House Democrats spell Keystone 'K-O-C-H'

Waxman, the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, called Wednesday for a minority hearing on Keystone, with testimony from Koch Industry officials.

In a letter requesting the hearing sent Wednesday to committee Republicans, Waxman pointed to documents filed with the Canadian government by Flint Hills Resources Canada, a Koch subsidiary, that say the company has a “direct and substantial interest” in developer TransCanda Corp.’s pipeline application.

“We are seeking testimony from Koch to clarify its interests in the pipeline,” Waxman, who first raised questions about a possible Keystone-Koch connection last year, said in the letter.

Philip Ellender, president of government and public affairs at Koch Companies Public Sector, strongly denied that the company stands to benefit from approval of the pipeline.

“As we have previously stated, Koch Industries has no financial stake in the Keystone pipeline and we are not party to its design or construction,” Ellender said in a statement.

“We are not a proposed shipper or customer of oil delivered by this pipeline. We have taken no position on the legislative proposal at issue before Congress and we are not cited in any way in that legislation.”

Republicans blasted Waxman Wednesday for linking Keystone to the Koch brothers.

“This makes no sense to me,” said Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), who hails from the district where Koch Industries is based. “We’re supposed to do good policy, we’re not supposed to be deciding whether a particular company benefits or not.”

Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) became visibly upset when Waxman began discussing the Koch brothers.

Though he said Democrats have a right to a minority hearing under House rules, he said the committee would not support subpoenaing representatives from Koch Industries if they decide not to participate in the hearing.

“We’re not going to be subpoenaing the Koch brothers … because the Koch brothers have nothing to do with this project,” he said.

Whitfield then brought up the Obama administration’s $535 million loan guarantee to the failed solar company Solyndra, which Republicans have alleged was politically motivated. The White House strongly denies those allegations.

“If you want to talk about that, let’s talk about the millions of dollars the Obama administration gave to Solyndra and people like George Kaiser and other campaign bundlers,” Whitfield said.

The tussle over the Koch brothers came a week after President Obama rejected the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry oil sands crude from Alberta, Canada, to refineries along the Gulf Coast. Obama said his administration had no choice but to deny the Keystone permit under a GOP-backed 60-day timeline included in the two-month extension of the payroll tax cut deal.

But Republicans nonetheless have pounced on the Keystone rejection, arguing that Obama passed up on the chance to create thousands of new jobs and boost the ailing economy.

Wednesday's hearing focused on a bill authored by Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) aimed at overturning Obama's decision.