Republican lawmakers sound alarm over Obama’s ‘abrupt shift’ on Keystone XL

Luiza Ch. Savage on a letter that raises interesting questions about the pipeline


The Republican chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and two pro-pipeline members of the committee have sent a letter to President Obama with some interesting questions that have been raised by his recent remarks on the pipeline. They assert that the prolonged permit process has become an “embarrassment.” But beyond the usual heated rhetoric that has marked this polarizing issue, they seem to be striking a new note of alarm:

“We are concerned that your most recent statements have signaled an arbitrary and abrupt shift in how our nation approves cross-border projects,” wrote chairman Fred Upton, and members Ed Whitfield (R-Kentucky) and Lee Terry (R-Nebraska.)

Their letter also raises the possibility that the State Department, which many observers expect to wrap up its review by the end of 2013,  is still a year away from a final recommendation.

Beyond the rhetoric, the lawmakers raise interesting questions about how the president will apply the standard he announced in his June climate speech — that he will approve or deny the project based on its effect on carbon pollution: How will this be measured? Will he consider emissions from alternative transportation sources? At what point in the process will the analysis come in? And, perhaps most interesting, “Will this standard be applied to all cross-boundary transportation projects that presently need Presidential Permits?”

Their letter is here.

The president’s skeptical remarks this week about the pipeline and  jobs came as congressional Republicans are trying to decipher whether the administration is close to a final decision — and as they try to decide how far to push for the pipeline through congressional means.

Back in 2011, Republicans tried to force a speedy decision from the administration by legislating a 60-day deadline (stuck on to an unrelated payroll-tax-cut-extension bill). But the move backfired. The State Department responded by denying the original permit on the grounds that the deadline gave insufficient time to study a new pipeline route in Nebraska, where the state’s Republican governor requested that the pipeline go around sensitive water and land. They invited TransCanada to reapply.

Since then, there have been various attempts in the House to wrest the decision away from Obama. One Nebraska congressman, Lee Terry, has proposed legislation that would take away the president’s permit authority and hand it over to a the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. House Republicans have also passed legislation that would permit the pipeline without the president’s consent.

The challenge for the Republicans has been the Senate, where Democrats have a slim majority. A victory for Keystone advocates came in March when 62 senators voted on a non-binding resolution expressing support for the pipeline. But Republicans acknowledge that the Democrats who voted in favour would be unlikely to support Republican efforts to pass a bill that would limit the president’s authority on a final decision. And Senate majority leader Harry Reid controls what legislation can come to the floor for a vote. It’s too early to tell whether the 2014 mid-term elections would change the balance in the Senate. And in any case, the president still holds a veto.

Update to post: One pro-pipeline Democratic Senator, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, pressed Obama on Keystone XL at a meeting of Senate Democrats on Capitol Hill today. She has co-sponsored another non-binding resolution in favour of the pipeline — but it would not strip the president of his power over the permit.



Republican lawmakers sound alarm over Obama’s ‘abrupt shift’ on Keystone XL

  1. Maybe Repubs could also see an abrupt shift in their obstructionism? Two can play at that game, after all.

    • and both do!

      • Obama is the president….Repubs are trying to obstruct him

        Voted against Obamacare ….what…38X now?

        • good that means they are doing their jobs!

          • No, they aren’t governing. The election is over. Repubs lost.

          • Idiot
            Think about how you defend the obstructive tactics of the losers in the last Canadian election.

          • Idiot

            They are 2 different systems of govt.

            Is Mitt Romney the leader of the official opposition?

            No, he’s a nobody.

          • Not so. Obama only won the presidency. The Republicans won a majority in the House of Representatives.

          • And not in the Senate.

  2. Blame Harper and Redford for making climate an issue. If Alberta had done more to reduce GHGs from the oil sands, the permit would have already been issued and Keystone’s pipe would be getting laid in the ground.

    • no it wouldn’t. Keystone has been used as a political pin in the bowling alley of american politics and they have been outplayed as they will not stop us from getting world price for much longer!

    • Yes, they made it an issue when it didn’t have to be one.

      Now it looks like Alberta’ll have to ship oil from Halifax

  3. either way we win – if the yankees keep playing games with approval harper can use card to leverage piping it east almsot as quickly as building Keystone since very little to build pipe already there – as well he can use card to help Christy come around as it were and use the same card to leverage heading west – as well another deal in the works is partnering to valdez and this again would be amazingly quick since only a little building needed. We as a nation are in the proverbail catbird seat and within a few years will be getting world prices and delivering in 3 maybe 4 directions – we shall see – Obama’s role becomes less and less relevant to anything every day and his only power now lays in delaying and pandering to his base – Hillary is up and coming and now the sound of scurrying little democratic feet are moving on masse as it were to have the first woman president – they did the first black person and now it’s payback sicne Hillary stepped aside for Obie – what goes around comes around in the meantime we win!!!

    • Gateway just isn’t going to happen .Clark’s proven herself to be more astute then many had thought. She knows the sh*t will truly hit the fan if she tries to back that particular pipeline; there’s far too much opposition in BC, and even more importantly the coastal FNs have said NO! It just isn’t going to happen and Clark has given herself the perfect cover for it. She simply can’t and won’t cast aside her hard earned captain BC outfit simply to please Redford, AB and especially not Harper/ Ottawa. She’s seen what happened to Gordie. All her money is on LNG. And for that she needs the goodwill of BC FNs.

      • this is where you are incorrect – wait a see then thumb me up in a few years – go back and read her speeches more carefully and you will see I am right

        • Sorry but your prediction track record hasn’t been that great thus far Wayne.

          • really? – I daresay which repdiction I have made that hasn’t come true – so far I have been spot on on alll the federal elections since 2006 – so far I have been spot on on policy predictions – haters here thumbed me down when I said harper would get a majority and pass more legislation that any other gov’t in a very long time – spot on – then I predicted Oabama would play game after game with keystone – again I am spot on – I predicted Obama would win becuase he was black and a great speechifier twice again spot on – what particular prediction are saying I didn'[t get right?

          • We’ve all been wrong on these boards more often than were right. And none of us expert pundits, or commenters, are ever completely right. I’m just saying there’s a lot of stuff you were way off on.
            For instance claiming you were right about Obama getting in is one thing, but making a broad and unverifiable claim that it was because he was black and a good orator is an absurd leap of logic.

      • Your’s is not a reasoned statement but rather the chanting of a mantra. Christy has already made it clear that she will approve Gateway provided her terms are met. Moreover, Harper in the end holds the trump card. He will not want to use his constitutional powers to force the issue but he will if he has to and what will surprise people like you is that the majority of Canadians, including those residing in B.C., will be behind him.

        • You and Flanigan are off your chump bud. You do know don’t you that no federal govt had used powers to drive an easement through an unwilling province in more then 70 years? And Christy is as likely to work with Trudeau than she is Harper – at bottom she’s a Liberal and a politician all the way through.

      • Agreed, Obama wants USA in a world war so they “run out of gas”.

        Last thing Obama wants is USA to have assured oil supplies. Like debt, leave USA in a soft and declining position. After all, if Saudi up the price, Canada can undercut. And we know Obama bows to Saudi.

  4. Lots more American employment involved in building rail tanker cars and moving 850,000 barrels per day on tracks.

    • and guess how much rollling stock canadians own down there :)

      • Dunno. But, if, as an argument for building Keystone, some advocates claim Canadian O&G producers lose $28 billion/yr.

        That being the case (I don’t buy the numbers btw), by logical extension, the US refiners therefore gain $28 billion/yr.

        Heck, I wouldn’t build it either if I was the Prez.

      • Don’t ask us to ‘guess’…tell us. And source it.

      • Not much.

  5. I want Canada to get the jobs and the wealth from it’s resources but I don’t want to see the land poisoned to get the jobs and money. I know who would end up paying for any cleanup and it sure as hell wouldn’t be the people who will make the lion’s share of the money from this project. Time and again they’ve left that to the taxpayer. Perhaps if the oil companies gave the government a trillion dollar fund to pay for the inevitable spills I might consider supporting projects such as this.

  6. Milking the wti vs Brent difference for as long as they can.

  7. Obama’s indecisiveness is just contrived Politics on his part…not some giant long term deliberation on what is good and what isn’t.

  8. Can Congress overrule Obama on the Keystone XL pipeline?

    By Juliet Eilperin, Published: April 10 at 1:05 pmE-mail the writer

    As the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power takes up legislation Wednesday to force approval of the Keystone XL pipeline extension, the bill raises a key question: can Congress wrest the Keystone decision away from President Obama?

    The answer: Neither side knows exactly, but depending on the legislative language, Congress could very well pull it off.

    Northern Route Approval Act, the subject of Wednesday’s hearing, would
    grant TransCanada a permit to build a 1,179-mile pipeline between
    Hardisty, Alberta, and Steele City, Okla., to ship crude oil from
    Canada’s oil sands region. The company is moving ahead with the
    project’s 485-mile southern leg — known as the Gulf Coast Project,
    between Steele City and Port Arthur, Tex. — which is two-thirds built and has all the necessary federal permits.

    The State Department
    is in the midst of an extensive environmental and national interest
    review of the pipeline, which supporters say will help meet America’s
    energy and economic needs, and which opponents say will accelerate
    climate change. That review will continue for several months, and the
    president is expected to make a final decision by either the late summer
    or early fall.

    Congress tried to force Obama’s hand more than a year ago on this:
    they imposed a February 2012 deadline on the president for a final
    decision, and in response he rejected the permit, arguing it did not provide his deputies with enough time to do a full review of the project.

    While the new House bill could face a similar problem if it passes
    both chambers before Obama rules on the permit, the more salient
    question is what would happen if the president rejects TransCanada’s
    permit application and the House and Senate respond by passing a bill by
    veto-proof majorities that effectively grants the pipeline a permit.

    “Congress could still deem it approved,” Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.), the bill’s author, told reporters Tuesday.

  9. Energy Policy: A billionaire hedge fund manager and Barack
    Obama donor is pushing the president to stop the pipeline that would
    compete with one he’s invested in. That pipeline could send Canadian oil
    to China.

    Environmental activist Tom Steyer donated as much as he could to get
    Massachusetts Rep. Ed Markey elected to the Senate in the recent special
    election to fill the seat vacated by now-Secretary of State John Kerry.
    He wanted another senator who’s opposed to completing the Keystone XL
    pipeline that he says would be an environmental plague on the planet.

    A few days before President Obama said that Keystone XL would be
    built only if it could be shown to have no net effect on greenhouse gas
    emissions, Steyer, a major contributor to Obama’s campaigns, urged the
    president to kill the project.

    “We really cannot afford 40 to 50 years of development of a humongous
    oil reserve that’s twice as bad — soup to nuts — as normal crude,”
    Steyer told a gathering at the National Press Club, referring to
    Canada’s extraction of crude from its oil sands in Alberta.

    Steyer has mounted an extensive campaign to kill Keystone, yet he
    owes his personal fortune to a lifetime of investments in oil, gas and
    pipeline companies. He stands to reap another financial reward through
    the extensive investments his hedge fund, Farallon Capital Management,
    has made over the last 27 years in fossil fuel companies. These include
    holdings that could benefit from the blocking of the Keystone pipeline.

    Farallon has made millions for its investors, and left Steyer with a
    net worth estimated by Forbes at $1.4 billion. One of Farallon’s biggest
    holdings is in U.S. pipeline company Kinder Morgan, which has plans to
    expand a major competitor to Keystone — the TransMountain pipeline.

    Steyer has also lobbied against Northern Gateway, which would carry
    oil from Edmonton to Kitimat, British Columbia, on Canada’s west coast.
    Curiously, he is not opposed to TransMountain, which Kinder Morgan has
    sought approval to expand.

    If that expansion is approved, TransMountain will be the only
    available outlet for Alberta crude. If Keystone XL is killed, it will
    leave TransMountain as the only game in town for transporting oil
    directly from the oil sands to export terminals, up to 900,000 barrels a
    day. And most of that oil will be shipped west to China.

    Steyer stepped down as Farallon’s CEO late last year to focus on
    political and environmental activism. In his newfound fervor to go
    “green,” he says he’s directed the fund to divest him of all positions
    in oil and coal, including Kinder Morgan. But it appears that process is
    painstakingly slow. Meanwhile, his holdings increase in value as
    Keystone remains in limbo.

    Steyer would not be the first Obama donor to profit from the
    president’s energy policies. Obama’s favorite one-percenter, Warren
    Buffett, made a good investment when he bought Burlington Northern Santa
    Fe in 2010 for $26.5 billion. With the explosive development of the
    Bakken shale formation centered in North Dakota, its oil riches are
    shipped south on Buffett’s railroad in dangerous tank cars.

    Last year’s spike in oil production from shale caused a 46% increase
    in petroleum shipments for Burlington. For 2013, Burlington forecast a
    40% increase in crude shipments. The Keystone XL pipeline would put a
    hole in Buffett’s bottom line.

    According to the Energy Policy Research Foundation, TransCanada was
    “looking to expand the Keystone XL capability by offering Bakken oil
    producers located in Montana and North Dakota a chance to link into the
    pipeline and send their crude to the Gulf Coast refineries for the first

    As Al Gore has found out, saving the earth can also “green” your bank account.

    • Which is really what it is about. Can Western Canada get a fair price on Pacific markets or is the west to be constrained to eastern and US markets for pricing fixing discounts. Yes, I just implied XL is about a sly form of NEP II. And why we need Pacific coast access.

  10. TRIPLETT: Railroading the Keystone XL pipeline

    An Obama-Buffett connection could keep crude rolling by rail

    By William C. Triplett II

    Wednesday, June 19, 2013

    The rumors had been circulating in Washington for weeks, but Bloomberg
    brought it above the waterline on Thursday: “At closed-door fundraisers
    held over the past few weeks, the president has been telling Democratic Party donors that he will unveil new climate proposals in July.” Just to make certain no one missed her message, the Bloomberg
    reporter used the word “fundraiser” twice in the article and “donor”
    five times. She did not make any direct mention of President Obama’s
    personal interest in or commitment to the issue.

    In short, Mr. Obama is about to hammer the American energy industry, and he’s doing it for money.

    real elephant in the room is the Keystone XL pipeline project intended
    to bring Canadian oil to American Gulf Coast refineries and the
    resulting products onto the international market. In fact, the title of
    the Bloomberg
    article cited above includes the words “Keystone foes.” Mr. Obama has
    already delayed Keystone, once and a final decision is coming up.

    While Keystone has received a lot of press attention, there are two interrelated aspects that have not yet come to the surface.

    First, as reported by the Dickinson Press in North Dakota on May 15, Lynn Helms, the director of the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources, told the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology
    that if Keystone is approved, as it comes south, the pipeline would
    also carry up to 100,000 barrels of sweet North Dakota crude to the
    American refineries, in addition to the heavier Canadian product. As
    North Dakota’s rate of production increases, the state should be
    producing in excess of 800,000 barrels per day by the time Keystone
    passes through, taking at most an eighth of North Dakota’s oil

    Second, Mr. Helms also told the House committee that the North Dakota Department of Transportation
    estimates moving 100,000 barrels per day by pipeline instead of its
    current mode of transport would result in three to six fewer traffic
    deaths per year and up to 150 fewer traffic injuries. Three to six
    doesn’t sound like a lot in comparison to the U.S. national traffic
    fatalities, but North Dakota has a small population and every death or
    injury avoided is important to families and loved ones, no matter where
    they are.

    What is this “current mode of transport” out for North
    Dakota crude? Rail, a much more expensive mode of oil and gas transport
    than pipelines.

    As production of oil and gas derived from shale
    began in South Texas’ Eagle Ford formation and West Virginia and
    Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Formation, drillers were able to tap into an
    existing pipeline distribution system that went back decades. The shale
    revolution initially overwhelmed the pipeline systems in both places,
    and a lot of Eagle Ford shale gets shipped by rail today, but there are
    thousands of miles of pipelines in place and more are on the way.

    the shale revolution bomb got dropped on North Dakota, there were some
    pipelines but nothing in comparison to Texas, West Virginia or
    Pennsylvania. Even after Keystone, the overwhelming majority of North
    Dakota oil will still leave the state in tank cars for years to come.

    What railroad? For the most part the Burlington, Northern and Santa Fe Railroad.

    Who owns the Burlington, Northern and Santa Fe Railroad? The companies of the Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate, controlled by Warren Buffett of Omaha, Neb.

    Mr. Buffett’s rail-crude tie-ins don’t end with the railroad. Berkshire Hathaway also owns Union Tank Car, one of the biggest makers of oil tank railcars.

    How’s the tank car business? Bloomberg
    reported in January, “People who want to ship oil can’t get them,” said
    Toby Kolstad, president of the consultant firm Rail Theory Forecasts
    LL, referring to railcars. “They’re desperate to get anything to move
    crude oil.”

    Running Mr. Buffett’s
    name through the Federal Election Commission data bank reveals page
    after page of contributions to Mr. Obama and every conceivable Democratic Party-affiliated organization, amounting to uncounted millions. Mr. Buffett has been contributing to the Democrats for a long time — decades — and it may be entirely coincidental that a lot of Buffett
    cash continued to the flow to the Obama money machine right when Mr.
    Obama delayed Keystone and continues to flow right when he may be
    blocking it permanently. There is no doubt, however, that every day
    Keystone is delayed, Berkshire Hathaway makes a lot of money. A chart of dollars out of Berkshire Hathaway and into the Democratic National Committee would look very ugly.

    as Canada’s ambassador to the United States, Gary Doer, said recently,
    “It isn’t a matter of [whether this] oil comes to the United States.
    It’s a matter of how.” For now, it comes to the United States by rail.

  11. Lets look at how they walk and not how they talk.

    It is clear in how Obama walks he is out to destroy the USA. By the end of his term, he will have debt-spent more than all presidents combined that came before him. Obama’s legacy will be that of debt as tax slavery.

    Next up, take foreign relations. Back stabbing Gadhafi and Mubarak and others, has left total distrust by almost every country in the world towards US politics. Remember, USA was ok with Gadhafi and Mubarak, the later of which was even elected. And few in Libya think they are better off today than say 3 years ago.

    Obama’s foreign policy even has Russians talking with China on how to deal with the USA/NATO Regime. Polarizing the world for another world war to totally bankrupt USA.

    Part of the reason governemtn can’t solve the economic problems is that the pyramid debt ponzi scheme, and currency devaluation fraud of just “print more money” is going to have a big bite even after Obama leaves office.

    Or how about the demographics of Syrian terrorists being the same as 9/11 terrorists. And no news on where Osama got his money from, but most know it was Saudi/UAE money as Sunni rule is desired. So why is USA really supporting terrorism in Syria?

    Only reason Obama gave the order to get Osama was political. It would be hard to explain to congress why he knew where Osama was and didn’t get him. Second, the Osama justice came just days after media was picking up on US bombs in Libya killing kids and non-participant families….he needed justification for assassination attempts.

    And I do agree in the need to kill Osama, but for Obama it was political convenience. I imagine more than a few Saudi were not happy.

    I could go on, but history is not going to treat Obama and Bernanke very well, it will take 10 years, but the fraud, corruption and deception will be more criticized in the future after Obama leaves office.