Keystone Lobbying Said to Demonstrate Project's Symbolic Role in Energy Debate

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By Anthony Adragna

Jan. 30 — Strong lobbying from most of the nation's top energy companies, industry groups, unions and environmental advocates last quarter on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline further indicates the pipeline has become the most visible symbol in the nation's debate over future energy policy, congressional observers told Bloomberg BNA Jan. 30.

At least 71 groups reported lobbying during the fourth quarter of 2014 on TransCanada Corp.'s proposed $8 billion pipeline connecting heavy oil produced in Alberta, Canada, to refiners in Texas, according to Senate fillings. The disclosures show how both fossil fuel companies and environmental advocates view the pipeline as symbolically important to the United States' approach to energy policy and climate change, according to those watching the debate.

“People have known for months that this was going to be the first subject taken up by the new Congress,” Josh Zive, senior counsel at Bracewell & Giuliani, told Bloomberg BNA. “It’s not surprising that you had a huge level of involvement. The debate on the pipeline has ballooned out to being a discussion on a whole vast array of energy policy issues.”

Both the House and Senate considered legislation in late November that would bypass the Obama administration's review of the pipeline and deem the project approved, but observers said lobbyists probably were preparing for a renewed push this session. Those efforts came to a head when the Senate passed legislation (S. 1) Jan. 29 to approve the pipeline.

The House earlier in January passed its own bill (H.R. 3) deeming the pipeline approved by a 266-153 vote. The White House has said President Barack Obama will veto the legislation.

Bloomberg BNA identified companies lobbying on the pipeline through a keyword search of “Keystone” or the House and Senate bill numbers.

Important Symbol for Both Sides 

Much of the lobbying during last quarter probably came in anticipation of early congressional movement on the issue this year and because both industry and environmental groups have attached such symbolic importance to the project, observers said.

“The environmental movement in many ways set this as their Waterloo,” Lee Drutman, senior fellow at New America, told Bloomberg BNA. “For the companies that are involved and stand to profit, there’s a lot of money at stake here. This issue has been going on for a long time. They wouldn’t stop now that they perceive to be so close.”

The intense lobbying from such varied groups also shows Keystone remains the most important symbolic aspect of the nation's energy strategy, multiple observers said.

“The oil companies clearly have made it a priority and those in the environmental community have made this a line in the sand as well,” Ben Schreiber, director of the climate and energy program at Friends of the Earth, told Bloomberg BNA. “We were a little surprised that the Republican Senate decided to make it their first priority of the new session. We would’ve thought there were bigger and better priorities for them to focus on.”

Given the early interest in advancing the pipeline, “it’s pretty clear this Congress is going to be launching a full on attack on the environment,” Schreiber said.

While lobbying has been steady and strong from varied groups, industry groups representing fossil fuel interests and energy companies themselves have lobbied many times more on the project than organizations that oppose it. According to a Sunlight Foundation analysis from July 2014, nine of 10 sectors most involved in lobbying support the project.

Those watching the Keystone debate also said they expected lobbying would either remain the same or increase once information on lobbying activities from quarter one of 2015 becomes available.

“Obviously the fight over Keystone has risen to one of the highest-profile energy policy debates today,” Tyson Slocum, director of the energy program at Public Citizen, told Bloomberg BNA in an e-mail. “The fact that the new Senate leadership assigned the legislation S. 1 tells you that this is their number one legislative priority. So the fact that major oil, environmental and labor groups are all working on this isn’t a surprise.”

Among energy companies BP Plc, Exxon Mobil Corp., Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Valero Energy Corp. and Marathon Petroleum Corp. all reported lobbying on the proposed project.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Chemistry Council, American Petroleum Institute, American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, Heritage Action for America, Business Roundtable and Americans for Tax Reform are among the industry groups that lobbied on the pipeline.

Environmental groups the Sierra Club, Environment America, the Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, Defenders of Wildlife and Natural Resources Defense Council also disclosed lobbying on the issue, and unions including the Transportation Communications International Union, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, International Union of Operating Engineers, AFL-CIO and Laborers International Union of North America did as well.

Other groups including the American Jewish Committee, League of Women Voters of the United States, Ford Motor Co., National Restaurant Association and North American Equipment Dealers Association were among the others that reported discussing the issue with Congress.

To contact the reporter on this story: Anthony Adragna in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at