A key hurdle for the controversial Keystone XL transnational tar-sands pipeline will be removed by the Obama administration this week, the nation’s top oil lobbyist predicts.
American Petroleum Institute (API) president and CEO Jack Gerard, citing “sources within the administration,” told reporters that the State Department will issue its final environmental impact statement in favor of TransCanada’s pipeline “as early as Thursday,” two days after President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address. Reuters correspondent Jeff Mason writes:
The American Petroleum Institute, the oil industry’s top lobbying group and a big Keystone backer, said it expects the State Department’s report to come out as early as Thursday.
“It’s our expectation it will be released next week,” the group’s chief executive, Jack Gerard, said last week during an interview, citing sources within the administration.
“We’re expecting to hear the same conclusion that we’ve heard four times before: no significant impact on the environment,” Gerard said.
The draft State Department supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) was written by ERM Group, an oil-industry consultant with membership in API and business ties to TransCanada. That draft statement found that “impacts could potentially be substantial,” including impacts to wetlands, streams, and endangered species; and that spills could threaten groundwater and surface water. However, the report also concluded that “there would be no significant impacts to most resources along the proposed Project route assuming” TransCanada follows all laws and recommended procedures.
The “no significant impacts to most resources” language has been mistakenly reported as “no significant impact on the environment.”
The draft SEIS assessed the greenhouse pollution impact of the tar-sands pipeline by measuring it against a business-as-usual scenario, a common practice that is however incompatible with President Obama and the State Department’s commitments to international climate targets. The pipeline’s carbon footprint alone — not taking into account the economic and political realities of how Keystone XL approval would unlock further tar-sands development — is in fact quite significant. The lifetime footprint is at least six gigatons of carbon-dioxide equivalent, the same as 40 coal-fired power plants.
“We as a nation must have the foresight and courage to make the investments necessary to safeguard the most sacred trust we keep for our children and grandchildren,” Kerry said in his first speech as Secretary of State. “So let’s commit ourselves to doing the smart thing and the right thing and truly commit to tackling this challenge.”
“Today scientists tell us—the best we have, the best minds we have, the John Holdrens, the Jim Hansens, and everybody else tell us-we have a 10-year window here to try get this right and even that before catastrophic climate change takes hold,” Kerry said in 2009. “Now ladies and gentlemen, this is our memo. And the question is whether or not we’re going to act on this in time.”
A finding of “no significant impact on the environment” by Kerry would call into question his seriousness on climate policy when he had the power to act.
Google ex-McCain PR representative Niki Christoff
Starting in 2010, when the antitrust case first started appearing on the horizon, Google started hiring Republican lobbyists and communications staff.
To head up its Washington office, Google in 2012 hired former Republican congresswoman Susan Molinari. Niki Christoff, a veteran of Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign, was moved to Washington last year to head up Google’s communications in the capital.
Before that, Google hired Pablo Chavez, a former general counsel for Mr. McCain, who recently left for LinkedIn; Seth Webb, a former staffer for the Republican Speaker of the House; and Jill Hazelbaker, who also worked for a string of Republican candidates.
Today, Google’s in-house lobbyists are evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, says a person familiar with the situation.
Its spending on lobbying rose from around $1.5 million in 2007 to $14 million in 2013.
Jill Hazelbaker, Google’s head of corporate communications from 2010 to 2013, was the subject of a 2011 profile in Business Insider which explained her meteoric rise as a top member of the 2008 John McCain campaign. Hazelbaker’s early Internet politics credentials came from trolling Democrats under assumed names as a member of the Tom Kean Jr. senatorial campaign in New Jersey in 2006. In 2013, she moved to the United Kingdom to head Google’s European lobbying efforts. Her Twitter account, @jillhazelbaker, is protected.
Nicole “Niki” Christoff (Fenwick) was a policy liaison for the 2008 John McCain campaign, starting at McCain’s Straight Talk America in March 2006. She was previously an associate policy director at the Republican polling shop Luntz Research Companies, and worked at Baker Botts LLP in Washington, DC as a trial attorney specializing in criminal defense. Christoff graduated from Harvard Law School in 2003 and Harvard College in 2000. Her Twitter account, @nikichristoff, is protected.
The WSJ article did not mention Rachel Whetstone, Google’s senior vice president of communications and public policy since 2005, a Tory scion and one of the “100 most powerful women in Britain” in 2013. Her husband Steve Hilton was the “Rasputin-like” chief strategy advisor to prime minister David Cameron.The WSJ reporters Thomas Catan, Brody Mullins, and Gautam Nagesh also note that Google’s contributions have shifted from majority Democratic to majority Republican:
In the 2008 election cycle, Google’s political-action committee, funded by employee donations, supported Democrats, 58% to 42%, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. In the 2012 cycle, Republicans took a slight lead, and in the current election cycle, donations to the parties are running about even.