As part of a major push to win approval for the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, pipeline builder TransCanada and the Canadian province of Alberta have been snapping up lobbying firms with ties to the Obama administration -- and to Secretary of State John Kerry in particular, the Financial Times reported Thursday. 

Former aides to Kerry and his predecessor, Hillary Clinton, work for firms that are now part of TransCanada’s all-out campaign to win approval for the pipeline. Though President Obama will ultimately decide the fate of the project, the State Department will first issue an environmental-impact statement that is likely to determine Obama’s final decision.

Environmental activists have campaigned aggressively against the pipeline, which would carry oil from Canada to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico, due to concerns about the environmental impact of the project. Observers expect Obama to ultimately green-light the project.

"What we’ve done is hired consultants who will be able to sharpen our messaging and talk about the facts surrounding the oil sands,” Cal Dallas, Alberta’s minister of international and intergovernmental relations, told FT. “Some of the principals might know John Kerry, but there’s no end of people who know him,” he added.

Lobbyists Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti and PR firm Rasky Baerlein Strategic Communications are among the firms that have retained that have ties to the Obama administration. TransCanada had previously taken heat for hiring Paul Elliott, who served as chief Washington lobbyist for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign. TransCanada also plans to bring on SKD Knickerbocker, the communications firm helmed by former Obama adviser Anita Dunn.