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Lobbyist for Dakota Access Formerly Led Army’s “Restore Iraqi Oil” Program

Robert Crear, one of the lobbyists working for Dakota Access pipeline co-owners Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics, formerly served as a chief of staff and commanding general for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Army Corps and other federal agencies are currently reviewing the permit granted for the controversial pipeline’s construction near the Missouri River and Lake Oahe in North Dakota, and the Army Corps has reserved final authorization to complete construction on Corps land until after formal government-to-government consultations with the tribes are completed later this month.

Before he became a lobbyist, Crear headed up the Army Corps project, “Task Force: Restore Iraqi Oil” during the early years of the U.S. occupation of Iraq under the George W. Bush administration. This finding by DeSmog comes as the law enforcement presence has become increasingly militarized and additional forces pour into North Dakota from states nationwide under the auspices of the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC).

Thousands of people, including a number of Native American tribes, are protesting this pipeline at the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s encampments in North Dakota.

This week, President Barack Obama stated that his administration is considering rerouting the current Dakota Access pipeline path permitted by the Army Corps.

Greenpeace USA, though, has called for Obama to revoke the Army Corps permit granted for the pipeline in July.

“The administration seems to be buying time to maintain the status quo and profits for fossil fuel investors,” Greenpeace USA spokeswoman Lilian Molina said in a statement. “There is only one option that is truly attentive to the Native lives and lands at stake: respect the rights and sovereignty of Indigenous communities by revoking the permits immediately.”

According to 2016 third quarter lobbying disclosure forms, Crear lobbied his former employer — the Army Corps — on behalf of both Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco on compliance and permitting issues.

Restore Iraqi Oil Program

The Army Corps’ Restore Iraqi Oil (RIO) program, spearheaded under Crear’s leadership, got off the ground shortly after the initial “Shock and Awe” bombardment of Iraq by the U.S. military and was a key part of what military planners called the reconstruction phase of the U.S. occupation of the country. As its namesake implies, RIO existed to help reinvigorate Iraq’s oil market and boost production.

In the book Hard Lessons: The Iraq Reconstruction Experience, then-Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen wrote about what became known as RIO.

“Avoiding the perception that the U.S. would annex Iraq’s oil wealth for its own purposes was a crucial goal,” Bowen wrote of RIO. “Decisions about Iraq’s oil wealth were not to be seen as made by the U.S. alone.”

Perception was one thing; reality, another.

Then-Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown, and Root (KBR) ended up as a major beneficiary of RIO, landing a lucrative contract worth $2.5 billion to rebuild Iraq’s oil infrastructure from the Army Corps on March 8, 2003, 12 days before the official invasion of Iraq by the U.S. military. Just a few years prior, then-Vice President Dick Cheney had left his perch as CEOof Halliburton to work in the executive branch, which critics noticed and called out with fury.

“[T]he no-bid nature of the contract became such a contentious issue with Congress that it catapulted KBR into the critical limelight and began the process of exposing the company’s rampant fraud, abuse and corruption,” wrote the watchdog website Halliburton Watch. “Congress asserted the RIO contract was awarded without competition because Dick Cheney is the former CEO of KBR‘s parent, Halliburton.”

Time Magazine reported in May 2004 that it had obtained an email from a senior Army Corps official dated March 5, 2003, three days before KBR landed the Army Corps contract, which stated that “’action’ on the [KBR] contract was ‘coordinated’ with Cheney’s office.”

The collusion between KBR, the Army Corps, and the White House for RIO inspired Bunny Greenhouse, then-Chief Procurement Officer for the Army Corps, to become a whistleblower, and she was demoted for doing so. Greenhouse, in stark terms, made known her take on this state of affairs.

“I can unequivocally state that the abuse related to contracts awarded to KBR represents the most blatant and improper contract abuse I have witnessed during the course of my professional career,” said Greenhouse as she testified before Congress in 2005.

Uncertain Future

Lydia Lafleur, a business professor at Louisiana State University and the corporate registered agent for AUX Initiatives, did not respond to a request for comment on whether Crear’s lobbying of the Army Corps was done specifically on behalf of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Crear also did not respond to a request for comment for this article.

The Dakota Access Pipeline would transport oil obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) from North Dakota’s Bakken Shale basin across the state and through South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois, where it would terminate and connect to another pipeline in Patoka. That pipeline, the Energy Transfer Crude Oil Pipeline, will shuttle oil down to Gulf Coast refineries in Texas and in part to the global export market.

To date, the progressive cell phone company Credo Mobile has gathered over 373,000 signatures for a petition calling on the Obama administration to reject Dakota Access.

CREDO Deputy Political Director Josh Nelson issued a statement this week: “Indigenous water protectors and the First Amendment are under assault in North Dakota – and President Obama needs to intervene now.” Nelson continued, “if President Obama wants to uphold his promises to do right by indigenous people and fight climate change, he must summon the political courage to intervene now and stop – not just reroute – the Dakota Access pipeline.”

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Steve Horn is a freelance investigative journalist and Research Fellow at DeSmogBlog, where this piece first appeared.

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