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U.S. secretary of state hopeful holds big stake in pipeline

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WASHINGTON -- Susan Rice's would-be path to the U.S. State Department hit another snag on Wednesday following revelations she owns significant stock in Calgary-based TransCanada, the energy giant hoping to win approval from the Obama administration to build its Keystone XL pipeline.

The State Department is in charge of making a final decision on the $7-billion pipeline since it crosses an international border.

If Rice, the current U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, is tapped to be Hillary Clinton's replacement as secretary of state -- and subsequently survives the nomination process in the U.S. Senate -- she'd be in a potential conflict-of-interest situation.

As first reported by On Earth, an environmental news website affiliated with the Natural Resources Defence Council, Rice holds substantial investments in several Canadian oil companies and financial institutions.

Many of them stand to gain from both the pipeline and the expansion of Alberta's oilsands.

Financial disclosure records show Rice, who's married to a Canadian, owns stock valued between US$300,000 and $600,000 in TransCanada (TSX:TRP).

The records also show about a third of Rice's personal wealth -- estimated to be as high as $43 million -- is tied up in oil producers, pipeline operators and other Canadian energy companies.

Rice is married to Ian Cameron, a television producer who once worked for the CBC. Financial disclosure documents show the couple has at least $1.25 million invested in four of Canada's biggest oil and energy companies, including Enbridge, Encana and Suncor.

Their investment portfolio is swimming with Canadian firms, including the Bank of Montreal, the Bank of Nova Scotia, BCE Inc., Canadian Pacific Railway, Canadian Tire, Maple Leaf Foods, Research In Motion, the Royal Bank of Canada and Royal Trust Corp. of Canada.

The Royal Bank has been in hot water for years with environmentalists over its support for the development of the oilsands.

It was labelled Canada's most environmentally irresponsible company by the Rainforest Action Network two years ago.

The bank subsequently agreed to start consulting with First Nations before funding energy projects that pose environmental threats to their communities.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 29, 2012 A15

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