Late on a Friday afternoon in early March, the State Department released a 2,000-page draft report downplaying the environmental risks of the northern portion of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which would ferry oil from Canada's tar sands to refineries in Texas, passing through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma. But when it released the report, State hid an important fact from the public: Experts who helped draft the report had previously worked for TransCanada, the company looking to build the Keystone pipeline, and other energy companies poised to benefit from Keystone's construction. State released documents in conjunction with the Keystone report in which these experts' work histories were redacted so that anyone reading the documents wouldn't know who'd previously hired them. Yet unredacted versions of these documents obtained by Mother Jones confirm that three experts working for an outside contractor had done consulting work for TransCanada and other oil companies with a stake in the Keystone's approval.
When the Keystone report—officially known as a "draft supplemental environmental impact statement"—was released, environmental activists ripped it as shoddy and misleading. Russ Girling, TransCanada's CEO, cheered the report as "an important step" toward receiving President Barack Obama's final stamp of approval for the pipeline.
Outside contractors (managed by the State Department) wrote the Keystone report, which neither endorsed nor rejected the Keystone pipeline. The contractor that produced the bulk of the report was Environmental Resources Management (ERM), an international consulting firm. On the day the State Department published the Keystone impact report, the agency also released a cache of documents that ERM submitted in 2012 to win the contract to produce the Keystone environmental report. That cache included a 55-page filing in which ERM stated it had no conflicts of interests writing the Keystone report.
But there was something strange about ERM's conflict-of-interest filing: The bios for the ERM's experts were redacted.
Here's what those redactions kept secret: ERM's second-in-command on the Keystone report, Andrew Bielakowski, had worked on three previous pipeline projects for TransCanada over seven years as an outside consultant. He also consulted on projects for ExxonMobil, BP, and ConocoPhillips, three of the Big Five oil companies that could benefit from the Keystone XL project and increased extraction of heavy crude oil...
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