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Various building trades unions testify on Capitol Hill in support of Keystone Pipeline

Senior representatives from several building trades unions testified in support of the Keystone XL Pipeline at a Dec. 2 House Energy Subcommittee hearing.

TransCanada's proposed 1,661-mile pipeline would run between Alberta, Canada and Houston, Texas, moving petroleum products from both the Canadian oil sands and the Bakken formation in Montana and North Dakota. TransCanada applied for a permit to build the line in 2008, but there have been disagreements over the pipeline's environmental impact and, in particular, the route it should take through Nebraska. Last month the State Department announced it would look for a new route through the state, a process that won't be completed until early 2013.

The pipeline project, which would generate thousands of new jobs, has the strong support of several building trades unions and TAUC. Earlier this fall, the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) hosted a rally in support of the pipeline that was attended by TAUC CEO Steve Lindauer and members of several unions (see story here).

Safety Concerns Addressed

The Dec. 2 hearing, entitled "The Keystone XL Pipeline: Expediting Energy Security and Jobs," was conducted by the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power.

Brent Booker, Director of LIUNA's Construction Department, told the subcommittee that "the benefits of this pipeline are too many to allow it to be derailed by environmental extremists."



"The Keystone XL Pipeline will be the safest pipeline in the world."


-Brent Booker



"For many members of the Laborers, this project is not just a pipeline; it is, in fact, a lifeline," Booker said. "Joblessness in construction is far higher than any industry sector, with over 1.1 million construction workers currently unemployed in the United States. Too many hard-working Americans are out of work, and the Keystone XL Pipeline will change that dire situation for thousands of them."

Booker also pointed out that TransCanada has voluntarily agreed to 57 special safety conditions developed by the government, which translate into "a degree of safety greater than any typically constructed domestic oil pipeline system under current regulations."

"The Keystone XL Pipeline will be the safest pipeline in the world," Booker added.

David Barnett, Special Representative for the United Association, disagreed with the argument that if the pipeline project is cancelled, development of the Canadian oil sands would grind to a halt. "However, there is no credible evidence to suggest that worldwide demand for oil is going anywhere but up or that Canada would have trouble finding other countries to purchase its oil if the U.S. declines to do so. Indeed, it seems clear that TransCanada's next best option after building a pipeline south to the U.S. is building a pipeline west to serve China, which, as environmentalists know, does not have the environmental protections we have."

Shovel-Ready

"The Keystone XL Pipeline project is shovel-ready," added Bruce Burton, International Representative with the IBEW. "As soon as a Presidential Permit is granted, jobs would be created, jobs that our country - jobs that our members - desperately need."

Jeffrey Soth of the Operating Engineers challenged members of the subcommittee to consider what would happen if the pipeline isn't built. Crude oil from the Bakken Formation would have to be moved by tanker truck, much more expensive than pipeline transportation, he pointed out.

"The State Department's Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the project says that trucking is 87 times more likely to result in fatality than a pipeline, and 35 times more likely to result in a fire and/or explosion," Soth said. "Without the Keystone XL, this American crude will be transported in ways that increase the risk to the environment and human safety."

"Rare Opportunity"

Alex Pourbaix, Transcanada's President of Energy and Oil Pipelines, also testified before the subcommittee. "We submitted our Presidential Permit application 40 months ago and are now faced with a potential delay that could take another 12 months or more - bringing the total time period for this process to more than 50 months. When we applied for a Presidential Permit for the initial Keystone Pipeline project, the entire process from application to Presidential Permit required 23 months. The process for the Enbridge Alberta Clipper project took 27 months. Those projects are not very different from Keystone XL."



"The Keystone XL Pipeline project is shovel-ready."


-Bruce Burton



Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Subcommittee Chair Ed Whitfield (R-KY) both called on the Obama Administration to approve the pipeline as quickly as possible.

"This pipeline is a rare opportunity for us to access energy from our closest friend and ally, Canada, and reduce dependence on less-reliable sources such as Venezuela, Nigeria, and the Middle East," Upton said. "Have we learned nothing since 1973? A steady stream of oil from Canada, North Dakota, and Montana delivered to U.S. refineries at the lowest transportation cost could help stabilize not only U.S. oil prices, but also the price of gasoline and other refined products. It just makes sense to keep the refining here at home, which will mean jobs and stable supplies."

Resources

To view the complete video of the hearing, click here.

Copies of the speakers' prepared testimonies can be read and downloaded here.

Related: Watch video of the Laborer's Brent Booker and UA's David Barnett discuss Keystone with CNBC's Larry Kudlow. Click here.

12/02/2011