Are the Koch Bros. Stonewalling Congress on Their Keystone XL Pipeline Interest?
Rep. Waxman is seeking answers from the Kochs, after a SolveClimate News article first exposed the brothers’ deep involvement in the oil sands industry.
By Elizabeth McGowan, SolveClimate News
WASHINGTON—Rep. Henry Waxman’s attempts to find out if a proposed controversial Canada-to-U.S. Gulf Coast oil sands pipeline will benefit Koch Industries appears to have hit a dead end.
At least for the time being.
Representatives for billionaire brothers and oil magnates Charles and David Koch — major donors to GOP elections and influential conservative organizations — are evidently stonewalling the California Democrat about their possible financial interest in seeing the permit approved for TransCanada’s proposed $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline.
Two powerful House Republicans told Waxman they are not interested in pursuing any additional inquiries with Koch Industries.
That refusal prompted Waxman to try another tactic during a Monday afternoon hearing on Capitol Hill. He offered to expand his investigation to include all energy companies that might benefit from Keystone XL so as not to single out Koch.
“I have no objection to asking other companies about their interests in tar sands,” Waxman, the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said during an Energy and Power Subcommittee hearing. “What I do object to is protecting Koch from legitimate scrutiny.”
“This pipeline and the legislation that supports it will enable the oil companies to charge American consumers more for their gasoline, while increasing carbon pollution and endangering precious water supplies,” he continued. “We know who will lose. We also need to find out who will benefit.”
Rep. Fred Upton, the Michigan Republican who chairs the Energy and Commerce Committee, called Waxman’s queries a “blatant political sideshow.”
L.A. Times reporters found that Koch donations to panel members outpaced even that of mega-energy companies such as Exxon Mobil. Records show that Koch and its employees gave $279,500 to 22 of the energy committee’s 31 Republicans and $32,000 to five Democrats.
The Cornhusker State is one of half a dozen states the 1,375-mile U.S. section of the underground pipeline would cross through on its entire 1,702-mile proposed path from the tar sands mines in TransCanada’s home province of Alberta to Gulf of Mexico oil refineries. The other states are Montana, South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas
TransCanada already operates phase one of the project, simply called Keystone. Last June, that pipeline began carrying heavy crude oil from Alberta’s tar sands to its southern terminus in Cushing, Okla., and its eastern terminus in Patoka, Ill.
For Keystone XL, the pipeline giant has proposed building and operating infrastructure designed to pump up to 900,000 barrels of heavy crude daily.
It has the potential to double — or perhaps triple — the amount of diluted bitumen flowing to this country from its northern neighbor, though critics say it likely won’t be needed until 2025 or 2030. Between 2000 and 2010, U.S. imports of diluted bitumen grew five-fold from 100,000 to 500,000 barrels per day. That number could balloon to 1.5 million barrels per day by 2019.
Koch Industries’ representatives told Waxman’s staff last week that their company has neither invested in Keystone XL nor taken a public stance on the pipeline project. But Waxman said they would not reveal if Koch would use the new pipeline to export oil from Canada, if the company has tar sands leases or if it has plans to produce oil from tar sands.
“These are legitimate questions,” Waxman pointed out. “Koch is a large political donor and a major backer of the tea party. Members and the public are entitled to know whether the company would be a prime beneficiary of this legislation.”
“There appears to be a significant discrepancy between the published reports that Koch Industries would be ‘big winners’ if the pipeline is approved and the statement of the Koch representatives that the pipeline has ‘nothing to do’ with Koch’s businesses,” Waxman and Rush wrote in their May 20 letter. “We do not presume that Koch’s representatives are inaccurate. But we are dismayed by the company’s lack of candor in responding to staff’s questions and believe additional inquiry is warranted.”