Dems Want Koch Reps to Testify on Keystone XL Pipeline

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Common Dreams

Dems Want Koch Reps to Testify on Keystone XL Pipeline

by
Common Dreams staff

Wednesday's House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on the Keystone XL pipeline will be a showdown over the politics behind the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

Schedule: The Energy and Commerce Committee hearing is Wednesday, Jan. 25, at 8 a.m. in 2123 Rayburn House Office Building.

Witnesses: Kerri-Ann Jones, assistant secretary of state for oceans and international environmental and scientific affairs and the point person at the department on the project; Jeffrey Wright, FERC's director of the Office of Energy Projects, and Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality Director Mike Linder.

* * *

Environment & Energy Daily reports:

This week is set to bring fresh squabbles between more cash-poor, grass-roots-focused opponents of Keystone XL and the pipeline's well-funded supporters. The House Energy and Commerce Committee's energy subpanel plans to host Kerri-Ann Jones, the senior State Department official who led the Obama administration review of the project, for a politically charged hearing on the factors driving the denial of a permit to Alberta-based TransCanada Corp.

Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and his party point to election-year concerns over alienating environmentalists as the motivation behind Obama's decision against the pipeline, which would nearly double U.S. imports of Canadian oil sands crude. The White House, for its part, points a finger back at the GOP for insisting on a 60-day deadline to settle the pipeline issue that forced a decision not "on the merits" of the project. [...]

"We can't compete with Big Oil in terms of campaign cash -- we don't have tens of millions of dollars to throw into TV ads -- but we can outcompete Big Oil in terms of people," Sierra Club chief Michael Brune said in an interview.

But Brune acknowledged that "of course we're worried" about the financial muscle that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Petroleum Institute (API) and other groups can bring to the table this year to pitch the benefits of Keystone XL to the public.

The Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling is poised to set off a flurry of political activity from business, labor and other advocacy groups that can donate unlimited amounts to "super PACs" without reporting the identity of individual donors. The "bad situation" environmentalists faced in 2010 "after Citizens United, it's gotten worse," Brune said. "We've got to out-hustle, we've got to be smart and creative."

Politico is reporting:

Democrats want Koch Industries to testify at Wednesday's House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on the Keystone XL pipeline.

But don't hold your breath.

Energy and Commerce ranking member Henry Waxman and Energy and Power Subcommittee ranking member Bobby Rush on Monday wrote their Republican counterparts to request a Koch representative as part of their months-long probe into whether the company expects to profit mightily from the project.

"We make this request so that committee members can understand whether Koch is positioned to be a 'big winner' if the pipeline is approved, as some news accounts have reported," the Democrats wrote.

If a Koch official is not available Wednesday, the Democrats want another hearing to be held before any panel markup on legislation meant to quicken the project.

Since May, Waxman and Rush to no avail have been asking panel Republicans to look into any financial benefit the tea party-backing Koch Industries have regarding the same oil-sands development that would benefit from the proposed pipeline.

Koch Industries officials told Democratic staff last May that the Keystone pipeline has "nothing to do with any of our businesses." The officials also insisted that the company has "no financial interest" in the pipeline and neither supports nor opposes the bill the House panel is considering. [...]

Waxman — in a renewed request for an investigation in October — said Koch's denials don't mesh with legal papers a company subsidiary filed with the Canadian government. Flint Hills Resources was granted intervenor status with the Canadian National Energy Board regarding the pipeline. In its filing to the board, Flint Hills said it is "among Canada's largest crude oil purchasers, shippers and exporters, coordinating supply for its refinery in Pine Bend, Minnesota. Consequently, Flint Hills has a direct and substantial interest in the [pipeline] application."

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