HOUSTON — The consulting firm that crafted the State Department’s environmental review of the Keystone XL pipeline is defending the company’s independence amid green-group allegations that its work was hobbled by conflicts of interest.
The official with Environmental Resources Management declined to discuss the Keystone XL review specifically, noting that would require State Department permission.
But Freddie Hospedales, global head of marketing, said broadly that the company’s work with oil and natural gas industry clients does not erode its independence when assessing projects.
“It is a bit like being an auditor of banks, of things like that. You need to understand how the banking system works,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the IHS CERAWeek energy conference in Houston. “The same principle applies in this. We are an independent assessor.”
The State Department’s final environmental review released in late January concluded that the project is unlikely to cause a big increase in greenhouse-gas emissions.
The finding is a blow to environmental groups that contend otherwise and are battling the proposed pipeline. The federal review of the proposed pipeline is ongoing.
Hospedales said that to analyze the impacts of oil and gas projects and how to mitigate them, a deep understanding of the industry is required. “Where you have those experts coming from is from oil and gas industries, as most of our people are,” Hospedales said.
His comments come a week after the State Department’s inspector general concluded that the State Department had followed its conflict-of-interest guidelines in selecting ERM.
The inspector general looked at topics including an ERM analyst’s past work with Keystone XL developer TransCanada and work of ERM’s subsidiaries with the company. None of that work involved Keystone.
More broadly, critics have flagged ERM’s membership in the American Petroleum Institute, which is an industry lobbying group that’s strongly pushing for Keystone’s approval, and its work for other petroleum-industry clients.
However, the inspector general report agreed with State Department lawyers who concluded that this did not create conflicts of interest that should have disqualified ERM from its work on the Keystone review.
Asked Wednesday about ERM’s membership in the American Petroleum Institute, Hospedales said, “I think the inspector general response last week was pretty clear in what it says.”
What We're Following See More »
Evan McMullin, the independent conservative candidate who may win his home state of Utah, is quietly planning to turn his candidacy into a broader movement for principled conservatism. He tells BuzzFeed he's "skeptical" that the Republican party can reform itself "within a generation" and that the party's internal "disease" can't be cured via "the existing infrastructure.” The ex-CIA employee and Capitol Hill staffer says, “I have seen and worked with a lot of very courageous people in my time [but] I have seen a remarkable display of cowardice over the last couple of months in our leaders.” McMullin's team has assembled organizations in the 11 states where he's on the ballot, and adviser Rick Wilson says "there’s actually a very vibrant market for our message in the urban northeast and in parts of the south."
One of the main reasons for the recent Obamacare premium hikes is that many potential enrollees have simply decided to pay the tax penalty for remaining uninsured, rather than pay for insurance. More than 8 million people paid the penalty in 2014, and preliminary numbers for 2015 suggest that the number approaches 6 million. "For the young and healthy who are badly needed to make the exchanges work, it is sometimes cheaper to pay the Internal Revenue Service than an insurance company charging large premiums, with huge deductibles."
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said that "there was “precedent” for a Supreme Court with fewer than nine justices—appearing to suggest that the blockade on nominee Merrick Garland could last past the election." Speaking to reporters in Colorado, Cruz said: "I would note, just recently, that Justice Breyer observed that the vacancy is not impacting the ability of the court to do its job. That’s a debate that we are going to have.”