Billionaire Obama Donor vs. Keystone XL

Megabucks donor to the Democratic party and President Obama, Ted Steyer — profiled last month in the New Yorker — is keeping up his pressure on Team Obama and Keystone XL. From today’s​ Los Angeles Times:

Tom Steyer, the billionaire hedge fund executive and environmental activist from San Francisco, chose his venue carefully.

“It is here President Obama drew his own personal line in the sand,” Steyer said as he convened a conference on the Keystone XL pipeline Monday at Georgetown University.

The reference was to a speech by Obama in June in which the president declared he would approve Keystone only if backers of the pipeline could prove that the project would not accelerate climate change.  The pipeline is designed to move hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil daily 1,200 miles from Canadian tar sands to Gulf Coast refineries.

The conclusion reached at Steyer’s conference was unanimous and hardly surprising.  Experts invited by Steyer and other conference organizers, all of whom oppose the project, declared that it would not meet the president’s test.

The event was another reminder of how politically awkward Keystone has become for Obama. Steyer is one of the president’s biggest donors. A fundraising event he held at his home during the reelection campaign was one of Obama’s most successful. Other deep-pocketed donors listen to Steyer. Democrats in Washington are eager to tap his funds.

And Steyer is on a crusade against Keystone. The billionaire not long ago quit his job running a major San Francisco hedge fund to spend all his time campaigning on global warming issues. Pressure applied by Steyer, the star of his advertising campaign against Keystone, has helped put into limbo a project that once seemed headed for approval.

Obama’s comments at Georgetown and elsewhere since that speech have indicated that he is strongly considering denying the project the approval it needs to go forward.

The rest here

And in other Keystone XL news, the part of the pipeline that didn’t need President Obama’s approval is set to go live January 3. Via Bloomberg:

TransCanada Corp. (TRP) expects to begin delivering oil Jan. 3 to Texas on the southern portion of its Keystone pipeline, allowing more crude to leave a key delivery hub in Oklahoma.

TransCanada’s Gulf Coast pipeline can carry 700,000 barrels of crude a day to Port Arthur, Texas, from Cushing, Oklahoma. The Calgary-based company disclosed its plan to start service on Jan. 3 in a filing yesterday with the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. That adds to the capacity of the Seaway pipeline owned by Enterprise Products Partners LP (EPD) and Enbridge Inc. (ENB), which now carries 400,000 barrels a day to Houston from Cushing. The operators have said they expect Seaway’s capacity to reach 850,000 in the first half of 2014.

[. . .]

“This pipeline startup enables refineries to move significant amount of crude from the Mid-continent to the Gulf Coast,” said Andy Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates LLC in Houston. “That reinforces that the logistical bottleneck is moving from Cushing to Gulf Coast.”

Building the 700,000-barrel-a-day Gulf Coast line will cost $2.3 billion, TransCanada has said. It began construction in August 2012. After the line’s initial capacity is reached, it will be able to expand to 830,000 barrels a day, according to the company.

The pipeline was originally part of TransCanada’s Keystone XL project, which entered its sixth year of U.S. review last month. President Barack Obama initially rejected the conduit in January 2012, citing concerns with its path through ecologically sensitive lands in Nebraska.

TransCanada reapplied with a new Nebraska route last year and split the project in two, proceeding with the Gulf Coast project — the southern portion of the network that doesn’t require federal permission.

Even with success on this Gulf Coast line, it’s foolish to think Steyer will give up. The WSJ reported: “Mr. Steyer and his group contributed some $8 million to the successful election of Democrat Terry McAuliffe as governor of Virginia last month.” With that kind of money, it will be hard for Dems to say no to Steyer’s environmental agenda.

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