Updated October 26, 2011: Considering the popularity of this article, we thought it important to list all of our TransCanada / Keystone XL pipeline pieces:
If you are going to read one article, we recommend #4, as it best summarizes the whole subject. Note that there are links in each to prior articles.
UPDATED October 7, 2011: After reading this article, we highly recommend reading the next article in this series, “NE Unicameral on TransCanada Pipeline: Twisting Words & Giving Away Sovereignty“, as there are a number of updates and additional information included in it (we have included some of those updates here) .
It’s obvious that the most troubling set of facts in our most recent article, “Terribly Troubling Truths About TransCanada Pipeline – Nebraska: We Have A Problem“, should be specifically and separately highlighted. The very disquieting truth about that particular set of facts has begun to penetrate for a growing number of people, but I’ve learned even more troubling information since.
I would ask, “What did Nebraska 2nd District Congressman Lee Terry know and when did he know it?”
But the fact is, we know what Lee Terry knew and we know when he knew it.
First, a very brief review of the context is required.
The standard dialogue on the TransCanada pipeline from Nebraska’s most visible elected officials (Congressmen, Senators, Governor, and many State Senators) has been that pipeline regulation is a “federal issue”; Nebraska’s hands are tied, contact the Secretary of State with objections. As just one of many examples, I personally witnessed the recitation of this standard line in August of this year when I attended a town hall convened by my first district Congressman, Jeff Fortenberry.
RELEVANT EVENTS IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER:
Lee Terry, 2010
- At some point before or in September of 2010, Rep. Lee Terry requested a report from the Congressional Research Service on the subject of federal authority regarding pipelines (as is clearly referenced in the CRS report).
- On September 20, 2010, CRS sent the report, entitled “Information on Federal Law Related to Siting and Safety of Oil Pipelines“, addressed to Rep. Terry with “Attention: James Wright“.
- The CRS reported on federal and Nebraska state law on the subject. I’ve included here, once again, what is the most relevant portion of that document:
So, as of September 20, 2010, more than a year ago, Rep. Lee Terry knew that…
- States, not the federal government, site and regulate oil pipelines, whether they be interstate or intrastate.
- Nebraska has no statutes on the books for this purpose.
- Nebraska state law does provide for a company to invoke eminent domain in the event a pipeline would be routed through the state.
From these facts, the unavoidable conclusion is that, absent any action by the Nebraska Legislature, no Nebraska agency would have authority over the siting of the pipeline, leaving the field open for TransCanada, while also allowing the company to use Nebraska’s eminent domain law. (As far as we can tell, the Secretary of State can, in her discretion, approve or disapprove the project as a whole by granting or denying TransCanada permission to cross the international border between the U.S. and Canada, but absent any major concerns — primarily environmental in nature, the federal government has no specific statutory basis for denying TransCanda the permit it has requested.)
The Nebraska State Legislature passed a resolution and conducted an interim study regarding the issues associated with oil and natural gas pipelines.
- The committee issued its report in December of 2010 with an introductory page still expressing confusion regarding the State of Nebraska’s authority.
- The study did not include an attachment of the September 2010 CRS report sent to Rep. Terry, and further, noted:
“…though we have worked together on this issue, the research conducted by our congressional representatives is not included”
Questions about the interim study report:
- Could it be that the interim study by the Nebraska Legislature was the impetus for Terry’s request that the Congressional Research Service issue a report about federal law regarding the siting and safety of oil pipelines?
- If so, why isn’t Rep. Terry’s CRS report attached to the committee’s interim study report or specifically referenced?
- Why wasn’t any of the “research conducted by our congressional representatives” included?
- Is Terry’s CRS report what is referenced in the quote?
- If the Unicameral committee did see the CRS report, why were they still confused about the State’s regulatory authority over oil pipelines?
Unicameral 2011 Session (January – early June 2011)
UPDATED October 5
- There were three bills introduced in the Unicameral this past session with one passing, but none of them dealt with the such questions as siting and overall regulatory authority (more detail about those later).
Lee Terry, May 22, 2011
- Rep. Terry introduced a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives, H.R. 1938, the “North American-Made Energy Security Act” which begins as follows:
To direct the President to expedite the consideration and approval of the construction and operation of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, and for other purposes.”
- On July 26, 2011, the House passed H.R. 1938 and sent it to the Senate, where it awaits action.
Lee Terry, August 26, 2011
Congressman Terry, as reported in this quote from his Flickr account:
“I met with the Construction Laborers Local 1140 on 8-26 to talk about work and jobs in their industry as well as ideas as to how the government can help them.“
I’ve included a snap from Rep. Terry’s account here:
Note to Congressman Terry and Staff: Are the pictures on the Flickr account government work product? If so, it is considered PUBLIC DOMAIN and not able to have a copyright associated.
Terry’s visit to the Local 1140 is of interest considering its visible advocacy for the pipeline, including the funding sources for their political action committee and other associations, which are covered in more detail in the list of events of “Late September 2010”.
Lee Terry, August 2011
Rep. Terry attended a town hall in Valley, Nebraska, during Congress’ August recess at which he was questioned about the pipeline project. While the entire dialogue is very interesting, I advise paying particular attention in the last couple of minutes (you can also run the slider over, closer to the end):
Considering that Rep. Terry had the CRS report for almost a year prior to this town hall, and considering that the report explicitly concludes that the Congressman’s home state government HAS the authority to pass legislation to site and regulate the pipeline, his answer to the woman at the town hall that “We can’t” re-route the pipeline is utterly inexplicable.
Late September 2011
- U.S. State Department convenes hearings in Lincoln and Atkinson to get Nebraskans’ input about the pipeline.
- LiUNA – Laborers International Union of North America, buses in out-of-work members from out-of-state donning orange t-shirts to show support for the pipeline. LiUNA is a major contributor[1. LiUNA is a major contributor to the Laborers Local 1140 under the name GPLDC (Great Plains Laborer District Council) along with MN Limited., and a few others] to Omaha Laborers Local 1140 Political Action Committee, registered with the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission (NADC) under the direction of Ron Kaminski.
- AFP-NE, which I have been told by a number of reliable sources receives some portion of its funding from J. Peter Ricketts, sends out cards urging recipients to attend the State Dept. hearings, citing a study commissioned by TransCanada about the pipeline’s safety and economic benefits. AFP-NE attempts to bus pipeline supporters from Omaha to Lincoln, but must cancel the scheduled bus for lack of interest [2. The information about the cancellation of the bus was given to me by a GiN reader who we have known for some time.]; but AFP-NE does bus supporters from Lincoln to Atkinson and provides free hotel rooms.
- Platte Institute, founded, led and reportedly funded by a top Lee Terry campaign contributor, J. Peter Ricketts, publishes a “guest article” written by 1140 Local’s Ron Kaminski, who promotes the pipeline’s many benefits to Nebraska.
- For those few who may not know, J. Peter Ricketts is the National Committeeman for the Nebraska Republican Party; there is one Committeeman and one Committeewoman for each state who serve as members of the Republican National Committee. Ricketts has served as an RNC Executive Committee member and at least one additional committee. Also, Ricketts was the GOP party nominee for one of Nebraska’s U.S. Senate seats in 2006.
- Platte Institute’s John McCollister testifies at a State Dept. hearing as a proponent of the pipeline project.
- Following the State Dept. hearings, Platte Institute publishes “Truth About the Keystone Pipeline“, citing no supporting documentation.
- Lee Terry’s challenger for the 2nd District Congressional seat, Brett Lindstrom, issues a press release reporting on the many contributions to Lee Terry by groups, companies, and individuals who support the pipeline, calling the whole affair “the Keystone Kickback”.
- Nebraska State Senator Tony Fulton appears on Fox News Channel, stating that “to the best of his understanding”, the pipeline is a federal issue.
- OpenSecrets.org publishes an article, “Surge of Lobbying Fuels Keystone XL Pipeline Project” reporting about TransCanada’s extensive lobbying effort, with a particular focus on Nebraska Congressman Lee Terry, noting that he received $56,100 from the oil and gas industry in 2010, making it his #7 contributor for that cycle, and most of them lobbied heavily for his pipeline expediting bill along with labor groups.
- Nebraska’s Governor calls the pipeline project “a done deal” and vigorously questions how Nebraska’s state laws could trump federal law.
What does all of this mean?
It looks like some very powerful people – that Ruling Class we’ve been talking about in our series – are aligned with labor unions and with TransCanada in their attempt to see this pipeline project go through, regardless of public sentiment concerning the matter. Updated October 7: Since another Keystone pipeline was constructed in Nebraska over three years ago, with some resistance in the southern part of the state[3. One credible source of information, in a position to have direct knowledge reported that during the original pipeline project, there was, indeed resistance to the original Keystone project in the southern part of the state. At that time, the issues were worked out. But, the whole experience should have taught some valuable lessons.] TransCanada and at least some people in Nebraska’s state government should have some idea that there could be trouble this round, although it is obvious no one in any relevant position to affect the situation expected what we’re seeing over the current Keystone project.
In the anchor piece of our series, we mentioned “members” of the Ruling Class, “wannabes”, “clients”, and “beneficiaries”. We said Nebraska has a ruling class and now the whole pipeline issue has allowed us to identify at least some of its clients – labor unions and TransCanada. Can you say Big Labor and Crony Capitalism?
This information is disturbing, there’s no doubt.
Congressman Lee Terry either buried an important report and lied about it or he shared it with others and they buried it and he failed to follow-up. Either way…put a fork in him, Nebraska, he’s done!
Other, very important questions remain, however…
What did the rest of the turkeys know?
Turkeys = other elected officials
- Jeff Fortenberry
- Adrian Smith
- Mike Johanns
- Ben Nelson
- Governor Dave Heineman
- Speaker of the Legislature Mike Flood
- other Senators
And when did they know it?
E-mail subscribers, click here to watch the included music video.
We’ve only just begun “following the money” in the long list of Rep. Lee Terry’s political career. We thought we’d share just a bit of the information we gathered…
FEC Lee Terry summary page, including additional information, amendments
Just a very small sample of some notable and interesting contributors in addition to those noted in the Lindstrom press release…
Bailed out, government and union owned, with money to give…
The apparently taxed too much…
Cornhusker Kickback: Tax Benefits (oh, and advocates for single-payer)