Money for Nothing? TransCanada Blew $1.3 Million on Federal Lobbying for Keystone XL in 2011

TransCanada, the pipeline company pushing the recently rejected Keystone XL project, spent $410,000 on federal lobbying during the last three months of 2011 - a new quarterly high for the company.

The total is $20,000 more than TransCanada spent in the previous quarter and nearly double the $220,000 it spent in the second quarter of 2011. Altogether, the company paid $1.33 million on lobbying in D.C. last year.

The lobbying total is small considering what was at stake. TransCanada was seeking State Department approval of the proposed 1,702-mile-long Keystone XL pipeline. The $7 billion project would have connect Canadian tar sands deposits to Texas refineries.

On Jan. 18, President Barack Obama denied the company's permit request. But the company quickly vowed to reapply, which suggests its surge of lobbying spending may continue in 2012.

TransCanada officials met with Republican lawmakers Monday to push for the pipeline. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) even had "folks from Keystone management as his guests at last night's [State of the Union speech]," according to Brookings Institution's Stephen Hess.

Republican Rep. Lee Terry of Nebraska has proposed legislation to streamline approval of TransCanada's next application. The North American Energy Access Act (H.R. 3548) would move authority for Keystone XL from the State Department to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission - even though FERC's director of energy projects said at a hearing this morning that his agency lacks the authority to regulate pipelines.

Boehner has also considered reviving the pipeline fight by linking the project's approval to the upcoming payroll tax cut extension.

As the Center for Public Integrity has reported, TransCanada had already been lobbying heavily for the pipeline project in D.C. and Nebraska, the state most concerned about possible leaks. The pipeline would have crossed directly through Nebraska's environmentally sensitive Sandhills region.

The project continues to draw protests from environmentalists, primarily because of concerns about climate change. Refining gasoline from tar sands produces more climate warming greenhouse gases than processing conventional crude oil.

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