Keystone Pipeline Lobbyist Had Cozy Relationship With State Department Staffers, New Emails Show
Opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline proposal continued their assault Monday on what they consider a corrupt federal approval process for the project, releasing dozens of new email messages between State Department employees and a lobbyist for the company behind the pipeline, TransCanada.
The emails, part of a growing cache
obtained by the environmental group Friends of the Earth
, focus on the interaction between TransCanada lobbyist Paul Elliott, a former deputy campaign director for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s failed 2008 presidential bid, and representatives of the State Department, which is currently weighing approval of the Keystone XL project.
While no emails between Clinton and Elliott have been released, the newest messages
reveal a cozy and solicitous relationship between Elliott and State Department staff — particularly one member of the senior diplomatic staff at the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa, Marja Verloop.
“The emails between Verloop and Elliott are extremely friendly and illustrative of a cozy and complicitous relationship,” Friends of the Earth said in a memo released Monday morning. “They are filled with emoticons and contain an invitation to visit Ottawa’s ‘winter wonderland,’ acknowledgment that Elliott obtained his job as a lobbyist ‘precisely’ because of his connections, and an offer by Verloop to hand-deliver an invitation to Elliott. The emails also indicate that Elliott succeeded in securing multiple meetings between TransCanada and high-level officials at the State Department.”
In one particular exchange
from September of last year, Verloop is seen cheering for Elliott after he secured support for the pipeline from Democratic Montana Senator Max Baucus. “Go Paul!” Verloop writes. “Baucus support holds clout.”
A previous cache of emails
concerned interaction between Nora Toiv, a special assistant to Secretary Clinton’s chief of staff, Cheryl Mills. Friends of the Earth suggested those emails provided “evidence of agency bias” and showed that “the State Department was doing favors for TransCanada during the Keystone XL review.”
Last week, Friends of the Earth called on the Justice Department to open an investigation into Elliott for violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which requires that “persons acting as agents of foreign principals in a political or quasi-political capacity to make periodic public disclosure of their relationship with the foreign principal, as well as activities, receipts and disbursements in support of those activities.”
State Department officials have previously argued
that the email exchanges only demonstrate that Elliott — an aggressive lobbyist by any light — was nonetheless unable to gain audience with key agency decision makers, and was instead routed to lower-level staff with no influence over the permit application.
The $7 billion, 1,700-mile proposed Keystone XL pipeline would carry crude oil from Alberta across the border with Canada in Montana and traverse five other states before reaching refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast. Because the project would cross an international border, a permit is required from the State Department.
Friends of the Earth, along with the Center for International Environmental Law and Corporate Ethics International, sued Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last May
after repeated attempts to obtain correspondence between Elliott and the agency through the Freedom of Information Act were rebuffed.
In late August, however, the State Department began to comply with the request, delivering 34 pages of emails
. Friends of the Earth says more documents are expected.