Earlier this month, TransCanada revised its proposed route for the Keystone XL pipeline. It was the second time this year the pipeline veered off its original course, and still the re-routing did little to quash opposition to TransCanada's 1,700-mile, $7 billion baby.
Farmers in Oklahoma and Texas are angered by the oil giant's eminent domain claims. Native Americans fear disturbance of cultural sites and pollution of aquifers. Conservation groups detest every aspect of it, from Keystone's headwaters in the Alberta tar sands to its delta at the gas pumps.
The League of Conservation Voters ranks high on that last list. The national nonprofit has urged the Obama administration to deny TransCanada's permit. It's targeted a number of potentially pro-pipeline Republicans in political races. And it's spent big supporting Democrats in hopes of turning the future toward clean, renewable energy.
With LCV battling hard against TransCanada's proposal, Sen. Jon Tester seems an odd choice to drop nearly $750,000 on. Tester's a major supporter of Keystone XL.
Theresa Keaveny, executive director for LCV's state-level group Montana Conservation Voters, says there are several reasons the nonprofit is backing him. His support for the pipeline hasn't come without provisos. Earlier this year, Tester voted in favor of a measure to prohibit export of Keystone XL crude and require TransCanada to use U.S. materials in the pipeline's construction. He also voted for the state of Nebraska to review the proposed route and supported increased protections for historic properties and the environment.
"I've long supported building this pipeline as long as private property rights and safety measures are in place," Tester told the Havre Daily News in January, about a month before those votes. (Both measures failed.)
LCV's stance can be boiled down more simply. The group produces an annual scorecard ranking members of Congress on environmental issues. In 2011, Tester got a score of 91 percent. His Republican challenger, Rep. Denny Rehberg, received 9 percent. LCV also named Rehberg to its "Dirty Dozen" list of candidates it intends to see defeated in 2012.
As Keaveny says, LCV doesn't agree all the time with most elected officials. But 91 is a lot closer than nine.