WASHINGTON, Oct. 14 - Three key senators today questioned the U.S. State Department about its dealings with a Canadian company seeking U.S. approval to build a crude oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.
The State Department is responsible for deciding whether to approve the billion-dollar Keystone XL pipeline project. TransCanada, the company trying to build the pipeline, reportedly was permitted to screen private firms bidding to perform an environmental impact study.
Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) wrote a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton raising what they called "serious concerns" about the matter. Their letter questioned why Cardno Entrix was picked to perform the critical study despite its significant financial ties to TransCanada.
"We find it inappropriate that a contractor with financial ties to TransCanada, which publicly promotes itself by identifying TransCanada as a ‘major client', was selected to conduct what is intended to be an objective government review," the senators said.
"This is a critically important issue for our environment and the energy future of our country. At a time when all credible scientific evidence and opinion indicate that we are losing the battle against global warming, it is imperative that we have objective environmental assessments of major carbon-dependent energy projects," the letter added.
The senators said "the only satisfactory remedy" would be for the State Department to conduct a new, objective, and comprehensive environmental review, either directly or through a contractor with no financial ties to TransCanada.
Environmental activist Bill McKibben, a leading opponent of the Tar Sands pipeline project, applauded the senators.
"I'm so glad to see senators sticking up not just for the integrity of the atmosphere, but also the integrity of the political process. If environmental reviews are run by the companies involved, there's really not much point in doing them; hopefully this letter will help the Obama administration figure out that it's time to start over again."
To read the senators' letter, click here.