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Transparency International has U.S. energy concerns

The United States moved down two notches in annual survey of transparency in part because of money in politics.

By
Daniel J. Graeber
A group of protesters gather to rally against President Donald Trump's actions in support of the Dakota Access and Keystone pipelines at the Federal Building in the Westwood section of Los Angeles on January 24, 2017. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
A group of protesters gather to rally against President Donald Trump's actions in support of the Dakota Access and Keystone pipelines at the Federal Building in the Westwood section of Los Angeles on January 24, 2017. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 26 (UPI) -- Accountability is a concern with the Trump administration, Transparency International said in the wake of White House support for energy infrastructure.

In a series of executive memoranda this week, President Donald Trump called on pipeline company TransCanada to re-submit its application for the Keystone XL oil pipeline and directed a faster approval process for the last stretches of the domestic Dakota Access pipeline.

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Both Keystone XL, a pipeline from Canada, and Dakota Access were targets of environmental and tribal petitions for a low-carbon economy under the previous administration. The White House said moving forward with those projects fulfills a Trump campaign promise to cut through regulatory red tape and expedite the construction of North American energy infrastructure in a way that creates jobs and strengthens national security.

In an annual global review that came less than a week after Trump took the oath of office, Transparency International moved the United States down two points on its corruption index in part because of concerns that money was influencing policy decisions in the country.

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On energy issues, the group's Americas director Alejandro Salas told UPI there are particular concerns about Rex Tillerson, the former Exxon Mobil CEO tapped to serve as U.S. secretary of state. As a former official within the American Petroleum Institute, Salas said Tillerson worked against transparency measures outlined in the Dodd-Frank Act that call on companies to disclose payments they've made to individual governments.

"This data also allows citizens to hold the government to account for its dealings with the company," he said. "In the past secret sweetheart deals between natural resource companies and governments around the world have allowed companies to get rich while public budgets see no benefit."

The Trump transition team in December pledged to eliminate the Dodd-Frank Act and replace it with policies it said would be more beneficial to job creation. Separately, Trump held a financial stake in the companies building Dakota Access. His press secretary this week said there can be no conflicts of interest there, though financial documents to verify those claims are not available.

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Elsewhere, tribal leaders concerned about water quality and sanctity in North Dakota said Trump may be violating treaties as they relate to indigenous people with his measure on Dakota Access.

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Even though figures cited by the Trump administration are inflated over previous government estimates, the White House said advancing energy infrastructure would be a form of economic stimulus.

On the merits of the pipelines, the Trump administration said U.S. steel and U.S. workers would help revitalize a North American energy infrastructure that relies in part on rail, a more costly transit option for crude oil. Railcars carrying crude oil during the Obama administration caught fire and posed safety hazards of their own.

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On U.S. steel, analysis of a decision to leave the Trans-Pacific Partnership by consultant group Wood Mackenzie found parts of the U.S. manufacturing sector depend heavily on imports. While domestic resources exist, they come at a higher cost "and ultimately the U.S. consumer will suffer."

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