3 More Sketchy Connections between Hillary Clinton and the KeystoneXL Pipeline

New developments suggest former Clinton staffer dodged rules while lobbying Congress

New developments from Washington, DC reveal that lobbyists for TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline acted inappropriately while trying to gain support for the crude pipeline that would connect the Alberta Tar Sands with the Gulf of Mexico. Recent reports show that a chief lobbyist for TransCanada tried to influence American energy policy without filing under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). The reports also show a “cozy” relationship between Hillary Clinton’s State Department and TransCanada, as well as direct contact between the unregistered lobbyists and several members of congress. This news comes as the State Department continues to give every indication that it will allow the pipeline to be built, despite outcries from both the environmental community as well as those outraged about the ethical bankruptcy coming from Hillary Clinton’s department.

FARA violations

The FARA requires that any foreigners attempting to influence the United States Congress must register with the FARA Registration Unit of the Department of Justice. Emails between the State Department and TransCanada’s government relations employee Paul Elliott show that contact between the two had taken place form more than a year before he first registered as a lobbyist. This activity has resulted in questionable actions calling for a full investigation according to a report filed on September 27th. “Paul Elliott, a government relations employee of TransCanada, has acted as agent of a foreign principal and therefore violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act. We respectfully request that you immediately open an investigation of this matter,” Friends of the Earth attorney Gail Harmon wrote in a letter to Heather Hunt of the FARA Registration Unit of the Department of Justice.

The “cozy” relationship

Paul Elliott’s connections to Hillary Clinton are well documented. Elliott was a high-level campaign advisor to Clinton when she was running for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 2008. When her campaign fizzled, Elliott jumped aboard TransCanada’s lobbying team as the company geared up to convince the Obama administration that a pipeline carrying millions of barrels of crude oil across the country was a good idea. Emails obtained by Friends of the Earth reveal that while Elliot was contacting members of the United States government illegally, the State Department was providing, “insider information and coaching to Mr. Elliot and TransCanada.”

“Friends” in Congress

Even though TransCanada can face “serious penalties” for failing to immediately disclose their lobbying activity in the United States, it didn’t keep the multinational corporation from reaching out to members of both political parties. Some of the members that discussed the pipeline with Elliott’s team include Sens. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Ala.).

Video outlines industry influence over State Department and Keystone XL

As protestors continue to make their voices heard outside the White House, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s connections to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline have become a hot button issue with those opposing the project.

Clinton’s State Department gave the okay for President Barack Obama to rubberstamp the proposed pipeline, which would connect refineries in the Gulf Coast of the United States with Tar Sands reserves in the forests of northern Alberta. The latest connection for Clinton comes in the form of a cartoon parody thanks to some creative minds at the DeSmogBlog.com. The video, which is posted below shows Clinton in the presence of some “friends” from the fossil fuel industry, who just happened to make large donations to her failed presidential campaign in 2008.

 

 

Clinton and the State Department play a critical role in the in the approval process of the 1,600-mile crude pipeline because the pipeline crosses an international boundary. Though her diplomatic role in the process is a matter of governmental protocol, her ties to the companies involved with the Keystone XL have frequently been called into question. TransCanada, the company that owns the existing Keystone pipeline, hired former Clinton campaign operative Paul Elliott as their lobbyist to negotiate with the State Department. This has resulted in lawsuits from ethical organizations and calls for Clinton to recuse herself from the approval process. Clinton ignored those calls, and last week her State Department approved the proposal.  Now, only Barack Obama can halt the project.

Five things to consider about the Yellowstone Pipeline leak

Nearly a week has passed and thousands of gallons of crude oil have poured into the Yellowstone River in Montana. The spill has placed attention on America’s often overlooked and aging pipeline system. As the media continues to cover ExxonMobil and its ruptured pipeline, here are a few things to consider about pipelines in the United States.

Leaky past

Over the last eighteen months the United States has seen a steady flow of pipeline accidents that have resulted in the spilling of millions of gallons of oil, the destruction of homes from coast to coast and several deaths and injuries. Between January 2010 and February 2011 nine major pipeline explosions resulted in 18 deaths, 13 injuries and 85 destroyed homes in the United States.

A full list of all pipeline accidents in the United States, including the Yellowstone River incident, can be found here. The list also includes the estimated 800,000 gallons of crude that spilled into the Kalamazoo River last year, as well as the 600,000 gallons of crude that made it into a Chicago suburb just months later. Both spills were the result of pipeline failures.

Regulating the flow

The management of pipelines is a bureaucratic nightmare. Six seemingly unrelated federal agencies, including the Department of Transportation, Mineral Services Management and U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, have a share in the responsibility as the Agencies of The Joint Pipeline Office dealing with concerns over safety, regulation, transportation and access of oil and gas from interstate pipelines. The agencies are responsible for thousands of miles of aging pipelines, some of which have been around since the 1860s. Yet, spills continue to happen causing leaks into our precious natural resources.

Exxon’s lies

In the wake of the Yellowstone River spill, ExxonMobil is increasingly going on the defensive for not telling the truth to federal officials and Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer. The Associated Press reports that an ExxonMobil said the oil spill had been contained within 30 minutes of the rupture. That reports shows that it was actually nearly an hour before the pipeline had been fully turned off. This was not the first discrepancy between ExxonMobil’s rhetoric and the reality of the Montana disaster.

Before giving federal officials and Schweitzer false information about how long crude flowed into the Yellowstone, ExxonMobil had been sticking to their story that ten miles of the Yellowstone River could be affected by the spill. By the time Schweitzer spoke on television on Tuesday night, the governor knew that the dynamics of the flowing Yellowstone River meant that ExxonMobil’s ten-mile claim was bogus. “At seven miles per hour, some oil is already in North Dakota. That’s a given,” Schweitzer said. That same day, the same transportation officials who were told that oil wouldn’t go beyond a ten-mile stretch, acknowledged that oil had been observed in Terry Montana, more than 240 miles downstream.

Keystone concerns

The Yellowstone River disaster comes at a critical time for America’s pipeline and energy industry. The Secretary of State’s office is currently considering approval for what would be a major pipeline that would connect crude oil reserves in the Alberta Tar Sands to refineries in the United States. This proposed expansion of the existing Keystone pipeline has raised concerns for several reasons. First, the pipelines will come close to existing waterways and aquifers. Modern pipelines can be buried as much as 25 feet beneath bodies of water; Exxon Mobil’s Silvertip line was 5 to 8 feet below the bottom of the Yellowstone. In Nebraska, several state legislators have expressed concerns that if a disaster like the spill in the Yellowstone River were to happen near the Oglala Aquifer, the damage done to a critical water supply to one of the nation’s leading agricultural states could be catastrophic. The same concern has been echoed by Nebraska’s two United States Senators who despite being members of different political parties, are both skeptical of the project’s potential harm to drinking water.

Of course this raises the question of the likelihood of spill from an expanded Keystone XL pipeline. According to a report by the National Resources Defense Council, spills from the existing Keystone XL pipeline occur at a rate of about one per month. Over the last eleven months eleven spills have occurred at pumping stations along the pipeline. This includes a May 7 spill of 500 barrels in North Dakota, which sent a geyser of oil spurting 60 feet into the air and shutdown the pipeline for a week.

Another reason for concern surrounding plans to expand the Keystone XL comes down to ties between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and TransCanada. TransCanada is the company that owns the existing Keystone XL pipeline. TransCanada’s main Washington, DC lobbyist is Paul Elliot, who served as the Secretary of State’s national deputy director for her failed presidential run in 2008. This cozy relationship has resulted in several organization filing requests to see the discussions between Clinton and Elliot throughout this process. Currently, the Secretary of State’s office is in the review stages of the approval process for the pipeline, which if given the go-ahead would allow for 900,000 barrels of crude to be pumped into the United States every day.

Clean up costs

Not only does ExxonMobil make $5 million per hour, the company is a beneficiary of $21 billion in tax breaks (over the next five years) to the top five oil corporations.

Yet the “richest company in the world is using oil spill technology that is at least 40 years old,” said Eric Pica, president of Friends of the Earth during an appearance on MSNBC. ExxonMobil has not invested any funds into the ‘technological innovation’ of clean up equipment even though the Yellowstone Pipeline “has leaked at least 71 times on tribal lands, including one failure that resulted in a 163,000 gallon spill into a reservation creek.”

ExxonMobil will mostly be able to write off the clean up costs as a classic business deduction. Like Americans did during the BP spill (which reportedly cost $5 billion to clean up), they will accrue most of the financial costs of this leak. And who knows how much the tab will end up costing this time.