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TransCanada Is Trying to Buy a Little Texas Love, Since D.C. Keeps Avoiding Keystone Issue

The people at TransCanada are by no means stupid. While the fate of the northern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline is still in regulatory limbo, the southern end is up and running. It's also still unpopular but TransCanada is stepping up and doing what all oil and pipeline companies should do -- providing a little cash lubricant.

Yep, right now if you've got a nonprofit organization that is in need of a little funding, you can step up and apply for a grant from TransCanada. The company is running the grants through the East Texas Communities Foundation, doling out up to $5,000 per grant to nonprofits in 18 counties, including Harris. Nonprofits interested in applying for a grant have until May 15."TransCanada likes to support the areas where their actual employees live, not just the places where they have pipelines," East Texas Communities Foundation Program Director Mary Lynn Smith says.

This isn't a particularly unusual move -- oil companies routinely write checks and allocate well-placed funding to charities and other setups in the areas they are working in. It's a nice way of spreading the money around -- money, like manure, is only useful if it's spread out, as the character Dolly Levi aptly observed -- without actually, directly paying people off like the cliche, old school oil types allegedly did.

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Last year TransCanada gave $50,000 to be distributed by East Texas Communities Foundation, and the company has committed to giving $25,000 a year for the next three years, Smith said. Of course this is just a drop in the bucket compared to the money TransCanada spends on political lobbying -- more than $1 million in 2013 alone, and about $1.6 million at its height in 2011 -- to get the Keystone project approved, according to OpenSecrets.org. That money hasn't done them much good or helped the Keystone project gain any traction in Washington D.C.

Years have passed without a decision from President Obama on the pipeline that would carry Canadian tar sands oil from Canada to refineries on the Texas coast if the project is approved, and now the federal folks have found another way to dodge making a decision. Last week the State Department announced yet another delay in the review process, one that will most likely keep the Keystone in regulatory limbo until after the 2014 elections.

It looks like all that lobbying money hasn't done TransCanada much good in Washington. Maybe they should think about diverting some of it and investing in creating a little more local good will. At least with donating to nonprofits there would be a more tangible bang for the buck.

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