On Friday's NBC Nightly News, Andrea Mitchell slanted towards left-leaning environmentalists who are still opposed to the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, despite a new report from the State Department that indicated that the environmental impact of the project would be minimal. Mitchell played three soundbites from environmentalists protesting or speaking out against the pipeline, versus only one clip from a supporter.
The correspondent also forwarded an allegation from unnamed environmentalists against contributors to the State Department study: [MP3 audio available here ; video below]
ANDREA MITCHELL: Environmentalists are also crying foul because they charge that the consultants who worked on today's final report had ties to the pipeline company. A State Department inspector general is investigating alleged conflict of interest.
Anchor Brian Williams introduced Mitchell's report by underlining that "a hot topic in American politics just got more interesting where President Obama is concerned – it has to do with the Keystone pipeline from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast. And just tonight, a long-delayed environmental impact report could remove a major hurdle for its approval."
The NBC journalist first touted the "classic battle" over the pipeline between "the oil industry arguing jobs and energy independence, versus environmentalists worried about oil spills, wildlife, and climate change." She soon added her first soundbite from opponents, taken from an outburst during a speech President Obama gave in October 2013, and noted that "Obama, trailed for months by anti-pipeline protesters, had promised he wouldn't approve it if it would accelerate climate change."
Mitchell then summarized the findings of the State Department report, and included her single soundbite from a supporter of the pipeline – Cindy Schild of the American Petroleum Institute:
MITCHELL: Today's report says it won't have an effect on the environment either way: 'Approval or denial of one crude oil project remains unlikely to significantly impact demand for heavy crude oil – the oil that creates the worst pollution.' In other words, this oil will be produced whether the pipeline is built or not. Pipeline advocates say President Obama now has no excuse not to go ahead.
CINDY SCHILD, AMERICAN PETROLEUM INSTITUTE: We spent over five years on the environment. Time and time again, it shows no environment impact.
MITCHELL: What about jobs? The report says the pipeline would produce 3,900 temporary construction jobs for one year in Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas; and 50 permanent jobs. And it states that of 14 protected or endangered species, like the whooping crane, only one – a beetle – would be adversely affected.
The correspondent spent the remainder of the segment letting the environmentalists cast cold water on the report. She concluded with the anonymous conflict of interest allegation:
JOSH SAKS, NATIONAL WILDLIFE FEDERATION: If ever there's a spill, of course, countless animals can be impacted. And the greatest threat to wildlife is climate change.
MITCHELL: Environmentalists point to spills like this one – an old pipeline north of Little Rock [Arkansas] last March – still not cleaned up.
TOM STEYER, NEXTGEN CLIMATE ACTION: There's an enormous amount of political pressure within the Beltway to approve this project. And I think, around the country, people understand that this is actually a terrible idea.
MITCHELL (on-camera): Environmentalists are also crying foul because they charge that the consultants who worked on today's final report had ties to the pipeline company. A State Department inspector general is investigating alleged conflict of interest.
Scott Pelley gave a news brief on the Keystone pipeline development on Friday's CBS Evening News, while ABC didn't cover it until the following morning on Saturday's Good Morning America.
— Matthew Balan is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Matthew Balan on Twitter.