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New Twist in Keystone XL Debate: Call for State Dept. to Step Aside

October 5, 2011

HELENA, Mont. - Several environmental groups are calling on President Obama to remove the U.S. State Department from the decision on whether the Keystone XL pipeline is in the "national best interest" because of allegations of bias and cozy relations with the lobbyist for a Canadian company.

The groups have acquired e-mails they say show that the State Department has granted special treatment to TransCanada, which is proposing the pipeline - set to run through Montana on its way from Alberta to Texas.

Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune signed a letter to Obama, asking that the State Department be removed from making pipeline decisions.

"The State Department has demonstrated a deep, pro-industry bias in its environmental assessment and decision-making. The growing body of evidence against the State Department for mismanagement is broad and overwhelming."

Brune claims that lobbyist ties to State Department officials resulted in TransCanada being "coached" when submitting paperwork. The pipeline is promoted as a way to help reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil, although Brune and others have pointed out that the Canadian company selling oil has made no promise that the product will remain stateside.

Tom Goldtooth, executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, also signed the letter to the president.

"As native nations, as Indian Country, we are demanding fair dealings - honesty, integrity and the opportunity for tribes to meet with the administration and have honesty."

Physicians for Social Responsibility, the Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth also signed the letter.

Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MT