Cross-posted from ThinkProgress Green.

In a stunning conflict of interest, public hearings on federal approval for a proposed tar-sands pipeline are being run by a contractor for the pipeline company itself. The U.S. Department of State’s public hearings along the proposed route of the TransCanada Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline this week are under the purview of Cardno Entrix, a “professional environmental consulting company” that specializes in “permitting and compliance.”

Cardno is not only running the State Department hearings, but also manages the department’s Keystone XL website and drafted the department’s environmental impact statement (EIS). Comments from the public about the pipeline go not to the government, but to a email:


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Cardno Entrix was contracted by TransCanada Keystone XL LP (“Keystone”) to do the work for the Department of State (DOS):

Keystone contracted with Cardno ENTRIX as the third-party contractor to assist DOS in preparing the EIS and to conduct the Section 106 consultation process.

“Section 106” refers to the section of the National Historic Preservation Act that considers impacts on historic places.

Throughout the history of the DOS review of the Keystone pipeline, the work has been conducted not by civil servants but by representatives of the pipeline company. During the Bush administration, the Department of State appointed TransCanada “and its subcontractors to act as its designated non-federal representatives” [PDF] to assess the potential impact of the Keystone pipeline on endangered species.

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Cardno Entrix contractors are running the public hearings from Port Arthur, Texas, to Glendive, Mont. It is not clear from media reports whether the State Department “representatives” at the hearing were in fact Entrix employees. ThinkProgress Green is awaiting information from the State Department.

“All of this adds up to the old saying, ‘the fox is guarding the hen house,'” says Jane Kleeb, the Nebraska activist leading the fight to protect her state from the risks of the Keystone XL project.

The American Petroleum Institute also worked on the environmental impact statements while lobbying on behalf of the pipeline, OpenSecrets reports:

Some groups, such as the American Petroleum Institute, do more than just contribute to campaigns and lobby lawmakers, John Kerekes, the group’s regional manager in the Midwest, told OpenSecrets Blog.

“Everybody chooses their own advocacy strategy,” Kerekes told OpenSecrets Blog. “We’ve been engaged from the beginning. We worked on the draft and supplemental and final environmental impact statement.”

In the final months of the process, Kerekes said the American Petroleum Institute would continue its active participation. He also brought up yet another source of groups can use to influence policy: outside spending.

“We’ve been running oil sands advocacy ads as part of our efforts over the past year,” he said.”I can’t imagine we’ll stop that anytime soon.”

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