Building Trades urge Obama to sign Keystone pipeline bill

Building Trades unions are urging President Barack Obama to sign legislation mandating construction of the entire controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline. They said the pipeline would create tens of thousands of construction jobs.

But their appeal fell on deaf ears at the White House. Obama has already promised to veto the measure, because it bypasses the federal process for considering the project. And the 62-36 bipartisan Senate vote for the bill reveals there are enough anti-Keystone senators to uphold his decision. 

The pipeline would carry 800,000 barrels daily of heavy oil from Albertan tar sands to a terminal in Guthrie, Okla. The southern part of Keystone, from Guthrie to the refineries of the Gulf Coast, has already been constructed under a project labor agreement, using union workers. The PLA, with the Teamsters, Operating Engineers, Laborers and other unions,. covers the northern segment, too. 

“The Keystone XL pipeline is an economic lifeline” for an industry with a jobless rate still above 8 percent, the AFL-CIO’s building trades department said in a statement.  It called the six-year review of Keystone “ridiculously protracted.” Building Trades unions urged Obama “to listen to the will of Congress,”  which is bipartisan, and to his State Department, which previously found Keystone “does not represent any significant increase in atmospheric carbon levels.” 

Keystone’s union foes dispute that. Led by National Nurses United and the Amalgamated Transit Union, they say that "from the ground to the pipe to the refineries, Keystone’s tar sands oil, with its thick, dirty, corrosive properties, pose a clear and present danger to public health.” They also call Keystone’s job creation estimates inflated.  

“We are for jobs,” Keystone’s union foes add. “There is no shortage of water and sewage pipelines that need to be fixed or replaced, bridges and tunnels in need of emergency repair, transportation infrastructure that needs to be renewed and developed. Many thousands of jobs could also be created in energy conservation, upgrading the grid, maintaining and expanding public transportation -- jobs that can help us reduce air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and improve energy efficiency.”

Article written by Mark GruenbergPress Associates Union News Service and reprinted from WorkdayMInnesota.org