Federal Report: Keystone XL Pipeline Moves Forward and Other Notes from D.C.

Finally! The long-sought approval for the Keystone XL oil pipeline is in sight. For years, the Indiana Chamber has advocated for the pipeline, which would ship crude from Canada’s western oil sands region to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

This action by the Trump administration reverses one of former President Obama’s most politically charged environmental decisions that came more than a year ago, when construction of the 1,200-mile pipeline was blocked.

In other news:

  • Congresswoman Jackie Walorski (IN-02) helped kick off a small business workshop in South Bend. More than 275 local small business owners attended the Boost Your Business event hosted by Facebook, the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) and the South Bend Regional Chamber of Commerce. She also participated in a Facebook Live discussion about women in small business with Tanya Allen of NAWBO. Check out the video!
  • The U.S. Chamber of Commerce honored 266 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and 55 members of the U.S. Senate with its annual Spirit of Enterprise Award, given in recognition of their support for pro-growth policies in the second session of the 114th Congress. All Republican members of the Indiana delegation and U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly were given this prestigious honor. The award is based on votes given on critical business legislation as outlined in the U.S. Chamber’s scorecard, How They Voted. Congressional members who supported the organization’s position on at least 70% of those votes qualify. This go-round, the U.S. Chamber scored members on eight Senate votes and 14 House votes related to access to capital for small businesses, ensuring our workforce has the skills necessary for the jobs of tomorrow and helping American manufacturers compete in a global economy. In addition, votes in support of building the U.S. water infrastructure system, protecting intellectual property and updating energy policy also factored into scoring.
  • Last week, Congresswoman Susan Brooks (IN-05) voiced concern about a rising drug issue before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee. The focus was on combatting the next wave of the opioid crisis: fentanyl. That drug is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine, and has contributed to more than 5,000 overdose deaths in the U.S. since 2013. This hearing builds on the work from last Congress to combat this crisis. Watch Rep. Brooks’ remarks delivered during the hearing.
  • The Republican-led U.S. Senate voted last Wednesday to block an Obama-era rule that critics said would have led to more citations for workplace safety record-keeping violations. Senators voted 50-48 to block the Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule. The House had voted to do so previously. Employers are required to maintain a log of workplace injuries and illnesses that occur during a five-year span, but an employer may only be cited for failing to keep proper health and safety records within a six-month window. Critics said the Obama administration was trying to extend the penalty window to five years, describing the rule as “an unlawful power grab.” But labor groups, including the AFL-CIO, said the six-month restriction makes it impossible to enforce the record-keeping requirements since the federal government doesn’t conduct regulator inspections of even the most hazardous workplaces and won’t likely find a violation before the window has expired. The labor union said the Obama administration’s rule created no new obligations, but simply made clear that employers have a responsibility to maintain accurate injury and illness records for five years and during this time can be held accountable for violations if the records are inaccurate. The sponsor of the legislation, Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Alabama, applauded the Senate vote, saying “we should be focused on proactive policies that help improve workplace safety instead of punitive rules that do nothing to make American workers safer.” The legislation goes to President Donald Trump for his signature.
  • Representative Trey Hollingsworth (IN-09), along with Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-09), introduced the Fostering Innovation Act last week. This bipartisan legislation slashes burdensome regulations that hinder companies that operate on the very edge of scientific and medical breakthroughs. “Indiana is leading the way in medical device and biotech innovation,” said Rep. Hollingsworth. “This bipartisan, commonsense reduction of burdensome regulations will empower many industries throughout the Hoosier state to devote more resources to product innovation, research and development.” At this time, emerging growth companies (ECGs) are exempt from certain regulatory requirements for five years after their initial public offering. One of the requirements EGCs are exempt from is Sarbanes-Oxley Section 404(b) which requires public companies to obtain an external audit on the effectiveness of their internal controls for financial reporting.

Around the Horn With What Happened in D.C. Last Week

As expected, President Trump signed many executive orders this past week aligning with campaign promises for sweeping change. Some of these include:

  • Encouraging federal agencies to dismantle large parts of the Affordable Care Act, including the very controversial individual mandate requiring people to purchase insurance
  • The official withdrawal of the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership – a move the Indiana Chamber opposes
  • Freezing federal hiring
  • Advancement of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines
  • Illegal immigration activities – directing dollars to begin construction of a wall on the southern border and the boosting of federal agency efforts to stop illegal immigration
    On a related note, the President’s chief of staff, Reince Priebus, issued a memo telling federal agencies to put a freeze on any new regulations and a 60-day hold on regulations that have not yet taken effect.

The members of the President’s cabinet that have been sworn in to date by Vice President Mike Pence: retired Marine General James Mattis as Defense Secretary, retired Marine General John Kelly as Secretary of Homeland Security, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas) as Director of the CIA and Governor Nikki Haley (R-SC) as UN Ambassador.

Rex Tillerson’s nomination for Secretary of State made it out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and is awaiting consideration by the full Senate. Meanwhile, Betsy DeVos, nominee for Education Secretary, had her committee vote postponed until January 31. Indiana’s senior senator, Joe Donnelly, has announced that he will not support her nomination; watch his announcement of that decision.

Keystone XL Pipeline Defeat Will Likely Be Short-Lived

119744231The Keystone XL Pipeline bill was narrowly defeated Tuesday in the U.S. Senate. Indiana Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kevin Brinegar offers his thoughts on the policy and the latest activity in Washington:

“Canada is going to continue to develop the oil sands and sell to other nations whether the U.S. allows the Keystone XL Pipeline or not. Whatever the impact that activity has on the environment, the activity is still going to happen. That’s the reality. Continued posturing by the Obama Administration and others amid calls from environmental groups isn’t going to change that.

Other countries are looking out for their energy futures. The U.S. needs to as well. Going forward with the Keystone XL Pipeline is an important part of the mix. It would strengthen and expand our already vital energy relationship with Canada. And sourcing more of our energy from a friendly, North American neighbor will help reduce our reliance on energy resources from less stable areas of the world.

Indiana is fortunate to have two senators – Dan Coats and Joe Donnelly – who understand the pipeline’s importance and have been staunch supporters of the project. It’s too bad the Senate, on the whole, couldn’t get past politics and do the right thing for our nation’s energy security. However, we look forward to early 2015 when this measure seems destined to finally pass the Senate and make its way to the President’s desk.

Background: The proposed Keystone XL project would construct a 1,700 mile pipeline to transport about 800,000 barrels a day of heavy crude oil from tar sand fields in Canada across the central U.S. to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

Time is Now for Pres. Obama’s Overdue Support for Keystone XL Pipeline

The Indiana Chamber supports the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline as a means to reduce our national dependence on unstable governments, improve our national security, strengthen ties with an important ally and promote the production of Canadian oil. Based on a recent ABC News/Washington Post Poll, most of the country agrees.

Here’s a recent summary of the Chamber’s position:

Indiana and our country are deeply dependent on foreign oil sources from countries that are typically not our friends. Canada has vast oil reserves and is presently our number one supplier of oil. It is critical that we continue to have a positive relationship with Canada by supporting their oil production and the pipeline that will carry this crude. Many Indiana companies supply various products and materials that will be used to refine this oil and move it through the pipeline.

Additionally, the Chamber agrees with Deroy Murdock’s recent column for National Review Online that President Obama needs to stop wavering and approve this project. Read the full article, but here’s an excerpt:

Five years and five months have passed since TransCanada first asked the State Department to bless KXL. Since the pipeline would cross America’s international border with Canada, it requires presidential approval, typically influenced by the State Department’s guidance. Since TransCanada filed its application on September 19, 2008, State has been very generous with its advice, offering at least five different assessments on KXL:

• On April 16, 2010, State found that KXL would have “limited adverse environmental impacts.”

• On August 26, 2011, State stated that “There would be no significant impacts to most resources along the proposed pipeline corridor.”

• On March 1, 2013, State virtually echoed its previous report when it ruled that “there would be no significant impacts to resources along the proposed Project route.”

• This past January 31, State concluded that “approval or denial of any one crude oil transport project, including the proposed project, remains unlikely to significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands, or the continued demand for heavy crude oil at refineries in the U.S.”

• On February 26, State’s Office of Inspector General rejected charges that the department’s KXL review suffered ethical lapses: “OIG found that the department’s conflict of interest review was effective and that the review’s conclusions were reasonable.”

Obama’s 61-month-long navel-gaze on KXL (atop the four months that State pondered the pipeline late in G.W. Bush’s presidency) is pathetic when compared with American milestones that were achieved in less time:

• NASA needed four years, from 1979 to 1983, to build the Space Shuttle Discovery.

• As OilSandsFactCheck.org outlines in an excellent infographic, it took just two years (1941 to 1943) to build the Pentagon — the world’s largest office building, and home to 30,000 military and civilian employees.

• The Golden Gate Bridge linked San Francisco and Marin County, Calif., after just four years and four months of work over one of America’s most unforgiving waterways. Construction began on January 5, 1933. Pedestrians first crossed the bridge on May 27, 1937; cars followed the next day.

• Hoover Dam required five years of construction (1931 to 1936). It was finished two years ahead of schedule.

• It took one year, three months, and nine days to erect the Empire State Building. Between January 22, 1930, and May 1, 1931, a force of 3,439 men built what became — at 1,454 feet — Earth’s tallest skyscraper.

Obama’s endless “study” of Keystone is disgraceful. If he believes it should be built, he should approve it. TransCanada will invest $5.3 billion to build the pipeline. Taxpayer cost: $0.00. While some 10.2 million Americans officially are out of work, KXL will offer direct or indirect employment to an estimated 42,100 people.

“These jobs are really good-paying jobs,” says Union Business Manager magazine. “They provide not only a good living wage, they provide health care, and they also provide pensions.” Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky calls KXL “the single largest shovel-ready project in America.”

Beyond the unemployed, all 315 million Americans would enjoy the steady flow of friendly oil from a NATO military ally. Every petrodollar exported to Canada is one less dollar shipped to overseas oil producers — such as terrorist-funding Saudi Arabia, gay-jailing Nigeria, and the Crimea-invading Russian Federation.

Americans Say ‘Yes’ to Keystone XL

If public sentiment is a factor in the Obama admistration's final decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, it's time to let the oil flow. The latest survey results are consistent with previous polls, except that the numbers in support continue to grow to even higher levels.

The United Technologies/National Journal survey says:

While the Obama administration mulls whether to approve the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, Americans are already decided. They support the project by a wide margin, prioritizing potential economic benefits over possible environmental consequences.

The poll finds that more than two-thirds of respondents, 67 percent, support building the pipeline to carry Canadian oil to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast; that includes 56 percent of Democrats. Less than a quarter of Americans, 24 percent, oppose the project, the poll shows.

The State Department is evaluating the proposal, and President Obama said last month that the pipeline should not be permitted if it leads to a significant increase in greenhouse-gas emissions. There is no timeline for a decision, but the State Department says it is evaluating the project in "a rigorous, transparent, and efficient manner."

In the question posed by interviewers, poll respondents were told that Keystone supporters "say it will ease America's dependence on Mideast oil and create jobs," while opponents "fear the environmental impact" of building the pipeline.

Congressional Republicans have been prodding the administration to approve Keystone, with the GOP House holding a symbolic vote in support of the pipeline in May. (That measure won unanimous support from Republicans, save for one member who voted "present," while 19 Democrats also voted in favor.)

Keystone XL Pipeline Wins on Capitol Hill Not Enough

The Congressional scoreboard reads 5-2 in favor of the Keystone XL pipeline. But few believe the job-creating project to transport oil from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast is any closer to its needed U.S. approval.

The House passed (293-127) a federal transportation bill Wednesday that will now go to conference committee. A provision in that legislation would force the administration to approve the pipeline.

It is the fourth time the House has given its approval on the project, expected to create thousands of jobs during the construction phase and help increase energy security in the long term. The Senate has taken three votes, passing it once as part of the payroll tax deal late last year and defeating it twice.

Not to be forgotten is the importance of the transportation bill. The Senate passed a two-year, $109 billion program two weeks ago. It is expected to be the basis for the conference committee negotiations.

The White House has already threatened to veto the highway bill if the Keystone language remains. Both, however, are critical to funding ongoing infrastructure needs and putting people back to work.

In the upcoming BizVoice magazine (available May 3 in print and online), I’ll have a one-on-one interview with Canadian Consul General Roy Norton, who talks about the importance of this project, the critical Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor, and other opportunities between the two North American neighbors.

Canadian Bankin’

Pardon the title, but Canada is in a position to make some serious bank off of its natural resources — namely oil. In our upcoming May/June edition of BizVoice magazine, Communications VP Tom Schuman has an interesting interview with Roy Norton, Consul General of Canada, about how Canada plans to move forward after President Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL Pipeline. Although, Obama contends the rejection was pending more environmental review and may not be permanent. (If you have a few minutes, read Norton’s remarks when he spoke to a group at the Greater Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce in February.)

At any rate, I just perused the article in the editing process and I think our readers will be intrigued by our northern neighbor’s concerns and ambitions. It also includes a quote from Norton that reinforces why the Indiana Chamber endorsed Sen. Richard Lugar in the 2012 GOP primary and general election:

"You can safely say that if there is one person in the United States Congress who gets the geopolitical importance and relevance of achieving North American energy self-sufficiency and what that could mean for North America in unburdening us, making us less susceptible to Iranian adventurism and Venezuelan adventurism, it’s your senior senator from Indiana." – Norton

Canada Moving Forward After Pipeline Rejection

The January decision by the Obama administration to reject the Keystone XL pipeline drew plenty of criticism in the United States. Canadian officials, while accepting the explanation offered, are concerned, and they are not sitting back and waiting for a potential change of course from their southern neighbors.

Roy Norton, Consul General of Canada, spent last week at meetings and events in Indiana. Norton is responsible for Canadian interests in trade, investment, the environment and more in Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Kentucky. Norton provided his analysis of the Washington rejection of the pipeline that would transport oil resources from the tar sands of Alberta province to the U.S. gulf coast.

Norton says Canadians are “disposed to take at face value the assurances that President Obama offered Prime Minister (Stephen) Harper that this was a process-related issue, not a substantive decision.” In other words, Obama cited additional environmental review due to Nebraska seeking a rerouting of the pipeline and a deadline set by Congress as the reasons for the rejection at this time.

Although TransCanada, the energy infrastructure company behind the pipeline, has indicated it will reapply for a U.S permit, Norton described the significance of the relationship between the two countries and the next steps for Canada that are already in progress.

“There is concern. Ever since NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement), our resources have been predicated on the notion that we would develop them to export them to you (the U.S.), and 99% of Canadian oil exports have come to the United States. The entire industry has been organized on a principle that suddenly may seem in question: Does the United States continue to want that oil? And if you don’t, we’re not going to just stop developing it.

“The prime minister made clear, in a little jocular way, that we’re not a northern national park for the United States.” Norton continues. “We’re a G7 country with an industrial economy. We happen to sit on the third largest reserve of oil after Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. Ours, other than the U.S., is the only one (oil supply) not government controlled; it’s total private sector investment.”

Harper traveled to Asia earlier this month and entered into an agreement on energy cooperation with the Chinese.

“Our objective, very much,” Norton adds, “is to build a pipeline to (our) West Coast and to be able to sell oil to China, Japan, whoever. Two or three years ago, the prime minister said Canada is an emerging energy superpower. Somebody challenged that and said you can’t be a superpower if you have only one market. So, in business terms, it’s probably true that it’s prudent for us to have more than one market. So we will seek to diversify.”

Norton closes with some of the numbers related to Canadian oil production and potential benefits for the U.S. and Indiana from the proposed pipeline:

  • Sixty cents of every dollar invested in the Alberta oil sands come back to the United States in consumption. “You benefit more from Canadian resource development than you benefit as a country from resource development (anywhere else).”
  • Currently, $160 billion in private sector investment is underway to take production of the oil sands from two billion barrels a day to three and a half billion barrels a day.
  • That increase, with the pipeline, could create “in the order of 343,000 jobs in the United States, 7,500 of those in Indiana” – citing Caterpillar and dozens of other Indiana operations that currently or would supply the oil production and the pipeline.

The Chamber’s May-June BizVoice® magazine will have more from Norton on issues important to Indiana and his country.

Keystone Pipeline Fallout Includes Union vs. Union Kerfuffle

The Keystone XL Pipeline saga continues with Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar leading the effort to revive the project. The Competitive Enterprise Institute looks at the union divide that was deepened by President Obama’s decision to kill the job-creating movement of oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast.

Terry O’Sullivan, head of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA ), has called Obama’s action "politics at its worst," saying that "once again the President has sided with environmentalists instead of blue collar construction workers." O’Sullivan angrily vowed that "workers across the U.S. will not forget this."

The Keystone project has long pitted the two key Obama constituencies against one another. Green groups agitated against the pipeline over worries of water contamination and other (largely baseless) environmental fears, while many building and trade unions lusted after the thousands of construction jobs the pipeline would create in the United States.

Mark H. Ayers, president of the Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO has publicly hammered the jobs issue. In a January 18th press release, Ayers voiced the frustration of many union workers, saying "…with a national unemployment rate in construction at 16 percent nationally, it is beyond disappointing that President Obama placed a higher priority on politics rather than our nation’s number one challenge: jobs."

James T. Callahan, president of the International Union of Operating Engineers, agrees, complaining to the Washington Post  that Obama’s decision was "…a blow to America’s construction workers," who are struggling in "the sector hardest hit by the recession."

In his rejection of the pipeline, Obama blamed Republicans for forcing him to meet what the While House deemed an arbitrary deadline. This despite the fact that the State Department has had the application for Keystone since 2008, held 20 meetings on the subject, and produced a gargantuan 1,000 page Environmental Study to assess the possible consequences of the pipeline, which would bring oil from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf Coast of the United States. As Rep. Joe Barton of Texas ruefully noted, the U.S. "fought and won World War II" in a shorter amount of time.

Besides causing a fissure between the President and some of his key union allies, the Keystone issue has also ruptured the once-strong Green/Labor alliance between environmental and union organizations, and has even pitted union against union. LUINA announced on January 20 that it left the so called "BlueGreen Alliance," citing "Job-killing attacks on the Keystone XL pipeline by some of the alliance’s labor and environmentalist members."

The Alliance describes itself as "a national, strategic partnership between labor unions and environmental organizations dedicated to expanding the number and quality of jobs in the green economy."

While LIUNA has left the Alliance, many unions remain committed to the partnership between the Democratic Party’s two most powerful special interests and staunchly oppose the pipeline. O’Sullivan has called this emerging divide "as deep and wide as the Grand Canyon."

To these unions, the LIUNA President said he was "repulsed by some of our supposed brothers and sisters lining up with job killers like the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council to destroy the lives of working men and women."

Brinegar Speaks on Chamber Support of Keystone XL Pipeline

Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar speaks about the Canadian Keystone XL Pipeline Project, and the positive impact it will have on American energy and job creation (342,000 American jobs in the next five years). He also notes that the U.S. receives more oil from Canada than all of the Persian Gulf countries combined.