Lobbying Of Keystone XL Backers Dwarfed Opponents During Debate At End Of 2011

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"Lobbying Of Keystone XL Backers Dwarfed Opponents During Debate At End Of 2011"

Keystone XL protest in front of the White House

Keystone XL protesters (credit: Josh Lopez)

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, ExxonMobil, Gov. Mitch Daniels (R-IN), and other insiders made a furious lobbying push in the fourth quarter of 2011 for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, as Congress and the White House debated the dangerous project’s future. Forty-five companies and organizations reported significant lobbying between October 1 and December 31 on the Keystone XL Pipeline in general or on legislation aiming to speed up the Obama administration’s consideration of the application — with the lion’s share coming from proponents of the foreign crude project.

Last week, ThinkProgress reported that, through the third quarter of 2011, at least 31 companies or organizations reported lobbying in favor for federal approval of the application by the TransCanada Corporation to build a tar sands pipeline between Alberta, Canada, and Nederland, Texas — while seven lobbied against it. That group included a wide array of energy and construction companies, trade associations, and labor unions lobbying for and a handful of environmental groups lobbying against.

During the fourth quarter of 2011, oil money poured into Washington to push for the tar sands pipeline:

Backers include some of the most influential players in Washington. At least 31 pipeline supporters spent over $36.7 million lobbying on this and other issues in the fourth quarter of 2011. These included huge players including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the American Petroleum Institute, ExxonMobil, and ConocoPhillips — each of whom spend $1 million on lobbying each quarter. New supporters included the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers ($251,383) and the office of Gov. Mitch Daniels ((R-IN) ($66,000).

The few organizations lobbying against the pipeline were much smaller players. Seven organizations publicly opposed to the pipeline reported only about $1.1 million on all lobbying for that time. These included newcomers Environment America Inc., the National Farmers Union, and the Friends Committee on National Legislation. The Friends Committee is the advocacy arm of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) and its $427,181 lobbying total made it the largest spender on the no side, for the quarter.

Most of the lobbying groups who lobbied for the issue in previous quarters continued to do so in this period. Just a few proponents, such as the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the National Taxpayers Union lobbied in previous quarters on the issue, but did not appear to in the fourth quarter. Only the Defenders of Wildlife lobbied in opposition to the bill in earlier quarters, but did not report lobbying on Keystone XL in this period.

Self-interest continued to be a big factor. TransCanada Pipelines Inc. spent $410,000 on lobbying in quarter four of 2011.

As these groups were lobbying, the fourth quarter of 2011 saw public hearings on the bill, mass protests, industry-backed TV spots, and legislation pushed by Congressional Republicans to force an expedited permit application response by the administration.

TransCanada has vowed to reapply with a modified proposal and Republicans are threatening to hold up tax relief for working families to force federal approval. Expect 2012 to be more of the same: Washington lobbyists are gunning for Keystone XL, while the opposition is mostly grassroots and a few environmentalist organizations, largely outside of the Washington money game.

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