Canadian government, oil interests keep close watch on oil pipeline verdict


Environmental protesters gathered Wednesday in front of the White House calling to stop the extension of a crude oil pipeline, from the midwest to the Gulf coast ahead of a State deparment environmental study due to come out today. And with pressure from the Obama administration to resolve the deadlock to either go ahead with the project or not by the end of the year, the Canadian government has stepped up their lobbying efforts.

Earlier Alberta Energy, a government entity, is expanding lobbying in the United States and has hired Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, LLP for a maximum of $150,000, disclosures with the Department of Justice show.

The pipeline project is also facing scrutiny from the Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif, who is on the Energy and Commerce committee, and the Environmental Protection Agency. Waxman sent a letter to Secretary Clinton, voicing his concerns and asserted the pipeline would be a “step in the wrong direction.”

Alberta Energy manages energy resources, including, tar sands in the area with an estimated “170.4 billion barrels of recoverable oil in the oil sands deposits of Northern Alberta.”

While the government of Canada would like to see the pipeline project through, environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club believe that “Greenhouse gas emissions from tar sands production are three times those of conventional oil and gas production, and producing synthetic crude oil emits up to 20% more greenhouse gas emissions than low-sulfur, light crude oils.”

Nelson Mullins, the hired guns of the Canadian oil company, prides itself on its connections to U.S. and Canadian policy makers. Company chair, David Wilkins, served as U.S. Ambassador to Canada from 2005 to 2009. According to the Nelson Mullins’ website, “Through his years of public service he has developed close working relationships with state and federal officials and maintains close ties with them as well as with Canadian provincial officials.” Staff from his time at the embassy still work for him at Nelson Mullins.

Wilkins explained that the work that Nelson Mullins is engaged in includes “monitoring and reporting” political events that involve the Alberta energy sector. 

Alberta Energy representative, Gary Mar, testified about Canadian oil sands as a strategy to reduce U.S. dependence on “less secure and reliable sources” of oil. He also cited a Department of Energy report that stated the pipeline could decrease crude imports from the Middle East and increase U.S. domestic energy production. In conjunction with this official testimony, Nelson Mullins contacted staff of John Boehner, R-Ohio, and the Energy and Power Committee.

Currently, the loudest issue surrounding the Alberta tar sands is the efforts of Trans Canada Corp to build the Keystone XL pipeline that would pipe the oil derived from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada to Texas. Alberta’s Oil Sands implementation plan calls to “encourage the development of outbound pipeline systems to open markets.”

Wilkins insists that the lobbying operation is, “not actively engaged in the dialog surrounding the pipeline.” There have been no recent meetings on behalf of Alberta Energy, he said.

As an arm of the government Alberta Energy can also lobby through the Canadian Embassy, but will not have the same reporting requirements as lobbyists under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Last May, Canadians reelected conservatives with a history of promoting the oil sands industry. 

Another well-connected partner at Nelson Mullins, Philip Lader served as on President Clinton’s Cabinet as the Administrator of the Small Business Administration.

Leo Coco, an attorney at Nelson Mullins, served as former chief of staff to former South Carolina Congressman Butler Derrick  and Chris Cushing was a principal advisor to former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole in the 80s.

Oil sands lobbying involves some other large players. In the second quarter of 2011, oil giants Conoco Phillips, Chevron and Shell spent millions lobbying on tar sands among other issues, federal lobbying disclosures show. Some U.S. companies such as Koch industries which has a wholly owned subsidiary Flint Hill Resources based in Alberta, Canada, could also benefit from the pipeline. 

The League of Conservation Voters is the only entity this quarter whose lobbying forms explicitly list a stance against oil sands an the Keystone XL Pipeline.