February 2, 2014
Secretary John Kerry
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW Washington, DC 20520
I am sure you know that I have the utmost respect for the leadership you bring to the State Department when it comes to addressing the challenge of global climate change.
At his State of the Union speech on Tuesday, President Obama made clear the Administration's position when he stated that climate change is a fact.
For those of us in California experiencing an historic drought, as well as for those across the country who have been dealing with extreme weather, climate change affects us every day – impacting our economy, our health and our welfare.
Many of us have been heartened to hear that amidst your many pressing responsibilities, you intend to take an active role in advising the President on his decision regarding the Keystone XL pipeline.
In light of the concerns enumerated below, I urge you to launch an independent and transparent review of the work product contained in the Keystone XL Pipeline Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) released last Friday.
Of particular concern are FEIS conclusions that conflict with and are contradicted by tar sands industry executives who confirm that they need the pipeline in order to continue to develop the tar sands and to reach international markets. The FEIS fails to consider that construction of the KXL pipeline is a necessity to fully maximize extraction of tar sands.
Attached is an analysis of such assertions by tar sands executives, which includes such statements as:
· “If Canada fails to develop its oil sands now — and fails to build the pipelines to move it to market — the opportunity could vanish for decades, two industry executives warned Wednesday.”
· “If there were no more pipeline expansions, I would have to slow down,” the Cenovus executive told The Globe and Mail’s editorial board.
· “The pipeline has to be done,” [Total] Chief Executive Officer Christophe de Margerie told reporters at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
These assertions reinforce the findings by NextGen Climate Action in late November of last year which demonstrate the pipeline is the economic key to unlocking the tar sands and, as such, will lead to more pollution in the air than would be generated if the pipeline was not built.
Both the statements from the tar sands executives and the NextGen Climate Action report make clear the pipeline would fail the test established by the President during his speech at Georgetown last June: that no project that increases the amount of air pollution will be approved.
However, and despite the fact that some of the aforementioned assertions from tar sands executives were made as recently as last week, it does not appear that any of these representations were considered in the FEIS.
How can the foreign companies who stand to financially benefit from the approval of the KXL pipeline assert that the pipeline is the key to their ability to develop the tar sands without these assertions being considered material to this report? This was a report that was designed to analyze exactly this issue of whether or not the pipeline would affect the development of the tar sands.
TransCanada and the tar sands lobby has time and time again justified the development of the pipeline by making the public policy argument that the pipeline would support U.S. oil independence. But TransCanada has refused to commit to keeping the refined oil in the United States.
However, as you are aware from your time in Congress, while TransCanada’s CEO has asserted that “every” drop of crude would stay in the United States, company officials have refused to testify to this when appearing before Congress. And to this day, TransCanada has refused to explain whether or not the refined oil will be shipped to economic competitors such as China, which has a significant investment in the project.
The failure to address the assertions made by tar sand oil executives that the pipeline is the key to unlocking the tar sands is the latest in a series of problems. Together, they make it clear it would be a disservice to President Obama, to our country and to the resolution of climate change to use the FEIS as a trusted document.
These problems include:
- The hiring of a TransCanada contractor – Environmental Resources Management (ERM) – to write the FEIS.
- ERM's problematic representations about its ties to the tar sands industry on its conflict of interest disclosure form.
- The Inspector General’s investigation into this deception, an action taken only after persistent pressure from public interest groups.
- Additional conflicts (here, here and here) that have come to light since the Inspector General’s investigation began.
- Repeated quotes (e.g., here, here and here) to news outlets from named and unnamed staff members at the State Department boasting of “rigorous conflict of interest procedures…” that “… ensure that no contractors or subcontractors have financial or other inappropriate interests in the outcome of a project.” This assertion continued to be made even after the Inspector General’s investigation was announced.
- The unsurprising tilt of the draft FEIS toward ERM’s client, TransCanada.
- The interagency criticism (here and here) that the draft EIS drew because of its deep flaws.
- The nearly identical nature of the final FEIS to the draft EIS, despite significant, contradictory information coming to light after the draft version was issued. This includes ignoring the realities of tar sands transportation, and estimates that Keystone XL would produce the pollution equivalent of more than 50 coal plants – an amount no serious expert thinks can be meaningfully offset. It also ignores the $30 billion in investment by companies backed by the Chinese government.
- The apparent rush to get the EIS out the door before the Inspector General’s investigation was complete – despite a recent request by over 20 House members asking that the FEIS be held until the investigation was completed.
And, in addition to this litany of issues that should disqualify this FEIS report from being used as a trusted document, there is now a report in the Canadian Press that seems to indicate officials in Ottawa were provided with the assurance that they would receive the favorable FEIS that they had lobbied so hard to secure. I have long said that Keystone is a pipeline that runs through — but no to — the United States. If the press reporting is accurate, it would now appear that foreign interests have a direct pipeline into the decision-making process of the U.S. government, which is simply unconscionable.
For all of these reasons, especially in the context of global climate change, it is critical that an independent and transparent review of the FEIS, and the process undertaken for its preparation, commence immediately. It is inappropriate and unfair to provide President Obama — who has stated that climate change is a fact and even articulated a clear test for the approval of a project such as the KXL pipeline – with a report that is not only on its face defective, but which has suffered from a process that raises serious questions about the integrity of the document.
Thank you for your attention to this serious matter.
UPDATE: See this NBC report, in which Tom Steyer says "there's an enormous amount of political pressure within the Beltway to approve this project, and I think around the country people understand that this is actually a terrible idea." In addition, the report notes, "environmentalists are also crying foul because they charge that the consultants who worked on today's final report had ties to the pipeline company; a State Department inspector general is investigating alleged conflicts of interest."