Kings of the Keystone Pipeline
TransCanada Corporation describes itself as “a leader in the responsible development and reliable and safe operation of North American energy infrastructure.” Beginning in 2005, the company announced plans for the Keystone XL pipeline. In 2010, Canada’s National Energy Board (NEB) approved the full pipeline project, stating that it was in the “public interest” to transport Canadian tar sands oil to the Gulf Coast in the United States.
If approved, the Keystone XL pipeline would transport oil from Alberta through six U.S. states: Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Russ Girling, President and CEO of Trans-Canada, said the project would “improve U.S. energy security and reduce dependence on foreign oil from the Middle East and Venezuela.”
As opposition to the pipeline project increased—and dramatically so in the wake of BP’s 2010 Gulf oil spill—Girling stated, “There is no way we could have ever predicted that we would become the lightning rod for a debate around fossil fuels and the development of the Canadian oil sands…The pipeline itself is routine. It’s something we do every day. It will be a safe pipeline.”
Canada’s National Energy Board, however, said that TransCanada had failed to meet safety standards for its pipeline within Canada. While the company “considered itself compliant,” a former TransCanada employee blew the whistle on TransCanada’s “culture of noncompliance” of environmental and safety regulations that posed “significant public safety risks,” and referred to the company’s approach as “organized crime.”
In the United States, TransCanada has been suing American citizens who refuse to allow the pipeline to cross their property, threatening to confiscate their lands through the application of “eminent domain,” which allows for the confiscation of private property if “it is judged to serve a larger public good.”
The U.S. State Department was responsible for undertaking an “environmental assessment” of the pipeline to determine whether or not it would be approved. Declassified documents revealed an intense lobbying effort by TransCanada with the State Department, including several officials with the company holding multiple meetings with high-level State Department officials.
TransCanada has hired multiple lobbying firms and individuals, many of whom have direct ties to the Obama administration—this potentially including ties to Obama’s personal lawyer as well as to a former campaign adviser. In the first half of 2013, TransCanada spent nearly half a million dollars lobbying the United States on the Keystone project.
In 2013, the Canadian government announced its intentions to fund a massive $16 million PR campaign for the Canadian oil and energy industry in the United States, with a “key part” of the funding going toward promoting the Keystone project. This is part of an agenda decided in March 2010, when officials from the Canadian federal government and the Alberta government met with oil and gas industry CEOs to discuss “upping their game” in promoting the tar sands.
By 2013, there were roughly 48 different groups lobbying the U.S. government on the issue of the Keystone project, and all but two appeared to be lobbying in favor of the project. While a good deal of the promotions for the project emphasized that it would create thousands—and potentially tens of thousands—of jobs, these jobs were almost exclusively temporary, and the State Department’s own assessment noted that the actual number of full-time jobs that would be created by the pipeline would be 20.
Then, in early March 2013, the State Department released a 2,000- page draft report assessing the environmental impact of the Keystone project. The State Department had contracted the writing of the report to “experts” who previously worked for TransCanada. In fact, TransCanada even paid the consultancy firm to write the report, which was subsequently considered an official government document of the State Department.
Not surprisingly, the Canadian government and the oil industry praised the report, while environmentalists and climate scientists criticized it as “deeply flawed.” Both the EPA and the Department of Interior have subsequently slammed the report as “insufficient” and “inaccurate.”
The government of Canada has, for years, been writing laws and implementing major policies at the direct suggestion of the oil industry, and has been demonizing those who protest against the policies, especially indigenous and environmental groups.
The Canadian government has been equating protest groups with “terrorists,” and Canada’s spy agencies have been providing information about protesters directly to energy corporations, and even infiltrating such groups in an effort to disrupt their actions. Trans-Canada provided training information to police agencies across the U.S. in which they refer to anti-pipeline protests as terrorism.
Meet the Corporation Elites
Russell K. Girling is the president and CEO of TransCanada and is a member of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE), an interest group that consists of Canada’s top 150 CEOs and was the main driving force behind corporate treaty projects like NAFTA. Girling is also a member of the U.S. National Petroleum Council and the U.S. Business Roundtable, as well as being a board member of Agrium Inc., an agribusiness conglomerate. Girling was also the co-chair of the City of Calgary 2012 United Way campaign.
Derek Burney, who sits on the board of TransCanada, is a senior advisor to the law firm Norton Rose Fulbright, chairman of the international advisory board of GardaWorld, a member of the advisory board of Paradigm Capital, and a member of the board of governors of Ottawa Hospital. Burney is the former chair of the board of CanWest Global Communications Corporation (formerly Canada’s largest newspaper conglomerate) from 2006 to 2010, former president and CEO of CAE Inc. (1999 to 2004), former chair and CEO of Bell Canada (1993 to 1999), and was the former lead director of Shell Canada from 2001 to 2007.
On top of that, Burney was the Canadian ambassador to the United States from 1989 to 1993, following two years serving as chief of staff to Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, in which time he was a pivotal figure involved in the negotiations of NAFTA. Burney was also the Prime Minister’s personal representative to the G-7 Summits between 1990 and 1992. He is the chancellor of Lakehead University, and was the head of the Conservative Transition Team in 2006 for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, after which time he was appointed to the Independent Panel on Canada’s Future Role in Afghanistan (2007 to 2008). Burney is a distinguished alumni of the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute and is a member of the distinguished advisory council of the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University.
Richard E. Waugh is a member of the board and CEO of the Bank of Nova Scotia (Scotiabank), a member of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE), a director of the International Monetary Conference (IMC), an international meeting of bankers, and is vice chair of the board of directors of the Institute of International Finance (IIF), the largest and most influential international banking lobbying group. Waugh is also a member of the Council of the Americas, a member of the international advisory council of The Americas Society, a board member and chair of the Canada advisory board of Catalyst. He is also a member of the advisory councils of the Schulich School of Business at York University, the Guanghua School of Management at Peking University, and the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, as well as being the former campaign chair for the United Way of Toronto, and the current co-chair of the Canada-Brazil CEO Forum.
Members of the board of Trans-Canada sit on the boards of multiple other energy and oil companies, media conglomerates, military contractors, banks, interest groups and think tanks, as well as having served in top government positions. The elites at TransCanada have the connections to push the Keystone pipeline down the throats of North Americans, to destroy the environment, and make a handsome profit in the process.
As Utah Phillips once wrote, “The earth is not dying, it is being killed, and those who are killing it have names and addresses.”
Andrew Gavin Marshall is a researcher and writer based in Montreal and manager of The People’s Book Project, chair of the Geopolitics Division of The Hampton Institute, research director for Occupy.com’s Global Power Project, and hosts a weekly podcast show with BoilingFrogsPost.