Why we wrote about the Koch Industries and its leases in Canada’s oil sands


Roughnecks build a drilling rigt near Fort McMurray in Canada (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

We would like to make a few brief points in reply to an article in Powerline regarding our article about the extensive lease holdings of Koch Industries subsidiaries in the oil sands region of Alberta, Canada.

First, regarding the political leaning of the group that brought this story to our attention, our article makes clear its left-wing origins, the controversial nature of its earlier claims, and its political agenda. Second, regarding whether Koch would benefit from the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, we 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.

The Powerline article itself, and its tone, is strong evidence that issues surrounding the Koch brothers’ political and business interests will stir and inflame public debate in this election year. That’s why we wrote the piece.

Steven Mufson covers the White House. Since joining The Post, he has covered economics, China, foreign policy and energy.
Juliet Eilperin is a White House correspondent for The Washington Post, covering domestic and foreign policy as well as the culture of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. She is the author of two books—one on sharks, and another on Congress, not to be confused with each other—and has worked for the Post since 1998.
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