to Sanders et al. As far as I can see, there’s no there, there.

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