Keystone XL pipeline debate rattles Massachusetts Senate race

Wed Mar 20, 2013 2:39pm EDT
 
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By Scott Malone and Timothy Gardner

BOSTON/WASHINGTON, March 20 (Reuters) - A former hedge fund manager turned environmental activist who opposes the Keystone XL pipeline has waded into the Massachusetts U.S. Senate race, threatening to undermine a pledge by the two Democratic candidates to reject outside money.

California billionaire Tom Steyer has called on Democratic Representative Stephen Lynch to abandon his support for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport crude from Canada's oil sands to refineries in Texas.

The Obama administration is expected to make a final decision on the TransCanada Corp pipeline late this summer. A permit has been pending for more than four years while environmental activists have staged protests against it. Pipeline supporters in Congress have introduced bills to push the project through more quickly.

Steyer, who stepped down last year from the hedge fund he founded to focus on encouraging alternative energy development, called on Lynch to reverse his stance on the pipeline by Friday. Otherwise, Steyer promised "an aggressive public education campaign" aimed at torpedoing Lynch's bid to win the Democratic Senate primary on April 30.

Lynch and other supporters say the $5.3 billion Keystone XL project - which would transport oil down the middle of the United States, nowhere near Massachusetts - would create jobs and unlock a valuable energy source.

Opponents blast the pipeline as a source of the greenhouse gases that are contributing to global climate change. Lynch's Democratic rival, Representative Edward Markey, the ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, is an outspoken opponent of the Keystone project.

But Markey has also urged candidates in the primary to reject money or support from interest groups outside the state. He has already drawn criticism for Steyer's pledge to go after Lynch, and has urged the billionaire to stay out of the race.

Markey, elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1976, is the longest-serving member of the New England Congressional delegation. Lynch, a former ironworker, has been in the House since 2001. The primary is a run up to the June 25 special election for the Senate seat left open when Senator John Kerry recently became U.S. Secretary of State.   Continued...