Regulatory Capture And Asleep-At-The-Wheel Officials Justify Citizen-Led Action On Tar Sands

By Rainforest Action Network

pipelineNeela Banerjee from the LA Times is out today with an explosive piece that draws from cables revealed by Wikileaks that show the Keystone XL pipeline may be closer to approval than previously known:

The cable, obtained by WikiLeaks, describes the State Department’s then-energy envoy, David Goldwyn, as having “alleviated” Canadian officials’ concerns about getting their crude into the U.S. It also said he had instructed them in improving “oil sands messaging,” including “increasing visibility and accessibility of more positive news stories.”

Goldwyn now works on Canadian oil sands issues at Sutherland, a Washington lobbying firm, and recently testified before Congress in favor of building the 36-inch underground pipeline, Keystone XL.

This is regulatory capture taken to the next level, and yet another sign that industry claims about pipeline safety must be examined with a skeptical eye. And even when regulators are doing their duty, pipeline operators too often find a way to delay action to guarantee safety. For example, take the recent Yellowstone spill, where ExxonMobil was warned 2 years before about debris that was piling up under the pipeline. Their response was to do nothing but write a letter back to regulators months later saying that it was still “evaluating control measures.” To date, 42,000 gallons have spilled into the pristine Yellowstone River.

Hearst newspapers recently revealed a scandal that showed two-thirds of the 174 safety studies initiated by the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) on pipelines received “significant funding” from pipeline operators or industry-controlled organizations. President Bush encouraged the practice by stipulating that at least half the funding for federal pipeline safety research to come from outside sources.

So we have corporations paying for their own government-approved investigations and secret wires going between diplomats that hint that the wheels are already greased to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, a project under heavy scrutiny from the public and the EPA.

All of this adds up to further justify direct action. Beginning on August 20th, concerned citizens from across the country will gather at the White House for two weeks of protests of the Keystone pipeline. The corruption at the highest levels of government and industry show that the time for citizen-led action is now.