House Dems press Obama to halt Keystone XL review

House Democrats are calling on President Obama to delay the highly anticipated release of the State Department's environmental review on the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline.

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In an effort led by Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) on Thursday, 24 House Democrats sent a letter to Obama, highlighting "serious corporate conflicts of interest" in State's preparation of the environmental impact statement (EIS) on TransCanada's proposed pipeline.

At issue is the contractor brought on by State, Environmental Resources Management (ERM), which did not disclose its previous contracts with pipeline developer TransCanada when vying to preform the environmental review on Keystone XL.

The contractor worked with TransCanada in 2011 on the Alaska Petroleum pipeline, Grijalva's office said in a statement on Thursday.

The statement added that the contractor "worked for more than a dozen oil companies with financial interests in seeing Keystone completed."

"Because of the seriousness of the conflicts and because of allegations that ERM lied to the Department of State to get the contract, we believe no EIS from the company — draft or final — should be accepted by the administration before these issues are resolved," House Democrats wrote in the letter.

The lawmakers ask the administration to wait until State's Office of Inspector General finishes its ongoing investigation of the consulting firm. That report is not due out until January.

If the allegations prove to be true, lawmakers said, State must preform a new environmental review.

Oil-sands advocates say the decision on Keystone XL has already been delayed far too long — roughly five years — and hope the administration will make a decision by the end of March.

State had planned to release its review by the end of this year, but during a reporter roundtable on Wednesday, the Natural Resources Defense Council said the department has shown no sign of that happening.

An NRDC spokesman said it is highly unlikely that the president would announce a decision on the pipeline in the first quarter of 2014.

For Obama to do so, State would need to release its impact statement within the next two weeks.