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Koch Industries-supported think tank praises Harper budget

The Stephen Harper government's highly contentious budget plan to streamline environmental assessments is a model the U.S. should follow, argues the Institute for Energy Research (IER).

This same American think tank once received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Koch Industries, a corporate heavyweight in the spotlight for its financial support of libertarian causes, including the Tea Party movement.

"The United States should start taking lessons from Canada regarding oil development and its relationship to a pro-growth regulatory and tax structure," argues the IER in a recent blog post.

The IER praises measures contained in the 2012 federal budget that will set firm timelines for environmental assessment hearings and defer some oversight to the provinces.

Those changes amount to a declaration of "war" on the environment, argued eleven major environmental groups, including Greenpeace and the David Suzuki Foundation, in a recent national ad campaign.

The Harper government, they contend, wants to "weaken environmental rules and silence the voices of those who seek to defend them."

The IER sees those "voices" largely as a nuisance that stand in the way of energy development, especially for pipeline projects such as Enbridge's Northern Gateway and TransCanada's Keystone XL.

"Due to opposition to pipeline construction from environmental organizations, the [Harper] government is revamping legislation on environmental assessments for major energy projects," the IER argues. "The government has concluded that existing laws have granted too much power to delay needed infrastructure by groups simply opposed to energy production."

The IER is a self-described non-profit organization which supports "free-market energy and environmental policy." Based in Washington, DC, it received $175,000 in grants from Koch Industries between 2005 and 2010, according to Greenpeace. The IER's president, Thomas Pyle, is a former Koch lobbyist.

Koch Industries itself is a major refiner of Alberta oil sands crude, and has a decades-long involvement in other aspects of the industry.

Geoff Dembicki reports on energy and climate issues for The Tyee.

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