The Tulsa World reported that hundreds of members of Pipeliners Local 798 held a rally Tuesday to cheer on the construction of the pipeline project to take oil from Canada’s tar sands to the Gulf of Mexico:
Speakers called the pipeline an economic engine because of the thousands of workers needed to build it and a national security necessity because it allows the U.S. to import Canadian rather than OPEC oil.
“To break it down in the simplest terms, the Canadians will continue to extract oil sands,” Danny Hendrix, business manger for Local 798, said at the opening of the rally. “Pipelines are the safest and most economical way to transport that oil.”
The Keystone XL, if all its sections are ;completed, would be a 1,600-mile system bringing crude from the Alberta oil sands across the U.S. through Oklahoma and to Gulf Coast refineries and seaports. The U.S. State Department is still considering permitting for the northern cross-border section, while a middle leg is complete and the Cushing-to-Texas coast stretch is due for operation by the end of the year.
The pipeline project is adamantly opposed by environmentalists, who warn of potential damage from spills. They’ve gotten the White House to delay it and even gotten the AFL-CIO to decline to specifically endorse the project despite the fact that many of its member unions back it.
The Oklahoma union members had no doubts about the project’s value:
In fact, he and other union representatives argued, the nation’s aging pipeline infrastructure is a strong reason to build more modern projects such as the Keystone XL.
David Barnett, special representative for the pipeline department of the United Association of Plumbers of Pipefitters, Local 798′s international affiliation, estimated that trains or trucks moving crude were four times more likely to spill, while those methods also increased greenhouse gases three-fold. He also took exception to opponents who downgraded the Keystone’s $7 billion impact on union jobs due to the temporary nature of the contracts.
“Tell me a job today that’s not temporary,” Barnett said to cheers at the rally. “We’ve made a living all our lives off temporary jobs.”
Military veterans had a strong presence at the rally, sporting camouflage T-shirts touting “Veterans for Pipelines.” Mike Hazard, a Navy veteran who is the United Association’s training specialist for a program which prepares service people for careers in union fields, recalled his own experience getting a job after leaving the military.
“I know what it’s like to come home and face uncertainty over how to make ends meet,” Hazard said, also linking approval of the Keystone XL to geopolitical uncertainties in the oil-rich Persian Gulf and Venezuela. “If the Keystone XL isn’t approved, we’ll continue to reply on oil from unstable regimes.”