The Laborers’ International Union of North America issued a statement today pressing for Congress to “authorize construction” of the Keystone XL pipeline, the contentious 1,700 mile underground tar sands conveyor that would bisect US to carry tar sands oil from Canada to Texas refineries and ports.
The pipeline, under construction in the US, has not been permitted by the Obama Administration because of a snafu in Nebraska where a judge declared that politicians there violated the state constitution in hastily approving a pipeline route.
Nebraska’s story in a nutshell: Public protests forced a re-routing of the original plans for the Keystone pipeline to try to protect the massive Ogallala Aquifer, which rises close the surface in a delicate region known as the Sand Hills. Farmers and residents who rely on the aquifer for drinking and irrigation water banded together to stop pipeline operator TransCanada from putting the aquifer at risk. This put the pipeline on hold in 2012.
A new route for Nebraska, crafted by the legislature and authorized by Gov. John Heineman in 2013, led to a second delay when a federal judge declared in April that Heineman violated Nebraska’s constitution, which required input from the Nebraska Public Service Commission. Heineman’s administration is appealing.
But while environmentalists and landowners in the Midwest have been fighting the pipeline, arguing it threatens groundwater and will exacerbate climate change, laborers have been arguing for the project. They want the jobs it will create, though the number of US jobs the project will provide is another hotly debated topic.
A Cornell University 2011 study found that the number of domestic construction jobs would be far less than the 20,000 TransCanada and the US State Department had projected and publicized.
But a job is a job, and despite the squishiness of the hours of work projected, labor unionists have joined with the American Petroleum Institute in supporting the Keystone XL pipeline.
The project also has support in Congress. Some members have pushed for the project, despite the issues and judicial delay in Nebraska. Oil state leaders Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana) and Sen. John Hoeven (R-North Dakota) introduced a bill that would authorize full construction of the pipeline, even though it’s unclear if Congress can force the issue. The Keystone XL requires an administration permit from Obama or the State Department because it crosses an international boundary.
In today’s statement, entitled “Voters Deserve to Know Where There[sic] Representatives Stand,” Terry O’Sullivan, general president of LIUNA, called the delay of the pipeline “needless” and thanked Landrieu and Hoeven for introducing their bill.
“Americans deserve to know where their elected officials stand on this important energy infrastructure project that will help move the nation toward energy independence while unlocking thousands of well-paying construction jobs.”
“The needless delay of the pipeline has done nothing to stop development of Canadian oil sands crude but has put the safety of Americans at risk by forcing the oil onto other, more dangerous, methods of transporting energy resources.”
O’Sullivan also said: “Continued fixation on the project also distracts from the pressing challenge of fighting for real solutions for global warming – comprehensive climate change legislation.”