By Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog
LINCOLN – The Nebraska landowners’ group that has put obstacles in the path of the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline is now raising concerns about potential secretary of state nominee Susan Rice, who owns stock in multiple oil companies.
According to her public financial disclosure report, Rice and her husband own between $300,000 and $600,000 worth of stock in TransCanada, the Canadian company that’s been working several years to get a permit to build a pipeline through America to transport tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, to Texas refineries.
Whoever succeeds Hillary Clinton as secretary of state will be in charge of the environmental review of TransCanada’s application for a federal permit to build the pipeline from Canada to Oklahoma — the company has already gotten approval for, and has begun building, the last leg from Oklahoma to Texas.
That means Rice would have a conflict of interest, according to the left-leaning Bold Nebraska group, which has organized landowner opposition to the pipeline in Nebraska.
“Susan Rice is qualified to be secretary of state, but she is not qualified to make an unbiased decision on Keystone XL or any other tar sands project,” said Jane Kleeb, executive director of Bold Nebraska. “The secretary of state is responsible for doing a comprehensive review of pipeline projects that cross the international border without any conflict of interest, and it is crystal clear when it comes to tar sands that is not the case for Susan Rice.”
The pipeline project has been held up while TransCanada rerouted the path through Nebraska to avoid its ecologically fragile Sandhills. The new route is in the final stages of review before going to Gov. Dave Heineman for a final decision.
The Natural Resources Defense Council first reported the link between Rice and more than a dozen Canadian oil companies and banks that could benefit from the pipeline. The NRDC said about a third of her net worth is in oil producers, pipeline operators and other Canadian energy interests — including at least $1.25 million worth of stock in four of Canada’s leading oil producers.
In a letter attached to her 2008 financial disclosure report, Rice said she was committed to the highest ethical standards for government officials and wouldn’t participate in any matters that had an effect on her financial interests unless she received a waiver.
Kleeb said President Obama could put a different federal agency in charge of the pipeline’s review, with the State Department as a cooperating agency rather than lead agency, on international pipeline decisions.
“Certainly the State Department should give input on how international pipelines would affect U.S. relationships with Canada, but there are other agencies in government that are better suited to assess a pipeline,” Kleeb said. “Agencies like the EPA or the Department of Transportation seem logical choices for the lead agency role.”
TransCanada spokesman Grady Semmens said of the latest twist, “We are not in a position to comment on potential nominees. That is a matter for the president of the United States.”
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