New Orleans If you look at a map of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline designed to move heavy, tar sands oil from the Alberta, Canada to refineries and shipping around Port Arthur and Houston, Texas, it doesn’t run through either Arkansas or Louisiana soil, yet somehow the pipeline is already running through the heart of politics in both places, confounding people near and far.
Louisiana’s senior senator, Mary Landrieu, with a predictably close election is stirring the pot the hardest. As the new chair of the Senate’s committee overseeing oil and gas, she is desperately trying to divide and conquer business interests using her close ties in the resource industries that fuel Louisiana to fill her campaign coffers and even publicly line up for her reelection. Joining with Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor, who despite last year’s Mayflower spill disaster near Little Rock, is one of five Democratic senators imperiled in the coming election listed as cosponsors, she was able to convince Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, despite his stated opposition to the pipeline, to allow it to go to the Senate for a vote if she could muster the numbers. The legality of Congress usurping the role of the executive branch and the State Department’s management of this bi-national situation is questionable, though conservatives maintain that it is arguable, and the White House seems to be maintaining some reserve given how doubtful they are that she can muster the votes. Meanwhile Louisiana’s other senator, Republican David Vitter, has thrown a monkey wrench in the deal as well by once again trying to attach his messy Affordable Care Act amendment requiring all of the Congress to go to the marketplace for insurance, which has been a nonstarter on both sides of the aisle and of course another flashpoint for the Obama Administration.
Given that the Administration has already punted on the pipeline until after the mid-terms, arguing that litigation in Nebraska had to be settled, the speedup on a vote now is even crazier, since Landrieu’s bill is an “if and when” statue contingent on the Nebraska court decision. I’m frequently asked, what the heck is really going on?
My theory is that since the Koch brothers are the big winners to the tune of billions given their more than one million acres of land holdings in Alberta, that Landrieu is trying to use her buddies in the industry to send a message that they need to close down their anti-Landrieu campaign advertising which to date has run hundreds of TV and radio ads already blasting Landrieu’s vote on Obamacare. Even neutralizing the Koch’s would dramatically improve Landrieu’s prospects. Though all experts predict a close race, at this point her support is twice that of her Congressional opponent and her direct campaign bankroll, not counting the Koch’s independent expenditures, dwarfs her opponent. If she were able to squeeze them out, my bet – and no doubt her own — is that she ekes out another win.
National and global environmental catastrophe be damned, despite all of the current controversies in both Arkansas and Louisiana over oil spills, oil exploration triggered coastal erosion, and one calamity after another, Landrieu with help from Pryor and others, is proving once again that all politics are local.