U.S. Chamber Sets Up Fake Grassroots Group In Favor Of Keystone XL

The following article by Lee Fang was cross-posted from ThinkProgress.org, in response to the U.S. Chamber’s newest astroturfing effort to build fake “grassroots” support for the Keystone XL pipeline in Nebraska:

Last week, lobbyists in Washington, DC announced the creation of yet another front group in Nebraska to support the approval of the controversial Keystone XL, a pipeline running through the Midwest from tar sands mining sites in Canada to refineries in Texas. Given its central location underneath the proposed expansion route for the Keystone XL, Nebraska has become a flash point in the debate over approval of the plan.

To counteract the broad opposition to the pipeline, oil lobbyists have paid special attention to Nebraska. As ThinkProgress reported, the American Petroleum Institute, an oil lobbying federation that counts many foreign oil companies as paying members, has set up fake citizens groups to support the pipeline (a version for Nebraska, called the “Nebraska Energy Forum,” can be found here). Now, the U.S. Chamber, a lobbying association funded by oil companies and other fossil fuel polluters, has announced its own astroturf effort in Nebraska:

LINCOLN — The U.S. Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy and key Nebraska business leaders today launched the “Partnership to Fuel America,” (www.fuelingus.org) in Nebraska, a major new initiative designed to build a stronger foundation for the U.S. – Canadian energy relationship. […]

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations.

The press release for “Partnership to Fuel America” is filled with falsehoods. For one thing, the Chamber has already admitted that its claim of representing 3 million businesses is a lie. Second, the new group isn’t even managed from Lincoln, Nebraska. In fact, ThinkProgress has learned that the group is orchestrated by a Minnesota-based lobbying firm called Public Affairs Company. A call to the firm confirmed that Stacy Thompson, a Minneapolis-based Republican consultant, is really behind the Nebraska pipeline fake citizens group. Moreover, though the release claims the pipeline will help the local economy, a single spill could forever doom Nebraska’s agricultural industry by poisoning the water supply.

Backlash to the pipeline is growing every day. Conservative Gov. Dave Heineman (R-NE) even fired of a letter on Aug. 31 to administration officials broadcasting his opposition to the current plan. Reacting to a groundswell of opposition, Heineman, ordinarily no friend of the environmental movement, stated blunted: “I am opposed to the proposed route of this pipeline … 254 miles of the pipeline would come through Nebraska and be situated directly over the Ogallala Aquifer.” Gov. Peter Shumlin (D-VT) and former Vice President Al Gore have also spoken out against the pipeline. But when even a conservative Republican governor leans against the pipeline, it’s no wonder oil companies are working to make multiple political groups to give the appearance of public support for the project.

UPDATE: Joining Heineman, Nebraska Sens. Mike Johanns (R) and Ben Nelson (D) also urged Obama to reject the pipeline proposal. Nebraska Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R) also opposes the pipeline and urges “a comprehensive environmental review.”