The U.S. State Department notified environmental groups last week that it would not grant a request for copies of correspondence between the agency and a former presidential campaign staffer turned tar sands oil industry lobbyist.
The FOIA request targeted Paul Elliott, former presidential campaign staffer of Hillary Clinton’s and current Washington, D.C. lobbyist for TransCanada, the company aiming to build the controversial Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline.
The organizations making the request suspect that Elliot is using his former position as unfair leverage while seeking Secretary of State Clinton’s approval for the pipeline.
The Keystone XL would pump oil from the Canadian tar sands in Alberta across the entire U.S. to refineries on the Gulf Coast at a rate of 900,000 barrels per day.
Communities along the Keystone XL pipeline’s proposed path would face increased risk of spills, and, at the pipeline’s end, the health of those living near Texas refineries would suffer, as tar sands oil spews higher levels of dangerous pollutants into the air when processed.
Environment and Energy Daily reported Monday that Elliott registered with the U.S. Congress as a lobbyist for TransCanada on December 16, 2010, three days after the groups publicly announced they had filed the FOIA request. This means any correspondence or lobbying that occured prior to the registration was not disclosed and inappropriate.
Marcie Keever, legal director for Friends of the Earth, characterized the State Department’s refusal to release the records as an “evasive maneuver” and stated that her organization is committed to continuing its efforts to obtain the records from the State Department despite the initial denial.
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Image Credit: Flickr - Diane Worth
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