Koch, GOP fire back at Waxman over oil sands pipeline inquiry

Koch Industries and House Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans are criticizing Rep. Henry Waxman’s (D-Calif.) probe of whether Koch stands to gain from a proposed pipeline to import Canadian oil sands – a project that Republicans hope to expedite with legislation.

“Waxman's decision to question a single company rather than looking at the broader effects for the energy sector, U.S. workers, and families reveals his blatant disregard for the 7 in 10 Americans who are struggling to fill up at the pump,” a GOP committee aide said.

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Waxman, the energy panel’s top Democrat, on Friday urged committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) to press Koch – a refiner helmed by billionaire brothers active in conservative politics – about whether it’s invested in oil sands projects that would benefit from TransCanada Corp.'s proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

The GOP aide attacked Waxman’s Friday letter to Upton, calling it a “transparently political stunt that has absolutely nothing to do with the real issues at stake – lowering gas prices, jobs, and energy security.” 

(Waxman's letter can be found here, E2's Friday story about it is here.)

The skirmish comes ahead of a Monday committee hearing on a GOP bill that would force the Obama administration to make a decision by Nov. 1 about whether to permit the $13 billon Keystone XL project, which is a proposed 1,700 mile pipeline to transport oil sands through the U.S. to Gulf Coast refineries. Canada is already the top oil supplier to the U.S.

A Koch executive, in a statement Friday afternoon, reiterated that the company has “no financial interest” in the pipeline project, and neither supports nor opposes the pipeline, which would expand U.S. imports from Alberta’s massive oil sands projects.

“Given these facts, we are confused about why Koch is being singled out and inserted into these discussions,” said Philip Ellender, the company’s president for government and public affairs.

However, Friday’s letter from Waxman and Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), the ranking Democrat on the Energy and Power Subcommittee, casts a wider net.

They are seeking information about whether Koch or subsidiaries have investments that would benefit from the pipeline, even though they’re not involved in the Keystone project itself.

Specifically, Waxman's letter to Upton says the committee should seek documents about whether Koch has investments in oil sands or plans to invest, and whether they are involved in production from the oil sands.

Waxman also wants the committee to seek documents from Koch about whether it is involved in exporting oil from oil sands projects or plans to do so through the proposed Keystone pipeline; and whether Koch refines oil from the Canadian projects or plans to refine oil that would come through the pipeline.

Committee Republicans, for their part, are seeking to build a record in support of the Keystone project, which is under fire from environmentalists.

Upton sent letters Friday to major oil and refining industry trade groups asking for information about how the pipeline would affect reliance on oil from the Middle East and North Africa, oil price volatility, gas prices and other matters.

The letters say the information from industry will enable a more thorough assessment of the project, but also make clear that Upton and Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) are quite bullish on the project.

“We understand the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, if completed, would produce dramatic effects for the American economy, including significant job creation and increased energy production, which reduces market uncertainty and eases prices at the pump,” states the letter to the American Petroleum Institute and the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association.