House Democrats are urging Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to oppose the controversial Keystone XL oil sands pipeline in light of recently uncovered e-mails that show what they say is an overly friendly relationship between a State Department official and a lobbyist for TransCanada, the company seeking to build the pipeline.
“Rather than acting as fair arbiters of TransCanada’s application to build a massive pipeline across environmentally sensitive areas of the United States, State Department officials appear to have acted as little more than cheerleaders for the company’s bid,” states a letter written by Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., which was circulating among other House Democratic offices on Tuesday to gather more signatures.
The State Department has said it will decide by the end of the year whether the 1,700-mile, $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline project is in the national interest. If it moves forward, it could eventually bring 700,000 barrels of tar-sands oil daily from Canada to Texas. Environmental groups and many congressional Democrats oppose the project because of concerns about the extraction and production of oil sands using processes they say are more detrimental to the environment than conventional oil drilling, emitting more greenhouse gases and damaging land around the extraction area.
The e-mails the House Democrats reference in the letter were obtained by Friends of the Earth through a Freedom of Information Act request.
The group pointed to an e-mail exchange between State Department employee Marja Verloop and TransCanada lobbyist Paul Elliott, in which Verloop lauds Elliot—“Go Paul!”—for securing the support of Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., for the project. Verloop runs energy and environmental issues at the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa.
The e-mails “display an alarmingly close relationship between State Department officials overseeing the process and TransCanada representatives,” the Democrats’ letter states.
This article appears in the Oct. 5, 2011, edition of National Journal Daily.