(Update: A new report by Oil Change International in collaboration with FOE and other environmental groups shows how the scope of carbon pollution from the Alberta tar sands production and use dwarfs any other single fossil fuel program, and is equivalent to the emissions from 50 coal plants. The report is called Cooking the Books: How the State Department Analysis Ignores The True Climate Impact of the Keystone XL Pipeline.)

From Green Right Now Reports

Friends of the Earth and other environmental groups are urging their members to register their comments against the Keystone XL pipeline, in the waning days of a required public comment period.

Pipeline for Keystone story“It’s up to you and me to make sure the president gets the message: It’s impossible to fight climate change while simultaneously investing in one of the dirtiest, most carbon-intensive fossil fuels on the planet,” FOE says in its appeal to members. The group reports that there are already 800,000 public comments against Keystone XL, and it hopes that there will be 1 million by the deadline of April 22 for public comment on the State Department’s “Impact Statement” on the pipeline.

FOE and many other environmental groups are fighting the pipeline because it will enable expanded tar sands oil production, exacerbating climate change through increased carbon dioxide emissions and fossil fuel dependence around the world.

Friends of the Earth has closely tracked the approval process for the pipeline. Two years ago, it reported that pipeline operator TransCanada had hired a lobbyist who had previously worked closely with State Department officials, and had been a key manager on then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential bid. Those dealings cast doubts on the credibility of the State Department’s first major impact statement on Keystone XL.

After President Obama called a delay in the project in late 2011, over concerns about the pipeline’s route through the Ogallala Aquifer, the State Department undertook a second review.

FOE says that this second impact report,  released on March 1 and favorable to the pipeline, has been similarly beset by influence-peddling. On Monday, FOE filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to bring to light the special ties and lobbying that TransCanada has brought to bear in Washington D.C.. to win approval for the 1,700-mile pipeline that would stretch from tar sands mines in Alberta to Houston.

From FOE’s report on its efforts:

The FOIA request identifies more than two dozen Washington lobbyists, lawyers and consultants helping to push the pipeline who have close ties to Obama, Kerry, Clinton or other elected officials with a stake in the outcome.

Heading the list is Anita Dunn, a former White House communications director and senior advisor to the president’s re-election campaign and the former communications director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee under then-Senator Kerry. Dunn is now a principal with the lobbying firm SDKnickerbocker, which represents TransCanada. According to The New York Times, Dunn has met with top White House officials more than 100 times since leaving the Administration in 2009.

“Release of these records will shed more light on lobbyists’ influence on the State Department’s Keystone review, but it is already clear that State can not be trusted to manage the review process objectively,” said Damon Moglen, energy and climate director at Friends of the Earth. “Sec. Kerry has been a champion of bold action on climate change. His response to the State Department’s scandalous conduct will signal whether a new era of transparency has arrived at the department, or whether the insider clout and money of the oil industry will prevail once again.”

Oddly, the public comments being collected have not available to the public as they are in many cases when public comment is sought, which has drawn criticism from advocacy and journalism groups. InsideClimate News has reported on this closure of public access, and filed its own FOIA to open the process. Today, Bloomberg News is reporting that the State Department will open the comments to the public online.

Friends of the Earth has offices in Washington DC and in Berkeley and claims to work with 2 million activists around the work. It advocates for a cleaner, healthier work, a task that sometimes involves “speaking uncomfortable truths to power and demanding more than people think is possible.”