Thursday, December 16, 2010

Opponents of Keystone XL object to lobbyist from Clinton campaign

WASHINGTON - A statement issued by Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska said a Dec. 9 letter from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton assured him that "the department won't consider the pipeline permit application (for the TransCanada Keystone XL) until the environmental study is done and the department has taken into account all state and federal views about the proposal."

The environmental community is nonetheless calling for the Secretary of State to recuse herself from the decision expected in 2011. Public statements she made in California in October indicate Clinton was already inclined to approve the Keystone XL project, and the groups also now claim there's a potential conflict of interest involving a TransCanada lobbyist who previously worked for Secretary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Due to the international nature of Keystone XL, the U.S. State Department is in charge of TransCanada's request for a presidential permit to build and operate a 1,702-mile pipeline to carry heavy crude oil from oil sands mines in the province of Alberta and across six states to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico.

Nelson and other Nebraskans are worried that almost 300 miles of proposed pipeline through 14 counties in their home state has the potential to irreversibly damage an aquifer.

Three watchdog groups are now seeking any correspondence between the State Department and Paul Elliott, a former presidential campaign manager for Hillary Clinton. Elliott is the chief Washington, D.C. lobbyist for TransCanada.

"One of the concerns is that Hillary Clinton has already made up her mind on this pipeline," Stephen Porter, director of the climate change program at the Washington office of the Center for International Environmental Law told Elizabeth McGowan at Solve Climate News in an interview. "Naturally, we are curious to know what kinds of communications there have been. At this point, we don’t know whether there is any connection. If there are connections that aren’t quite right, we want to make those known."

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