TransCanada Corp. (TRP), the Calgary-based company behind the Keystone XL pipeline, spent $1.05 million to lobby Congress and the administration last year, about 24 percent more than it spent in 2012, records filed with the U.S. Senate show. [...]There wasn't a breakdown of how much of that lobbying money was spent specifically to spur approval of the 1,179-mile, $5.4 billion northern leg of the 36-inch diameter Keystone XL pipeline and how much for natural gas projects that TransCanada is involved with.
Its chief Washington lobbyist, Paul Elliott, is a former top campaign aide to Hillary Clinton, who served as Secretary of State in President Barack Obama’s first term.
“While TransCanada has been operating in the U.S. for decades, the Keystone XL project is the first time where our activities have become the focus of activist campaigns,” Shawn Howard, a company spokesman, said in an e-mail. “We have hired lawyers and outside experts to help us provide informed opinions about legislation that may impact any part of our operations.”
The State Department is said to be on the cusp of releasing its final environmental impact statement on the final leg of the pipeline. Jack Gerard, CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, an oil industry lobbying group that has backed Keystone XL from the beginning, said in an interview last week that he thinks the report might be out as early as Thursday. He cited unnamed administration sources. Ten days ago Secretary of State John Kerry said announcement of State's review and recommendation will be "soon."
The pipeline would carry diluted bitumen from the tar sands of Alberta to Steele City, Nebraska, where it would connect to the already built pipeline running from Steele City to the Cushing, Oklahoma, pipeline. From Cushing, the southern leg of Keystone XL runs to Nederland, Texas, near the refineries of the Gulf Coast. That last section, which the president fast-tracked in March 2012, began carrying crude oil last week.
Once the State Department releases its environmental review, federal agencies have a mandated 90 days to weigh in. Then, under the provisions of an executive order with its origins in the 1960s that governs cross-boundary pipelines, tunnels and bridges, President Obama must decide whether building the pipeline meets the U.S. "national interest." He has said that decision will depend on whether building the pipeline would have a negative impact on climate change by increasing carbon emissions.
Mixed signals might be the best way to characterize the administration's public stance on the matter. One of the most recent signals dismayed eco-activists, who have been fighting the pipeline for years. In November, the State Department approved a project to convert an existing pipeline so it can carry natural gas across the Canadian border to the tar sands fields. Once there, the natural gas will be turned into condensate and used to thin the ultra-thick bitumen so that it can be easily transported as dilbit, or diluted bitumen.
To get a thorough look at one of several drawbacks approval of Keystone XL could mean, a good read is Inside Climate News's Pulitzer prize-winning series, now in book form, The Dilbit Disaster: Inside the Biggest Oil Spill You Never Heard of.