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For Years, The State Department’s Keystone XL Review Had ‘Staff Of One Person’

By Brad Johnson  

"For Years, The State Department’s Keystone XL Review Had ‘Staff Of One Person’"

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As ThinkProgress Green first reported, the State Department’s review of TransCanada’s Keystone XL tar sands pipeline has actually been run by Cardno Entrix, a company paid to do the job by TransCanada itself. For years, the State Department’s involvement in this project that would run across the nation’s heartland with millions of gallons of toxic crude was limited to a single junior-level staffer. Under the Bush administration, foreign service officer Betsy Orlando was the Keystone Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) Project Manager. Continuing for years in the Obama administration, she represented the entire involvement of the State Department in investigating the impact of $7 billion project, outsourced to contractors who worked for TransCanada, the Huffington Post reveals:

At a public hearing in Oklahoma during summer 2010, Kimberly Demuth, a vice president at CardnoEntrix, described the State Department’s capacity as “a staff of one person, Betsy Orlando, who’s in charge of this project.”

During the Bush administration, Orlando oversaw the approval process of the earlier Keystone pipeline beginning in 2006. That pipeline, which ships tar sands crude across the US-Canada border, gained a Presidential Permit in March, 2008. After that success, TransCanada filed its application to construct the Keystone XL pipeline at the tail end of the Bush administration.

Orlando, who has no formal background that would help her assess the risks of such a pipeline or judge the work of oil industry contractors, moved to a new tour of service in Nigeria in October 2010.

“The people I worked with at State were good, honest people, and they were very inexperienced and naive about environmental laws,” a federal environmental compliance officer told the Huffington Post. “They did not have a senior expert on their environmental impact study, and I’ve never seen that before.”

As criticism from other agencies and grassroots activists of the corrupt draft impact statement has poured in, Clinton’s State Department has called for more work, but with the same conflicts of interest. An analysis of greenhouse gas impacts in response to EPA concerns was done by ICF International under contract to Cardno Entrix, not the State Department. However, the Department of Energy did directly commission contractor Ensys Energy to assess the “impacts on U.S. and global refining, trade and oil markets of the Keystone XL project.” Both reports include the caveat that the “views and opinions of authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the United States Government or any agency thereof.”

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