Waxman’s Koch grilling over alleged Keystone XL involvement continues Friday

Josh Peterson Tech Editor
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On Friday California Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman will continue his pursuit of Charles Koch, the chairman and CEO of Koch Industries, as part of a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing meant to extend the already lengthy chronicle of the Keystone XL pipeline project.

No representative from Koch Industries or pipeline developer TransCanada will be in attendance for Waxman’s grilling.

Waxman, who plans to hold a press conference before the hearing, has alleged since May 2011 that Koch financial interests were at stake in the building of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Koch Industries, the American manufacturing conglomerate headed by billionaire brothers Charlie and David Koch, has denounced Waxman’s most recent statements as “politically motivated attacks,” part of an “orchestrated campaign to demonize an American company.”

Following a January 25 hearing about Keystone XL, Koch Companies Public Sector co-president Philip Ellender called Waxman’s statements “demonstrably false.”

“Contrary to Representative Waxman’s claim, we never said that we have a direct and substantial interest in the pipeline project,” Koch Industries general counsel Mark Holden said in a statement Thurday evening. Holden’s comments add to the long list of pronouncements in which the company has stated it has no stake in the project.

During a November 2011 earnings call, TransCanada CEO Russ Girling expressed his frustration with the Keystone proceedings.

“We could add numerous things to the list that we’re dealing with on a daily basis that are mainly targeted at discrediting the process itself, that are targeted at discrediting the regulators, discrediting our employees, discrediting the company,” Girling said.

“I can tell you that Koch isn’t a shipper and I’ve never met the Koch brothers before,” he added.

The absence of either company at the hearing will leave the second witness panel stacked with opponents of the deal. The first panel will consist of government officials.

“Expect Waxman and other committee Democrats to criticize Republicans for rebuffing their call to hear from a Koch witness,” reported The Hill.

In May 2011 Koch Industries corrected an erroneous report from the advocacy blog SolveClimate, which later changed its name to InsideClimate News. Much to the Kochs’ chagrin, the article was carried on the Reuters newswire and served as the supporting evidence on which Waxman launched his campaign.

Reuters, when confronted by Koch Industries about the claims in the advocacy article that ran as news, said, “We take feeds from several news organizations on the condition that they uphold Reuters standards. We’re satisfied that SolveClimate, which is a news organization, meets those.”

Michigan Republican Rep. Fred Upton, who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has denounced Waxman’s pursuit of the Kochs as a “political sideshow.”

To support his contention that Koch would benefit from the Keystone XL pipeline’s construction, Waxman has pointed to a Koch subsidiary called Flint Hills Resources Canada, which was granted “intervenor status” on the Keystone XL project in filings with Canada’s National Energy Board.

In its application, Flint Hills wrote that it has a “direct and substantial interest” in the project.

Holden said that phrase has been misinterpreted.

“What Flint Hills Resources Canada said was that it had an interest in the application that was pending before the National Energy Board,” he explained.

“An ‘intervenor’ status in the proceeding does not mean that the Koch subsidiary at issue has a financial or ownership interest in the project,” Ellender added.

Other intervenors include labor unions, government agencies and Sierra Club Canada.

The Obama Administration’s rejection of the Keystone XL Pipeline deal in January was widely reported as beneficial to the billionaire investor Warren Buffett, a supporter of President Obama. Buffett owns the transnational railroad company, Burlington Northern Sante Fe, the nation’s largest transporter of coal.

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