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Climate Progress

Climate Progress

Joe Romm is a Fellow at American Progress and is the editor of Climate Progress, which New York Times columnist Tom Friedman called "the indispensable…

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Is the Oil and Gas Industry Trying to Buy a Keystone XL Decision from Congress?

The House of Representatives under the 112th Congress has been dubbed “the most anti-environmental House in history.” From a refusal to give up on styrofoam in the congressional cafeteria to the push for more uranium mining in the Grand Canyon, this House has an astonishingly deep resume of bad decisions on climate, energy and conservation issues.

Rounding out 2011 was a bill forcing President Obama to approve or deny the Keystone XL pipeline in 60 days — taking further federal environmental reviews off the table, even while a former Keystone pipeline inspector called the project a potential “disaster.”

A new analysis of two years of campaign contributions to House members conducted by the non-partisan research group MapLight shows a strong correlation between money flowing to Congress and House votes in favor of pushing a decision on Keystone XL.

In total, American oil and gas industry lobbyists have spent nearly $12 million in campaign contributions to both Republicans and Democrats since 2009, when the Keystone XL building permit was originally filed.

Of the 195 representatives who list oil and gas lobbyists in their top-20 campaign contributions, 185 voted for a bill in July that would have expedited the approval and construction of Keystone XL. That bill eventually died in the Senate. However, in December, the House passed an extension of the payroll tax cut that included a mandatory executive decision on the pipeline by February.

Oil Change International highlighted a couple key pieces of information not outlined by the MapLight analysis:

  • In total, Representatives who voted for the pipeline have received $10,922,161 from the oil and gas industry while those who voted against the pipeline have received only $717,552.  In other words, those that voted for the pipeline have received 15 times more money from the oil and gas industry.
  • Maplight’s data also shows that the oil and gas industry has contributed more than ten times as much to members of Congress as environmental interests have. This is worth noting in particular because Maplight’s presentation referenced “high-contributing environmental groups” without this important piece of context.

So when American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard threatened “huge political consequences” if Keystone XL isn’t approved, he meant it.

Note:  If Obama avoids making a decision on Keystone XL in February, Republicans are now crafting legislation that would again force his hand in April. “Any and all legislative options are in play,” said Nebraska Republican Congressman Lee Terry to Reuters.

By. Zachary Rybarczyk and Stephen Lacey

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Source: Climate Progress


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