Tag Archives: Keystone XL

Keystone Senate Yea Votes: Seven Times More Oil & Gas Money

By Center for Responsive Politics
January 30, 2015
Common Dreams


U.S. senators who voted to approve the Keystone XL on Thursday received seven times more oil and gas money, the Center for Responsive Politics found. (Photo: Steven Lyons via Credo Action/flickr/cc)


Senators who voted to push through development of the Keystone XL pipeline today have received, on average, $570,034 in contributions to their campaigns and leadership PACs from the oil and gas industry over the course of their careers. The 35 senators who voted against bill have received, on average, just $78,641 from the industry.

The Obama administration is still considering whether or not to approve the pipeline, but the Republican-led 114th Congress seized the reins almost as soon as it took office earlier this month. The House passed H.R. 3, the Keystone XL Pipeline Act, on Jan. 9 by a vote of 266-153. The Senate followed suit with its version of the Keystone bill, S.1, today, with nine Democrats joining every single Republican to pass the measure 62-36.

President Obama has threatened to veto the bill, and unless its supporters can drum up five more Senate votes, a congressional override would fail.

While some of the disparity between the amounts received by the yea versus nay voters can be explained by a longstanding partisan tilt of the oil and gas industry — since 1990, 79 percent of the industry’s campaign contributions have gone to Republicans — the nine Democrats who sided with the GOP received significantly more from the industry than their party colleagues. On average, Democrats who voted for S.1 received $140,193 from the oil and gas industry, while those who voted no, received just $82,595.

The object of the tussle is a proposed 1,179-mile pipeline that would cost an estimated $5.4 billion to construct and would transport more oil from Canada’s Alberta tar sands to the Gulf of Mexico, where it would be refined. Republicans support it because of the additional energy it will “This is about energy, jobs, economic activity, national security and building the right kind of infrastructure we need,” said Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) after the vote. Environmentalists and many Democrats oppose it because it will lead to more oil extraction from the tar sands and, they say, accelerate climate change; in addition, many of the jobs the pipeline will generate will be tied to construction, and will disappear once the infrastructure is built.

A full list of all current senators and their career totals from the oil and gas industry can be found here. The data includes only donations made after 1989.

State Department Keystone XL Contractor ERM Bribed Chinese Agency to Permit Project

By Steve Horn
December 02, 2014


 Environmental Resources Management (ERM Group), the consultancy selected by TransCanada to conduct the environmental review for Keystone XL‘s northern leg on behalf of the U.S. State Department, is no stranger to scandal.

Exhibit A: ERM once bribed a Chinese official to ram through major pieces of an industrial development project. ERM was tasked to push through the project in Hangzhou Bay, located near Shanghai.

Accepting the bribe landed Yan Shunjun, former deputy head of the Shanghai Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau, an 11-year prison sentence.

Yan “allegedly took bribes of 864,000 yuan (126,501 U.S. dollars), 20,000 U.S.dollars and 4,000 euros from seven contractors,” explained Xiuhuanet. “Yan was also accused of illegally setting up a channel to speed up environmental impact assessment processes, which are essential for companies wanting to build factories.”

BP, one of the companies standing to gain if Keystone XL North receives a presidential permit from the Obama administration as a major Alberta tar sands producer, was also mired in the Chinese ERM Group scandal.

“Two firms on ERM’s bluechip client list, BP and Sinopec, are big investors in a petrochemical complex on the site, but the Chinese authorities apparently saw no conflict of interest in awarding the environmental evaluation to ERM,”explained London’s Sunday Times.

In a sense, history has repeated itself.

Hopenhagen to Paris

Back in 2009 when news arose of ERM’s bribery and corruption, Chinese environmental campaigners worried the incident could portend a lack of commitment to tackling climate change in the months leading up to the United Nations climate summit in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Now, five years later, with the Lima COP20 underway and the critical UNclimate summit in Paris looming, the recent climate deal signed between theU.S. and China has taken center stage.

But Keystone XL will soon be front and center once again in early 2015 in the halls of Congress and the White House.

Environmentalists fear that opening another route between Alberta and the U.S.Gulf Coast for tar sands crude would ensure the deal struck between the two carbon-emitting giants becomes a moot point, or worse.

Bribery as “Investment”

A commenter on People’s Daily, the state-owned newspaper in China, wrote that bribery was merely the cost of doing business and an “investment” of sorts.

“Foreign firms have quickly learnt the philosophy of guangxi [connections],”wrote the commenter. “Their rule has become, ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do.’”

ERM, in turn, denied any wrongdoing on its end, even though it had doled out the payments landing Yan in jail to begin with.

“ERM Group had no advance warning of any of the alleged payments to the former deputy director of the Shanghai Environmental Protection Bureau,” ERMdeclared to the Sunday Times.

“To suggest otherwise is damagingly inaccurate. We are committed to: conducting our business with integrity, applying ethical principles to our relationships with clients.”

KXL, ERM: Institutionalized Corruption

In the U.S. context as it pertains to Keystone XL, ERM’s conduct has been far less ham-handed than it was in China.

By procedure and by law, the company applying for the permit gets to pick and pay for the contractor conducting the environmental review on behalf of the State Department. In this case, it meant TransCanada selected ERM Group to give it a rubber stamp of approval for KXL.

In other words, the State Department has legalized a de facto form of “institutionalized corruption” for handling environmental reviews for cross-border pipelines like Keystone XL’s northern leg. Sierra Club attorney Doug Hayes described it as a “built-in conflict of interest” in a 2013 Bloomberg Businessweek article.

ERM Group, with a track-record of rubber-stamping ecologically hazardous projects in places ranging from central Asia to Peru to Alaska to Delaware and China, has proven itself once again a key tentacle of the “carbon web” for Keystone XL.

The question remains, though: will the sordid episode in the city near Shanghai serve as a teachable moment as applied to the tar sands pipeline described as a “fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the planet”?

We’ll find out, and likely soon.