Quantcast

Sen. Whitehouse and Rep. Waxman Question Koch Brothers' Financial Interest in Keystone XL Pipeline

Energy

As a writer of environmental issues, as well as a person concerned about the future of the planet, I am anxiously awaiting the decision on the Keystone XL pipeline. I keep questioning if the U.S. is ready to set an example by eliminating fossil fuel extraction. Will we get down to the hard work of moving forward on a different energy path?

The letter points to Americans for Prosperity, which was founded by David Koch, as having “run a multi-year pressure campaign in favor of the Keystone XL pipeline, including airing ads against members of Congress for opposing the pipeline.”

With all the recent news about oils spills and the 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez disaster—you have to wonder about the advisability of 1,660 miles of pipeline transversing the nation. It will be transporting 830,000 barrels of oil on a daily basis from the Canadian Alberta oil sands to the refineries of the beleaguered city of Port Arthur (home to several refineries, chemical plants and an incinerator). I have written about the abysmal lack of environmental justice for the indigenous communities in Canada and the low-income urban victims in Port Arthur.

There are constantly new sidebars in the debate. One was about the contractor who compiled the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), and if there was a conflict of interest stemming from a prior relationship with TransCanada. Allegations aside, the EIS did make note of “elevated levels of carcinogen and mercury” that would be emitted into the air and acknowledged the “difficulty” of cleaning up potential spills.

On their page about the Keystone  XL pipeline, the U.S. State Department puts forth that it is considering the application from TransCanada Corporation based on numerous factors “including” foreign policy concerns, economics, energy security, health and the environment.

When I looked at the comments from the public (close to 125,000), it was clear on why those who were opposed to the pipeline had weighed in. Their apprehensions referenced the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, finding alternative sources of energy, the abuse of eminent domain and the impact on populations of color.

The pro-pipeline comments skewed to job creation and energy security. A majority of them used identical language stating, “I’m writing to encourage you to approve the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline as quickly as possible.”

Okay. So each side is mobilizing in their own manner. Yet I couldn’t help thinking of those rote answers when I read the press release from the offices of Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-CA) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), which released a letter they had sent to Koch Industries. It specifically asked if their business or affiliated companies had “financial interests” in the pipeline.

Addressed to David L. Robertson, the president and COO of Koch Industries, the letter said:

“Groups backed by Charles and David Koch have lobbied and run political ads to support construction of the pipeline. But Koch Industries has consistently denied financial motives played any role in these activities, asserting that the Keystone XL pipeline has ‘nothing to do with any of our businesses.’ We want to know whether this is true.”

The letter points to Americans for Prosperity, which was founded by David Koch, as having “run a multi-year pressure campaign in favor of the Keystone XL pipeline, including airing ads against members of Congress for opposing the pipeline.” It goes on to underscore the Koch financial connection to entities seeking to dismiss the science that has emphasized “the relationship between the use of carbon-based fuel and climate change.”

Rep. Waxman and Sen. Whitehouse present eleven detailed questions, along with requests for documentation. Some of the points covered are:

  • The number of leases, acres and exploratory wells held by Koch Industries or it subsidiaries in Alberta, Canada.
  • Current and expected levels of production expected from lands leased in Alberta, Canada.
  • Potential impact that the passage of the pipeline would have on the value of their lease holdings.
  • Connection between the amount of oil coming from the Canadian tar sands and the amount that is processed at Koch Industries/subsidiaries refineries.
  • Connection between the amount of oil coming from the Canadian tar sands and the amount that is “purchased, shipped, or exported yearly” by Koch Industries/subsidiaries.

Question eleven is my favorite, because it seeks to unpack the trail of money between Koch Industries, Koch Affiliated Foundations and donations to Donors Trust/Capital (qualified on DeSmogBlog as a major funder of anti-science groups), with groups that are involved in “climate science research.”

The closing line from Rep. Waxman and Sen. Whitehouse reads: “Your cooperation in providing this information to Congress would be greatly appreciated.”

It will be interesting to see what response, if any, the two legislators—and the American people—receive.

--------

YOU ALSO MIGHT LIKE

--------

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Oil palm plantations in northeastern Borneo, state of Sabah, Malaysia. Recently planted oil palms can be seen in the bright green grassy areas and a tiny bit of natural rainforest still struggles for survival farther away. Vaara / E+ / Getty Images

Palm Oil importers in Europe will not be able to meet their self-imposed goal of only selling palm oil that is certified deforestation-free, according to a new analysis produced by the Palm Oil Transparency Coalition, as Bloomberg reported.

Read More Show Less
Scientists found the most melting near Mould Bay on Prince Patrick Island, NWT, Canada. University of Alaska Fairbanks Permafrost Laboratory

The Canadian Arctic is raising alarm bells for climate scientists. The permafrost there is thawing 70 years earlier than expected, a research team discovered, according to Reuters. It is the latest indication that the global climate crisis is ramping up faster than expected.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Pixabay

By Jillian Kubala, MS, RD

Cherries are one of the most beloved fruits, and for good reason.

Read More Show Less
A fuel truck carries fuel into a fracking site past the warning signs Jan. 27, 2016 near Stillwater, Oklahoma. J Pat Carter / Getty Images

By Jessica Corbett

For more than three decades, the U.S. government has mismanaged toxic oil and gas waste containing carcinogens, heavy metals and radioactive materials, according to a new Earthworks report — and with the country on track to continue drilling and fracking for fossil fuels, the advocacy group warns of growing threats to the planet and public health.

Read More Show Less
European Union blue and gold flags flying at the European Commission building in Brussels, Belgium. 35007/ iStock / Getty Images Plus

Newly adopted guidelines set forth by the European Commission Tuesday aim to tackle climate change by way of the financial sector. The move comes to bolster the success of the Sustainable Action Plan published last year to reorient capital flows toward sustainable investment and manage financial risks from climate change, environmental degradation and social issues.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivering remarks to supporters at a Liberal Climate Action Rally in Toronto, Ontario on March 4. Arindam Shivaani / NurPhoto / Getty Images

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Tuesday that his government would once again approve the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline, which would triple the amount of oil transported from Alberta's tar sands to the coast of British Columbia (BC).

Read More Show Less
An exhausted polar bear wanders the streets of Norilsk, a Siberian city hundreds of miles from its natural habitat. IRINA YARINSKAYA / AFP / Getty Images

An exhausted, starving polar bear has been spotted wandering around the Siberian city of Norilsk, Reuters reported Tuesday. It is the first time a polar bear has entered the city in more than 40 years.

Read More Show Less
Bumblebees flying and pollinating a creeping thyme flower. emeliemaria / iStock / Getty Images

It pays to pollinate in Minnesota.

Read More Show Less