During a House subcommittee hearing on the Keystone XL pipeline Thursday, Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) grilled a grassroots anti-pipeline organizer from Omaha eventually restricting her answers to “yes” or “no.”
Jane Kleeb, the head of Bold Nebraska, testified against the project which would extend a tar sands pipeline from Canada all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. Kleeb argued that the pipeline would not create a significant economic boom, but it would create a giant environmental risk.
“America’s national interest is not served by a project that lines the pockets of the few and I would say foreign, while risking the livelihoods and the lives of many Americans,” Kleeb testified.
Kleeb earned Johnson’s ire from answering questions at length.
“Let me explain how this process works — you’re testifying before the American people,” Johnson said at one point. “That means I ask the questions and you answer.”
“And I am a citizen paying your salary,” Kleeb shot back.
“Hey, that’s not what this meeting is about,” Johnson shouted. “You get to vote back in Nebraska. That’s who your elected representatives are. I am in power right now to ask questions on behalf of the American people so don't start filibustering me.”
Johnson questioned where her organization gets its funding. Her husband is the CEO of an energy company he claimed was “woman-owned.”
“We have activists that are trying to game the system to benefit their own financial interests and then turn around and take taxpayer dollars,” he said.
“That is completely inappropriate,” Kleeb said. She told the committee she has no financial interest in that company.
He then began questioning her qualifications to run an environmentally friendly organization.
“Do you hold a graduate degree in any relevant field?” he asked. “You ever take a chemistry course? You ever take physics course?”
“Have you ever worked on a farm?” she responded.
“Absolutely — I’m a two-wheel, wagon-rut mule farmer,” Johnson said, then his time expired.
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) gave Kleeb more time to respond to Johnson’s allegations.
“There is one reason why we’re fighting this pipeline,” Kleeb said. “It’s because we don’t believe that American farmers and ranches should have to take on the risks of a foreign tar-sands export pipeline.”
A report earlier this year found that the Keystone Pipeline will raise the price of gas in the United States, especially in the Midwest where it will run.
A tar sands spill in Michigan in 2010, which still hasn’t been cleaned up by Canadian energy company Enbridge, has raised concerns about the safety of tar sands pipelines and the fact that clean-up causes even more pollution and public health hazards than the spill itself.