On Sept. 10, 2010, for example, Verloop sent a congratulatory message to Elliott after he forwarded a news release to multiple people announcing that Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) backed the pipeline project.
“Go Paul! Baucus support holds clout,” Verloop wrote in one of a number of e-mails obtained by Friends of the Earth through a Freedom of Information Act filing.
TransCanada is seeking permission to extend a pipeline that would carry crude oil produced from tar sands deposits in Alberta province to refineries in Texas. The State Department has responsibility for deciding, after weighing environmental dangers and the national interest, whether the pipeline will go ahead. It found in August that construction of the pipeline would have “limited adverse environmental consequences.” It must still rule on whether construction is in the national interest.
Pipeline opponents, who have demonstrated in front of the White House and elsewhere, say the project will promote the use of tar sands, for which the extraction process contributes to relatively high greenhouse gas emissions. They also fear the impact from any possible leaks.
Supporters say that the pipeline would promote U.S. energy security and that Canada would export the crude oil elsewhere if the State Department ruled against the line.
Friends of the Earth said the e-mails showed State Department “bias” in favor of a project it is supposed to be evaluating and “complicity” between State and TransCanada.
“Mr. Elliott was and is simply doing his job — no laws have been broken,” TransCanada said in an e-mailed statement Monday. “His role is very similar to the job the over 60 registered D.C. lobbyists for 10 environmental groups perform.” The company said that “it’s absurd to suggest that any one person might influence a process” that includes 10 federal agencies and “a myriad of local governments.”
“We are committed to a fair, transparent and thorough process,” a State Department spokesman said in a statement Sunday. “Throughout the process we have been in communication with industry as well as environmental groups, both in the United States and in Canada. . . . We listen to all opinions, but there is much more that goes into the national interest determination decision.”
On July 26, 2010, Verloop and Elliott corresponded about Trans-Canada’s decision not to ask for permission to operate the pipeline at a higher-than-normal pressure. The question of pipeline pressure has been a source of considerable debate, especially in states such as Nebraska, where the pipeline would be buried.