Senator Mitch McConnell is flexing his muscle in his new position as Senate majority leader, unveiling a new strategy to fight the Environmental Protection Agency. The plan is centered on comprehensive legislation that would expand the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline to include coal-producing states of Appalachia, including his home state of Kentucky. McConnell has dubbed the project the “Keystone X-XL Pipeline.”
The existing Keystone pipeline travels from Hardisty, Alberta, Canada (north of Montana) to the Gulf of Mexico near Houston, Texas. The proposed “Phase 4,” which has been at the center of a political tug-of-war between the Obama Administration and Republicans for years, would essentially provide a shortcut through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska, with a larger pipe that would allow for larger transfers of oil in less time — hence the “XL.” The proposed X-XL is even larger — and would include the transfer of coal.
Critics call the proposal a purely political move on McConnell’s part, accusing the senator of political favoritism for large coal money contributors to his most recent campaign, in which coal was a major issue.
McConnell refutes the accusations. “I have long said I’ll be a champion for Kentucky’s greatest natural resource, and do anything to fight the EPA,” he says. “This is an opportunity to do both.”
Acknowledging that part of the strategy is to make the EPA’s life more difficult, McConnell explains, “The waterways of EPA regulations have been flowing so easily under this administration. I’ve found one way to muddy those waters.”
The announcement has already confounded opponents who are so incensed over the X-XL proposal that they are struggling to find a response.
George Beck, a representative for Coal Sands Action, a sister organization of Tar Sands Action, says, “I don’t even know where to begin.”
Much like the existing XL proposal, experts expect the X-XL pipeline to mean “at least dozens” of permanent jobs and millions of dollars in profits for a couple of coal-producing companies.