For America's skilled craft construction professionals, any discussion of the Keystone XL project begins and ends with one word: JOBS. Today, roughly 14% of the American construction workforce is unemployed -- which is significantly higher than the overall national unemployment rate of 9%.
Throughout America's Heartland, the Keystone Pipeline represents the prospect for 20,000 immediate jobs, and as many as 500,000 indirect jobs via a strong economic multiplier effect.
Meanwhile, the opponents of Keystone are descending upon Washington, DC for another demonstration against this important job-creating initiative. The unfortunate aspect of their opposition is that they are trying to kill the Keystone project by presenting the tired old false choice of energy vs. the environment.
A comprehensive and sensible national energy policy is essential for America's economic and national security. Our growing needs for affordable energy, combined with price volatility, dependence upon politically unstable regimes that supply much of our oil and gas, and global climate change concerns have worked to place the issue of our national energy policy in the center of the public debate.
The Building & Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO, along with its thirteen affiliated unions, recognizes the need to plan for the future and design a functional and reasonable approach to developing a national energy policy designed to ensure the availability of affordable energy for both U.S. businesses and consumers. These objectives can be met only through the development, installation and continued operation of energy technologies from a broad range of energy resources which will have the added social benefits of contributing to the sustained creation of solid, well-paying middle class jobs and careers, and will encourage the efficient use of all energy resources to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lessen our dependence upon unstable energy sources.
By constructing a safe, reliable method for transporting crude oil through the American Midwest, this initiative not only fulfills sound U.S. energy policy goals, but will spur employment opportunities for American workers in the construction industry, as well as many other industries.
The economic impact of oil sands development in Canada is expected to lead to the creation of more than 342,000 new U.S. jobs between 2011 and 2015 and add an estimated $34 billion to U.S. gross domestic product in 2015, according to the Canadian Energy Research Institute. It should be noted, however, this was a preliminary analysis and the actual number of jobs and GDP increase could be far greater.
The Keystone XL pipeline has now been awaiting regulatory approval for more than two and one half years since the initial application was filed in September 2008. The U.S. Department of State has held more than twenty public comment meetings and hearings along the proposed route of the pipeline, and TransCanada has held more than ninety open houses and public meetings while providing hundreds of hours of testimony and submitting thousands of pages of project information. All of these efforts have been designed to ensure that any environmental impact along the route is minimized as much as practically possible. Having done its due diligence, the State Department has concluded that the Keystone XL project represents the best course of action.
Further, in its Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS), the State Department recognized that the development of the Canadian oil sands would not impact greenhouse gas production. And even though the State Department was not obligated to have analyzed any environmental impacts outside of the United States, the SDEIS provides a clear life-cycle analysis of greenhouse gas production that would be connected to the development of the Canadian oil sands, as well as the environmental impact to wildlife, forests, threatened and endangered species, and water resources. In each instance, all key issues raised by the SDEIS have been adequately addressed.
Additionally, the opponents of the Keystone project are operating under the false assumption that the defeat of this project will spell the end of the Canadian government's aim to develop its oil sands resources. As recently as October 30th, Canadian government officials have reiterated their intent to develop and sell this oil to Europe or Asia on the open market, in the event that the Keystone project does not proceed.
In the United States, Keystone's opponents have also raised environmental concerns that center upon the Ogallala Aquifer in Nebraska. It should be noted that the Keystone project would join more than 20,000 miles of existing pipelines that cross the Ogallala Aquifer, of which more than 2,000 miles are hazardous liquid pipelines. In testimony before the Nebraska state legislature, Professor Jim Goeke, a hydrologist at the University of Nebraska, offered the following observation:
" A leak of the Keystone XL pipeline would not affect the majority of the Ogallala Aquifer...those who think that a leaking pipeline will destroy the Aquifer in Nebraska need to understand that it would be localized to an area of 10's or 100's of feet around the pipeline. When people say the whole Ogallala Aquifer is at risk, they're wrong."
Additionally, the State Department SDEIS also noted the important role the Keystone XL project would play in providing for domestic energy security now and into the future. Specifically, the project would serve a critical short and long term market opportunity to fill a crude oil gap created by a decline in supply from transitional heavy suppliers, such as Mexico and Venezuela that would otherwise have to be recouped by an accelerated dependence on an increasingly unstable and unpredictable Middle East. There can be no question that the Keystone XL pipeline project serves America's national security interests.
While all of the environmental and national security issues have been adequately debated and addressed, it is the critical economic benefits that, in our opinion, supersede all others.
The privately-financed Keystone XL pipeline project is projected to create tens of thousands of U.S. jobs in construction and manufacturing, and without one single dollar of government assistance. There is also an economic multiplier effect associated with this project, as the economic impact spreads to other industries where demand and expenditures for goods and services within and around the vicinity of the pipeline's construction are expected to increase significantly. In the end, this projected rise in the demand for local goods and services will result in more tax revenue for the surrounding local governments. In fact, it has been estimated that the pipeline's corridor states would realize an additional $5.2 billion in tax revenue during the course of construction.
It should also be noted that a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) will be utilized for the construction of the U.S. portion of the proposed Keystone XL project. The PLA was signed by TransCanada Corporation, the Laborers International Union of North America, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry of the United States and Canada, the International Union of Operating Engineers, and the Pipeline Contractors Association. The Keystone project PLA will provide TransCanada with a steady supply of the world's safest, most highly trained and highly productive skilled craft workforce to construct the U.S. portion of this proposed project, and will ensure safe, quality construction with "on time, on budget" results, while also providing employment opportunities for local residents along the proposed pipeline corridor.
In total, the Keystone XL pipeline project has been subjected to tremendous amounts of scrutiny through the National Environmental Policy Act, which includes review by ten federal agencies, as well as numerous state and local agency reviews. The State Department SDEIS has concluded that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline would have "limited adverse environmental impact during construction and operation" and that it would significantly strengthen U.S. economic security.
But most importantly, it is America's workers who are clamoring for the expedited approval of this important project.
As President Obama has rightfully declared when it comes to the creation of jobs, "WE CAN'T WAIT."
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