Grijalva: GAO to probe State's Keystone review

The Government Accountability Office will begin an investigation into the State Department's environmental review process of the Keystone XL pipeline, Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said on Tuesday.

The Arizona Democrat asked the GAO to take a look at the process the State Department went through to complete its recently released environmental analysis of TransCanada's plans for the pipeline, which would carry oil sands crude from Alberta to Gulf refineries.

The GAO said every Congressional request goes through a review process before a decision is made to investigate.

"That usually takes a few weeks. We just got this request today so no decision has been made yet," said Chuck Young, managing director of public affairs at GAO.

A spokesperson for Grijalva said they were told personally by the GAO's Natural Resources division staff that the department intends to investigate State's review process.

Grijalva was told that the GAO wants to be sure any investigation they begin is not duplicative of the ongoing probe by the State's Office of Inspector General.

"Nothing should be glossed over; nothing should be ignored," Grijalva said on Monday.

"The questions that we posed to GAO had to do with the State Department process. And if this is a tainted process, I suggest the president at that point shouldn't trust that information," he added.

In December, Grijalva led 24 other House Democrats who sent a letter to President Obama that highlighted "serious corporate conflicts of interest" in the State Department's preparation of the environmental statement.

At issue is a State Department contractor that did not disclose previous contracts with Keystone pipeline developer TransCanada when vying to conduct the environmental review.

The department's watchdog is also investigating that contractor. The Office of Inspector General has said its report would come out in "early 2014."

Grijalva said the GAO did not set a deadline to finish its investigation.

"I am confident that it will be much more transparent and better done because of the public attention that has been focused on this," Grijalva said.

Oil industry advocates weren't pleased with Grijalva's comments.

"As bipartisan support continues to build for approval of Keystone XL, opponents are desperate and looking for any way to further stall the pipeline," said Matt Dempsey, spokesman for Oil Sands Fact Check, which represents the American Petroleum Institute and others.

"Today they told the press that GAO has launched an investigation regarding Keystone XL only to have this claim denied by GAO itself. Its long past time to move beyond the politics of delay and for President Obama to do what's in the nation's best interest and approve Keystone XL."