South Dakota Workers Need Pipeline Jobs

February 18, 2012 9:21 am | Categories:

Rapid City Journal

February 18, 2012
By Tim Peterson—UA Pipeliners Local 798 South Dakota

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 more than 1 billion man-hours of work. Perryman predicted that Keystone XL would have created approximately 20,000 high-paying manufacturing and construction jobs over the life of the project.

The construction of Keystone XL could have generated an additional $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 U.S. 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.

Administration 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 already have 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.