Obama caught between friends in
fight over Keystone XL pipeline
A brief moment on Wednesday showed why
President Obama can't win when it comes to the Keystone XL pipeline.
In front of the White House, protesters led by actress Daryl Hannah
and the head of the Sierra Club demanded that Obama kill the
project. Just a few blocks away, the head of the AFL-CIO's powerful
Building and Construction Trades Department joined with the American
Petroleum Institute to demand that Obama approve it.
Obama's friends in the environmental
movement and Hollywood on one side. Obama's friends in Big Labor
allied with his enemies in Big Oil on the other. What's a Democratic
president to do?
Both sides were unhappy that Obama, who
took the time to talk about wind power, solar power, fuel
efficiency, global warming and all sorts of other related topics in
his State of the Union speech, did not mention Keystone at all. Not
a single word.
They know that last year the president put
off deciding on the pipeline until after the election Now it appears
he would rather do anything than make a choice that is going to make
some of his most influential supporters very unhappy.
Environmentalists seem deeply afraid that
Obama will rule against them. The Sierra Club called the situation
so urgent that it decided to suspend a century-old policy against
its officials taking part in civil disobedience. "Today is a
one-time event to face arrest in order to elevate discussion about a
critical issue," blogged club President Allison Chin, who, along
with executive director Michael Brune, was arrested at the protest.
Their nervousness is no mystery. The Obama
administration has already approved some parts of the pipeline, and
the president's opposition to a crucial link in the line has been
based on specific conditions and not on principle. "We've never
heard him say that he's against it," Hannah told Fox Business
Channel host Neil Cavuto on Wednesday. "And in fact, it seemed as if
he was hoping to push it through."
At the same time Hannah and others were
being arrested -- they used plastic zip-ties to attach themselves to
the White House fence -- Sean McGarvey, president of the AFL-CIO
building group, was taking part in a conference call with Jack
Gerard, head of the American Petroleum Institute.
"For the skilled craft professionals that
I represent, the past four years have not been a recession, they've
been a depression," McGarvey said, arguing that the pipeline will
produce tens of thousands of jobs in a construction industry beset
by an unemployment rate of 16 percent. McGarvey noted that the Obama
administration's decision to delay the pipeline was based on an
assessment from the state of Nebraska that the line could endanger
an environmentally critical aquifer. Now, however, the pipeline's
builders have proposed rerouting the line, and the governor of
Nebraska has approved it.
"There is no reason for any further
delay," McGarvey said. "In fact, there is every reason in the world
to approve this project."
McGarvey was not just speaking for
himself. His AFL-CIO division represents members of the
International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the International
Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Laborers International Union
of North America, the Sheet Metal Workers International Association,
the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and
Reinforcing Iron Workers, and several other organizations. Together,
they and the larger AFL-CIO have donated many millions of dollars to
Democratic candidates and many millions of man-hours to Democratic
campaigns -- more than the environmental movement and Hollywood
The other problem for the protesters is
public opinion. Polls have consistently shown that most Americans
support building the pipeline. In a Rasmussen poll released in
January, 59 percent of those surveyed were in favor. On Wednesday,
the petroleum institute released its own poll putting the number at
In coming weeks, the Big Labor-Big Oil
alliance will try to drive those numbers even higher. On the
conference call, Gerard announced plans for a campaign of
"advertising, making presentations at events around the country, and
calling on allies and potential allies, including business and labor
leaders, veterans, educators and others to write to the president
and Congress urging approval of the project."
Given that pressure, and especially given
the new fact of a safer route for the pipeline, it's hard to see
Obama saying no. But so far, the president just can't face his
environmental and Hollywood allies with the bad news. Even when they
come to the White House to see him.
The Examiner's chief political
correspondent, can be contacted at
Keystone pipeline: Separating reality from rhetoric
The Obama administration supports extending the existing
Keystone XL pipeline from Cushing, Okla., to the U.S. Gulf
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- President Obama stopped in Cushing, Okla.,
on Thursday to announce a fast-track approval process for a portion
of the Keystone XL oil pipeline -- although it's not the part for
which he's taken political heat for blocking.
The portion likely to start construction soon runs from Cushing,
a key repository of U.S. oil, to the Gulf Coast.
The full proposed pipeline, which would cross the U.S. border in
Montana, is designed to bring between 500,000 to 700,000 barrels a
day from the Canadian oil sands region to refineries on the Gulf
Coast. It would shortcut to an existing pipe that goes through much
of Canada before cutting into the United States in North Dakota on
the way to Cushing.
Republican presidential candidates have used the rejection of the
shortcut pipeline as a hammer when
attacking the Obama administration over high gas prices. They
also say the
Keystone will create much needed jobs.
Here are three facts about what the decision will and won't mean.
This is not a flip-flop by Obama: Even when
Obama blocked the full Keystone project earlier this year, he
said he was in favor of this
Cushing-to-Gulf portion. And that is the only portion he is
Approval of this southern part of the pipeline is not really the
Obama administration's call. The northern portion of the pipeline
needs administration approval because it would cross the Canadian
The Cushing-to-Gulf segment is much more of a local issue. So
Thursday's announcement is more theater than substance.
"This is pretty routine, but the politics are clear here," said
Bob Tippee, editor of Oil & Gas Journal, an industry trade
Environmental groups oppose even this portion of the pipeline
since they don't like anything that increases production of oil from
But compared to the other portion of pipeline, which stirred
concerns of Nebraskans worried about underground water supplies, the
Cushing-to-Gulf pipeline is relatively non-controversial. More than
99% of property owners where the pipeline will run agree to it.
Gas prices might go up, not down: Right now, a lot of oil
being produced in Canada and North Dakota has trouble reaching the
refineries and terminals on the Gulf. Since that supply can't be
sold abroad, it reduces the competition for it to Midwest refineries
that can pay lower prices to get it.
Giving the Canadian oil access to the Gulf means the glut in the
Midwest goes away, making it more expensive for the region
Cutting through the Keystone XL hysteria
"The price that refineries on the coasts have been paying is
around $120 a barrel for months, while you had $75 to $80 a barrel
crude available in the Rockies and Midwest," said Tom Kloza, chief
oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service.
Much of the difference in gas prices between states is due to
gas taxes, not cost. But Kloza said that the center of the
country might have benefited by up to 25 cents a gallon in what they
were paying for gas because of the glut of oil around Cushing.
The full pipeline would increase the capacity of oil flowing from
Canada's oil sands into the broader global market by up to 700,000
barrels a day, according to advocates. But adding even the 700,000
barrels to more than 90 million barrels worldwide will have limited
long-term impact on prices, especially amid worries about what might
"In the current market, people are so worried about the loss of
3.5 million barrels from Iran, that 500,000 to 700,000 barrels isn't
enough to calm the markets," said Tippee.
The impact on jobs will be minimal: The Republican
supporters of the pipeline have argued
Keystone will create much needed jobs.
But even though this southern portion of the pipeline is
relatively "shovel ready," the impact on unemployment will be
minimal. Even TransCanada says it will create about 4,000 jobs,
mostly temporary construction work. That comes to less than 2% of
the nation's overall
monthly job gain in recent months.
If the full pipeline got the green light, it would create 13,000
construction jobs and 7,000 jobs making equipment such as pump
houses and the pipe itself, according to the company.
Pipeline critics dispute even those job estimates.
First Published: March 22, 2012: 5:07 AM ET
Obama orders agencies to fast-track Keystone XL's southern
By Sheldon Alberts, Postmedia News
TransCanada's decision to build the southern leg of the
Keystone XL oilsands pipeline, President Barack Obama
has managed a rare feat — angering both
environmentalists and energy companies at the same time.
Pictured, Obama arrives in Las Vegas, March 21, 2012.
Photograph by: Jason Reed ,
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Wednesday ordered U.S.
government agencies to fast track approval of the southern leg
of the Keystone XL pipeline, boosting Calgary-based
TransCanada's plans for speedy construction of the $2.3-billion
Ahead of a speech Obama will give Thursday in Cushing, Okla.,
the White House said the president is issuing a memorandum to
U.S. government departments to "expedite" permitting of the
"The president has been very clear . . . about his support
for the building of the pipeline, the so-called Cushing
pipeline," said White House spokesman Jay Carney, "because of
the glut of oil in Cushing and the need to move that product to
the Gulf for refining."
Obama had already signalled his support for TransCanada's
plan to build the southernmost portion of Keystone XL as a
stand-alone pipeline that would not require more rigorous review
and a special presidential permit.
According to the White House, Obama will issue an executive
order — first announced in his State of the Union address — "to
make faster permitting and review decisions for vital
infrastructure projects" in the U.S.
The executive order will direct agencies by the end of April
to identify "regionally and nationally significant
infrastructure projects" — including pipelines — for better
tracking and review. A separate steering committee will be set
up to develop, by the end of May, clear timelines for speeding
A "specific memorandum" will be issued designating the
TransCanada pipeline as the "top priority" because of the need
to relieve a glut of oil at the Cushing hub, the White House
The president's speech on Thursday in Cushing is part of a
four-state tour aimed at promoting his "all of the above"
approach to increasing America's energy independence — a
wide-ranging policy he says encourages responsible oil
production alongside development of alternative energy sources.
TransCanada opted to move ahead with the southern leg of
Keystone XL — now formally called the Gulf Coast project — after
Obama's decision to reject the company's application for a
permit to build the entire 2,700 kilometre pipeline from
Hardisty, Alta., to the Gulf Coast. It has said the southern leg
could be complete by mid-2013.
The Calgary-based company is preparing an alternate route for
Keystone XL's northern portion that would avoid the ecologically
fragile Sand Hills region of Nebraska. No decision is likely on
that leg until early 2013, after this fall's presidential
By backing the southern leg of Keystone XL, Obama is trying
to walk a fine political line. He wants to limit potential
election-year damage from Republicans who say his opposition to
the entire Keystone XL route has cost the U.S. thousands of
construction jobs and could lead to higher gas prices.
At the same time, he is hoping environmentalists will
continue to give him credit for denying Keystone XL even as he
approves its southern portion.
So far, the plan isn't working — he's managed to anger both
environmentalists and energy companies at the same time.
"We completely disagree with anything that would fast track
or expedite federal permits for the southern leg of the Keystone
XL pipeline," said Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, international programs
director for the Natural Resources Defense Council.
"People in America really don't like this project and they
don't like it because it is a step too far toward getting more
Meantime a quartet of top oil industry executives said
Obama's backing of the southern leg amounted to a half measure —
arguing approval of the full Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta
can't wait any longer.
In an editorial published Wednesday in The Oklahoman
newspaper, the chief executives of four major oil companies said
Obama's support of the southern Keystone XL portion wasn't
"Approval of the entire Keystone XL pipeline should happen
now — not after the election," the oilmen wrote. The authors
included Harold Hamm of Continental Resources, Aubrey McClendon
of Chesapeake Energy, Larry Nichols of Devon Energy and Tom Ward
of SandRidge Energy.
The four executives said they were pleased with TransCanada's
decision to build the "critical" southern section of the
Keystone XL pipeline.
"However, America's greatest benefit will come when we can
transport oil from our best energy partner, Canada, and oil-rich
North Dakota and Montana."
The oilmen said they hoped Obama's visit to Oklahoma would
help him "develop a better understanding of the oil and gas
Many U.S. environmental groups are disappointed in what they
view as Obama's fence straddling on the Keystone XL pipeline.
The National Wildlife Federation on Wednesday said Obama had
"taken a dangerous wrong turn" by rushing to build the "Keystone
Lite" pipeline, its term for the proposed southern leg.
Obama's appearance in Cushing "raises questions about his
commitment to (an environmental) review process that is crucial
to protect clean drinking water and the rights of families along
the route," the NWF said.
By expediting permits for the southern leg of Keystone XL,
Casey-Lefkowitz said the administration risks proper analysis of
the impact of pipeline construction on wetlands, rivers and
threatened or endangered species.
"We have sent the White House a very clear message that there
should be no fast-tracking of federal permits for the Keystone
Obama's relationship with environmentalists may be strained,
but he's feuding openly with the U.S. oil industry.
The U.S. president, in his weekly address to Americans on
March 17, targeted the oil industry for receiving "$4 billion of
your tax dollars in subsidies every year" that he wants to end.
On Wednesday, the oil industry fired back.
Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute,
on Wednesday said Obama's statements were "not only misleading,
but factually inaccurate."
In a letter to Obama, Gerard said tax deductions used by U.S.
oil companies are the same as those available to other
"Pitting one energy source against another is a false choice
which ignores the fact that we will need it all," Gerard wrote.
© Copyright (c) Postmedia News
keystone Pipeline Organization
Billionaire industrialist brothers Charles and David Koch are the
head of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. The pipeline would be one of
the largest oil developments in American history. The pipeline
destroyed American homes, farmlands and sensitive ecosystems
along the nearly 2,000-mile path from Northwest Canada and through
six U.S. states to the Gulf of Mexico.
The Koch brothers helped fund and start the Tea Party group,
Americans for Prosperity. It’s Nebraska chapter has
actively promoted and organized around the Keystone pipeline
despite numerous concerns voiced by the Republican
governor of Nebraska and
thousands of Cornhusker
residents. Many activists in our
Koch Brothers Exposed
network have said they’ve seen Americans for Prosperity
commercials in their communities supporting the pipeline.
The Koch brothers
have a profit and greed motive behind the pipeline too. The
Kochs’ subsidiary company admits on
that it is among Canada’s largest crude oil purchasers, shippers and
exporters. Throughout the public hearings and process behind the
Keystone pipeline’s formation, the Koch brothers have smeared
journalists writing about their Keystone agenda. The
Kochs and their Congressional allies stonewalled lawmakers when
they began asking too many questions.
What are the Kochs hiding? They won’t even answer questions from
a college student and military veteran who’s passionate about
protecting the environment.
There have been many cases of legal misconduct behind the
Keystone XL pipeline like cost miscalculations and conflicts of
interests. For years, the state department
had one person handling the entire $7 billion project who
virtually outsourced oversight to an unaccountable consultant
Peer review and independent analysis of the pipeline’s claims
have exposed deception and legally corrupt tactics used to justify
the project. The Canadian company building it is
inflating the project’s value.
Gas prices in the Midwest will be higher, and the pipeline
won’t create jobs as advertised. Media Matters has
the full spin campaign.
brothers’ echo chamber has also had devastating effects on
popular programs like Social Security. We’ve been
and activism that illustrate how the Koch brothers use their
wealth to write script and set the goals for politicians, activists
and influentials to follow. The Kochs use their wealth to launch
think tanks, family foundations and nonprofit organizations to
foment policies that make the Koch brothers richer.
TransCanada and its big oil allies significantly dwarfed the
lobbyists of environmental groups. TransCanada alone nearly matched
the combined lobbying expenditures of all Keystone XL opponents on
all issues, over the periods in which they lobbied for and against
the pipeline in 2011, a ThinkProgress Green analysis shows.
An analysis of lobbying disclosure records for the first, second,
and third quarters of 2011 suggests that the lobbying expenses of
the 20 or more business and labor interests who backed the project
were much greater than those for the seven organizations that
actively opposed the measure:
different companies or organizations reported lobbying the
federal government on the Keystone XL pipeline in general or on
H.R.1938 (the North American-Made Energy Security Act, a bill
which aimed to speed up the Obama administration’s consideration of
Thirty-one groups supported the pipeline, and seven groups opposed
lobbying efforts alone over the first three quarters of 2011 totaled
at least $920,000.
– The seven groups in opposition to Keystone XL spent
just over $1 million on all lobbying efforts. Corporate
Ethics International, Defenders of Wildlife, EarthJustice Legal
Defense Fund, the League of Conservation Voters, the National
Wildlife Federation, the Sierra Club, and the Western Organization
of Resource Councils reported spending just over $1 million on
lobbying efforts for the periods when they were lobbying on Keystone
XL — little more than TransCanada’s spending. Lobbying disclosure
forms do not specify how much is spent on individual issues.
– The 31 groups supporting Keystone XL spent $59.8
million on all lobbying. Combined with the massive lobbying
prowess of supporters like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce,
ConocoPhillips, Shell Oil, Exxon Mobil Corporation, the American
Petroleum Institute, and the National Association of Manufacturers,
as well as less expected players like the National Taxpayers Union
and Deere & Company, supporters of the pipeline had lobbying
operations over the periods in which they lobbied on application
totaling at least $59.8 million.
– Oil and energy companies alone spent more than $37
million on total lobbying.
vowed to reapply. If these numbers are any indication, they will
likely do so with some well-funded allies.
See the organizations who reported lobbying on the Keystone XL
tar sands pipeline in the first three quarters of 2011:
Lobbied For Keystone XL ($59.8 million)
Against Keystone XL ($1 million)
OF ENGINEERING COMPANIES
CONSTRUCTION TRADES DEPARTMENT, AFL-CIO
LEGAL DEFENSE FUND
COMMERCE OF THE USA
|DEERE & COMPANY
ORGANIZATION OF RESOURCE COUNCILS
|EXXON MOBIL CORP
|IN SITU OIL
BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS
UNION OF OPERATING ENGINEERS
INTERNATIONAL UNION OF NORTH AMERICA
|NATL ASSN OF
|NEW ENGLAND FUEL
|SMALL BUSINESS &
ASSOCIATION OF JOURNEYMEN & APPRENTICES OF THE PLUMBING
& PIPEFITTING INDUSTRY
Note: this chart does not include entities whose official
position on the bill could not be determined
Pipelines of the US
The Association of Oil Pipe Lines (AOPL) promotes the safe,
reliable, and efficient transportation of energy liquids by
pipelines, educates the public about the vital role oil pipelines
serve in the daily lives of Americans, and advocates the interests
of its members.
Read More on how Pipelines Make Life Better »
More Press Releases »
In addition, we need to look at new ways
to secure oil from our allies rather than
relying so heavily on unstable and
unfriendly countries. TransCanada estimates
the Keystone Pipeline would have brought
700000 barrels of oil each day from Canada,
The company agreed to move its proposed
route for the Keystone XL oil pipeline away
from the Sand Hills and to avoid as much of
the Ogallala Aquifer as possible. The
company says the new route will go over the
aquifer, but will not come into contact
...See all stories
The pipeline would run from the oil sands
in Alberta, Canada, to refineries along the
Gulf Coast, creating up to 20000 jobs,
supporters say. Now that the House has
passed a transportation bill with the
pipeline provision, it must be reconciled
with the ...
More Trending News »
- Association of Oil Pipe Lines
- 1808 Eye Street NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20006
- Phone: 202-408-7970
- Fax: 202-280-1949
- © 2004 - 2012. AOPL - All rights reserved
Keystone XL Pipeline
December 22, 2008 DEQ received an application from
TransCanada and ConocoPhillips for a Certificate of
Compliance under the Major
Siting Act to construct and operate a 36-inch crude oil
pipeline in eastern Montana. Keystone is a limited
liability company, organized under the laws of
the State of Delaware, and owned equally by affiliates
of TransCanada Corporation, a Canadian public company
organized under the laws of Canada, and ConocoPhillips
Company, a Delaware corporation. The 280-mile portion of
the pipeline in Montana would be part of a longer
1,980-mile project beginning in Hardisty, Alberta, and
ending along the Texas Gulf Coast. On March 30, 2012 DEQ
issued a certificate of Compliance for the project. It
may be viewed at the
Keystone Certificate page.
On September 2, 2011 the US Department of State
released the Final EIS. Montana DEQ is a cooperating
agency on the Final EIS. The DEIS, SDEIS, and the Final
EIS can be found by following the link at the top of the
home page, or by clicking of the “State
Dept. Documents” in the left-hand margin.
To be re-directed to the US Department of
State Keystone XL Pipeline Project Home Page, click
Questions regarding the Montana segment
of the Final EIS may be directed to Greg Hallsten or Tom
Ring with the contact information provided at the bottom
of this page.
Additional project information can be viewed at
more information about the project contact
Greg Hallsten at
(406) 444-3276 or Tom Ring
at (406) 444-6785.
President Barack Obama
will not be bringing up the Keystone XL Pipeline in his
State of the Union address Tuesday night, but Texas Republican
Congressman Ted Poe is intent on keeping the controversial oil
pipeline project in the news and circumventing the
administration’s denial of a permit to build it.
Tuesday, the Texas congressman introduced the “Keystone For A
Secure Tomorrow Act” (K-FAST) to allow the 112th Congress to
“directly and immediately” approve the Keystone XL Pipeline
permit for TransCanada Corporation.
According to Poe, the approval of the pipeline is within
Congress’ authority. In 1973, Poe noted, Congress passed the
Trans-Alaska Pipeline Authorization Act to allow construction of
the 800-mile-long north–south pipeline from frozen Prudhoe Bay
to the ice-free port of Valdez.
The Keystone XL project, if authorized, would start in Canada
and end up in Port Arthur, TX — part of Poe’s district. Poe
estimates that he represents more refineries than any other
representative in Congress.
“My bill would authorize the construction of the pipeline —
except for the new route that has not been determined yet, that
small route in Nebraska, that would still have to go through the
normal channels. The rest of it would be authorized
immediately,” Poe told The Daily Caller, adding that since
Keystone is in “the national interest” Congress has the
authority to pass the legislation.
Poe’s bill adds to
proposals from other Republicans attempting to get around
the Obama administration’s permit denial.
Congress does have the legal authority to make this
decision, and that is why I filed the bill,” he said. “There
are no cases that say the President has exclusive
jurisdiction over an issue such as this, and the Alaska
Pipeline is one of those examples where Congress exerted the
authority to approve a pipeline.”
Poe introduced the legislation with Oklahoma Democratic
Rep. Dan Boren.
“Instead of saying yes and providing much needed relief
to the people, the Administration turned its back on
Americans and just said no to the Keystone XL Pipeline. It
is the moral obligation and legal authority of Congress to
say yes,” Poe added in a statement. “Congress cannot sit
idly by and watch Americans suffer as a result of this
reckless decision motivated by politics. It’s time to create
jobs, bring energy to the United States and make Middle
Eastern politics irrelevant to our national security.”
Despite the president’s denial, TransCanada last week
said that it intends to reapply for a permit and hopes to be
approved in time for a 2014 start date.
Follow Caroline on Twitter
Keystone XL Pipeline
NOVEMBER 28, 2012 UPDATE
(Click here for original version.)
Susan Rice, the candidate believed to be favored by
President Obama to become the next Secretary of State,
holds significant investments in more than a dozen
Canadian oil companies and banks that would stand to
benefit from expansion of the North American tar sands
industry and construction of the proposed $7 billion
Keystone XL pipeline. If confirmed by the Senate,
one of Rice’s first duties likely would be
consideration, and potentially approval, of the
Rice's financial holdings could raise questions about
her status as a neutral decision maker. The current U.S.
ambassador to the United Nations, Rice owns stock valued
between $300,000 and $600,000 in TransCanada, the
company seeking a federal permit to transport tar sands
crude 1,700 miles to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast,
crossing fragile Midwest ecosystems and the largest
freshwater aquifer in North America.
Beyond that, according to
financial disclosure reports, about a third of
Rice’s personal net worth is tied up in oil producers,
pipeline operators, and related energy industries north
of the 49th parallel -- including companies with poor
environmental and safety records on both U.S. and
Canadian soil. Rice and her husband own at least $1.25
million worth of stock in four of Canada’s eight leading
oil producers, as ranked by Forbes magazine. That
includes Enbridge, which spilled
more than a million gallons of toxic bitumen into
Michigan’s Kalamazoo River in 2010 -- the
largest inland oil spill in U.S. history.
Rice also has smaller stakes in several other big
Canadian energy firms, as well as the country’s
transportation companies and coal-fired utilities.
Another 20 percent or so of her personal wealth is
derived from investments in five Canadian banks. These
are some of the institutions that
provide loans and financial backing to TransCanada
and its competitors for tar sands extraction and major
infrastructure projects, such as Keystone XL and
Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, which
would stretch 700 miles from Alberta to the Canadian
In 2010, for instance, when Rice and her husband held
at least $1.5 million in Royal Bank of Canada, the
institution was labeled
Canada's most environmentally irresponsible company
by the Rainforest Action Network for its support of tar
sands development. Public pressure from
environmentalists and Canada’s First Nations tribes
convinced the bank to
adopt new standards regarding socially conscious lending.
“It’s really amazing that they’re considering someone
for Secretary of State who has millions invested in
these companies,” said Bill McKibben, a writer and
founder of the activist groups
Tar Sands Action, which have organized protests
against the Keystone XL project. “The State Department
has been rife with collusion with the Canadian pipeline
builders, and it’s really distressing to have any sense
that that might continue to go on.” Emails obtained by
an environmental group last year show what critics call
and complicitous relationship” between State
Department officials and a lobbyist for TransCanada, who
was also a former deputy campaign director for current
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's failed 2008
presidential bid. The agency also assigned an
environmental impact review of the Keystone project to a
company with financial ties to TransCanada.
As ambassador to the United Nations, Rice has not
been directly involved in the State Department’s
Keystone XL review, which came to a head at the end of
2011. After initially indicating it would likely approve
TransCanada’s application, the State Department
ordered a review of alternate routes to avoid
putting critical water sources in Nebraska at risk. The
move, which officials said would likely push the
approval process back to the first three months of 2013,
was an attempt to spare the Obama administration a
politically risky decision just before an election year.
Greenlighting the pipeline would have hurt the
president with environmental advocates --
more than 1,200 people were arrested in
anti-Keystone protests led by McKibben at the White
House in Summer 2011. But denying it outright would have
given Republicans an election year attack line, saying
Obama had cost the nation much-needed jobs (although
independent studies have shown that TransCanada’s
job creation claims for the pipeline are greatly
exaggerated). As it was, the president still received
significant heat, and Mitt Romney pledged to
approve the pipeline on Day 1 if he had won the
Were she to become Secretary of State, Rice would be
in charge of the new environmental review process and
would be in a position to decide whether to issue
TransCanada a permit for sections of Keystone XL
stretching from Oklahoma to the Canadian border. (The
pipeline’s southernmost leg has already been approved
and is under construction in Texas -- with
protesters perching in trees and chaining themselves
to construction equipment in an attempt to stop it.)
Rice is reportedly
Obama’s favorite to take the helm at the State
Department next year. Clinton has said repeatedly that
she plans to step down shortly after Obama’s second
inauguration in January. In addition to Rice, reportedly
the president's lead candidate for the job, U.S.
Senator John Kerry had also reportedly
made it onto the president’s short list. Kerry,
whose net worth of at least $232 million makes him far
wealthier than Rice,
does not own shares of TransCanada or Enbridge, the
major tar sands pipeline companies, although he does
have stock in some other Canadian energy interests.
According to the
Center for Responsive Politics, Rice’s net worth sat
somewhere between $23.5 million and $43.5 million in
2009, the latest year for which the center has done a
full analysis of her finances. That makes her either the
wealthiest person currently serving in the executive
branch or a close second to Clinton. (The uncertainty
surrounding these figures is due to the way officials
are required to disclose their investments; instead of
declaring the specific amount of stock they own, they
are required by law only to declare a range.)
Other public officials have been criticized for
pushing for the Keystone XL project while standing to
benefit financially. The nonprofit Sunlight Foundation
reported in December 2011 that four members of
Congress who own shares in TransCanada had pressed for
the pipeline’s approval -- either by supporting bills
that would have forced the State Department to issue a
permit or by writing to Clinton or Obama, urging them to
give the go-ahead. Rice’s ownership of TransCanada stock
noted by the Sunlight Foundation but not considered
a conflict of interest at the time, because she had no
direct role in the approval process.
Neither Rice’s office nor the White House returned
OnEarth’s calls for comment about her financial
It’s unclear when Rice began investing in Canadian
energy and banks, but the Stanford University graduate
and Rhodes Scholar
worked for the prestigious McKinsey & Company
consulting firm’s Toronto office from 1990 to 1993,
marrying Canadian-born TV producer Ian Cameron in
1992. She then joined the National Security Council
under President Bill Clinton. (Financial disclosure
forms aren’t available for Rice’s security council
tenure; by law,
they’re destroyed after six years.) Rice later
became President Clinton’s assistant secretary of state
for African affairs, then joined the nonprofit Brookings
Institution think tank during the George W. Bush
administration. She advised both the Kerry and Obama
presidential campaigns on foreign policy.
According to the reports she filed in May 2012, Rice
and her husband have a wide-ranging portfolio that
includes more than 100 securities, such as IBM,
Monsanto, Apple, BP, and McDonald’s. Dan Auble, a
researcher at the
Center for Responsive Politics who studies the
personal finances of public officials, said it’s not
unusual to see energy investments play a significant
role in their financial portfolios, as they do with Rice
and her husband. (Auble said the holdings of a public
official’s spouse are included in financial disclosure
reports because they have the same potential to create a
conflict of interest.) In their case, however, nine of
the 14 holdings they claimed that top $500,000 are
Canadian energy interests or banks.
If Rice does get the Secretary of State job, federal
ethics officials could recommend that she sell her stock
in TransCanada and related companies before deciding on
Keystone XL, Auble said. But that’s not a sure thing.
Leading Keystone opponents say they wouldn’t
necessarily oppose Rice’s nomination -- but they would
want someone else in charge of deciding the pipeline’s
fate. “It would be one of the first decisions she would
make, and she’s not qualified to make an unbiased
decision,” said Jane Kleeb, the executive director of
Nebraska, a group that has fought to block the
Keystone XL pipeline.
“It’s one more clear sign that the State Department
should not be handling this,” added McKibben (who is
also an OnEarth contributing editor). Both
advocates believe the Environmental Protection Agency or
the White House Council on Environmental Quality would
be more qualified to assess the environmental impacts of
Keystone XL. But an executive order issued by President
George W. Bush in April 2004
makes the Secretary of State responsible for
approving pipelines that cross the U.S. border. Kleeb
suggested that Obama could change that order to shift
the decision-making responsibility elsewhere.
Environmental advocates (including the
Resources Defense Council, which publishes OnEarth)
have sought to block
the Keystone XL pipeline and further development of
the Alberta tar sands fields due to their climate impact
and potential for pollution and dangerous oil spills.
Extracting bitumen -- a heavy, viscous black oil --
requires intensive open-pit mining in the heart of
Canada’s boreal forest. More dirty and corrosive than
conventional crude, bitumen requires extensive refining
to become useable fuel. The entire process uses vast
amounts of energy and water and creates three times the
global warming pollution of conventional fuel, while
shipping the bitumen through pipelines
means an additional risk of corrosion and leaks.
Despite the environmental risks, tar sands
development has become a major focus of the Canadian
government and pillar of the country’s economy,
championed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, whose
denounced environmental advocates and First Nations
tribes opposed to pipeline construction as
extremists. Alberta's tar sands contain the world's
third largest proven oil reserve, but they’re
landlocked and remote -- hence the desire for more
pipelines to provide Canadian energy companies with
access to ports and refineries.
According to her
most recent financial disclosure reports, along with
her TransCanada investments, Rice and her husband own at
least $1.5 million worth of stock in Enbridge (Canada’s
No. 3 oil producer, according to Forbes), Cenovus (No.
7), and Encana (No. 8), as well as at least $1.25
million in Imperial (No. 2), $50,000 to $100,000 in
Suncor (No. 1), and $15,000 to $50,000 in Canadian
Natural (No. 6). (TransCanada is ranked at No. 5 by
Forbes.) The couple has at least $1.25 million invested
in Transalta, Alberta's largest coal-fired electricity
power producer, and at least $1.5 million in Canadian
which transports coal, oil, and gas and has been a
major financial beneficiary of the North American energy
On the banking side, Rice has investments totaling at
least $5 million and up to $11.25 million in Bank of
Montreal, Bank of Nova Scotia, Canadian Imperial Bank of
Commerce, Royal Bank of Canada, and Toronto Dominion. A
report by the Dutch consulting firm Profundo Economic
several of these same banks are largely responsible
for underwriting the expansion of Canada’s tar sands
industry. “Investment in tar sands infrastructure now
surpasses that of manufacturing across all of Canada,”
according to the report.
Which means that regardless of Keystone XL’s fate,
Canadian companies will continue to seek ways to pump
bitumen from northern Canada to coastal refineries and
ports, where it can be shipped to Europe, China, and
other overseas markets. NRDC and other environmental
have presented evidence that Enbridge is making plans
to reverse a pipeline that currently carries regular
crude from the New England coast to Montreal, and use it
to ship tar sands oil in the other direction instead.
Since it crosses the U.S.-Canadian border, that plan
would also require State Department approval.
Ted Genoways contributed to this report.
From The Mag: Canadian Democracy: Death by Pipeline
Web Exclusive: Tar Sands Showdown in the Nebraska
From The Mag: Canada's Highway to Hell
Issues: Stopping the Tar Sands Pipeline
Report: Tar Sands Pipelines Safety Risks
Blogs: Keystone XL on Switchboard