As House Republicans reopen efforts Wednesday to win approval for the Keystone XL energy project, new lobbying records filed over the weekend reveal a lopsided spending battle over the controversial proposed pipeline.
The Keystone pipeline has become an emblematic fight for those who see the pipeline as a North American job creator versus those who see it as an environmental disaster.
Environmentalists have applied political pressure through protest, but their lobbying expenditures on the pipeline have been dwarfed by those of their opponents. Three environmental groups that mention Keystone in their lobbying reports — National Wildlife Federation, League of Conservation Voters and Western Organization of Resource Councils — had a combined 2012 budget of $335,000 to lobby on a wide range of issues. Meanwhile, TransCanada, the company seeking permission to build the pipeline, spent $1.74 million on federal lobbying. Also backing the pipeline other organizations with substantial Capitol Hill lobbying presences, such as Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Shell Oil and some labor unions.
Last week, President Obama turned down a congressional effort to win quick approval of the 1,700-mile pipeline, which would cross fragile ecosystems and an aquifer, contending that the Feb. 21 deadline established by Congress for a decision didn’t give the State Department enough time to evaluate the environmental impact. A permit by the State Department is required because the pipeline would cross the U.S.-Canadian border.
Responding in a press release, TransCanada drew a parallel between oil obtained from undemocratic regimes overseas and conflict minerals, suggesting that U.S. officials preferred “conflict oil” from the Middle East to Canadian resources. Keystone officials have said they will reapply for a permit for the cross-border pipeline and have hinted that they will propose re-routing it to avoid crossing a sensitive aquifer in Nebraska.