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October 9, 2011

Somehow, AKRF-like conflict shouldn't past muster in federal environmental review process

Atlantic Yards Report

Remember how it was just fine for the ubiquitous environmental consultant AKRF to have worked for Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner before the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) hired it to do the Atlantic Yards environmental review? (That review, for example, underestimated the impacts of construction noise on surrounding residents.)

Remember how it was also kosher for AKRF to have worked for Columbia University simultaneously while working for the ESDC?

In both cases, the New York State Court of Appeals, upholding eminent domain, thought nothing of the seeming conflict.

...

Yesterday, in a through-the-looking-glass article headlined Pipeline Review Is Faced With Question of Conflict, the New York Times tells us that that kind of conflict might be bad--at least in federal cases:

The State Department assigned an important environmental impact study of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline to a company with financial ties to the pipeline operator, flouting the intent of a federal law meant to ensure an impartial environmental analysis of major projects.

The department allowed TransCanada, the company seeking permission to build the 1,700-mile pipeline from the oil sands of northern Alberta to the Gulf Coast in Texas, to solicit and screen bids for the environmental study. At TransCanada’s recommendation, the department hired Cardno Entrix, an environmental contractor based in Houston, even though it had previously worked on projects with TransCanada and describes the pipeline company as a “major client” in its marketing materials.

While it is common for federal agencies to farm out environmental impact studies, legal experts said they were surprised the State Department was not more circumspect about the potential for real and perceived conflicts of interest on such a large and controversial project.

John D. Echeverria, an expert on environmental law, referred to the process as “outsourcing government responsibility.”

The subsequent study, released at the end of August, found that the massive pipeline would have “limited adverse environmental impacts” if operated according to regulations. That positive assessment removed one of the last hurdles for approval of the proposed pipeline.

"Outsourcing government responsibility" is par for the course in New York, though I don't see AKRF trumpeting its clients.

link

Posted by steve at October 9, 2011 11:06 PM