Trench warfare rages over Keystone pipeline

The GOP tries every which way to undo the Greens' modest victory

Topics: Keystone XL pipeline, Editor's Picks, Environment, U.S. Congress, ,

Trench warfare rages over Keystone pipelineProtestors outside the White House demand a stop to the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline. (Credit: AP/Evan Vucci)

When the Obama administration announced last month that the Keystone pipeline project would be delayed pending a more thorough environmental review of its impacts, Keystone’s opponents celebrated, but warned that the fight was far from over. Sure enough, pipeline politics remain front-and-center as those in favor of the pipeline seek to circumvent the longer review process while its opponents struggle to fend off attacks on their tenuous victory. The past few weeks have seen a burst of legislative maneuvering as Republicans seek a way to rubber-stamp the pipeline without the president’s approval.

The maneuvering is intense because the struggle over the 1,600-mile proposed pipeline has become a proxy battle in a larger war over climate change, corporate influence and the legacy of the Obama administration. Both sides agree that the fate of Keystone XL will influence more than just whether oil is transported from the tar sands of central Canada to the United States. It will signal whether the U.S. is moving away from the carbon-fueled economy or embracing it anew.

The Republicans are attacking from several directions. A House bill introduced by Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., in December would require the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to issue a permit within 30 days of receiving an application, essentially removing the Interior Department and Army Corps of Engineers from the oversight process, exempting the pipeline from several state and federal environmental regulations, and eliminating any discretionary review process.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee approved the bill on Feb. 7, while killing Democratic amendments to prevent Keystone oil from being exported after processing, to block TransCanada from using eminent domain to seize private land, and to certify TransCanada’s claims that most of the steel used in building the pipeline would be manufactured in the United States. Republican leaders have also indicated that they’re considering inserting the bill’s language into other legislation in a replay of December’s payroll-tax-bill shenanigans.



Another bill, sponsored by Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fla., would allow Congress to approve the pipeline without presidential review by invoking Congress’s constitutional authority to regulate international commerce; Sens. David Vitter, R-La., Dick Lugar, R-Ind., and John Hoeven, R-N.D., co-sponsored a companion bill in the Senate. And today, Republican leaders added a provision to the same effect to a transportation funding bill that may go up for a vote as soon as Tuesday. In response, anti-Keystone activists are seeking to imitate the success of last month’s anti-SOPA online activism, aiming to inundate senators with a stated goal of half a million emails within 24 hours to demonstrate that opposition to the pipeline remains strong.

The Keystone provision is unlikely to pass the Senate, let alone get a signature from President Obama. But if the past few weeks are any indication, we haven’t seen the last of the pro-pipeline legislation by a long shot. Mitch McConnell gave the game away in a statement to the conservative publication Human Events, saying, “The only way we’re going to get the Keystone pipeline started is to defeat Barack Obama.”

The party’s aim is to make the pipeline’s rejection a symbol of Obama’s alleged failure to stimulate the economy, and more generally, to paint a portrait of the president as a weak leader more concerned with appeasing “special interest groups” than with taking decisive action. Said Mack at a recent press conference, “The president has decided he’s not going to lead on this issue … so we need to get him out of the way,” while Lugar declared, “The president has failed to lead.”

But pipeline protesters counter that Obama’s decision on Keystone represented a courageous refusal to give in to pressure from fossil fuel lobbyists: MoveOn.org called it a “bold stand against the power of the oil industry,” while Bill McKibben said he “did the brave thing” in standing up to the American Petroleum Institute. While the issue is frequently portrayed as one that could divide key factions of Obama’s base, with labor unions in favor of the pipeline and environmentalists against, several major unions have come out in support of the administration’s decision to delay the pipeline, calling efforts to speed up the review the “cynical move” of a “do-nothing Republican Congress” and stating, “President Obama has acted wisely.”

A report released by the State Department investigator general last week also raised concerns about several aspects of the original environmental review. The report found that the original review failed to consider conflicts of interest: One of TransCanada’s lobbyists, Paul Elliott, is a former aide to Secretary of State Clinton, and the third-party contractor selected to conduct the review had prior financial relationships with TransCanada.

Moreover, the State Department neglected to address several regulations and had insufficient expertise to adequately consider issues like the pipeline’s potential impact on endangered species. The findings bolster environmental groups’ claims that the pipeline serves the interests of the oil industry, which is among the Republican Party’s top donors, and TransCanada, whose spending on lobbying has tripled in the past year to $1.73 million, $1.33 million of which went to Elliott for pipeline-related expenditures.

And it’s not just American politics that have been shaken up by the controversy over Keystone. After the delay was announced, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he would begin looking into alternative markets for the country’s natural resources, and during a recent visit to Beijing, “pledged closer trade ties with China.” That, in turn, has sparked a wave of concern about the specter of “foreign oil” back in the U.S., although most of the oil transported by the pipeline would ultimately be exported rather than used to supply the country’s energy needs. Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., argues that Keystone would make the U.S. into “a middleman between Alberta and Asia” while doing nothing to reduce the country’s reliance on foreign oil.

Going forward, the coalition of activists opposed to the pipeline plans to deliver the signatures they’ve gathered over the past 24 hours to senators today, as Congress starts to consider the transportation bill. Majority Leader Harry Reid has indicated that a Keystone rider will kill that bill—and in any case, few Democrats support the House version, which Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said ”takes us back to the dark ages.” Even if this attempt to fast-track the pipeline fails, though, there are plenty of other pro-Keystone bills in the works, and the GOP may try to insert a similar provision into the next payroll tax cut extension.

Either way, expect to hear more about Keystone over the next few months, as it’s clear that both sides want to keep the issue in the news.  The ultimate outcome will likely depend on whether the public sees Keystone as a jobs issue or an environmental one, and indeed, some polls suggest that Americans are more receptive to environmental arguments than Republicans seem to think. In fact, Democratic leaders—some of whom support Keystone, and most of whom have tried to hedge their bets—may be a tougher sell.

Alyssa Battistoni writes about the environment and politics from Seattle.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 14
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Pilot"

    One of our first exposures to uncomfortable “Girls” sex comes early, in the pilot episode, when Hannah and Adam “get feisty” (a phrase Hannah hates) on the couch. The pair is about to go at it doggy-style when Adam nearly inserts his penis in “the wrong hole,” and after Hannah corrects him, she awkwardly explains her lack of desire to have anal sex in too many words. “Hey, let’s play the quiet game,” Adam says, thrusting. And so the romance begins.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Elijah, "It's About Time"

    In an act of “betrayal” that messes up each of their relationships with Hannah, Marnie and Elijah open Season 2 with some more couch sex, which is almost unbearable to watch. Elijah, who is trying to explore the “hetero side” of his bisexuality, can’t maintain his erection, and the entire affair ends in very uncomfortable silence.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Charlie, "Vagina Panic"

    Poor Charlie. While he and Marnie have their fair share of uncomfortable sex over the course of their relationship, one of the saddest moments (aside from Marnie breaking up with him during intercourse) is when Marnie encourages him to penetrate her from behind so she doesn’t have to look at him. “This feels so good,” Charlie says. “We have to go slow.” Poor sucker.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and camp friend Matt, "Hannah's Diary"

    We’d be remiss not to mention Shoshanna’s effort to lose her virginity to an old camp friend, who tells her how “weird” it is that he “loves to eat pussy” moments before she admits she’s never “done it” before. At least it paves the way for the uncomfortable sex we later get to watch her have with Ray?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Hard Being Easy"

    On the heels of trying (unsuccessfully) to determine the status of her early relationship with Adam, Hannah walks by her future boyfriend’s bedroom to find him masturbating alone, in one of the strangest scenes of the first season. As Adam jerks off and refuses to let Hannah participate beyond telling him how much she likes watching, we see some serious (and odd) character development ... which ends with Hannah taking a hundred-dollar bill from Adam’s wallet, for cab fare and pizza (as well as her services).

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Booth Jonathan, "Bad Friend"

    Oh, Booth Jonathan -- the little man who “knows how to do things.” After he turns Marnie on enough to make her masturbate in the bathroom at the gallery where she works, Booth finally seals the deal in a mortifying and nearly painful to watch sex scene that tells us pretty much everything we need to know about how much Marnie is willing to fake it.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Tad and Loreen, "The Return"

    The only sex scene in the series not to feature one of the main characters, Hannah’s parents’ showertime anniversary celebration is easily one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the show’s first season. Even Hannah’s mother, Loreen, observes how embarrassing the situation is, which ends with her husband, Tad, slipping out of the shower and falling naked and unconscious on the bathroom floor.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and the pharmacist, "The Return"

    Tad and Loreen aren’t the only ones to get some during Hannah’s first season trip home to Michigan. The show’s protagonist finds herself in bed with a former high school classmate, who doesn’t exactly enjoy it when Hannah puts one of her fingers near his anus. “I’m tight like a baby, right?” Hannah asks at one point. Time to press pause.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Role-Play"

    While it’s not quite a full-on, all-out sex scene, Hannah and Adam’s attempt at role play in Season 3 is certainly an intimate encounter to behold (or not). Hannah dons a blond wig and gets a little too into her role, giving a melodramatic performance that ends with a passerby punching Adam in the face. So there’s that.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and Ray, "Together"

    As Shoshanna and Ray near the end of their relationship, we can see their sexual chemistry getting worse and worse. It’s no more evident than when Ray is penetrating a clothed and visibly horrified Shoshanna from behind, who ends the encounter by asking if her partner will just “get out of me.”

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Frank, "Video Games"

    Hannah, Jessa’s 19-year-old stepbrother, a graveyard and too much chatting. Need we say more about how uncomfortable this sex is to watch?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Desi, "Iowa"

    Who gets her butt motorboated? Is this a real thing? Aside from the questionable logistics and reality of Marnie and Desi’s analingus scene, there’s also the awkward moment when Marnie confuses her partner’s declaration of love for licking her butthole with love for her. Oh, Marnie.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Vagina Panic"

    There is too much in this scene to dissect: fantasies of an 11-year-old girl with a Cabbage Patch lunchbox, excessive references to that little girl as a “slut” and Adam ripping off a condom to ejaculate on Hannah’s chest. No wonder it ends with Hannah saying she almost came.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>