Editor’s note: this piece originally appeared in the National Wildlife Federation’s blog and was written by Peter LaFontaine, the NWF Energy Polic Advocate.
The Keystone XL pipeline has achieved the improbable: making Congress look even more dysfunctional than usual. Big Oil’s friends on Capitol Hill, eager to start the flow of dirty tar sands oil to the Gulf coast, have already forced President Obama to make a “yes or no” decision on KXL by late February. But now, having realized that Obama will probably say no to this disaster-in-waiting, they’re trying to rig the system and make the call themselves. From Reuters:
After delaying the $7 billion project past the November 2012 election, Obama was compelled by Congress to decide by February 21 on whether to approve the pipeline that would sharply boost the flow of oil from Canada’s oil sands.
Should Obama reject the pipeline, Senate Republicans would look at a bill that would force the go-ahead for work to begin.
It’s the same story in the House, where KXL backers like Rep. Lee Terry are threatening to push “any and all legislative options.” The message, in plain English: We want the President to make a decision. Unless he disagrees with us. In which case, we’ll make our own decision.
Are Big Oil Profits Shaping Policy?
Now, this news really doesn’t come as a surprise — Obama’s political opponents have used Keystone XL as a cudgel for months now — but it makes it painfully clear, once again, who’s calling the shots in this town. As National Wildlife Federation’s Jeremy Symons puts it:
We have to remember this is about one thing: Big Oil’s profits. These Congressmen are tripping over themselves in the race for campaign contributions, and they know where the money is.
So what’s the going rate for a pro-polluter agenda in Congress? Big Oil’s friends in the House — among them Speaker John Boehner — have reaped over $12 million from the oil & gas industry in just the last 2 years. And according to OpenSecrets.org, the six senators behind the new Keystone bill have accepted more than $3 million in campaign contributions from the oil & gas industry.
Just to cover their bases, KXL allies like the US Chamber of Commerce and the American Petroleum Institute have vowed “huge political consequences“ if Obama denies the permit for Keystone XL. Them’s fighting words, but unless Congress somehow manages to pass this bill, the President is still the one in charge of this decision, and we expect him to do the right thing for people and wildlife by rejecting the pipeline.