After Fossil Fuel Front Group Attacks on Clean Energy Fail, New Model Bill Emerges to Weaken RPS Laws

ALECFossilFuelFundersMembers of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), including fossil fuel corporations and front groups, will meet in Chicago this week to discuss their next round of attacks on clean energy policies. The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), The Checks & Balances Project (C&BP) and Greenpeace released ALEC’s confidential model bills and agenda ahead of their Annual Meeting taking place in Chicago, that include a new anti-clean energy model bill, “The Market-Power Renewables Act.”

 “A little sunlight is a powerful force for good. ALEC is trying every trick in the book to keep the agenda of their upcoming meetings secret,” said Nick Surgey of The Center for Media and Democracy. “They are even claiming every state’s public record laws don’t apply to them. This is preposterous. The ALEC documents that CMD obtained show that ALEC is continuing to scheme on behalf of fossil fuel corporations, working together to undermine state’s efforts to promote renewable energy production.”

 “The Market-Power Renewables Act” will likely serve as the model for another round of attacks on state Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) in 2014 following ALEC’s failure to weaken or eliminate clean energy policies this year. The new bill would significantly weaken state clean energy laws by broadening the eligible electricity sources to include existing, large hydroelectric power plants, biomass, biogas and other sources of electricity.

 “Fossil fuel-backed efforts to rollback clean energy laws in states across the country have failed, including in at least three critical battleground states,” said Gabe Elsner, Director of C&BP. “It’s no surprise that ALEC is pushing a new model bill that would eliminate incentives for in-state investments in clean energy. These policies are boosting investment in the clean energy industry and creating jobs, which poses a major threat to fossil fuel interests.”

Despite a robust lobbying effort from fossil fuel corporations and fossil fuel-funded front groups, ALEC and its allies lost in the critical battleground states of Kansas, North Carolina and Missouri. Bipartisan majorities defeated ALEC’s model legislation this year, after ALEC legislators in at least 13 states sponsored or co-sponsored legislation to weaken or eliminate RPS laws.

But despite complete failure in 2013, ALEC’s Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force Director Todd Wynn indicated that attacks on clean energy laws would resume in 2014.

 “Fossil fuel-funded front groups connected to the Koch-funded State Policy Network and ALEC advocated to repeal or weaken RPS laws in at least 14 states,” said Connor Gibson of Greenpeace. “Many of these front groups published flawed economicreports written by the fossil fuel-funded Beacon Hill Institute to inflate the cost of RPS and ignore the economic benefits of the pro-clean energy laws.”

The team of oil & gas lobbyists behind Gov. Hickenlooper’s agenda

http://shareasimage.com/service/quotes/pro/05-30-13/his-relationship-to-the-oil-gas-industry-is-strong-3.pngIt should come as no surprise that in the 2013 legislative session alone, the oil and gas industry spent $1.06 million defending Gov. Hickenlooper’s pro-Big Oil agenda.

As a Chesapeake lobbyist wrote in a January 2013 memo that the lobby firm accidentally emailed to state legislators, “[Gov. Hickenlooper’s] relationship to the oil & gas industry is strong and he has been a national leader speaking out against the anti-fracturing forces that have invaded Colorado.”

Gov. Hickenlooper has had a team of oil and gas lobbyists supporting his administration’s work to gut or kill legislation at the state capitol. In fact, a Colorado Ethics Watch report released this week found that oil and gas lobbyists outnumbered oil and gas inspectors by a 28-to-17 margin during Fiscal Year 2012-2013.

That investment has paid off big for Gov. Hickenlooper and the oil and gas industry during the 2013 legislative session.

Gov. Hickenlooper gutted a bill that would have set mandatory minimum fines for oil and gas companies that pollute rivers and water. After the bill died, his administration announced it would not fine Williams Company for polluting Parachute Creek, a tributary of the Colorado River, with cancer-causing benzene so long as it adhered to a consent order.

His administration actually opposed an effort to add more oil and gas inspectors out in the field and opposed a bill which would have brought more balance to the commission that oversees oil and gas drilling and fracking operations in the state.

With huge sums of lobbying cash behind him, it is no wonder that Gov. Hickenlooper has been able to keep Colorado weak on polluter crime when it comes to oil and gas.

o&g lobby v. inspectorsThe report released this week by Colorado Ethics Watch found that the oil and gas industry has spent a whopping $4.7 million on lobbyists from Fiscal Years 2008-09 through 2011-12 – more than any other industry in Colorado except the health care industry.

For those tracking Chesapeake closely, the company spent $130k on lobbying efforts over the last four years. Other top oil and gas lobbying spenders since 2009 include Pioneer Natural Resources at $640k, Shell at $571k, Encana at $415k, Bill Barrett Corporation at $376k, Marathon at $293k, Williams Energy at $285k, ExxonMobil at $272k, Anadarko at $260k, Black Hills at $224k, and, of course, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association at $402k.

C&BP Calls for State Dept. Investigation into Keystone XL Consultant’s Conflicts of Interest

ERMLetter

Letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and State Dept. Deputy Inspector General Harold Geisel

Yesterday, Checks & Balances Project and 11 environmental, faith-based and public interest organizations called on Secretary of State John Kerry and the State Department Deputy Inspector General Harold Geisel to investigate whether Environmental Resources Management (ERM) hid conflicts of interest which might have excluded it from performing the Keystone XL environmental assessment and how State Department officials failed to flag inconsistencies in ERM’s proposal. Tom Zeller, Senior Writer at The Huffington Post, wrote an article highlighting the letter callings for an investigation.

Early last month, the State Department released a 2,000 page environmental impact study for the Keystone XL pipeline claiming that the pipeline would not have major impact on the environment. But, Environmental Resources Management (ERM), the consulting firm hired to perform the “draft supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS),” has ties to fossil fuel companies with major stakes in the Alberta Tar Sands. This conflict of interest was not accurately disclosed  in ERM’s answers on a State Department questionnaire. Checks & Balances Project considers ERM’s responses in its proposal to be intentionally misleading statements.

Unredacted Documents Uncover Conflicts of Interest
Last week, Mother Jones released unredacted versions of the ERM proposal, showing that three experts “had done consulting work for TransCanada and other oil companies with a stake in the Keystone’s approval.”

The unredacted biographies show that ERM’s employees have an existing relationship with ExxonMobil and worked for TransCanada within the last three years among other companies involved in the Canadian tar sands.

Here’s more from Mother Jones’ Andy Kroll:

“ERM’s second-in-command on the Keystone report, Andrew Bielakowski, had worked on three previous pipeline projects for TransCanada over seven years as an outside consultant. He also consulted on projects for ExxonMobil, BP, and ConocoPhillips, three of the Big Five oil companies that could benefit from the Keystone XL project and increased extraction of heavy crude oil taken from the Canadian tar sands.

Another ERM employee who contributed to State’s Keystone report — and whose prior work history was also redacted — previously worked for Shell Oil; a third worked as a consultant for Koch Gateway Pipeline Company, a subsidiary of Koch Industries. Shell and Koch have a significant financial interest in the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. ERM itself has worked for Chevron, which has invested in Canadian tar-sands extraction, according to its website.”

When asked about who at the State Department decided to redact ERM’s biographies, a State Department spokesperson said “ERM proposed redactions of some information in the administrative documents that they considered business confidential.” Disclosing past clients may be business confidential information, but from what the biographies show, ERM may have recommended the redactions to hide conflicts of interest from public disclosure.

Problem with ERM Answers on Conflict of Interest Questionnaire 

ERMProposal

ERM’s Proposal to the State Department

The biographies on ERM’s proposal show that the company has had direct relationships with multiple business entities that could be affected by the proposed work in the past three years.

In the “Organizational Conflict of Interest Questionnaire,” the State Department asks (page 42), “Within the past three years, have you (or your organization) had a direct or indirect relationship (financial, organizational, contractual or otherwise) with any business entity that could be affected in any way by the proposed work?“ ERM’s Project Manager, Steve Koster, checked “No” but appears to have added to the Yes/No questionnaire that, “ERM has no existing contract or working relationship with TransCanada.”

Regardless of the addendum Koster added, he still submitted an incomplete statement when checking “No” to the specific question above. Simply put, the information provided by Mr. Koster was an incomplete statement if one simply reviews the biographies of ERM’s employees for the project.

The State Department Contracting Officer should have flagged this inconsistency when reviewing the staff biographies.  ERM’s answers did not properly reveal in the Yes/No questionnaire that ERM did have a current “direct relationship” with a business enetity that could be affected by the proposed work and a relationship in the past three years with TransCanada, the company building the pipeline.

Koster’s incomplete statement on direct business relationships is not the only odd statement in ERM’s proposal. ERM also answered “No” to the question, “Are you (or your organization) an ‘energy concern?’” which the State Department defines (in part) as: “Any person — (1) significantly engaged in the business of conducting research…related to an activity described in paragraphs (i) through (v).” Paragraph (i) states: “Any person significantly engaged in the business of developing, extracting, producing, refining, transporting by pipeline, converting into synthetic fuel, distributing, or selling minerals for use as an energy source…” ERM as a research firm working for fossil fuel companies is, unequivocally, an energy interest.

So the question must be asked: If ERM is unable to accurately fill out a simple questionnaire regarding conflicts of interest, how can we trust the company to perform an unbiased environmental assessment of a 1,179 mile-long pipeline cutting through the American heartland? And, why did the State Department’s Contracting Officer not flag the inconsistencies in ERM’s Conflict of Interest Questionnaire when reviewing the proposals?

Intentions of State Department and ERM in Question

The Federal Government has strict ethics rules to prevent Organizational Conflicts of Interest (OCIs) from impacting the impartiality of government contracts and to prevent hiring contractors who cannot provide independent and unbiased services to the government.

According to a white paper from the Congressional Research Service, before the State Department could choose ERM as the contractor, the “Contracting Officer” had to make an “affirmative determination of responsibility.” All government contractors (including ERM) must be deemed responsible, in part by meeting strict ethics guidelines, known as “collateral requirements.”

According to current collateral requirements, contractors must be found “nonresponsible” when there are unavoidable and unmitigated OCIs. Checks & Balances Project believes that the Contracting Officer should have deemed ERM “nonresponsible” because the company serves as a contractor for major fossil fuel companies that have a stake in the Keystone XL pipeline. If ERM were “nonresponsible”, the company would have been ineligible to perform the environmental impact review of the Keystone XL pipeline.

These potential material incomplete statements on a Federal Government proposal calls into question the integrity of ERM and threatens millions in government contracts.

If ERM were determined to be “nonresponsible” or “excluded” because of these incomplete statements, it could jeopardize ERM’s ability to perform any work for the Federal Government. Again, according to the Congressional Research Service:

“Decisions to exclude are made by agency heads or their designees (above the contracting officer’s level) based upon evidence that contractors have committed certain integrity offenses, including any “offenses indicating a lack of business integrity or honesty that seriously affect the present responsibility of a contractor.””

Certainly these incomplete statements call into question both the independence of ERM and the judgement of the Contracting Officer in making the “affirmative determination of responsibility.” This proposal process should be investigated by the State Department Inspector General to determine if ERM’s statements are cause for exclusion.

Groups Calling for Inspector General Investigation

We believe ERM used multiple material incomplete statements and had clear conflicts of interest as shown in the unredacted documents. So, why was ERM hired by the State Department?

Checks & Balances Project asked a State Department spokesperson about the conflicts of interest and the spokesperson said: “Based on a thorough consideration of all of the information presented, including the work histories of team members, the Department concluded that ERM has no financial or other interest in the outcome of the project that would constitute a conflict of interest.” Perhaps the State Department’s Contracting Offier made the decision to hire ERM because of the company’s incomplete statements on the conflict of interest questionnaire.

Harold Geisel, Deputy Inspector General, U.S. State Department

Checks & Balances Project along with 11 other groups (Better Future Project, Center for Biological Diversity, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, DeSmogBlog, Forecast the Facts, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, NC WARN, Oil Change International, Public Citizen’s Energy Program and Unitarian Universalist Ministry for Earth) sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and the State Department Deputy Inspector General Harold Geisel calling for an investigation into the matter. These incomplete statements and the determination by the Contracting Officer that ERM did not have any conflicts of interest, despite clear evidence to the contrary, are grounds for further investigation.

Donors Trust: The Secret Group Funding Attacks on Clean Energy & Climate Science

New research shows almost $120 million flowed from two secretive groups, called “Donors Trust” and “Donors Capital” to 102 groups denying climate science and attacking clean energy. The Guardian’s Suzanne Goldenberg reports that “the funds, doled out between 2002 and 2010, helped build a vast network of think tanks and activist groups working to a single purpose: to redefine climate change from neutral scientific fact to a highly polarizing ‘wedge issue’ for hardcore conservatives.”

Greenpeace research (.pdf) into the tax records of these organizations shows that publicly-disclosed funding for climate denial groups from foundations connected to the Koch Brothers began to decrease in 2006. But, funding from Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund soared from less than $20 million per year to almost $35 million per year from 2006 to 2009. Kert Davies, research director at Greenpeace said to the Guardian, “These groups are increasingly getting money from sources that are anonymous or untraceable. There’s no transparency, no accountability for the money. There is no way to tell who is funding them.”

Many of these organizations funded by Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund are also working to attack clean energy. Goldenberg notes in a companion article that recipients, including groups like the Heartland Institute and Americans for Prosperity (AFP), have received millions from the two secretive organizations.

AFP, which received $7.6 million from Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund in 2010 (43% of its budget), drove anti-wind efforts last fall, leading a coalition of fossil fuel-funded groups to write a letter calling on Congress to block tax credits for wind energy. The Washington Post reported in November 2012 that the Heartland Institute, which received $1.6 million from Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund in 2010 (27% of its budget), joined with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to push model legislation to state legislators in an effort to eliminate state clean energy standards across the country. In addition, organizations that are part of the State Policy Network (SPN), which received $4.8 million from Donors Trust in 2010 (36% of its budget), published reports bashing clean energy standards that are now likely being used to attack clean energy policies in states across the country (like Kansas and Ohio).

Furthermore, the Guardian revealed in a third story that Donors Trust bankrolled the Franklin Centre for Government and Public Integrity, a newly established organization founded in 2009, which is running a campaign to “stop state governments moving towards renewable energy.” The Franklin Centre has strong ties to American’s for Prosperity and the Koch Brothers, including former staff members of both AFP and a Koch Family Foundation according to a PR Watch investigation.

Are these attacks ideological? Or are other fossil fuel interests like the Koch Brothers funding these efforts to stop a potential market threat? We know that fossil fuel corporations that have a financial incentive to stop the growth of the clean energy industry and their benefactors and foundations have funded many of these groups over the years. With an ability to hide the money trail through groups like Donors Trust, I would bet fossil fuel interests continue to fund fake grassroots campaigns and front groups to attack clean energy.

#NYFrackingScandal Hits Cuomo Administration: Newly Disclosed Documents Show Conflicts of Interest

Photo from NYPost.com

With only two days before the expected release of New York’s Environmental Impact Assessment on fracking (also known by the industry term hydraulic fracturing), Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration is at the center of a new conflict of interest scandal regarding two of his top aides.  Today, seven groups requested the Albany County District Attorney General David Soares investigate the Cuomo Administration’s conflicts of interest surrounding two staffers that hold “key positions in New York’s decision over whether to allow high-volume hydraulic fracturing.”

There are looming questions on the impartiality of Lawrence Schwartz and Robert Hallman, two top Cuomo Administration officials, who have significant influence on the Governor’s fracking decision. New documents obtained by DeSmogBlog through New York’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) show that Mr. Schwartz has significant stock holdings in companies that stand to benefit from fracking in New York state, and that Mr. Hallman failed to make specific financial disclosures, raising questions about his objectivity on the issue.

The two top aides, Lawrence Schwartz, Secretary to Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, and Robert Hallman, Deputy Secretary for Energy and Environment, have significant oversight within the Cuomo Administration on the issue of hydraulic fracturing. According to the groups’ letter, Mr. Schwartz supervises all state deputies and commissioners, including Mr. Hallman and the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation – the agency that is tasked with studying high-volume hydraulic fracturing and developing the state’s policy regarding this extraction technique. Mr. Hallman is the state’s highest gubernatorial staff member who has oversight over the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

According to financial disclosure documents, Schwartz has substantial holdings in companies engaged in shale gas development, including ConocoPhillips, Occidental Petroleum and ExxonMobil. ExxonMobil alone holds 43,000 acres of leases for fracking in New York under its subsidiary XTO Energy Inc. Schwartz also identified “Williams Co.,” apparently a reference to “The Williams Companies Inc.,” a pipeline company that plans to build a $750 million pipeline through the southern portion of New York.

Mr. Hallman failed to specify his stock holdings in his financial disclosure forms, which seems to violate (at the very least) the spirit of N.Y. Pub. Off. § 73-a. The law states that “Public officials are required to list “EACH SOURCE” of income greater than $1,000 and “the type and market value of securities… from each issuing entity” greater than $1,000,” according to the letter from seven groups to District Attorney General Soares. Instead of disclosing each source, Mr. Hallman listed “various common stock” and “various corporate bonds.” His lack of disclosure should serve as a red flag and calls into question his impartiality on the state’s fracking decision.

Furthermore, records obtained via the FOIL request indicate that fracking companies have recently worked directly with Cuomo Administration officials.  XTO Energy Inc, a subsidiary of ExxonMobil, wrote to Mr. Schwartz and Mr. Hallman requesting changes to the state’s draft regulations on fracking in August 2012. And, The Williams Companies communicated with Mr. Hallman regarding natural gas pipelines twice in the summer of 2012.

New York state law states that public officials should avoid personal investments that could “create substantial conflict between his duty in the public interest and his private interest.” Both Mr. Schwartz and Mr. Hallman may have conflicts of interest that violate this standard.

Today during a press conference in Albany, Alex Beauchamp, Food & Water Watch Northeast Region Director, said, “We are outraged to discover that Governor Cuomo’s top aide is so heavily invested in oil and gas companies. And further, that he made these investments during the very timeframe this administration has been considering whether to allow fracking in New York. Clearly, this administration must not allow fracking to move forward under this cloud of scandal.”

Learn more at NYFrackingScandal.com.

Poll: Exelon’s ComEd Customers Disapprove of Efforts to Thwart Lower-Cost Energy Source, Especially If Their Money Is Used To Fight Wind Energy

The Checks and Balances Project commissioned a poll that shows high levels of support for wind energy and ratepayer antipathy toward actions carried out by Commonwealth Edison’s parent company, Exelon, to end wind power investments.

The majority of respondents opposed ending the tax credit that encourages the production of wind power (54%), and opposition to ending the tax credit rose significantly (70%) if ratepayer money was used to help fund the lobbying efforts to end the tax credits for wind power.

It is not clear whether Exelon is using ratepayer money to fund their multimillion dollar lobbying campaign against the wind tax credit. But the public and ratepayers have a right to know.

Regardless of how they fund their campaign, it is clear that ratepayers strongly support investment in wind energy. Ratepayers oppose Exelon’s efforts to go after investment in wind, while Exelon remains supportive of continued subsidies for nuclear energy (Nuclear energy comprises over 90% of Exelon’s holdings in the power generation sector).

The poll shows that:
• 81% of respondents support wind energy.
• A majority of respondents would favor increasing (57%) or not changing (21%) financial incentives offered to renewable energy.
• A majority (54%) respondents oppose Exelon’s efforts to end tax credits for wind
• This number jumps to 70% when told ratepayer dollars may be funding this lobbying effort.
• Nearly two-thirds (63%) opposed Exelon’s efforts to end wind tax credits while the company did not lobby to end subsidies for nuclear energy as well.

The popularity of wind as an energy source shouldn’t be surprising. Numerous studies have shown that consumers benefit from wind electricity’s lower rates. A study by Synapse Energy Economics found that wind power could save Midwestern consumers between $3 billion and $9.5 billion a year by 2020. In addition, wind energy tax breaks have incentivized more than $75 billion worth of private investment over the past five years.

Ending the PTC will harm ratepayers by removing the savings they would receive from wind energy and clear the path to more expensive sources of energy like nuclear power. Furthermore, wind energy competition to Exelon’s nuclear plants may be driving Exelon’s efforts to stop wind energy tax credits.

Our poll shows that Exelon’s current course of action is inconsistent with the stated wants of its ratepayers. The company should be responsive to its customers and cease lobbying against the interests of their customers.

Click here for more info on the poll.

From ‘Astroturf’ to Drilling in the West: Tim Wigley heads to WEA

Yesterday, the Western Energy Alliance (WEA) announced that it had selected former lobbyist Tim Wigley as its new president. Wigley comes from the oil-and-gas lobbying firm, PAC/West where he managed its DC operations.  The experience will come in handy when managing WEA’s $70,000 to $85,000 yearly spending habit of lobbying the federal government.

According to Think Progress, Wigley has an extensive background in DC and is no stranger to dirty energy campaigns:

Wigley has spent much of his career lobbying on behalf of corporate interests. But perhaps most interesting is his previous role as campaign manager for two “astroturf” groups — those that purport to be grassroots when really they are just front groups for industry. According to a 2007 investigation by Public Citizen, Wigley headed up two major astroturf campaigns while working for Pac/West:

  • Project Protect (logging): “This group spent $2.9 million on media purchases and other efforts to lobby for President Bush’s ‘Healthy Forests’ initiative. The group, which billed itself as ‘a grassroots coalition of western communities, natural resource groups, labor organizations, and conservationists,’ refused to disclose its donors. It listed an address at Mailboxes, Etc., in 2003. In 2004, it listed an address identical to that of the American Forest Resource Council, a group that lobbies for public land management policies that favor industry.”
  • Save Our Species Alliance (endangered species issues): “This group sought to gut the Endangered Species Act…The campaign manager for Save Our Species Alliance was Tim Wigley…[who] told a reporter that the Save Our Species Alliance was a grassroots group of farmers, labor groups and others. Wigley did not divulge the identities of the group’s funders. ‘I think this line of questioning is misleading,’ he said to the reporter who asked.”

The Western Energy Alliance is a trade group with lobbying and PAC arms whose “Blueprint for Western Prosperity” is a hit list against public health and environmental safeguards and calls for policies like a “moratorium on new federal regulations.” WEA is notorious for accusing the Obama administration for blocking drilling on public lands, despite evidence that oil and gas drilling in America is higher than ever before.

Gingrich attacks oil and gas subsidies

At yesterday’s Iowa Faith and Freedom conference, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich called for a level subsidies playing field. He pointed out how politicians claim to be looking for every way to cut the deficit, but many in the GOP steadfastly refuse to touch the billions in tax dollars that go to oil and gas companies every year. The same companies that make profits in the billions.

Read the full story at ThinkProgress.

5 Sketchy ties between Herman Cain and Koch Brothers

Several new reports show Cain is in the back pocket of dirty industries

By Andrew Schenkel

Herman Cain’s quick rise up the political latter is raising eyebrows in the energy community. On the campaign trail Cain loves touting his business background. He likes to cast himself as the ultimate outsider but his rise appears to be an inside job. Enter Charles and David Koch. Yes, the same Koch brothers who have been profiled by The New Yorker and 60 Minutes for working behind the scenes of the American political system to manipulate environmental policy for the betterment of their chemical companies. And yes, the same David and Charles Koch who recently came under fire for secret dealings with the Iranian government. These two men are also behind Herman Cain’s climbs in GOP and Cain isn’t even hiding it for one second.

1-Herman Cain says Koch Brothers are Patriots

It doesn’t get any more apparent than the video posted by ThinkProgress (watch below): When a reporter asked Cain what he thought of the Koch brothers. Cain asked for the question again, thought for a moment and then put it right out there, “David Koch is a patriot and David Koch cares about the future of this country, his brother Charles is also a patriot and cares about the future of this country.” Okay well now we know how he really feels. As for those people who say the Kochs have too much power over policy in the United States, Cain has some choice words for them: “Typical liberal way. They are of conservative and they are attacked because they are rich.”

Read more of this post

3 More Sketchy Connections between Hillary Clinton and the KeystoneXL Pipeline

New developments suggest former Clinton staffer dodged rules while lobbying Congress

New developments from Washington, DC reveal that lobbyists for TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline acted inappropriately while trying to gain support for the crude pipeline that would connect the Alberta Tar Sands with the Gulf of Mexico. Recent reports show that a chief lobbyist for TransCanada tried to influence American energy policy without filing under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). The reports also show a “cozy” relationship between Hillary Clinton’s State Department and TransCanada, as well as direct contact between the unregistered lobbyists and several members of congress. This news comes as the State Department continues to give every indication that it will allow the pipeline to be built, despite outcries from both the environmental community as well as those outraged about the ethical bankruptcy coming from Hillary Clinton’s department.

FARA violations

The FARA requires that any foreigners attempting to influence the United States Congress must register with the FARA Registration Unit of the Department of Justice. Emails between the State Department and TransCanada’s government relations employee Paul Elliott show that contact between the two had taken place form more than a year before he first registered as a lobbyist. This activity has resulted in questionable actions calling for a full investigation according to a report filed on September 27th. “Paul Elliott, a government relations employee of TransCanada, has acted as agent of a foreign principal and therefore violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act. We respectfully request that you immediately open an investigation of this matter,” Friends of the Earth attorney Gail Harmon wrote in a letter to Heather Hunt of the FARA Registration Unit of the Department of Justice.

The “cozy” relationship

Paul Elliott’s connections to Hillary Clinton are well documented. Elliott was a high-level campaign advisor to Clinton when she was running for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 2008. When her campaign fizzled, Elliott jumped aboard TransCanada’s lobbying team as the company geared up to convince the Obama administration that a pipeline carrying millions of barrels of crude oil across the country was a good idea. Emails obtained by Friends of the Earth reveal that while Elliot was contacting members of the United States government illegally, the State Department was providing, “insider information and coaching to Mr. Elliot and TransCanada.”

“Friends” in Congress

Even though TransCanada can face “serious penalties” for failing to immediately disclose their lobbying activity in the United States, it didn’t keep the multinational corporation from reaching out to members of both political parties. Some of the members that discussed the pipeline with Elliott’s team include Sens. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Ala.).

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