By Dustin Hurst | Watchdog.org
HELENA – Sometimes the left hand doesn’t seem to know what the left hand is doing.
The League of Conservation Voters, a leading environmental organization, is working to block a controversial oil pipeline project even as it backs the candidacy of Democrat U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, one of that pipeline’s biggest boosters.
An LCV surrogate has said politicians who support the project are simply “cheerleading” for corporations.
LCV promotes clean energy and renewable resources, and lobbies Congress on the dangers of global warming. It opposes the Keystone XL Pipeline, a 1,700-mile project running from Alberta, Canada, to southern Texas, snaking its way through Montana, South Dakota, Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma along the way.
The project, funded by Canadian oil giant TransCanada, would create about 20,000 temporary construction and manufacturing jobs at a cost of $20 billion.
Some projections suggest the pipeline would generate 1,200 new jobs in Montana alone.
The federal government is again reviewing the pipeline after rejecting the initial route over environmental concerns. Officials expect a decision in early 2013. Regulators suggest the new routes are better than old ones, but still run over a sensitive aquifer.
TransCanada says the pipeline will be the best of its kind, employing extra measures to ensure ecological safety.
Environmental groups, including LCV and the Sierra Club, oppose the pipeline’s path through sensitive terrain. They say the new route endangers drinking water supplies and feeds America’s addiction to fossil fuels.
The group isn’t shy about its disdain for the project.
Texas League of Conservation Voters director Dave Weinberg told StateImpact Texas in February that any public official pushing for the pipeline is essentially a corporate puppet.
“So, to say that you are going out and you are fighting for the Keystone pipeline, you are really being very transparent about what you’re doing,” Weinberg told the publication. “You’re actually going out and cheerleading for a corporation, for a Canadian corporation, to make a lot of money, because it’s not even the only company that could be doing this.”
It’s odd rhetoric for an organization staunchly supporting Tester, one of Keystone’s most vocal backers in Congress.
OpenSecrets.org, an online campaign finance tracking tool, shows LCV members pitching in more than $62,000 to help finance the senator’s re-election campaign. Collectively, they are one of the senator’s top backers.
The group as a whole is also donating to the cause. The group works with Montana Hunters and Anglers Action, a nonprofit formed solely to promote the senator and tear down his challenger, GOP U.S. House Rep. Denny Rehberg.
Rehberg makes LCV’s “Dirty Dozen,” a list of politicians LCV looks to defeat in the election cycle because the group says the candidates favor fossil fuels over sustainable energies.
Last week, MHAA released an anti-Rehberg ad using $350,000 of LCV’s money.
LCV lists Tester as a key ally in the U.S. Senate and solicits donations for the first-term senator on its website.
“Since his election to the U.S. Senate in 2006, Sen. Jon Tester has showed leadership on clean energy and conservation issues,” LCV says on Tester’s donation page.
LCV fails to mention Tester’s Keystone support.
Interestingly enough, Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren is another top fundraising target for the group. Warren, facing Republican U.S. Sen. Scott Brown in the fall, wins the nod partially because she pledges to stop the pipeline.
“Elizabeth Warren has vowed to eliminate tax subsidies to Big Oil, to make America the world leader in green technologies, and to oppose the dangerous Keystone XL tar sands pipeline,” Warren’s LCV donation page says.
For his part, Tester continues to advocate the oil project. He penned a March 28 opinion piece explaining why he wants the pipeline to succeed.
“I have voted to approve the Keystone XL pipeline three times,” Tester wrote. “I am disappointed that Congress and the president cannot work together to support this common sense project. Built with respect for private property rights and to the highest safety standards, the pipeline will safeguard our most treasured places and increase our energy independence.”
Jeff Gohlinger, LCV’s spokesman, said he would return a call to comment on the issue, but has not at press time.