KXL Bill May Affect Elections in Route States
Congressional Republicans are revving up to reverse the gains made by grassroots advocates in Keystone XL route states, short circuit environmental and safety reviews, and force through a project for the benefit of a foreign corporation taking land from Americans by eminent domain. Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE) is the sponsor of the House version of a bill currently moving through the U.S. House to short circuit review of Keystone XL, along with 51 co-sponsors, all Republicans. This isn’t going down particularly well with the large number of Nebraskans who’ve been trying to make their voices heard on a project that puts their most precious natural resources at risk. Threats of an electoral challenge to Terry are flying. But Terry clearly doesn’t feel vulnerable with the deep pockets of his party behind him. In the Senate, 37 Republicans (including Sens. Jerry Moran (R-KS), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Dick Lugar (R-IN), John Hoeven (R-ND), David Vitter (R-LA), and Mitch McConnell (R-KY)) are co-sponsoring the counterpart of Terry’s bill.
A little farther up the route, Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT) has inserted language into the payroll tax bill that would require approval or denial of Keystone XL within 60 days, a move that the State Department says might kill the project outright. Letters to the editor in the Billings Gazette, the state’s main newspaper of record, are flying on this subject, most of them in favor of full review. Rehberg is giving up his House seat to challenge Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), so KXL may become an electoral issue in Montana as well. Tester supports the pipeline with caveats. He said recently:
The Keystone pipeline will create Montana jobs and it should not have to wait 14 months for an up-or-down decision. I look forward to the project moving forward as long as TransCanada protects private property rights and as long as it is committed to the highest safety standards across rural America.
The stand-alone bill is called the North American Energy Access Act (because Chinese Energy Access Act wouldn’t sound as good). The bill would transfer jurisdiction over KXL approval to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, an entity with little expertise in the complex issues under review in the Environmental Impact Statement process. FERC “is an independent agency that regulates the interstate transmission of natural gas, oil, and electricity. FERC also regulates natural gas and hydropower projects.” Pipeline safety is the jurisdiction of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
It looks like elections may be the only way to influence pipeline route legislators, but that wouldn’t change the dozens of non-route legislators who figure that promoting KXL is their business too. Why do they care so much about something that’s not happening in their states, creates few jobs, and by most reliable accounts either won’t affect domestic fuel markets or will make gas more expensive? Maybe because of the TransCanada shares held by a number of Congressionals.