(Updates with comment from TransCanada in sixth paragraph.)
Oct. 26 (Bloomberg) -- A decision on whether to let TransCanada Corp. build its Keystone XL pipeline should be delayed until the State Department’s inspector general examines potential bias in the agency’s review, U.S. lawmakers said.
TransCanada is proposing a 1,661-mile (2,673-kilometer) project to transport oil from Alberta’s oil sands to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico. The State Department, which has jurisdiction because the project would cross an international border, has said it plans to decide this year whether to grant approval.
Senator Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent, and 13 other lawmakers asked the department’s watchdog in a letter today to examine the environmental-review process for the pipeline. In a separate letter, they asked President Barack Obama to postpone a decision until results of such an investigation are publicly released.
“Many serious concerns have been raised regarding conflicts of interest in the State Department’s process for conducting its federally mandated review of this project,” the legislators wrote to Obama. “We believe it is critical that the American people have confidence that all the facts have been presented in an objective and unbiased manner.”
The letter cited an Oct. 7 New York Times story that reported the department hired a consulting company in the environmental review that had listed TransCanada as a client.
‘This Is Noise’
“This letter, along with many others, is part of a coordinated effort to stall a decision on whether or not the Keystone XL pipeline should receive a presidential permit to begin construction,” Shawn Howard, a TransCanada spokesman, said today in an e-mail. “The real issue is does this proposed pipeline meet U.S. regulatory standards to be constructed and operated to deliver oil. The rest of this is noise and an attempt to distract from the real issues that the Department of State needs to evaluate.”
Friends of the Earth, a Washington-based environmental advocacy group, released e-mails last month showing that Paul Elliott, who was deputy campaign manager for the 2008 presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, now the secretary of State, set up meetings on behalf of TransCanada executives.
The e-mails are evidence of the State Department’s pro- industry bias, Friends of the Earth said on Sept. 22.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner didn’t return request for comment on the lawmakers’ request.
The department has been even-handed and transparent in its dealings with business officials and environmental advocates in its review, Victoria Nuland, a State Department spokeswoman, said in a briefing on Oct. 3.
--Editors: Judy Pasternak, Steve Geimann
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