WASHINGTON, Sept. 28 (UPI) -- An environmental advocacy group said it had evidence of a conflict of interest between Washington and the company behind the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.
Friends of Earth, the Center for International Environmental Law and Corporate Ethics International in May filed suit in a San Francisco court seeking documents related to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's communications with Paul Elliott.
Elliott is a former campaign manager for Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign and is now lobbyist for TransCanada, the corporate entity behind the Keystone pipeline.
Friends of Earth said it has documents that provide evidence of bias in the State Department's review of the Keystone XL pipeline.
"It's also clear that Elliott enjoyed a cozy relationship with State Department employees and sought to exploit his campaign ties to secure high-level meetings," Friends of Earth said.
"The correspondence confirms that Elliott was lobbying (the State Department) aggressively as early as June 2009 even though he did not register as a federal lobbyist until after news organizations reported on his unregistered lobbying in December 2010."
The State Department needs to approve the pipeline because it would cross the Canadian border with the United States. It would carry oil from tar sands projects in Alberta, Canada, to refiners in the southern U.S. coast. Critics said that type of oil poses environmental risks.
The State Department had said it didn't find a significant risk from the pipeline. It had said it "is not, and will not, be influenced by prior relationships that current government officials have had."