These serious concerns led to an investigation by the State Department Inspector General. The findings, released today, note that the department violated no laws and showed no evidence of conflict of interest:
“The department followed the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s third party contracting process, from reviewing, editing and approving the draft request for proposal to independently reviewing proposals and selecting a contractor,” the report said.
The company “has also received a minimal amount of contract work on two corporate projects that Cardno Entrix has been associated with for many years but that were bought by TransCanada in 2007 and 2008,” the IG report said. But “these relationships did not present a conflict of interest because they are not directly related to the Keystone XL project and are either federally controlled relationships or minimal financial relationships” that don’t impact the contractor’s objectivity, the probe found.
TransCanada is still trying to influence the political process by other means. The Canadian company ramped up political pressure in the last three months of 2011 by spending $400,000 on lobbying. Pro-pipeline money flooded Washington, coinciding with the House GOP’s increased interest in trying to force approval. A ThinkProgress Green analysis found that pipeline backers overwhelmed the debate at the close of 2011, with $36.7 million lobbying in favor compared to just $1.1 million against.