New lobbying push for Keystone pipeline project

05/05/2014 11:45 AM

05/05/2014 11:45 AM

Television ads sponsored by the oil industry’s main trade association are being broadcast in five states to pressure Democrats to back the Keystone XL pipeline, part of a flurry of last-minute lobbying before a Senate vote as soon as this week.

The American Petroleum Institute, a Washington-based group that represents oil companies including Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp., said Monday that the ads will appear in Colorado, Delaware, Minnesota, New Mexico and South Dakota and run until Wednesday.

Environmental groups are mounting their own efforts, including organizing phone calls and writing letters to urge opposition to the pipeline that would connect Canada’s oil with U.S. refineries on the Gulf Coast.

The API-backed ads note former Presidents George W. Bush, a Republican, and Bill Clinton, a Democrat, as well as investor Warren Buffett, support Keystone.

“We’re looking at anyone who could be supportive,” Cindy Schild, downstream operations senior manager at API, said in an interview.

Keystone is “not only in the national interest, but it also serves their political interest” to approve the legislation, Schild said. The bill, pushed by Senators Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat, and John Hoeven, a North Dakota Republican, would bypass President Barack Obama and approve the project.

The Senate could vote this week on Keystone, either as an amendment to an energy efficiency bill or as separate legislation. Either way, supporters last week said they were short of the 60 votes necessary to clear a procedural hurdle and advance the bill.

Keystone, first proposed by Calgary-based TransCanada Corp. in September 2008, would connect Canadian heavy crude with refineries in Texas and Louisiana. The route would travel through Kansas.

The U.S. State Department last month delayed its review of the project until a legal challenge to the existing route in Nebraska is resolved. A decision isn’t likely before the November election.

Supporters of Keystone say the delay is less about the court case and more about letting Obama avoid deciding an issue that splits two Democratic constituencies – environmental groups and labor unions – before the congressional election.

Environmental groups including the Sierra Club in San Francisco and the Natural Resources Defense Council in New York said they were organizing phone calls, letter-writing campaigns and protests to encourage senators to block the legislation.

They view Keystone as a threat to the climate because it would encourage development of Alberta’s oil sands, which releases more greenhouse gases than other forms of oil.

The North America’s Building Trades Unions, which represents some construction workers who would build Keystone, wrote to Senate Democrats Monday saying the latest delay is a “cold hard slap to the face of hard working Americans.”

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