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House Democrats Seek Delay in Keystone Environmental Review

The U.S. State Department shouldn’t release an environmental analysis of the Keystone XL pipeline until conflict-of-interest questions concerning the contractor writing the report are resolved, some House Democrats said.

The State Department, which is overseeing the review of TransCanada Corp.’s pipeline project, “apparently overlooked” conflicts between the contractor hired to write the environmental impact statement and the Calgary-based pipeline company, 25 House Democrats said in the letter sent today to President Barack Obama.

Keystone critics, including the environmental group Friends of the Earth, allege that ERM Group, Inc. hid its connections to TransCanada when it bid to write the analysis. The consulting firm worked on an Alaskan pipeline jointly owned by TransCanada and Exxon Mobil Corp. TransCanada has said its partner had the contract with ERM.

The Democrats wrote that it would be “unwise and premature” for the State Department to release the analysis before the agency’s inspector general completes a review, which they said could be released in February.

None of the four House Democratic leaders, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, signed the letter.

The members who did include Representatives Raul Grijalva of Arizona, Rush Holt of New Jersey, Kathy Castor of Florida, and Mike Honda of California.

The State Department has said it would release the environmental analysis after it posted more than 1.5 million public comments to a draft version online. That happened in September.

The environmental assessment is important because it will state what impact the Keystone pipeline will have on greenhouse gas emissions. President Barack Obama has said he wouldn’t approve the $5.4 billion link between Alberta’s oil sands and U.S. Gulf Coast refineries if it would significantly exacerbate carbon-dioxide emissions.

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