Case Number # 2212
Earthjustice is representing environmental and ethics groups in challenging the U.S. State Department’s refusal to disclose communication records with a lobbyist for TransCanada Pipelines, Paul Elliott, who was previously a presidential campaign manager for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Disclosure of these communications may reveal improprieties in the State Department’s decision-making with respect to TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline that would transport tar sands crude oil to from Alberta, Canada to U.S. refineries in the Gulf of Mexico.
Before deciding whether to grant a permit, the State Department must analyze the pipeline’s risks, finalize an Environmental Impact Statement, and determine whether the pipeline is in the public interest. After the Environmental Protection Agency told the State Department its draft environmental impact statement was inadequate, Secretary Clinton nonetheless said that the State Department was “inclined to approve” the permit. The State Department plans to make a final decision about the Presidential Permit before the end of 2011.
Tar sands mining operations destroy forests and wetlands, with vast drilling infrastructure, open pit mines, and toxic wastewater ponds up to three miles wide, permanently damaging the environment. The extraction process involves strip mining and in situ drilling that injects steam into the ground to melt the tar-like crude oil from the sand and requires massive amounts of energy and water. In fact, tar sands oil production emits about three times the amount of greenhouse gas emissions as extraction of conventional oil and uses from two and a half to four times the amount of water. The construction and operation of the Keystone XL pipeline itself poses additional environmental risks, including potential contamination of major freshwater aquifers.