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Demonstrators protest against the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline in San Francisco, California February 3, 2014. REUTERS/Stephen Lam Demonstrators protest against the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline in San Francisco, California February 3, 2014. REUTERS/Stephen Lam  

NASA scientist turned paid green advocate to testify against Keystone

Former NASA scientist James Hansen is a hardcore environmentalist who fervently opposes the Keystone XL pipeline, saying things like it would be “game over” for the planet. As it turns out, he’s also been paid handsomely by environmentalists to disparage the pipeline.

Hansen is set to testify in front of Congress Thursday on whether or not the Keystone XL pipeline is in the national interest. But documents obtained in a Freedom of Information Act showed that in 2009, Hansen was paid $250 an hour by a Canadian law firm to testify against developing Alberta’s oil sands deposits.

The Keystone XL pipeline will bring Albertan oil sands to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast and has been awaiting approval from the Obama administration for more than 2,000 days. After dragging their feet, the State Department is close to determining whether or not the pipeline is in the national interest.

President Obama said that he would only approve the pipeline if it did not significantly add to U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, which the State Department has now twice found. Environmentalists are determined to prove that it will significantly contribute to global warming.

Hansen and others will testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Hansen, however, has been a long time climate activist. In fact, he testified before Congress in 1988 about the dangers of man-made global warming and has been a darling of the environmental movement ever since.

While at NASA, he continued to be an activist until he left the space agency last year to become more active in the environmental movement. While working for the government, Hansen wrote in 2011 that the “Phase out of emission from coal itself is an enormous challenge. However, if the tar sands are thrown into the mix it is essentially game over.”

But Hansen was also getting paid by opponents of Canadian oil sands development. The Washington Examiner reported in 2011 that “Hansen was paid $250 an hour by a Canadian law firm for testimony against developing Alberta’s oil sands; income which Hansen does not appear to have disclosed.”

The information was obtained by American Tradition Institute director of litigation Chris Horner who sought records on Hansen’s outside employment. Horner found that he was being paid by anti-oil sands interests and not officially disclosing it.

A document from  January 2009 shows that the Canadian law firm Ackroyd LLP hired Hansen to prepare a report “regarding the anticipated greenhouse gas emissions from the Joslyn Oil Sand Mine.”

Ackroyd’s client was the Oil Sand Environmental Coalition, which is opposed to oil sands development. The Examiner notes that “Federal government employees are not allowed to accept money for expert testimony in proceedings before a court or agency of the United States.”

But Hansen was paid to testify before a Canadian court as long as he disclosed his payments. It’s still unclear, however, exactly how much Hansen was paid by Ackroyd for his report, according to the Examiner, as “his 2010 financial disclosure form did not list them as a source of income. Neither does his 2009 form.”

“There is also no record of his disclosing any travel expenses related to his 2010 oil sands testimony in Canada,” the Examiner adds.

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