US lawmakers say pipeline approval process tainted

Thu Oct 13, 2011 11:18pm GMT

* Lawmakers say contractor tied to TransCanada

* TransCanada: conflict of interest claims are baseless

By Timothy Gardner and Jeffrey Jones

WASHINGTON/CALGARY, Oct 13 (Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers will urge Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday to reject the proposed route of the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline, saying they are concerned the approval process has been tainted by alleged conflicts of interest.

Representative Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat, will send a letter to Clinton, signed by more than 20 other lawmakers in the House, criticizing how her department has handled the review of TransCanada Corp's $7 billion pipeline proposal to move crude to Texas from Alberta, Canada.

Among other things, the lawmakers are concerned about a report in The New York Times that the contractor the department used to evaluate the environmental impacts of the line, Cardno Entrix, has worked on other projects with TransCanada. They said that raises questions about the impartiality of the environmental assessment.

"These relationships alarmingly suggest that the process may not have been objective, and this decision is too important to be clouded by even the appearance of impropriety," the letter says.

The law allows U.S. agencies to hire contractors to do environmental assessments, but says the companies should sign a disclosure statement outlining they have no financial interest in the outcome of the project.

In this case TransCanada recommended Cardno among two other contractors to the department, and paid the contractor, although Cardno answered to the State Department.   Continued...

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