Quantcast

State Department Rejects Freedom of Information Act Request for Keystone XL Contracts

Energy

Friends of the Earth

In a move sure to turn up the heat on a conflict-of-interest scandal that has been simmering for months, the State Department told Friends of the Earth this week that it will reject a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for contracts involving the firm Cardno Entrix’s work on the review of the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline.

Prior to President Obama’s rejection of the pipeline last month, the State Department had run an environmental review process that was widely criticized as being rife with bias, lobbyist influence and conflicts of interest. The role played by Cardno Entrix, the contractor chosen by the State Department at TransCanada’s behest to oversee drafting of the environmental impacts review as well as the public comment process, has been especially controversial. Cardno Entrix’s long history of involvement with the oil and gas industry and with TransCanada in particular—which it listed as a major client—raised significant conflict of interest concerns. An October 7 New York Times expose revealed that the State Department “flout[ed] the intent of a federal law” aimed at ensuring impartiality when it hired Cardno Entrix, and numerous members of Congress subsequently called for investigations.

Yet now, in apparent violation of federal law, the State Department has indicated it will reject Friends of the Earth’s Freedom of Information Act request for the State Department’s contract or contracts with Cardno Entrix or TransCanada.

State Department program analyst Tangie Ellis acknowledged in a Dec. 14 email that the State Department has a list of “over six pages of contracts” consistent with Friends of the Earth’s FOIA request and asked whether Friends of the Earth would be willing to pay to obtain them.

Yet by Jan. 24 the department’s tune had changed. Ellis wrote in an email that “the Department of State has not issued any awards to either of the contractors Entrix and/or Cardno” and that “unfortunately the Department of State isn’t one of the agency that handle this kind of request,” [sic] advising Friends of the Earth to ask other federal agencies for the State Department’s contracts.

“Simply put, the State Department’s response to our Freedom of Information Act request has been bewildering, and it’s unacceptable,” said Marcie Keever, legal director at Friends of the Earth. “It’s not clear whether gross incompetence or willful disregard for the law is at play, but either way, the result is the same—the public is being denied its right to see a document that could reveal serious problems in the review of the Keystone XL pipeline—problems that may have led the State Department to understate the damage to the environment that the pipeline would cause.”

Friends of the Earth pledged to continue its pursuit of the documents.

“This matter is far from over,” Keever said. “We will use all the legal tools at our disposal to force the State Department to comply with the law and release its contract with Cardno Entrix.”

Friends of the Earth’s correspondence with the State Department in regard to this Freedom of Information Act can be read by clicking here.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends getting regular cholesterol tests shortly after you turn 20. Ca-ssis / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Many people don't begin worrying about their cholesterol levels until later in life, but that may be increasing their odds of heart problems in the long term.

Read More Show Less
A child receives a measles vaccine. DFID - UK Department for International Development / CC BY 2.0

Measles infected nearly 10 million people in 2018 and killed more than 140,000, according to new estimates from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Most of the people who died were children under five years old.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Ocean pollution concept with plastic and garbage pictured in Sri Lanka. Nestle is among the top corporate plastic polluters, according to a report called BRANDED Volume II: Identifying the World's Top Corporate Plastic Polluters. Anton Petrus / Moment / Getty Images

Nestlé cannot claim that its Ice Mountain bottled water brand is an essential public service, according to Michigan's second highest court, which delivered a legal blow to the food and beverage giant in a unanimous decision.

Read More Show Less

A number of supermarkets across the country have voluntarily issued a recall on sushi, salads and spring rolls distributed by Fuji Food Products due to a possible listeria contamination, as CBS News reported.

Read More Show Less
Birds eye view of beach in Green Bowl Beach, Indonesia pictured above, a country who's capital city is faced with the daunting task of moving its capital city of Jakarta because of sea level rise. Tadyanehondo / Unsplash

If you read a lot of news about the climate crisis, you probably have encountered lots of numbers: We can save hundreds of millions of people from poverty by 2050 by limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, but policies currently in place put us on track for a more than three degree increase; sea levels could rise three feet by 2100 if emissions aren't reduced.

Read More Show Less