Democrats demanded Wednesday that Koch Industries officials testify before Congress about whether they have any financial stake in the Keystone XL pipeline, as President Obama’s allies sought to limit political damage from his decision this month to reject the project.
Koch officials have repeatedly said they have no stake, but Rep. Henry A. Waxman of California said he wants them to testify to that fact, and he lodged an official request under House rules to demand that the Energy and Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on energy and power hold another hearing on the subject.
“Something doesn’t add up,” Mr. Waxman said.
Defenders in Congress, and Koch officials, said dozens of groups, including the Sierra Club, asked for similar status as a way of preserving their rights to keep tabs on the decisions and, potentially, to argue for their stances later.
But they said that does not mean Koch has a stake.
“As we have previously stated, Koch Industries has no financial stake in the Keystone pipeline and we are not party to its design or construction,” Philip Ellender, president and chief operating officer of Koch Companies Public Sector. “We are not a proposed shipper or customer of oil delivered by this pipeline.”
The two billionaire brothers, David H. Koch and Charles G. Koch, who run the second-largest privately held company in the U.S. have become chief targets of Democrats, thanks in large part to their hefty support of libertarian and Republican causes.
It’s unlikely they would agree to testify, and also not likely the committee would have the votes to subpoena them.
Rep. Mike Pompeo, a Kansas Republican who represents Koch’s headquarters, bristled at Democrats‘ request, and signaled that such questions could end up expanding to Mr. Obama’s own backers such as Warren Buffett, who according to a press report this week stands to gain from oil being shipped by rail if the pipeline is not approved.
“I would not for a moment suggest we should bring Warren Buffett in to testify about whether his company and his rail interest would benefit from this permit application,” Mr. Pompeo said.
Keystone XL has become the centerpiece of a bruising fight between the White House and Congress, where even many rank-and-file Democrats disagree with Mr. Obama’s decision to deny TransCanada Corp.’s application for a pipeline to carry crude from Alberta’s tar sands south to Kansas and to the Gulf of Mexico.
Because the pipeline crosses an international boundary it required State Department approval, as well as other agencies. Those agencies all signed off, but the State Department late last year balked, saying it wanted at least another year to decide.
“We decided based not on the merits, but on the inadequate time period,” Kerry-Ann Jones, assistant secretary of State for Oceans, Environment, and Science, testified Wednesday.