Hillary Clinton's Pipeline Problem

| Thu Nov. 4, 2010 12:03 PM EDT

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should remove herself from deliberations over a controversial pipeline proposal, a group of environmental and consumer advocates said Thursday. Clinton said recently that the pipeline from Canada to Texas is likely to be approved, despite the fact that a full analysis of its impacts has not been completed.

The groups said that Clinton's remarks indicate she is "biased" in favor of TransCanada's proposed Keystone XL expansion, as the full environmental impact statement isn't expected to be finalized until next year. A numbers of senators have also criticized Clinton's statements, asking her not to "pre-judge" a massive pipeline project that would bring "dirty oil" to the US from Canada's tar sands.

"As the State Department's review is ongoing, it is inappropriate for you to make statements about what final decision you are 'inclined' to make," the enviro groups, including Friends of the Earth, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Greenpeace, wrote to Clinton. "The decision about whether or not to permit this pipeline is a key environmental decision for this administration, yet your recent comments make it clear that you are biased."

The proposed 1,661-mile pipeline from Alberta, Canada to Nederland, Texas has drawn criticism from senators and a number of environmental and citizens' rights groups. Green groups have expressed concern about drawing more oil from Canada's tar sands, which has a substantially higher carbon impact than conventional oil. There are also concerns about the pathway of the XL line, which would cross environmentally sensitive areas of the Great Plains. Citizens groups are also unhappy about the prospect of an expansion, citing recent accidents involving pipelines and a lack of consultation with the communities that the new pipeline would cross.

The groups say that Clinton's remarks expose the State Department to potential lawsuits (probably from the groups themselves), since they indicate that approval of the pipeline is a foregone conclusion and a more extensive review of the environmental implications may not be considered in the decision-making process. "Her comments demonstrate disregard for her agency's legal responsibilities under the National Environmental Policy Act and suggest that she cannot serve as an objective arbiter of this process," said Marcie Keever, legal director for Friends of the Earth.

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