By Steve Horn. This article was first published on Desmoblog.
On March 1, the U.S. State Department published its long-awaited Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the TransCanada Keystone XL (KXL) tar sands pipeline.
The KXL is slated to bring tar sands crude – also known as diluted bitumen or “dilbit” – from Alberta, Canada to Port Arthur, TX. From Port Arthur, it will be refined and exported to the global market.
Flying in the face of the slew of scientific studies both on the harms of burning tar sands and on the KXL itself, State determined that laying down the pipeline is environmentally sound.
Unmentioned by State: the study was contracted out to firms with tar sands extraction clientele, as revealed by InsideClimate News.
“EnSys Energy has worked with ExxonMobil, BP and Koch Industries, which own oil sands production facilities and refineries in the Midwest that process heavy Canadian crude oil. Imperial Oil, one of Canada’s largest oil sands producers, is a subsidiary of Exxon,” InsideClimate News explained. “ICF International works with pipeline and oil companies but doesn’t list specific clients on its website.”
Writing for Grist, Brad Johnson also revealed the name of a third contractor – Environmental Resources Management (ERM) Group – which TransCanada hired on behalf of the State Department to do the EIS.
“(ERM) was paid an undisclosed amount under contract to TransCanada to write the statement, which is now an official government document,” Johnson explained. “The statement estimates, and then dismisses, the pipeline’s massive carbon footprint and other environmental impacts, because, it asserts, the mining and burning of the tar sands is unstoppable.”
ERM, a probe into the University of California-San Francisco (UCSF) Tobacco Archives reveals, has deep historical ties to Big Tobacco. Further, a key employee at ICF International – via familial ties – is tied to the future of whether hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for shale oil and gas becomes a reality in New York’s portion of the Marcellus Shale.
TransCanada Utilizes Tobacco Playbook in Hiring ERM Group
ERM Group – headquarted in the City of London – a square mile sub-section of London infamous for its role in serving as a tax shelter for multinational corporations – has aided the tobacco industry in pushing the “Tobacco Playbook.”
Many fossil fuel industry public relations flacks learned the tactics of mass manipulation by reading the “tobacco playbook,” meticulously documented in Naomi Oreskes’ and Erik Conway’s classic book, “Merchants of Doubt.”
“Doubt is our product,” a tobacco industry document once laid out the playbook, “since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the minds of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy.”
ERM has done studies on behalf of both R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris, penning a report titled “Fundamentals of Environmental Management” for the latter.
It was also a former member of the American Tort Reform Association, a group that fights to limit the tort law rights of citizens to sue for damages inflicted upon them by corporations and featured in the documentary film, “Hot Coffee.”
ERM: In-Service to Big Oil, like Big Tobacco
In the 2000 version of its website, ERM referred to climate change advocates as having an “agenda.”
“[T]he gloabl (sic) climate change agenda has very specific implications for the oil and gas industry, and factoring CO2 emissions into operations is a key concern,” read ERM’s website at the time.
The firm has also boasted of doing its studies in service to the oil and gas industry’s bottom lines.
“ERM works around the world with the private sector assessing how their business is likely to be impacted by environmental and social issues, new regulations, consumer concerns, and supply chain issues and help companies develop appropriate policies and management systems to manage these business risks,” its website proclaimed in 2000.
This all sits, of course, in juxtaposition to the needs of the decaying ecosystem and increasingly severe and horrifying climate crisis.
The ICF/New York Fracking Decision Connection
ICF Consulting is a thread tying the forthcoming fracking decision in New York by Democratic Party Gov. Andrew Cuomo to the Obama State Department decision on the Keystone XL.
Though ICF doesn’t list its clients on its website, its vice president Karl Hausker is the husband of Kathleen (“Katie”) McGinty, one of the members of the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Hydraulic Fracturing Advisory Panel.
McGinty formerly served as Vice President Al Gore’s top climate aide under the Clinton Administration, segueing from that position into one as chair of the Clinton Council on Environmental Quality from 1993-1998. From 2003-2008, she served as head of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection under Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell, helping usher in the state’s ongoing fracking boom.
Named as a member of the industry-stacked Obama DOE fracking subcommittee in May 2011, McGinty now works as an Operating Partner alongside Rendell at Element Partners, a Philadelphia, PA-based firm that has capital investments in several firms operating in Pennsylvania’s portion of the Marcellus Shale. McGinty also serves on the Board of Directors of NRG Energy, an electricity-generating utilities corporation that owns natural gas-fired power plants around the U.S.
Tying it all together, Ernest Moniz is leaving his position on ICF’s Board and his professorship at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he was a major “frackademic,” to serve as head of the Obama DOE.
In chess, moves of this sort are known as “check” and “checkmate.”
The weeks and months ahead will demonstrate if the chess match is over with regards to the destiny of the Keystone XL pipeline and fracking in the Empire State.