Keystone Delays Have Probably Done Wonders For Heidi Heitkamp's Investment Portfolio

As a matter of public policy, Senator Heidi Heitkamp is an extremely vocal proponent of building the Keystone XL pipeline. She campaigned on it in 2012, and when the Obama administration announced the most recent delay in approving the project, she called it “ridiculous” in a statement posted on her official Senate website.

But as a matter of personal finances, the delays in building the Keystone have been very lucrative for Senator Heitkamp.  According to Senate financial disclosures, Heitkamp owns between $166,004 to $415,000 worth of stock in Buffett’s company Berkshire Hathaway (Senate disclosures are weird, reporting ranges for values of assets instead of specific dollar amounts). And Berkshire Hathaway employees were among Heitkamp’s top-ten sources of political contributions in the 2012 cycle, according to OpenSecrets.org, including $7,500 in contributions from Warren Buffett himself during the 2012 election cycle.

And, as Reuters reports, the on-going regulatory sandbagging of the Keystone pipeline project (among others) has been a windfall to rail companies in general, and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe company (owned by Berkshire Hathaway) especially.

That means the value of Heitkamp’s investments in Berkshire Hathaway, which owns BNSF, is increasing:

April 21 (Reuters) – U.S. railroads are obvious winners from the latest delay in the Keystone XL Pipeline approval, and some of the freight operators with the biggest growth in petroleum shipments look undervalued, according to an analysis of Thomson Reuters data.

While shares in some railroad companies have recently hit record highs, there may be still more upside potential.  …

Petroleum product volumes by freight rail rose by more than 28 percent in 2013 to 1.54 million carloads, according to data from Cowen & Co and RailShare, and oil-by-rail is by far the freight rail industry’s fastest-growing segment. So far this year, traffic is running 10 percent ahead of last year at this time.

The biggest player in the sector is Burlington Northern Santa Fe, a unit of Warren Buffett’s insurance and industrial conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway Inc , which accounts for roughly a third of U.S. oil-by-rail traffic.

It is followed by Union Pacific Corp, Norfolk Southern, CSX and Kansas City Southern.

It would be interesting to hear Senator Heitkamp answer just how much richer she is thanks to Keystone being delayed by the Obama administration. That’s not a question we can answer with any degree of accuracy based on the ambiguous financial reporting requirements of the US Senate, but Senator Heitkamp couldn’t certainly provide her constituents with the information.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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