House Committee Subpoenas John Kerry's Keystone XL Documents

Oversight chairman says State Department has been "uncooperative" in probe into pipeline.

The House Oversight Committee Wednesday subpoenaed Secretary of State John Kerry for documents related to the review process on the Keystone XL pipeline, saying the department has been "uncooperative."

Chairman Jason Chaffetz said that Kerry had not complied with two previous requests for copies of other departments' input on the ongoing review of the Alberta-to-Gulf Coast tar-sands pipeline.

"The Department has been uncooperative in the Committee's efforts to conduct oversight of the Keystone XL permitting process and has shown an unwillingness to recognize the Committee's legitimate interest in obtaining information. In light of this, a subpoena is necessary and appropriate," said Chaffetz, a Utah Republican, in a statement.

"We will not be stymied in carrying out our responsibility to the American people to effectively oversee the Executive Branch," he added.

Chaffetz in February requested copies of the comments from other federal agencies and departments on the TransCanada pipeline project, which is still under federal review.

In a separate letter in June, Chaffetz threatened the subpoena, saying that State had been unwilling to provide the documents. In that letter, Chaffetz said that State had claimed the documents would "implicate important executive branch confidentiality interests."

According to the letter, the department has not played ball with several alternatives presented by the committee, including a partial production of the documents or an in camera review.

A number of agencies had filed comments with the State Department on the permit review for the pipeline, which would carry hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil from Canada's tar sands per day to Gulf Coast refineries. Among the federal bodies that participated in the consultation were the Departments of Justice, Interior, Commerce, Transportation, Energy, and Homeland Security, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

A spokesman for the State Department did not have immediate comment on the subpoena.

Republicans, with the backing of major industry and oil and gas groups, have pushed the Obama administration to permit the project, while environmentalists have said that the pipeline would dramatically expand the production of dirty oil sands. The project has split Democrats.

President Obama is expected to make a final decision on the project. He has made critical comments about its climate impact, but has not given a firm indication of how he or the State Department will move.