Cantwell on Keystone XL: Protect public interests, not special interests

January 13, 2015


Video from Ranking Member Cantwell’s floor speech: TransCanada ‘circumventing the rules on the books’ 

Washington, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, urged her colleagues not to support a Keystone XL Pipeline bill that would allow the TransCanada Corporation to circumvent a federal review process that protects the environment and safety. She also raised concerns that passing the legislation would rubber-stamp an exemption for Keystone XL from a state pipeline review process created by lawmakers in Nebraska.

 “This has been a process by one company constantly circumventing the rules on the books and trying to get a special deal for approval,” Sen. Cantwell said. “One more action by this body is exactly what this special interest company is seeking.”

“I want to focus on a broader energy debate in Congress – rather than a very narrow, specific special interest measure for a pipeline that didn't go through the proper channels of a permitting process,” Sen. Cantwell added.

Sen. Cantwell pointed out that Nebraska state lawmakers created an exemption for the Keystone XL Pipeline from having to pass an approval process with the state’s public service commission. On Friday, four of seven justices on the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that the act was unconstitutional. Under Nebraska’s state constitution, it would require five justices to overturn the law.

Below are more excerpts from Cantwell’s speech:

•         “On three separate occasions, beginning in 2011, the Nebraska  legislature passed carve-outs to circumvent  the role of the Public Service Commission to approve the Keystone Pipeline. If this was such a great deal, why can’t it go through the normal process like in every other state, with a transportation and utilities commission on siting? Why do you have to take the public interest out of it?”

•         “Tucked away in that Nebraska legislation, was a special interest carve-out that exempted TransCanada from having to comply with the public service commission process. Specifically, the legislation stated it ‘shall not apply to any major oil pipeline that has submitted an application to the U.S. Department of State pursuant to the executive order 13337 prior to the effective date of this act’. There was only one company that qualified for this special interest exemption at the time of that legislation and that was TransCanada.”

•           “This bill is trying to take away the negotiating power of the State Department to make sure the environmental and safety issues are addressed here. I ask my colleagues not to urge forward a process that has been failed from the beginning – that did not allow the public interest to be afforded their rights. It is not our job to site pipelines when the local process has not played out. At least don’t stop the president from making sure these environmental issues are addressed.”

•      “I don’t think anybody in America thinks we’re going to hold onto a 19th century fossil fuel economy forever. The question is whether Congress is going to spend its time moving forward on a 21st century plan.”