Labor Unions Blast White House Delay of Job-Creating Keystone XL Project, House GOP Plans Action

Today, the House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Energy & Power held a hearing on the future of the Keystone XL pipeline – a job-creating energy project put on the back burner by the Obama Administration last month. On the same day that the Department of Labor announced that more than 300,000 discouraged Americans have left the workforce, union representatives made clear that the Obama Administration’s actions have denied thousands more the opportunity to get back to work – including those in the hard-hit construction sector.  Here’s what these labor representatives told the committee:

  • “This Project is Not Just a Pipeline; It Is In Fact, a Life-Line.” “For many members of the Laborers, this project is not just a pipeline; it is in fact, a life-line. … 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.” (Brent Booker, Director, Construction Department, Laborers’ International Union of North America, Testimony, 12/2/11)
  • “If the Keystone XL Pipeline is Not Built …. No Jobs Will Be Created.” “[I]f the Keystone XL Pipeline is not built, the socioeconomic benefits of the project will not be realized. … And critically important to the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE), no jobs will be created.  That means there will be no employer contributions made to IUOE members’ health care for their families.  No contributions to retirement.  And no investments in the labor-management training funds that support the skill development of future workers in the pipeline industry.” (Jeffrey Soth, Assistant Director, Department of Legislative and Political Affairs, International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE), Testimony, 12/2/11)
  • “These Are Not Just Jobs We’re Talking About, but American Families.” “[K]eystone XL would generate a tremendous number of U.S. jobs. ... Over the last two years, we’ve seen construction industry unemployment reach upwards of 27 percent, including pockets of unemployment in some parts of the country that have far exceeded this number.  We’ve seen working families lose their livelihoods, their homes, their children’s college savings, and, in some cases, their dreams of building a better life for their families.  These are not just jobs we’re talking about, but American families.” (David Barnett, Special Representative with the United Association of Plumbers and Pipe Fitters, Testimony, 12/2/11)     
  • “Workers from All Over the United States Would Benefit from the Project.” “Just like the benefits from the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline, the benefits from the Keystone XL Pipeline will not be localized.  From pipe manufactured in Arkansas, pump motors assembled in Ohio and transformers built in Pennsylvania, to the men and women who will actually work on the pipeline itself, workers from all over the United States would benefit from the project.” (Bruce Burton, International Representative, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Testimony, 12/2/11)

Today, Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE) introduced legislation to accelerate a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, preventing the Obama Administration from punting on the decision until after the election.  The job-crushing delay on the pipeline decision would have been avoided if Senate Democrats passed the bipartisan North-American Made Energy Security (NAMES) ActAmerican Energy Initiative legislation that would have required a decision to be made on the pipeline by November 1.  Unfortunately, Senate Democrats refused to take up the measure, along with 25 other House-passed jobs bills that are languishing on their doorstep.

Following a meeting with Alberta Premier Alison Redford last month, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said: “President Obama says ‘we can’t wait’ to act on jobs, and yet that’s exactly what his decision on the Keystone energy project has out-of-work Americans doing: waiting.”  That’s unacceptable.  The American people have already waited years for President Obama and Washington Democrats to deliver on their promise of economic growth and job creation, to no avail.  It is time for Senate Democrats to follow the House’s lead and act on the 25 bipartisan, House-passed jobs bills to help put Americans back to work.