Recently news broke that UN Ambassador Susan Rice, President Obama’s first choice to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, has millions in investments in Canadian oil companies and banks that will benefit if the Keystone XL pipeline is approved and tar sands extraction is accelerated. It should be clear to the entire climate movement that UN Ambassador Rice is an unacceptable choice for this position and if nominated, our movement must take a stand.
The Secretary of State is the cabinet member who will be conducting the environmental review for the Keystone XL, and will be making the decision about the permit for the US/Canadian border early next year. This presents a clear conflict of interest and should make all people who care about climate change and the environment rethink supporting President Obama’s preferred choice.
In a great article by the Natural Resources Defense Council, it was revealed that UN Ambassador Rice’s investments include between $300,000 and $600,000 in TransCanada stock. TransCanada is the company currently building the Keystone XL pipeline in Texas and Oklahoma. They also hope to receive the border-crossing permit to begin construction on the northern segment early next year.
Rice and her husband own at least $1.5 million worth of stock in Enbridge, the company responsible for the largest onshore oil spill in American history in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The millions of barrels of tar sands that spilled into the Kalamazoo River have still not been cleaned up over 2 years later. Enbridge is planning more tar sands pipelines to reach the east and west coasts.
Rice has investments totaling at least $5 million and up to $11.25 million in Bank of Montreal, Bank of Nova Scotia, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Royal Bank of Canada, and Toronto Dominion. These banks include some of the biggest financial backers of tar sands extraction, and would directly benefit if the Keystone XL is ever finished.
When questioned about this issue, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney refused to answer whether UN Ambassador Rice’s tar sands investments constituted a conflict of interest. He also blamed Republican opposition research for the story breaking, despite the information coming from the NRDC.
The day after posting the amazingly informative and important article, the NRDC issued an update on the article. This is what the NRDC said a day later:
Responding to the report about Rice’s financial holdings, Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, NRDC’s director of international programs, said Thursday: “What’s most important is that she rid herself of her holdings in TransCanada and other tar sands-related companies, and we’re confident she will do that.” Casey-Lefkowitz said taking the Keystone XL decision out of the State Department’s hands, as other anti-pipeline advocates have urged, wouldn’t necessarily be a solution because numerous federal agencies need to provide input on the process. “What’s most important is that we have a good, thorough review done,” Casey-Lefkowitz said. The State Department’s previous evaluation of the project was inadequate, she said, because it didn’t take into account the potential climate impacts, pipeline safety issues, or harm to air and water quality from refining tar sands oil.
Her divestment from tar sands is not enough. While UN Ambassador Rice’s divestment from tar sands would remove the appearance of a conflict of interest, her investments show very clearly that she does not regard climate change as a threat to this planet. Our movement needs to show very clearly that we will not accept any nominee who is so clearly tied to the tar sands industry.
The Secretary of State will be making the decision about the Keystone XL and will be representing this country in international climate negotiations. Our movement knows we are losing the battle to protect future generations from the worst effects of climate change. The Tar Sands Blockade is literally locking themselves to tankers, bulldozers, feller bunchers and climbing 80 feet into trees for weeks at a time to stop this pipeline. There have been 44 arrests with the Blockade so far, a quarter of them felony charges. We are doing this because we know it is necessary.
It is also necessary to challenge President Obama when he nominates a candidate for Secretary of State that will approve the Keystone XL. UN Ambassador Rice’s investments make it abundantly obvious that she will approve the project if given the chance, regardless if she divests while in office. This is an important moment for the climate movement.