WaPo Defends Decision to Report on Anti-Koch Allegations It Admits Are Baseless

A pink ribbon marks the proposed route of the Keystone XL pipeline through farmland near Bradshaw, Neb. / AP

The Washington Post responded to heated criticism of a story on Koch Industries and the Keystone Pipeline on Friday, noting that it pointed out how frivolous the allegations of Koch critics were in a piece extensively detailing those allegations.

The Post came under fire for a Thursday story that attempted to tie Koch Industries and its libertarian owners Charles and David Koch to the Keystone pipeline.

Koch has no interest in the pipeline, as both that company, and TransCanada, the company building Keystone, have repeatedly stated.

The Post relayed allegations by a group called the International Forum on Globalization that Koch would benefit from the pipeline because the project will reduce transportation costs for all companies operating in the region of Canada from which the pipeline would carry crude oil.

It was not clear from IFG’s report or the Post’s write-up how Koch would benefit from a reduction in costs for all of its competitors, or why a reduction in transportation costs (and hence the price of oil) is a reason to oppose the pipeline, as IFG does.

Powerline’s John Hinderaker thoroughly debunked IFG’s report on Thursday.

In defending its initial story, the Post noted that it explained why IFG’s allegations were baseless, but still opted to relay those allegations to its readers.

[W]e make clear that many of Koch’s leases pre-date the pipeline plan, that Koch has not bid for space in the pipeline, and that Koch would not be a customer. Third, if Koch’s lease holdings are 1.1 million acres, that would make it one of the region’s largest, rivaled only by Shell (1 million net acres through an Athabasca joint venture and perhaps 1.3 million net acres altogether), Cenovus Energy (1.5 million net acres), and perhaps Canadian Natural Resources (717,000 net undeveloped acres plus an undetermined number of developed acres). Shell declined to release its total acreage figures. If Koch's lease holdings are "closer to two million," as has been said by industry sources we consider highly authoritative, then Koch is indeed the largest lease holder in the province.

IFG itself has backed away from the 2 million acre figure, opting in its most recent report to go with 1.1 million.

The Post’s initial story continues to claim, without qualification, that Koch is "the biggest lease owner in Canada's oil sands."

According to TransCanada spokesman Shawn Howard, the company "continue[s] to be puzzled" by efforts to tie Koch to the Keystone pipeline.

"We have said before—as I believe Koch has confirmed also—that they have nothing to do with Keystone XL (KXL). They are neither a shipper nor a receiver on KXL and this has been confirmed repeatedly and publicly many times," Howard said in an emailed statement.