Monday, April 1, 2013

I Wrote to My Senator about His Vote for Keystone XL. Here is the Response I Got (Annotated)

Last week, Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) heard several times from an unhappy constituent (i.e. me) about his vote for the Keystone XL pipeline during the Senate's budget amendment vote-a-rama. I have included the email response that I got from Sen. Casey's office last Friday, which I've decided to annotate to highlight its factual inaccuracies and platitudes.  

Thank you for taking the time to contact me regarding the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. I appreciate hearing from you about this issue. The TransCanada Corporation, a Canadian company, has proposed a plan to build a 1,900-mile pipeline to carry crude oil extracted from tar sands in Alberta, Canada, to refineries in Texas. If approved, the Keystone XL pipeline would double the capacity of an existing pipeline and would transport more than 500,000 barrels per day of crude oil. On February 4, 2011, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper met with President Obama to discuss the proposal. Afterward, Prime Minister Harper urged U.S. officials to approve the pipeline, calling his country a secure, stable and friendly neighbor that poses no threat to Americans. The State Department has said seeking energy from stable trading partners is in our national interest. According to a report commissioned by the Obama Administration, the Keystone XL pipeline would cost $7 billion and could substantially reduce U.S. dependence on oil from the Middle East and other regions.

Sen. Casey has gotten his data from the TransCanada-commissioned Perryman Group study; however, the Cornell University Institute for Global Labor, which has provided one of the most prominent independent analyses of the pipeline, has argued that their numbers are exaggerated and misleading. The $7 billion claim is particularly egregious, and the Cornell study estimates that the total expenditure into the U.S. economy would be closer to $3 or $4 billion. First, the $7 billion refers to the whole pipeline, including the parts in Canada; the expenditure for the U.S. portion would only be $5.4 billion. Second, roughly $1.8 billion has already been spent on design, permitting, and material inputs--sunk costs. The Cornell study further estimated that up to $1.3 billion of that total may have already been committed; in other words, whether or not the pipeline is built, that money will be spent. TransCanada has also contracted with steel manufacturers both at home in Canada and abroad in India, meaning that the pipeline will not be a boon to domestic manufacturing. The claim to energy security has a similarly weak foundation. The Keystone XL pipeline will end in the Texas refineries in the Gulf Coast, ready for export. There is no reason to believe that the oil refined there will stay in the U.S. rather than being sold to the highest bidder in the global market. The only way that the U.S. could guarantee that the oil produced/extracted/refined domestically is sold and used domestically would be to nationalize the industry, and we all know how much the U.S. likes the nationalization of oil companies.

 The report also suggests that the pipeline could create as many as 20,000 high-paying jobs for American families and inject a possible $20 billion into the U.S. economy.

The Cornell study addresses these claims as well. The Perryman study does not actually include the full expenditure data provided by TransCanada, so its calculations about multipliers cannot be independently reviewed as thoroughly as necessary. However, if the $7 billion number does not hold, neither can any of the subsequent job predictions, which would have to be revised downwards. Many of the jobs created by Keystone would be temporary jobs, and after the pipeline is built in about two years, only about 50 permanent jobs would remain. The jobs predictions also do not take into account potential job-killers that could result from the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. In addition to the cost of potential oil spills, air pollution, and increased greenhouse gas emissions, the Keystone XL pipeline would actually increase fuel prices in the Midwest by diverting major volumes of tar sands oil now supplying Midwest refineries to the Gulf Coast and export markets. Consumers in the Midwest could end up paying 10 to 20 cents extra per gallon per gasoline.

The possible environmental impacts caused by the construction of the pipeline and the refinement of tar sands oil have caused some to oppose the approval of this plan. The international scientific community has concluded that human activities that add a large amount of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, to the atmosphere are a leading cause of global warming. I understand that some Pennsylvanians are concerned about how the proposed Keystone XL pipeline will contribute to global warming.

From this language, Sen. Casey himself does not seem concerned about the effects of global warming. His language about "some Pennsylvanians" reminds me of the language Candy Crowley used when she spoke about why she chose not to include a question about climate change during the second debate.

 On December 23, 2011, President Obama signed into law H.R. 3765, the Temporary Payroll Tax Cut Continuation Act of 2011. H.R. 3765 required President Obama, acting through the Secretary of State, to grant a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline project not later than 60 days after the enactment of this legislation, so long as it is not determined it would not serve the national interest. On January 18, 2012, Deputy Secretary of State William Burns formally announced the rejection of the permit, but also stated that TransCanada is allowed to work on an alternative route through Nebraska. The decision was predicated on the fact that the Department did not have sufficient time to obtain the information necessary to assess whether the project was in the national interest. Some Pennsylvanians strongly favor the construction of the proposed pipeline; other Pennsylvanians strongly oppose the proposed route.(emphasis added)

Well, duh...

 Last Congress, Senator Hoeven of North Dakota introduced an amendment to the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act to authorize TransCanada to build and operate the Keystone XL pipeline. I supported this amendment, which would have protected American jobs and manufacturing. However, the amendment failed to receive the votes necessary to pass. As the Senate discusses other legislative proposals relating to the Keystone XL pipeline, I will evaluate each of these proposals very seriously. As your U.S. Senator, I will continue to monitor this issue closely and will keep your thoughts in mind.

 Notice how he did not mention at all that he JUST VOTED FOR THE PIPELINE AGAIN LAST WEEK. I already knew that he voted for it last Congress, but I had a glimmer of hope when he didn't sign on to the Baucus-Hoeven letter to Obama earlier this year. So much for that...

  As always, I appreciate your views, thoughts and concerns as they assist me in understanding what is important to the people of Pennsylvania. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future about this or any other matter of importance to you. For more information on this or other issues, I encourage you to visit my website, I hope you will find this online office a comprehensive resource to stay up-to-date on my work in Washington, request assistance from my office or share with me your thoughts on the issues that matter most to you and to Pennsylvania. 

Bob Casey United States Senator

What particularly fascinates me in Sen. Casey's response is the fact that he never acknowledged how the Keystone XL pipeline would benefit the people of Pennsylvania, whom he is supposed to represent. He makes no argument of such a sort (except, loosely perhaps, in terms of the bipartisan chimera of energy independence), and the increased greenhouse gas emissions from the pipeline would certainly affect other states--and other countries--far outside of the region through which the pipeline would run.

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