Energy group, crying political influence, seeks Keystone documents

An energy industry group has filed a public records request for U.S. government documents pertaining to the Keystone XL pipeline in trying to assess their concerns that the Obama administration’s denial of a cross-border permit for the project stemmed from political motivations.

The Institute for Energy Research filed a Freedom of Information Act Request (or FOIA) with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, requesting copies of communications among it and other federal agencies and certain Nebraska politicians and interest groups concerning the TransCanada Corp. pipeline from Canada’s oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries.

“One troubling aspect of the President’s decision is that it appears to have been influenced by political factors and not whether the pipeline is in the national interest,” Dan Simmons, IER director of regulatory and state affairs, said in the FOIA letter.

Republicans and industry groups have contended that the State Department rejected a permit for the pipeline on Jan. 18 out of political concerns that either way the decision went it would have upset one of Obama’s key voting groups: environmentalists who oppose the pipeline or many labor groups that support it.

But the Obama administration has strongly denied rejecting the pipeline permit for political reasons. Obama and his administration’s officials have said the permit was rejected not on the merits but because a Feb. 21 decision deadline, imposed at the insistence of Republicans, was too short to allow the State Department to assess new routes avoiding an environmentally sensitive area of Nebraska known as the Sandhills.

Fuel Fix

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