Keystone Foe Says Flawed Pipeline Report Requires Review

Feb 03, 2014 2:45 pm ET

(Updates with TransCanada comment in seventh paragraph, adds background on Steyer beginning in eighth paragraph.)

Feb. 3 (Bloomberg) -- Billionaire Tom Steyer, a Democratic Party donor and Keystone XL foe, called on U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to begin a review of the “defective” environmental analysis on the pipeline released last week.

The final environmental impact statement on Keystone “has suffered from a process that raises serious questions about the integrity of the document,” Steyer, who hosted President Barack Obama at his San Francisco home in April, wrote to Kerry yesterday in a letter.

Steyer is the former chief executive officer of the hedge fund Farallon Capital Management LLC and a major donor to Obama, who is being pressed by political supporters to reject the pipeline amid more signs it is headed for approval. TransCanada Corp.’s $5.4 billion project would carry Canadian oil sands crude to U.S. refineries in Texas.

The State Department, which reviews all pipelines that cross international boundaries, in the report last week found Keystone would cause less impact on the climate than opponents have suggested, which supporters said met Obama’s test for allowing the Canada-to-U.S. pipeline to be built.

“It is critical that an independent and transparent review of the FEIS, and the process undertaken for its preparation, commence immediately,” wrote Steyer, founder of the NextGen Climate Action group opposing the pipeline.

Shawn Howard, a spokesman for Calgary-based TransCanada, today said Steyer’s comments were incorrect.

‘Continue Misleading’

“Activists like Mr. Steyer have not liked the answers they’ve received as it relates to five separate U.S. environmental reviews of Keystone XL,” Howard said in an e- mail. “So when they don’t get the answers they like (or the facts refuse to support their misguided claims), they attack others or continue misleading people.”

Steyer has been active on climate and other political issues since stepping down from Farallon in 2012. His NextGen Climate Action is described on its website as a non-partisan organization “focused on bringing climate change to the forefront of America’s political dialogue.” Steyer has also founded research institutions devoted to renewable energy.

He spent $1 million on a four-part ad campaign in September to oppose Keystone and hosted Obama at his California home on April 3 in a fundraiser for Democratic congressional candidates.

Contractor Conflicts

In his letter, Steyer said the environmental statement is flawed because a TransCanada contractor, Environmental Resources Management, was hired to write the report. The company made “problematic representations” in conflict of interest disclosures about its oil industry ties, Steyer wrote.

The report also doesn’t sufficiently address whether the refined oil from Alberta “will be shipped to economic competitors such as China,” which has an investment in the project, Steyer said.

“Of particular concern are FEIS conclusions that conflict with and are contradicted by tar sands industry executives who confirm that they need the pipeline in order to continue to develop the tar sands and to reach international markets,” Steyer wrote. “The FEIS fails to consider that construction of the KXL pipeline is a necessity to fully maximize extraction of tar sands.”

10 Percent

Howard said TransCanada’s contracts to ship tar sands crude to U.S. refineries, and noted that exports of crude are prohibited from the U.S. He also said Steyer in a recent ad misrepresented China’s role by describing it as “one of the biggest players” in Canadian oil.

“Less than 10 percent of investment in the Canadian oil sands production comes from Asia,” he said. “You won’t hear that in this billionaire’s ad.”

The Environmental Protection Agency and other cabinet agency will review the analysis before a decision is made to approve the pipeline, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said yesterday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Obama will consider the project to be in the national interest only if it doesn’t “significantly exacerbate” carbon pollution, and the report’s estimates of the climate impact will be “closely evaluated” by Kerry, White House spokesman Matt Lehrich said in a Jan. 31 statement.

“A decision on whether the project is in the national interest will be made only after careful consideration” of the State Department report “and other pertinent information, comments from the public, and views of other agency heads,” Lehrich said.

The company said Dec. 3 the pipeline “will have very little impact on all of the resources along the entire pipeline route.” Keystone XL will create thousands of jobs during construction and improve U.S. energy security by reducing reliance on oil imports from countries that aren’t as close an ally as Canada, TransCanada said in a statement.

“Despite what the professional opponents of Keystone XL claim, this is not about oil versus the environment,” said the company.

--With assistance from Margaret Talev in Washington. Editors: Steve Geimann, David Ellis