Will the Kochtopus Make a Killing on the Keystone XL Pipeline?
If the massive Keystone XL pipeline project gets fast-tracked, as some members of congress want, the far-right billionaires David and Charles Koch will be “the big winners,” according to an article by Reuters news service.
According to a letter released today by Democratic Representatives Henry Waxman and Bobby Rush, however, a spokesman for Koch Industries has told congressional investigators that the controversial $7 billion, 2,000-mile pipeline from Canada to south Texas has “nothing to do with any of our businesses.”
So, which version is right?
That’s what Waxman and Rush want to know. In their letter to the Republican chairs of the Committee on Energy and Commerce (Fred Upton) and the Subcommittee on Energy and Power (Ed Whitfield), the two Dems want the committees to request documents from Koch Industries that would answer this question.
Apparently, David and Charles Koch refused a request from Waxman and Rush to supply these documents. A summons from the committee chairs would be a lot harder to refuse.
The Koch’s have used their fortunes behind the scenes to bankroll a slew of far-right causes — which earned their network the epithet, “Kochtopus.”
They’ve funded the Tea Party, helped Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker end collective bargaining (as I described here), poured millions into the battle to create doubt about the science behind climate change, and the fight against the man they see as Public Enemy #1: Barack Obama. If Waxman and Rush sound a bit overly concerned (see “a vast right-wing conspiracy”), it’s worth considering the quote from a Republican lobbyist that appears in a recent New Yorker profile of the Kochs.
To call them under the radar is an understatement. They are underground!
The concerns over the Koch’s involvement with the Keystone XL pipeline is based on Koch Industry’s record with pipelines and oil-spills. In 2000, the company was hit with what was then the largest civil fine ever levied by the federal government against a corporation for environmental damages. Koch Industries was forced to pay $35 million for more than 300 oil spills (mostly from pipelines) in six states over a seven-year period.
If the Keystone XL is built (it still needs the Obama administration’s approval) it would carry a million barrels of heavy oil a day from Alberta, Canada, across the Midwest and down to oil refineries in south Texas. A spill from this massive pipeline could be devastating — particularly if it happens crossing Nebraska. That’s because the proposed pipeline would completely traverse the state from north to south, on land that sits above the massive, and vitally important, Ogallala Aquifer.
Here’s what Susan Seacrest, president emeritus of The Groundwater Foundation, wrote in 2010 about the danger of mixing a major oil pipeline and the Ogallala Aquifer.
The Ogallala Aquifer contains approximately 2/3 of the volume of the High Plains system and is considered one of the great fresh water resources of the world. The aquifer provides the ecological underpinning of the largest sand dune area in North America, the Nebraska Sand Hills, and the entire system recharges lakes, streams and wet meadows throughout the region.
The porosity and transmissivity of this system is very high and a leaking pipe–especially a buried one would cause instant and widespread damage to the quality of the groundwater. The pollution plume would spread indefinitely and the threat would grow as the plume traveled.
In addition, TransCanada has decided to use thinner than usual pipe and pump slurry at higher than normal pressures. These conditions increase the risk of a leak. Engineered projects have inherent challenges and pipes are notorious for structural weaknesses–note leaks in the Alaska oil pipeline and the current tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico. If asked six months ago, I am certain BP would have issued reassuring statements about the safety of off-shore drilling.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers pollution prevention the only viable management strategy for groundwater and this buried pipeline represents a direct assault on this principle. The health risks to the population that rely on the aquifer for drinking are unacceptably high and public benefit is at peril should the project go forward as planned.
….The route could be modified so the pipeline does not go though one of our country’s greatest natural treasures. To stand by and let this project go forward ignores these risks and promotes a future environmental tragedy.
Especially, I’d add, if the Kochtopus has its tentacles on the project.