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Secretary Kerry, Investigate Conflict of Interest in Flawed Keystone XL Review

Energy

Sierra Club Friends of the Earth

Environmental leaders hosted a press call today to call for a State Department Investigator General investigation of the State Department’s flawed Keystone XL review process and to call on Secretary Kerry to halt the review process until that investigation is complete.

The Sierra Club also announced that it had filed a lawsuit in federal court yesterday under the Freedom of Information Act asserting that the State Department is withholding key documents related to the latest Keystone XL Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and potential conflicts of interest with Environmental Resources Management.

When Secretary Kerry was confirmed as Secretary of State, he inherited a flawed Keystone XL review process. To move forward with the flawed process would contradict Secretary Kerry’s long history as a proponent of good government and transparency.

“For decades John Kerry has been a strong defender of good governance,” said 350.org Executive Director May Boeve. “We know that as he learns more about how the Keystone environmental analysis was written, he will step in and put a stop to this corrupted process.”

Nearly 73,000 people signed petitions asking Secretary Kerry to postpone the final EIS until the Investigator General completes a thorough review of conflict of interest in the State Department's environmental review process of the proposed pipeline. Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, Oil Change International and Bold Nebraska all contributed signatures to the petition total.

“For the State Department to let Big Oil consultants tell us Keystone XL is safe is like the Surgeon General letting Big Tobacco tell us cigarettes are safe,” said Robin Mann, past president of the Sierra Club. “Secretary Kerry can continue to live up to his legacy as a climate champion by demanding a fair report on Keystone XL and urging the President to reject this dirty and dangerous project.”

“The State Department should be an honest broker on Keystone XL, not a cheerleader for TransCanada,” said Friends of the Earth President Erich Pica. “Secretary Kerry needs to halt the review process and find out how a paid member of the American Petroleum Institute was allowed to write such a critical report and why State Department employees have tried to cover up this company’s ties with the oil industry."

“The only way the State Department could produce even a remotely favorable review of this dirty and flawed pipeline is by getting Big Oil's friends to write it for them,” said Steve Kretzmann, Oil Change International executive director and founder. "The tens of thousands of people who have joined this campaign are making it clear that we won't stand for this. Secretary Kerry has a key opportunity to reject bad process, to reject Big Oil influence and to reject this dirty pipeline.”

ERM, the company contracted by Department of State and paid by TransCanada to draft the EIS, is a member of the American Petroleum Institute and has worked for the oil industry which should have precluded it from getting hired.

“The United States must help lead the world in combating global warming and reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). “It would be incomprehensible to give approval to a tar sands oil project when producing tar sands oil creates more carbon emissions than conventional oil, and when it poses the risk of extremely damaging oil spills.”

Visit EcoWatch’s KEYSTONE XL page for more related news on this topic.

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A volcano erupts on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island on Dec. 9, 2019. Michael Schade / Twitter

A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.

"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."

The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.

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At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.

The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.

Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.

"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."

Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.

Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.

"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.

"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."

The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.

Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.