Bill Knight column for Mon., Tues. or Wed., July 15, 16 or 17
Seizing on the condition President Obama announced last month, Building and Construction Trades Department President Sean McGarvey said the State Department’s environmental impact statement on Keystone XL shows it meets that environmental requirement.
But pipeline opponents, including labor unions as well as environmental groups, say it would fail, noting that the oil from tar sands is dirty and the pipeline itself would emit carbon.
“To the president's point that the Keystone XL pipeline should be built if it does not significantly exacerbate carbon pollution, we would point to the Department of State's own Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement, which concluded that development of the Canadian oil sands would not impact greenhouse gas production,” McGarvey told Press Associates. Pipeline construction “will have the added benefit of fostering the sustained creation of solid, well-paying middle-class jobs and careers, and will certainly encourage the efficient use of all energy resources in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lessen our dependence upon foreign sources of energy.”
The building trades have campaigned for years for Keystone XL, which was first proposed in 2008. TransCanada, Keystone’s sponsor, signed a Project Labor Agreement to have union workers build it, and those unions say Keystone XL would create 10,000 construction jobs, at a time when 10.8% of construction workers are officially jobless.
The AFL-CIO recently issued a statement that backed “expanding the nation’s pipeline system” but the labor federation didn’t specifically mention Keystone XL.
Scientists for years have warned that the amount of greenhouse gases released by the proposed pipeline could push the planet past a climate tipping point. Supporters of the pipeline – capable of pumping more than 800,000 barrels a day of bitumen crude to Gulf Coast refineries for possible export – claim that promised economic benefits outweigh the environmental risks.
Keystone “will accelerate the harmful effects of climate change,” National Nurses United co-president Jean Ross, a Registered Nurse, said, “and the chemicals infused in it for transport are highly toxic.”
Meanwhile, the State Department’s Environmental Impact Statement, released this year, has been criticized for being influenced by consultants tied to TransCanada.
Two years ago, building trades unions joined with the Oil and Natural Gas Industry Labor-Management Committee in a pro-pipeline campaign called “Jobs for the 99,” which claimed Keystone XL will establish “20,000 immediate private-sector jobs that do not rely on any government funding.”
That 20,000-jobs number was first touted by TransCanada, which said it would also create 119,000 spinoff jobs, but a study by Cornell University’s Global Labor Institute disputes the claim. Cornell researchers say that half of the steel used will be manufactured overseas, most of the jobs will be temporary, and more than 85% of them will go to workers from outside the areas where the pipeline is planned.
The Amalgamated Transit Union and the Transport Workers Union also oppose the project, as do Canadian bitumen workers.
“We're diametrically opposed to the construction of it,” said David Coles, president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP), which represents 35,000 Canadian oil and gas workers, including thousands in the tar-sands area there. “The Keystone XL is not good for the economy; it's not good for the environment.
“You cannot separate the environment, jobs, the economy [and] human rights,” Coles told reporter Peter Rugh. “It's a four-legged stool and it's falling over.
“The thing that liberals and progressive-minded people have not yet come to terms with is what do we do about an economic system that continually puts the health, environment and standard of living of workers at risk? Occupy Wall Street got it right," he added. "One or two percent of society gets it all and the rest of us, the middle-class, the working-class, the poor, are all going down.”
[PICTURED: Supporters and opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline at a demonstration in Lincoln, Neb., in a photo by Nati Hamik of the AP.]