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Nancy Smith

Keystone XL Pipeline: When Tom Steyer's Money Talks, President Obama Listens

April 24, 2014 - 6:00pm

Never mind the Kochs. After assessing who did what bad to America lately, I nominate Tom Steyer for the top of the list.

Last week the billionaire hedge fund manager from San Francisco bought off the White House to the tune of $100 million in order to delay the Keystone XL pipeline decision.

Even the Democrats in Congress are buzzing about it: Steyer -- right now the most influential man in America most people have never heard of -- drove the decision by promising to spend $100 million to help all Dems in the midterm election who vow to defeat the project.

Why this is newsworthy now -- coming, though it is, in the middle of the Florida Legislature's two busiest weeks -- is because polls continue to show that the Obama administration listens to the money talking, not the American people.

A Rasmussen Reports poll released Wednesday showed 61 percent of likely voters nationally back creating the Keystone pipeline, 62 percent believe it will help the American economy and fewer than a third (32 percent) think it will hurt the environment.

A day later the American Petroleum Institute turned out a national, more election-focused Harris Poll, saying 95 percent of voters believe the federal government should focus on energy issues, 70 percent describe energy as very important, and almost seven in 10 voters (68 percent) report they would be more likely to support a candidate who supports approving Keystone XL.

And next Tuesday Kevin Doyle, executive director of Consumer Energy Alliance-Florida, will address an 8:30 a.m. press conference in the rotunda on the Capitol's 4th floor. Subject: urging the White House to approve pipeline construction.

Doyle won't be alone. He'll have Jose Felix Diaz, chairman of the House Energy and Utilities Subcommittee; Tom Feeney, president and CEO, Associated Industries of Florida; Rep. Mike Hill, sponsor of "Florida House Memorial Supporting the Approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline," and Beth Richardson, head, Political, Economic and Public Affairs Section, Consulate General of Canada.

What's going on in Florida to protest White House foot-dragging is being repeated in more than a dozen states, particularly those along the pipeline's proposed route.

Who did the administration send to deliver the bad pipeline news to the American public but Obama's new favorite attack dog, Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla. Wasserman Schultztold the nation Sunday on Meet The Press, I want to make sure the right decision is arrived at and that the president makes that decision carefully and doesnt factor politics into his decision, which I dont think he is.

As if politics isn't factored into every teeny-tiny decision he makes less than seven months before the mid-term elections.

Now hear this: Any theory that the pipeline is an enemy of the environment has crumbled at this point. Two thorough environmental analyses later, State Department experts have concluded that the KXLs impact probably would be minimal, even on climate change-inducing carbon dioxide emissions. Plus, as an editorial in the Washington Post pointed out, "the economic rewards of extracting Canadian oil are too attractive and the options for getting it out of the country are too numerous."

Yet, Steyer, who needed to do nothing more to halt a project of such beneficial consequence than open his wallet, tweeted this on April 18: "Good news on Good Friday: the comment period for #KeystoneXL has been extended. Now @StateDept can address inherent flaws in its past work."

It might surprise you to learn that even Big Labor wasn't -- and still isn't -- pleased with the president's decision.

On the same day as Steyer was tweeting out his "good news," Terry OSullivan, general president of the Laborers International Union of America (LIUNA), called Obama's delay gutless and a low blow to the working men and women of our country. ...

The administration is delaying a finding on whether the pipeline is in the national interest based on months-old litigation in Nebraska regarding a state level challenge to a state process and which has nothing to do with the national interest, O'Sullivan said.

Now we have no pipeline even on the way. American jobs suffer, and whatever economic impact the project might have had on Russia is ignored for the sake of Obamas political gain.

Holding a $100 million check in his hand, what was Obama to do? He couldn't approve the pipeline before the election and rankle Steyer. On the other hand, rejecting the pipeline could be politically damaging to vulnerable Democrats running this year in conservative-leaning states. The pipeline is a winning issue for them, just as it is for Republicans.

He's handed a major problem to Democrats running for the Senate, and a great, big early Christmas present of an opportunity for the GOP, looking to bounce out Harry Reid and reclaim the chamber.

Its absolutely ridiculous that this well-over-five-year-long process is continuing for an undetermined amount of time, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., said in a statement to the press.

The president has hurt himself on this one. Read the Washington Post's Wednesday editorial, "Keystone XL's continued delay is absurd." The headline says it all -- but for those who have their doubts about the pipeline, read the editorial beginning to end. It's a cracker.

Reach Nancy Smith at or at 228-282-2423.

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