OPINION: South Dakota workers need the Keystone XL pipelinePresident Obama recently announced his much anticipated decision on whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. Unfortunately, the president rejected the project, devastating tens of thousands of Americans who hoped to work on the pipeline.
By: TIM PETERSON, Yankton
President Obama recently announced his much anticipated decision on whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. Unfortunately, the president rejected the project, devastating tens of thousands of Americans who hoped to work on the pipeline.
Keystone XL would have carried oil from Alberta, Canada to refineries in Texas near the Gulf of Mexico. It would have generated jobs, spurred spending, and generated tax revenue. It would have been safe for workers and the environment. And it would have increased America’s energy security.
No wonder the project had broad, bipartisan support both in Congress and among the American public.
With unemployment at 8.5 percent, most Americans consider job-creation our country’s top priority. And with 16 percent unemployment in the construction sector, skilled craft workers are particularly desperate for new employment opportunities.
Here, Keystone XL would have delivered. The independent Perryman Group calculated that installing Keystone XL would have created over 1 billion man-hours of work. Perryman predicted that Keystone XL will create approximately 20,000 high-paying manufacturing and construction jobs over the life of the project.
The construction of Keystone XL could have generated an addition $20 billion of overall spending in America. This would yield a $9.6 billion increase in overall output, and put $6.5 billion into the pockets of those who were counting on this project for work. Pipeline-related commerce could have boosted local-government revenues by an estimated $19.4 million and state-level receipts by some $102.9 million.
South Dakota is hit particularly hard by the president’s decision. Obama’s rejection of the project denies South Dakotans $450 million in new spending statewide. Workers can no longer anticipate new employment. Nor can they look forward to the projected personal income gains of $319 million.
The Perryman Group further found that steady, reliable Canadian oil would have helped the broader US economy. Heightened business activity, Perryman concluded, would have generated $100 billion in spending and $29 billion in productive output.
TransCanada, the company behind Keystone XL, says it remains committed to the project and will reapply for the permit, but this will take time — time unemployed Americans can ill afford.
Remember, the new jobs are not just among those who would have actually built the pipeline. Americans would produce the materials that compose the pipeline. Many would deliver those goods by truck and rail. Others would erect housing for pipeline-construction workers and maintenance crews, while even more Americans would serve them breakfast before work and pour beers after hours.
In this time of tight budgets and rising government debt, Keystone XL would have cost taxpayers precisely zero dollars. “This project is entirely paid for with private-sector dollars and is shovel ready,” explained Russ Girling, CEO of TransCanada, the company behind Keystone.
Critics harped about the oil-sands petroleum that Keystone would carry. Policymakers shouldn’t have acceded to these fears.
“Opponents claim that crude from the oil sands is more corrosive in a pipeline than crude from places such as Venezuela,” wrote Terrence McGowan of the International Union of Operating Engineers. “Oil-sands crude is not more corrosive and, at this very moment, is being transported across Wisconsin on the Enbridge pipeline to refineries supplying our state. Over 40 percent of the motor fuel consumed in Wisconsin comes from the oil sands.”
“The score is Job-Killers, two; American workers, zero. We are completely and totally disappointed,” says Laborers’ International Union of North American President Terry O’- Sullivan.
Asks International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers President Edwin D. Hill: “To those Democrats who oppose the pipeline on well-meaning but misguided environmental grounds and those Republicans who routinely vote against every jobs bill except Keystone, we pose this question: What are your plans to replace the 20,000 jobs that are now on hold?”
Administrations officials made it explicitly clear in their denial announcement that they were not opposed to the pipeline in theory — they just wanted more time examining its route. In particular, regulators are worried about plans to run the pipeline through the Sand Hills in Nebraska and the Ogallala aquifer, a huge underground reservoir located under the Great Plains.
Officials generally weren’t concerned with the parts of Keystone located outside those regions — or about 80 percent of the total pipeline. And these other parts have already undergone a thorough environmental review and been found safe.
So, while we wait for a final decision on the overall project, regulators should allow construction to commence on the concern-free parts of the pipeline. Any delays will represent a betrayal by a party that has promised its commitment to job creation and economic growth.
Tim Peterson, of Yankton, is a welder helper for UA Pipeliners Local Union 798 in South Dakota.