2011-10-04 "Keystone pipeline e-mails show envoy-lobbyist link" by Juliet Eilperin & Steven Mufson from "Washington Post" newspaper
The New York Times contributed to this report.
The State Department has released a new series of e-mails about the controversial Keystone pipeline proposal that show a friendly relationship between a U.S. Embassy official in Ottawa and TransCanada's Washington lobbyist.
At times, State Department official Marja Verloop - who oversees energy, science and environmental issues at the embassy - appears to be cheering on TransCanada's Washington lobbyist Paul Elliott in his efforts to enlist congressional support for the pipeline extension.
On Sept. 10, 2010, for example, Verloop sent a congratulatory message to Elliott after he forwarded a press release to multiple people announcing that Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., backed the pipeline project.
"Go Paul! Baucus support holds clout," Verloop wrote.
This is the second batch of e-mails obtained by Friends of the Earth through a Freedom of Information Act filing. Friends of the Earth said the e-mails showed State Department bias in favor of a project it is supposed to be evaluating and complicity between State and TransCanada.
"We are committed to a fair, transparent and thorough process," a State Department spokesman said in a statement Sunday. "Throughout the process we have been in communication with industry as well as environmental groups, both in the United States and in Canada. ... We listen to all opinions, but there is much more that goes into the national interest determination decision."
The State Department is responsible for permitting pipelines that cross national borders according to the "national interest," and is weighing the environmental impact of Keystone XL against the benefit in expanding the fuel supply for the United States.
While the pipeline would help ensure the United States a stable fuel supply from a friendly neighbor, environmental groups oppose it because much of the oil would come from subterranean oil sand, and extracting crude oil from the rock produces heavy emissions and destroys the overlying forests. In addition, the pipeline would go through the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the Midwest's principal water sources, where a spill could prove disastrous.
Throughout their e-mail correspondence, Verloop and Elliott engage in friendly banter. On Dec. 14, 2010, in an e-mail in which Verloop has forwarded a news story about Elliott's lobbying activities, she wrote, "When are you coming up to visit? It's a snowy winter wonderland here this morning."
In the same e-mail, Verloop provided an update on Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's visit to Ottawa for a meeting of North American governments. She wrote that she "oversaw" Clinton's visit, adding, "KXL was not raised, but (Canadian ambassador to the United States Gary) Doer flew back on plane with her."
Environmental groups have long argued that Elliott's lobbying of the State Department is a serious conflict of interest since he served as Clinton's deputy national campaign director and chief of delegate selection in 2008.
The department has said the decision about whether to permit the pipeline "is not and will not be influenced by prior relationships that current government officials have had."
On April 7, Verloop complained that Elliott did not attend an event in Ottawa on April 6. Verloop wrote in response to an unrelated e-mail: "No show last night :( "
Elliott explained in a reply that same day he had to work, adding: "I'm sure it was a lot more fun in Ottawa. I hope you are doing well."