Building Keystone Pipeline: Relationships First

Photograph by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Three sections of pipe sit on the ground during construction of the Gulf Coast Project pipeline in Atoka, Oklahoma, U.S., on Monday, March 11, 2013. The Gulf Coast Project, a 485-mile crude oil pipeline being constructed by TransCanada Corp., is part of the Keystone XL Pipeline Project and will run from Cushing, Oklahoma to Nederland, Texas.

A lobbyist working to promote the Keystone XL pipeline on behalf of the province of Alberta had 20 meetings with senators and their staff from March through May.

The province, a big backer of the $5.3 billion link between its oil sands and U.S. refineries, hired the Washington-based firm Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti, Inc. in March to a three-month contract that ended in June.

Kelly Rucker Bingel, a former Democratic congressional aide, met with Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, independent Sen. Angus King of Maine and Republican Lisa Murkowski of Alaska during that time

Firms are required to report their activities on behalf of foreign countries and provinces like Alberta.

Bingel also met with the staff of other Democratic senators, including aides to Ron Wyden of Oregon, the chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Bingel noted Alberta’s carbon reduction efforts, the foreign policy implications of the pipeline, and, in the meeting with Sen. Brian Schatz’s legislative director, how Keystone will lower energy costs for Hawaii, according to the filing with the Justice Department.

The purpose of several meetings is described as “relationship building” in the filing.

Keystone has galzanized environmental groups that argue it will worsen global warming risks by promoting development of Alberta’s oil sands. Supporters say it will boost U.S. energy security and create thousands of jobs.

Each side has hired former aides to Secretary of State John Kerry and President Barack Obama, as the State Department considers Keystone’s environmental impact.

Bingel’s colleague at the firm, David Castagnetti, was Kerry’s liaison to Congress during his 2004 presidential campaign. As secretary of state, Kerry is overseeing a review to determine if Keystone is in the national interest.

Alberta also hired Rasky Baerlein Strategic Communications Inc., whose chairman, Larry Rasky, worked on Kerry’s first campaign for Senate in 1984.

Former White House spokesman Bill Burton is lobbying for the other side, as part of the “All Risk, No Reward” coalition of environmental groups opposing Keystone.

TransCanada Corp., the Calgary-based pipeline company that would build Keystone, hired Paul Elliott, an ex-campaign aide to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as its Washington lobbyist.

And Alberta officials are also making the case themselves: Premier Alison Redford is scheduled to meet with U.S. lawmakers on Nov. 11-13.

“We need to ensure American decision-makers have a clear understanding of the responsible energy development and the strong environmental policies we have in Alberta,” Redford said in a news release this week.

Calls to the province and Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti weren’t immediately returned.


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