The lawmaker spearheading legislation to expedite pipeline approvals and reduce the power of local communities to stop them is not just any rank-and-file congressman -- he represents a district that only five years ago was ravaged by one of the largest pipeline disasters in American history.
As International Business Times reported, Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., set up a joint fundraising committee that has raked in cash from oil and gas companies as he championed the legislation. His bill -- lauded by a group backed by the Koch brothers -- would speed up approvals of pipelines, and critics say it would reduce the power of local communities to slow pipeline approval because of environmental concerns. Koch Industries has lobbied Congress on pipeline issues and has been a major campaign contributor and supporter of Upton -- who since 1990 is one of the top 25 biggest recipients of oil and gas campaign money in the entire U.S. House of Representatives.
Upton’s pipeline bill comes only a few years after a major pipeline run by the company Enbridge burst, causing $840 million worth of damage to the Kalamazoo River -- one of the largest waterways in the Republican lawmaker’s district. Upton’s congressional biography touts his “working with local leaders on the Kalamazoo River Superfund cleanup.”
Federal records show that Enbridge lobbied members of Congress on “issues affecting pipelines and construction of new pipelines,” and specifically on Upton’s legislation to accelerate approvals of new oil pipelines.
Upton, who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, created a fundraising vehicle this summer with Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, his counterpart on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. The fundraising group, which splits its donations and ships them to both lawmakers, has taken in roughly $160,000 from the energy industry since July. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Upton has received $789,350 in donations from the oil and gas industry over his career in Congress.