• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

ONE WEEK TO DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!

We are inching along, but not as quickly as we (or you) would like. If you have already donated, thank you so much. If you haven’t had a chance, consider skipping the coffee this week and drop CounterPunch $5 or more. We provide our content for free, but it costs us a lot to do so. Every dollar counts.
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Montana Eased Regulations for Keystone XL After Lobbying by TransCanada

As President Trump‘s State Department took steps to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, the project’s owner, TransCanada, lobbied on two bills in Montana which will ease the company’s regulatory burden in the state.

Those bills, HB 365 and SB 109, moved along in the state’s legislature with no media coverage despite the state being the first crossed in the pipeline’s proposed journey from Alberta, Canada to Steele City, Nebraska. HB 365, which passed in May, will allow TransCanada to escape civil liability for any potential damages suffered by its contracted land surveyors. Meanwhile, SB 109 would have required environmental reviews for infrastructure projects in Montana to consider impacts beyond state lines, but failed to pass.

TransCanada spent $4,348 on its Montana lobbying efforts for the 2017 session, according to its post-session disclosure form, including $830 wining and dining the 10-member Montana American Indian Caucus. The slated 830,000 barrel-per-day oil pipeline would pass near the Fort Peck Indian Reservation and cross the Missouri River, a water source for 7,000 Assiniboine and Sioux tribe members.

Members of the Montana American Indian Caucus and TransCanada lobbyist Ken Morrison did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

Keystone XL has come under fierce opposition by Montana’s Native American Tribes, who have signed resolutions in opposition to Keystone XL. The original Keystone pipeline, which carries tar sands oil through North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska, has spilled over a dozen times. Its most recent incident occurred in 2016 when 16,800 gallons spilled in South Dakota. Keystone XL would also cross the Yellowstone River, a tributary of the Missouri River which also saw two pipelines spill over 100,000 gallons of oil into its waters since 2011.

Legislative Details

HB 365 appears to offer civil lawsuit immunity to companies like TransCanada when its contractors lay pipelines and utility lines under the ground, instead passing potential tort lawsuit liability to them. Under tort law, civil courts allow plaintiffs to sue corporations and individuals for damages committed against them.

“An underground facility owner is not liable for any damages suffered by the registered land surveyor or any person under the control of the registered land surveyor,” reads the bill’s key language, which amends Montana state code 69-4-502.

The new bill also strikes language which holds liable any “other person having the right to bury underground facilities.” This change extends potential civil liability to individuals previously exempt. However, a company like TransCanada would be off the hook as an “underground facility owner.”

HB 365 was sponsored by Republican state Rep. Ray Shaw. Though a company representative did not testify on behalf of the bill, TransCanada’s lobbyist Ken Morrison attended the hearing for the bill and registered in support of it on a sign-in sheet.

In juxtaposition, SB 109 was short-lived and did not make it out of committee after being sponsored and introduced by Democratic Rep. Mike Phillips.

The bill would have changed the Montana Environmental Policy Act, expanding review of a project’s environmental impacts beyond state borders. Specifically, it called for “the integrated use of the natural and social sciences and the environmental design arts in planning and in decisionmaking for a state-sponsored project that may have an impact on the human environment,” here substituting “human” for “Montana” in the existing law and broadening beyond state borders the environment which could be considered impacted in the bill at-large.

Keystone XL would join the broader Keystone Pipeline System, crossing many other states in its sojourn to Port Arthur, Texas and the Houston Ship Channel. President Barack Obama’s State Department completed a federal environmental impact statement, pointing to multiple potential environmental and climate impacts from the Alberta tar sands oil which would flow through the pipeline.

But under the current version of the Montana Environmental Policy Act, only potential environmental impacts of projects like Keystone XL that occur inside state boundaries can be considered during environmental reviews.

While TransCanada did not attend the hearing for SB 109, it did lobby against the bill, according to lobbying disclosure records. Those lobbying for the bill included a representative from the environmental group Audubon Montana.

“We are in support of restoring what we believe to be the ultimate ‘good neighbor policy’ — a policy that directs analysis of state-project impacts beyond Montana’s political border,” wrote the Audubon representative in her hearing testimony. “The wildlife and diverse habitats in our state (including sagebrush, prairie pothole wetlands, a diversity of forests and valuable river bottoms) have no regard for state boundaries, but are determined by a set of climatic and geological factors. These factors should be allowed to guide our review of potential state project impacts.”

‘Keystone Academy’

During its 2017 session, the Montana Legislature also passed Senate Joint Resolution 10, which called for Keystone XL‘s approval. The bill, also lobbied for by TransCanada and sponsored by Republican Rep. Mike Lang, bears the same language as one passed by the legislature in 2015 and similar language to an American Legislative Exchange Council (ALECmodel resolution.

TransCanada is a corporate dues-paying member of ALEC, and the company funded — and ALEC convened — a trip for state legislators to the Alberta tar sands in 2012. That trip was called the “Keystone Academy.”

As DeSmog reported, TransCanada has also recently upped the ante on its federal lobbying efforts, hiring a lobbyist who had served as head legal counsel of the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources.

Montana’s Democratic Governor Steve Bullock, who signed into law both HB 365 and Senate Joint Resolution 10, has taken over $36,000 from the oil and gas industry throughout his political career.

Despite all the lobbying efforts, however, it remains unclear whether the pipeline will ever open for business. On one hand, environmental groups have brought a federal lawsuit against the Trump administration, alleging its Keystone XL permitting process violates the National Environmental Policy Act. On the other hand, TransCanada itself is unsure whether market demand still exists for the pipeline.

By the year’s end, TransCanada expects to make a final decision on whether to proceed with Keystone XL.

More articles by:

Steve Horn is a freelance investigative journalist and Research Fellow at DeSmogBlog, where this piece first appeared.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
October 22, 2019
Gary Leupp
The Kurds as U.S. Sacrificial Lambs
Robert Fisk
Trump and the Retreat of the American Empire
John Feffer
Trump’s Endless Wars
Marshall Auerback
Will the GOP Become the Party of Blue-Collar Conservatism?
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
Trump’s Fake Withdrawal From Endless War
Dean Baker
Trump Declares Victory in China Trade War
Patrick Bond
Bretton Woods Institutions’ Neoliberal Over-Reach Leaves Global Governance in the Gutter
Robert Hunziker
XR Co-Founder Discusses Climate Emergency
John W. Whitehead
Terrorized, Traumatized and Killed: The Police State’s Deadly Toll on America’s Children
Evaggelos Vallianatos
A World Partnership for Ecopolitical Health and Security
Binoy Kampmark
The Decent Protester: a Down Under Creation
Frances Madeson
Pro-Democracy Movement in Haiti Swells Despite Police Violence
Mike Garrity
Alliance for the Wild Rockies Challenges Logging and Burning Project in Methow Valley
Chelli Stanley
Change the Nation You Live In
Elliot Sperber
Humane War 
October 21, 2019
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Wolf at the Door: Adventures in Fundraising With Cockburn
Rev. William Alberts
Myopic Morality: The Rehabilitation of George W. Bush
Sheldon Richman
Let’s Make Sure the Nazis Killed in Vain
Horace G. Campbell
Chinese Revolution at 70: Twists and Turns, to What?
Jim Kavanagh
The Empire Steps Back
Ralph Nader
Where are the Influentials Who Find Trump Despicable?
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Poll Projection: Left-Leaning Jagmeet Singh to Share Power with Trudeau in Canada
Thomas Knapp
Excuses, Excuses: Now Hillary Clinton’s Attacking Her Own Party’s Candidates
Brian Terrell
The United States Air Force at Incirlik, Our National “Black Eye”
Paul Bentley
A Plea for More Cynicism, Not Less: Election Day in Canada
Walter Clemens
No Limits to Evil?
Robert Koehler
The Collusion of Church and State
Kathy Kelly
Taking Next Steps Toward Nuclear Abolition
Charlie Simmons
How the Tax System Rewards Polluters
Chuck Collins
Who is Buying Seattle? The Perils of the Luxury Real Estate Boom
Weekend Edition
October 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Trump as the “Anti-War” President: on Misinformation in American Political Discourse
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Where’s the Beef With Billionaires?
Rob Urie
Capitalism and the Violence of Environmental Decline
Paul Street
Bernie in the Deep Shit: Dismal Dem Debate Reflections
Andrew Levine
What’s So Awful About Foreign Interference?
T.J. Coles
Boris Johnson’s Brexit “Betrayal”: Elect a Clown, Expect a Pie in Your Face
Joseph Natoli
Trump on the March
Ashley Smith
Stop the Normalization of Concentration Camps
Pete Dolack
The Fight to Overturn the Latest Corporate Coup at Pacifica Has Only Begun
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Russophobia at Democratic Party Debate
Chris Gilbert
Forward! A Week of Protest in Catalonia
Daniel Beaumont
Pressing Done Here: Syria, Iraq and “Informed Discussion”
Daniel Warner
Greta the Disturber
M. G. Piety
“Grim Positivism” vs. Truthiness in Biography
John Kendall Hawkins
Journey to the Unknown Interior of (You)
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail