Saturday, December 17, 2011

Holding Middle Class Tax Cuts Hostage Over Keystone XL Pipeline

Why are the GOP so hell bent on pushing this Keystone XL pipeline project through, even if they have to do what they claim they would NEVER EVER, EVER do under any circumstance. Raise taxes. And of course that has been their excuse all along for refusing to pass the middle tax cuts is because the bill raises taxes on the richest 1% of Americans. But it just boggles the mind that when the Democrats agree not to raise taxes on the wealthy, now they say flatly that they will still refuse to pass it without passing the Keystone project as well. And looking a little deeper we can find the real answer of just why that is. 

First lets look at what this project and the “controversy” is all about. The Keystone XL Project proposed by TransCanada is a 1,700-mile pipeline project that would extend from Alberta Canada to Texas refineries on the Gulf Coast. The proposed route would take the pipeline under the northeast quadrant of the Ogallala aquifer in Nebraska, which is considered to be one of the largest sources of fresh groundwater on earth and supplies water to millions of people in the U.S. The type of oil it is intending to send through this pipeline is “tar-sands oil”. Tar-sands oil has been called “The dirtiest form of transportation fuel on the planet” and is said to emit 3 times more greenhouse gasses than conventional oil during processing. It also contains much larger quantities of heavy metals such as arsenic, nickel, lead, and chromium mercury than conventional oil. 

So of course this entire project is of great concern from an environmental standpoint and environmentalists are strongly opposed to it. If a spill of tar-sands oil did occur it could be much more devastating to humans as well as the environment and cleanup would require much more extensive measures. Multiple protests about the pipeline and questions about the extent of potential risks of serious consequences to life and to the environment prompted federal officials to delay the project and conduct further review. A process that could take until early 2013 to complete.  From “HP” 

“President Obama, in a statement issued by the White House, said he supported the decision to further examine the project. "Because this permit decision could affect the health and safety of the American people as well as the environment, and because a number of concerns have been raised through a public process, we should take the time to ensure that all questions are properly addressed and all the potential impacts are properly understood," Obama said. "The final decision should be guided by an open, transparent process that is informed by the best available science and the voices of the American people."

Here’s what Boehner had to say:


But is it all about jobs, energy independence, and lower fuel costs, or is it about using these kinds of claims to get this Keystone project off the ground by any means possible, and if that’s the case, why?

In the original permit that TransCanada applied for they requested a safety waiver that would allow them to operate the pipeline at higher than the maximum operation pressure otherwise permitted using thinner pipe. In April 2009 “United Steel Workers Vice President Thomas M. Conway”  wrote to the U.S, DOT opposing this permit on behalf of the United Steelworkers. Here are some snips of what he wrote:

“Crude oil pipelines – liquid hazardous material pipelines – historically have a much greater risk of rupturing because of the overpressure that occurs in surge events. Here the risk is especially problematic due to the very large size of the proposed pipeline, the flow rate, material density, inadequate segmentation and pressure relief equipment that is inadequate to the task.”
“TransCanada failed to adequately assess the greater risk of ruptures and leaks that are undetectable that would result from the use of thinner wall pipe. Neither maintenance nor operation practices can reduce the pipeline’s capacity to withstand or resist mechanical damage.”
“TransCanada proposes to transfer tar sands bitumen, which largely differs from typical crude oil in its chemistry and mineral components. The company does not address what internal corrosion may occur from the higher mineral content existing in tar sand bitumen. This poses a different and substantial threat than typical corrosion and fatigue transporting conventional crude oil, in particular at the high flow rates occurring in large diameter pipe which could cause site-specific turbulence and thus site-specific wear. Allowing operation at a greater percentage of maximum operating pressure means allowing construction with thinner pipe, which will have less ability to withstand corrosion over time.”
“Moreover, the pipe produced for the proposed pipeline at issue could well be produced overseas (as has occurred in other “TransCanada Keystone cruse oil pipelines being built in the United States, which have used pipe produced in India).”

After all the controversy over the special permit and potential problems, in August 2010
“Natural Resources Defense Council Staff Blog”  reported that “TransCanada withdrew their request for a “special permit that would have allowed them to transport corrosive tar sands oil through thinner steel under higher pressure than normally permitted by U.S, regulations.”

“Strangely, TransCanada is openly characterizing the withdrawal of their request as a public relations ploy. In their press release, the company holds out the possibility of requesting the safety waiver again in the future. Do they think to build confidence in their commitment to safety by this move? And, even without the safety waiver, TransCanada is still planning on using thinner steel (that they somehow call “stronger steel”) to save money. The company may recognize that it has a public relations problem, but it is not doing anything to address core safety and environmental concerns with the pipeline and with tar sands oil expansion.”

Interestingly, instead of addressing any of these concerns, the GOP has spent this entire year breaking a record for having the worst environmental record of any congress.
“ThinkProgress”  reports that this year the “House GOP voted 191 times against the planet”.

27 votes to block action to address climate change, including votes to overturn EPA’s scientific findings that climate change endangers human health and welfare; to block EPA from regulating carbon pollution from power plants, oil refineries, and vehicles; to prevent the United States from participating in international climate negotiations; and even to cut funding for basic climate science..
77 votes to undermine Clean Air Act protections, including votes to repeal the health-based standards that are the heart of the Clean Air Act and to block EPA regulation of toxic mercury and other harmful emissions from power plants, incinerators, industrial boilers, cement plants, and mining operations.
28 votes to undermine Clean Water Act protections, including votes to strip EPA of authority to set water quality standards and enforce limits on industrial discharges; to repeal EPA’s authority to stop mountaintop removal mining disposal; and to block EPA from protecting headwaters and wetlands that flow into navigable waters.
47 votes to weaken protection of public lands and coastal waters, including votes to curtail environmental review of offshore drilling; to halt reviews of public lands for possible wilderness designations; and to remove protections for salmon, wolves, and other species.

And what will voting to repeal or weaken all these regulations, which have been set in place to protect life and safety, as well as the environment do? Why let the polluters run wild of course and make a lot of money at the expense of everyone else in this country.  And do they care in the slightest? Not on your life, …literally. On December 2, 2011 “Politico”   reported that Boehner told the GOP membership at a closed-door meeting it would couple with the expiring tax provisions an easing of environmental regulations on boilers, selling broadband spectrum and paving the way for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.”

“Speaker John Boehner referred to the package he’s putting forward as turning “chicken-shit into chicken salad,” according to people who attended the meeting in the Capitol basement.
Translation: He’s going to pass President Barack Obama’s preferred tax cut, but he wants some skin from Democrats for it.”

Chickens shit? He referrers to saving middle class families $1,000 to $1,500 a year chicken shit? Well it seems that Mr. Chicken shit doesn’t have the guts to confess to the real reason behind this insanity to pass this potentially deadly pipeline. The reason is the Koch brothers, and lots and lots of money. In May 2011 “Reps Henry Waxman and bobby Rush sent the following letter”:  

May 20, 2011
The Honorable Fred Upton

Chairman

Committee on Energy and Commerce
2125 Rayburn House Office Building 
-
The Honorable Ed Whitfield
Chairman
Subcommittee on Energy and Power
2125 Rayburn House Office Building

Dear Chairmen Upton and Whitfield:
            Next week, the Energy and Power Subcommittee holds a legislative hearing on draft legislation to expedite federal approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.  This pipeline will significantly expand markets for Canadian tar sands crude and will provide new sources of supply to U.S. refineries.  We are writing to request that in preparation for the hearing on and markup of this draft legislation, the Committee request documents from Koch Industries relating to the company’s interests in Canadian tar sands and the extent to which it will benefit if the Keystone XL pipeline is constructed.
            According to Reuters, Charles and David Koch, the owners of Koch Industries, are “positioned to be big winners if Keystone XL pipeline is approved” and would receive “great financial opportunity.”  Publicly available information indicates that the company is involved in several aspects of Canadian tar sands development.  Koch’s Pine Bend Refinery in Minnesota currently processes roughly 25% of the tar sands fuel imports to the United States. Koch owns Flint Hills Resources, LLP, in Calgary, Canada, which is “among Canada’s largest crude oil purchasers, shippers and exporters.” Flint Hills Resources also operates a crude oil terminal in Hardisty, Alberta, where the Keystone XL pipeline will begin. According to the Government of Alberta, Koch Industries has both proposed and producing tar sands projects in the province. The Oil Sands Developers Group also indicates that Koch is a tar sands project developer. Koch’s Corpus Christi refinery is positioned near the end of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline and would be a potential buyer for the tar sands crude shipped through the pipeline.
           In light of these reports, we asked our staff to contact Koch Industries to learn more about the company’s role in the Keystone XL pipeline and Canadian tar sands.  Yesterday, our staff spoke with representatives of the company.  In that conversation, the Koch representatives would not answer questions about Koch’s investments in Canadian tar sands.
           The Koch representatives said that the Keystone XL pipeline has “nothing to do with any of our businesses” and that Koch had “no financial interest” in the pipeline.  They also stated that the company neither supports nor opposes the legislation we will be considering next week. 
             However, Koch’s representatives refused to answer questions about Koch’s activities or interests in the Canadian tar sands.  They refused to confirm or deny reports that the company is developing tar sand projects.  They also refused to say whether Koch Industries owns – through a wholly owned subsidiary – a terminal involved in the tar sands business. 
            There appears to be a significant discrepancy between the published reports that Koch Industries would be “big winners” if the pipeline is approved and the statement of the Koch representatives that the pipeline has “nothing to do” with Koch’s businesses.  We do not presume that Koch’s representations are inaccurate.  But we were dismayed by the company’s lack of candor in responding to staff’s questions and believe additional inquiry is warranted.  For this reason, we respectfully request that the Committee request the following documents from the company:
(1)   documents sufficient to show whether Koch Industries or any of its subsidiaries is involved in exporting oil derived from Canadian tar sands to the United States or has plans to export such oil through the Keystone XL pipeline;
(2)   documents sufficient to show whether Koch Industries or any of its subsidiaries has investments in Canadian tar sands or has plans for such investments;
(3) documents sufficient to show whether Koch Industries or any of its subsidiaries is involved in producing oil from Canadian tar sands or has plans for such production; and
(4) documents sufficient to show whether Koch Industries or any of its subsidiaries refines oil derived from Canadian tar sands or has plans to refine such oil transported through the Keystone XL pipeline;

            Thank you for considering this request.

Sincerely,
Henry A. Waxman                                          Bobby L. Rush
Ranking Member                                           Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Energy and Power                                   Energy and Power           

 On October 18, 20011 Rep Waxman sent “a second letter to Fred Upton”: 

Dear Chairman Upton and Chairman Whitfield:
I am writing to renew my request that the Committee investigate the role of Koch Industries in the Keystone XL pipeline. When I first raised this issue in May, representatives from Koch denied any interest in the pipeline and Chairman Upton called the idea that there could be a link between Koch and the pipeline an "outrageous accusation" and a "blatant political sideshow." Recently, however, I have become aware of evidence that appears to contradict the assertions of the Koch representatives and Chairman Upton. I believe this evidence and the veracity of Koch's prior assertions should be reviewed by the Committee.
On May 20, 20II, Rep, Rush and I wrote you to request that the Committee investigate the link between Koch and the Keystone XL pipeline. In our letter, we cited a Reuters article that reported that Charles and David Koch, the owners of Koch Industries, are "positioned to be big winners if Keystone XL pipeline is approved" and would receive "great financial opportunity. We also cited reports that Koch's Pine Bend Refinery in Minnesota currently processes roughly 25% of the tar sands fuel imports to the United States; that Koch owns Flint Hills Resources, LLP, in Calgary, Canada, which is "among Canada's largest crude oil purchasers, shippers and exporters"; that Flint Hills Resources operates a crude oil terminal in Hardisty, Alberta, where the Keystone XL pipeline will begin ; that Koch Industries has both proposed and produced tar sands projects in the province and is a tar sands project developer; and that Koch's Corpus Christi refinery is positioned near the end of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline and would be a potential buyer for the tar sands crude shipped through the pipeline.
At the time, Koch representatives categorically denied any interest in the Keystone XL pipeline. As we described in our letter, our staff spoke with representatives of the company on May 19.20II. In that conversation, the Koch representatives said that the Keystone XL pipeline has "nothing to do with any of our businesses" and that Koch had "no financial interest" in the pipeline. Philip Ell ender, the President for Government and Public Affairs, at Koch Companies.
Public Sector, LLC, subsequently wrote: "We have stated publicly and repeatedly, including last week when questioned by the staff of Congressman Waxman, that we have no financial stake in the pipeline and we are not a party to its design or construction. We are not a proposed shipper or customer of oil delivered by this pipeline. 
The Koch denials were apparently persuasive to Chairman Upton. When the Committee held a hearing on May 23, 20II, on the Keystone XL pipeline, the Chairman dismissed the evidence of a link between Koch and the pipeline, asserting in his statement: "what we heard last week is the outrageous accusation from the minority that this pipeline deserves even greater scrutiny because one company might or might not benefit from its construction. This blatant political sideshow is simply a distraction that, in the end, underscores the desperation or those who want to stand in the way of this common-sense project." 
I have now learned that the statements Koch representatives made to my staff are directly contradicted in legal papers that a Koch Industries subsidiary filed with the Canadian government. In 2009, Canada's National Energy Board held hearings on TransCanada's application to construct and operate the Keystone XL pipeline Flint Hills Resources Canada, which is owned by Koch Industries, filed an application with the National Energy Board for intervenor status in the hearings. In its application for intervenor status, Flint Hills Resources stated:
Flint Hills Resources Canada LP ("Flint Hills") is among Canada's largest crude oil purchasers, shippers and exporters, coordinating supply for its refinery in Pine Bend, Minnesota. Consequently, Flint Hills has a direct and substantial interest in the application.
The National Energy Board granted Flint Hills intervenor status. Under the Board's regulations, a company must have "business interest'· in a project to be granted this status. 
There appears to be a direct contradiction between what Koch representatives told me and the assertion by a Koch subsidiary that it "has a direct and substantial interest" in the Keystone XL pipeline. I believe the Committee should examine this matter to determine the nature of Koch's interest in the pipeline. The Committee should also investigate whether Koch sought to conceal its interest in the pipeline from the Committee. 
These issues are significant and timely given the pending approvals required for the Keystone XL pipeline, which has been the subject of legislation by our Committee. Charles and David Koch and Koch Industries should not be exempt from responsible oversight and normal accountability. If members of the Committee were misled by Koch, that is a serious matter that deserves prompt and thorough investigation.
Thank you for considering this request.
Sincerely,
Henry A. Waxman
Ranking Member

Koch Industries is one of the 10 top polluters in this country and they have lined GOP pockets and coffers with millions of dollars, either directly or indirectly through front groups in an attempt to buy this country. If there ever was any doubt that about the fact that the GOP are nothing but bought and paid for prostitutes who will not only sell their votes to the highest bidders of big money and big corporations, but who will sell out every citizen in this country to make sure their sugar daddies get whatever they want at any and all costs, there certainly isn’t a shred of doubt now.