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Sierra Daily

Nov 01, 2011

D.C. Deafness on Keystone XL

Waste basketThis can't be good. According to The Hill, White House press secretary Jay Carney "appears to be trying to keep some political space between Obama and the looming decision on TransCanada Corporation’s proposed Alberta-to-Texas pipeline."

“This is a decision that will be made by the State Department, or is housed within the State Department. And they are taking into . . . they are in a phase now of taking into account public comment and comments certainly from experts, both environmental, as well as energy experts. So this process includes a full review of various concerns from all areas,” Carney said.    

For starters, while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is responsible for recommending whether vastly expanding dirty energy is in the U.S. national interest, the buck does stop with President Obama. But about those public comments: Inside Climate News reports that "The State Department has lost tens of thousands of submissions and cannot say how the remainder will be handled or will influence the pending decision." This might have something to do with the fact that the State Department is offshoring the handling of those comments to Cardno Entrix, the consulting firm that organized the public hearings on the pipeline and which counts among its "major clients"--TransCanada, the Alberta-based company that wants to build Keystone XL. (Small world, isn't it?)

Inside Climate News cites our own Kate Colarulli, associate director of the Beyond Oil campaign:

From April through June, [the Sierra Club] worked with seven other anti-pipeline groups to collect 269,000 written comments from their members. They submitted them electronically to a Cardno Entrix email address set up for that purpose.

But in July, when the Sierra Club checked the website that Carno Entrix maintains for the State Department, Colarulli said her office found that the company's count came up short by 94,000 comments. About 25,000 of the missing comments were written by Sierra Club members, she said.

"So we reached out to [State Department official] Alex Yuan, just saying there's a discrepancy, this is pretty weird," Colarulli said. "Mr. Yuan was pretty concerned."

Yuan told the Sierra Club to load the missing comments onto CDs and mail them to the State Department, Colarulli said. Two days later, Yuan "wrote us back and said never mind ... we're not willing to take these comments."

What will it take to make Washington listen? This Sunday, Sierra Club activists will join thousands of others in encircling the White House for the largest tar-sands protest in history. Mr. President? Can you hear us now?

UPDATE: In an interview this afternoon in Nebraska, Obama made it clear that he will be making the final decision on the Keystone XL pipeline. “We need to make sure that we have energy security and aren’t just relying on Middle East sources. But there’s a way of doing that and still making sure that the health and safety of the American people and folks in Nebraska are protected, and that’s how I’ll be measuring these recommendations when they come to me.”

--Paul Rauber

Image by iStock

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