Nine NY Congressional Reps Voted for Keystone XL Pipeline

Congress’ vote to authorize construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline attracted enormous attention because of the potential impact that exploiting Canadian tar sands crude oil could have on the earth’s climate.

In a famous 2012 New York Times op-ed written by James Hansen, the NASA scientist said that burning tar sands crude would be “game over” for the climate.

“Canada’s tar sands, deposits of sand saturated with bitumen, contain twice the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in our entire history,” stated Hansen.

“If we were to fully exploit this new oil source, and continue to burn our conventional oil, gas and coal supplies, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere eventually would reach levels higher than in the Pliocene era, more than 2.5 million years ago, when sea level was at least 50 feet higher than it is now,” he continued. “That level of heat-trapping gases would assure that the disintegration of the ice sheets would accelerate out of control.”

New York’s two senators, Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, voted against the legislation, which the White House reportedly threatened to veto.

Eighteen of New York’s 27 Congressional representatives also voted against authorizing construction.

The nine representatives -including three Democrats- who voted in favor are:

  • Peter King (R), Long Island
  • Carolyn McCarthy (D), Long Island
  • Michael Grimm (R), Staten Island
  • Sean Maloney (D), Orange, Putnam, and part of Westchester and Dutchess counties
  • Christopher Gibson (R), Hudson Valley and Catskills
  • William Owens (D), most of the Adirondack Mountains and Thousand Islands region
  • Richard Hanna (R), central New York, including Binghamton
  • Tom Reed (R), New York border with PA, including shore of Lake Erie
  • Chris Collins (R), western New York

One Congressman from NYC Voted Yes

The only New York City Congressional representative who voted to authorize the Keystone XL Pipeline was Michael Grimm of Staten Island.

We contacted Michael Grimm’s Washington, DC office to ask about his support of the pipeline, especially given Staten Island’s experience during Hurricane Sandy and its increasing vulnerability to rising sea levels.

Did Congressman Grimm connect climate change to the burning of fossil fuels, we asked.

Grimm did not respond to our questions. However, his voting record indicates that he tends to be very supportive of oil and gas exploration and development, including here in New York City.

Grimm’s website notes that he introduced a bill authorizing the Secretary of the Interior to allow for the construction and operation of natural gas pipeline facilities in the New York portion of the Gateway National Recreation Area. Gateway includes the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.

The pipeline in Gateway, also known as the Rockaway pipeline, is now nearing completion. According to Grimm’s website, “the construction of the [Rockaway] pipeline will create hundreds of local construction jobs, generate approximately $265 million in construction activity, and lower the cost of energy by bringing clean, affordable energy to the residents of New York City.”

Grimm’s bill clearing the way for construction of the Rockaway Pipeline was also supported by Senator Charles Schumer, along with the Bloomberg administration.


How Michael Grimm Participated in Congress’ “War on the Environment.”

As the 113th Congress draws to a close, the performance of the Republican-led House of Representatives is described by the League of Conservation Voters as an “unprecedented assault on the environment and public health that began during the 112th Congress. Although Congress started 2013 with votes to provide disaster relief in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, it’s painfully clear that far too many members failed to heed the lessons of that tragic storm.”

The League of Conservation Voters is a non-profit organization. It endorses political candidates, both Republican and Democrat, who champion “priority” environmental issues, such as clean water, clean air and combatting climate change.

Of its 27 representatives, New York will be sending nine Republicans to the upcoming 114th Congress. Three are newly elected, Lee Zeldin (Long Island), Elise Stefanik (Adirondack Mountains and the Thousand Islands region), and John Katco (Syracuse area, Cayuga, Onondaga, Wayne, and Oswego counties).

Michael Grimm is the only Republican representative in Congress from New York City.

Democratic staff for the House Committee on Energy and Commerce have compiled a searchable database of House votes on environmental legislation. They report that, as of September, 2014, the House “has voted 223 times to block action to address climate change, to halt efforts to reduce air and water pollution, to undermine protections for public lands and coastal areas, and to weaken the protection of the environment in other ways.”

Michael Grimm’s Environmental Voting Record in the 113th Congress

Michael Grimm represents Staten Island, which suffered the greatest physical devastation and loss of life during Hurricane Sandy. Sections of the island are increasingly vulnerable to rising seas and dangerous storm surges linked to climate change.

Grimm’s voting record is worth examining, both because he represents communities on the front line of climate change, and because he reflects the dominant ideology in Congress.

The League of Conservation Voters ranks members of Congress on a scale of 1 to 100 (100 being highest) relative to their voting record on environmental issues. Grimm scored 14 on the League’s scorecard.

According to the League’s analysis, Grimm’s voting record in the 113th Congress shows a lack of interest in climate change, a focus on undermining environmental review processes, and particularly strong support for the oil and gas industries. For instance, Grimm voted to stop the federal government from examining the economic costs of climate change when it makes public policy decisions.

Grimm also voted against an amendment reversing an 81 percent cut to the Department of Energy’s ARPA-E program. The amendment would have restored $329 million in federal investment in “cutting-edge renewable energy technologies.”

Grimm voted to restrict the federal government’s ability to establish baseline protective standards for hydraulic fracturing. The same legislation delays the EPA’s Congressionally-mandated study of the impact of fracking on drinking water sources. Grimm also voted against allowing the Department of Interior to control methane emissions from drilling activities on public lands. Methane is a highly potent greenhouse gas, and it contributes to smog.

Grimm voted in favor of legislation removing the requirement for a Presidential Permit to build the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, “eliminating the Obama administration’s ability to complete adequate safety and environmental impact studies on the project.”

Grimm also voted in favor of expanding off-shore drilling off the coasts of South Carolina, Virginia, California and in Alaska’s Bristol Bay. According to the League of Conservation Voters, the same legislation weakens the environmental review process for off-shore drilling.

No aspect of the nation’s environment was off limits to Grimm and his Republican colleagues. Grimm voted against more safeguards for nuclear power, and against enhanced protections for oceans and the Great Lakes. He supported the expansion of logging in publicly-owned forests.

An Interest in Undermining Environmental Laws & Public Oversight

Grimm and his colleagues supported legislative efforts to undermine EPA enforcement of environmental protections like the Clean Air, Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water Acts. Grimm voted against a bill amendment seeking to re-establish U.S. Army Corps of Engineers authority over clean water standards for streams and wetlands that feed drinking water sources. He also voted against a related amendment reestablishing ACE authority over mountaintop removal activities that impact local water supplies.

But perhaps most striking is Grimm’s support for legislation that challenges public oversight. He voted against an amendment to protect the environmental review process established under the National Environmental Policy Act. This process preserves the public’s ability to participate in decisions that have “profound impacts on their safety, the environment and the economy,” concluded the League of Conservation Voters.

How Did New York’s Representatives Perform?

In the first session of the 113th Congress, representatives Nydia Velazquez, Yvette Clarke, Jerrold Nadler, Carolyn Maloney, Charles Rangel, Joseph Crowley, and Nita Lowey, all from New York City except Lowey, were the highest scorers from New York State.

Chris Collins, Thomas Reed, Richard Hanna, Peter King and Michael Grimm had the lowest scores within the New York delegation.

How Did Your Representative Perform?

New York’s Congressional representatives are listed below by district. Their environmental voting scores, according to the League of Conservation Voters, are bolded. Find your Congressional representative here.

  1. Timothy Bishop (D) 89
  2. Peter King (R) 14
  3. Steve Israel (D) 93
  4. Carolyn McCarthy * (D) N/A
  5. Gregory Meeks (D) 86
  6. Grace Meng (D) 89
  7. Nydia Velázquez (D) 96
  8. Hakeem Jeffries (D) 89
  9. Yvette Clarke (D) 96
  10. Jerrold Nadler (D) 96
  11. Michael Grimm (R) 14
  12. Carolyn Maloney (D) 96
  13. Charles Rangel (D) 96
  14. Joseph Crowley (D) 96
  15. Jose Serrano (D) 93
  16. Eliot Engel (D) 93
  17. Nita Lowey (D) 96
  18. Sean Maloney (D) 79
  19. Christopher Gibson (R) 43
  20. Paul Tonko (D) 93
  21. William Owens (D) 50
  22. Richard Hanna (R) 11
  23. Thomas Reed (R) 4
  24. Daniel Maffei (D) 86
  25. Louise Slaughter (D) 86
  26. Brian Higgins (D) 93
  27. Chris Collins (R) 4