By Paul Thacker
Last Friday, InsideClimate News revealed yet another possible conflict of interest in the ongoing drama surrounding the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline. It turns out that “the analysis of greenhouse-gas emission presented by the State Department in its new environmental impact statement … includes dozens of references to reports by Jacobs Consultancy, a group that is owned by a big tar sands developer and that was hired by the Alberta government—which strongly favors the project.”
You might expect a bigger public outcry given that State’s Inspector General was already investigating accusations that the environmental consultancy hired by the department to produce the report, Environmental Resources Management, has financial ties to TransCanada, the company that wants to build the pipeline. Despite the fact that InsideClimate is a Pulitzer-winning investigative news outlet, its scoop was a classic week-two, follow-up story – the kind the public too often overlooks.
The problem is not the media, however, but rather the State Department. The first glut of articles, the one most people notice and that largely defines public opinion, appeared the day that the environmental impact report was released. Most, including those from The New York Times and the Associated Press, mentioned the Inspector General’s investigation of ERM, but State didn’t give journalists time to dig into the report to identify other concerns like the role of Jacobs Consultancy.
Instead, State issued a press release on January 31, the Friday before the Super Bowl. A select group of reporters received a link to the report and an invitation to a private teleconference that morning. On the call, they were told that the report was under embargo until 3 p.m., giving them about five hours to read and digest a document that runs over 11 volumes with appendices. The executive summary alone has 44 pages, with over 18,000 words, not to mention charts, graphs, and tables.