State Department IG's office to review Keystone XL permit process

The US Department of State’s inspector general’s office will conduct a special review of DOS’s handling of the environmental impact statement and national interest determination for TransCanada Corp.’s proposed Keystone XL crude oil pipeline project. The review came in response to an Oct. 27 request for an inquiry by US Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), US Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), and 11 other members of Congress.

DOS welcomes the review, a spokeswoman said on Nov. 8. “The department considers it an opportunity for an impartial assessment, and we are confident that [it] will bear out that we have conducted the Keystone pipeline permitting process consistently with US law and regulations,” Victoria Nuland said during the department’s daily press briefing. “We will be cooperating fully with the Office of Inspector General.”

The review will not be a full investigation, which she described as “a much more fulsome process which goes into every nook and cranny of our procedures.” But the review’s report will be “as long as the inspector general deems necessary,” Nuland emphasized.

Major environmental organizations and other opponents of the proposed pipeline, which would transport crude oil recovered from Alberta oil sands to US Gulf Coast refineries, have charged that there were conflicts of interest when DOS prepared an environmental impact statement as it reviewed TransCanada’s application for a cross-border permit.

TransCanada said in a statement that the company conducts its operations openly and transparently, and that it expects the special review’s conclusion to reflect this. “We welcome an independent review by the [IG’s] office so that these latest claims by professional activists and lawmakers who are adamantly opposed to our pipeline project can be addressed,” it said.

It’s not certain if the IG office’s special review will keep DOS from sending its recommendation to US President Barack Obama, who said on Nov. 1 that he would make the final decision on TransCanada’s application, by the end of the year as DOS originally planned.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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