The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, May 09, 2014

Construction union leaders blast further Keystone delay

By The Building Tradesman

WASHINGTON (PAI) – Two construction union leaders, Building Trades President Sean McGarvey and Laborers President Terry O’Sullivan, are blasting the Obama Administration for yet another delay in ruling on building the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline.

And McGarvey has now joined O’Sullivan’s prior warning of negative election consequences for the president and congressional Democrats this fall from delay or denial.  O’Sullivan calls the delay “politics at its worst.”

Obama’s State Department announced on April 19 that it would delay a final deadline for other federal agencies to comment on Keystone’s northern segment, which runs from the Canada-Montana border to a large oil terminal in Cushing, Okla.

Union workers have already built Keystone’s southern segment, from Cushing to Gulf Coast refineries, under a project labor agreement (PLA).  Keystone’s owner, TransCanada, signed the PLA with the Laborers, Operating Engineers, Teamsters and other unions years ago.  It covers the whole pipeline.   The unions say Keystone would create tens of thousands of jobs at a time when more than one of every nine construction workers is unemployed.

Laborers Legislative Director Dave Mellino told a panel discussion on National Public Radio that just construction of the southern segment of Keystone produced approximately 2 million man-hours of work for his union alone.  He estimated that was at least 1,000 jobs.

“And the Keystone oil will be replacing oil we bring in from unfriendly regimes around the world,” Mellino added.

But Keystone is politically controversial: Environmental groups – also strong Obama supporters – outspokenly oppose it.  They contend it would bring “dirty oil” from Alberta’s tar sands to the coast, increasing the carbon gases that cause global warming.  The National Nurses United also opposes Keystone.  It says workers could build “green” projects instead.

Mellino replied the Albertan oil already enters the U.S., by rail.  A pipe is safer, he said.

“In another gutless move, the administration is delaying a finding on whether the pipeline is in the national interest based on months-old litigation in Nebraska regarding a state level challenge to a state process — which has nothing to with the national interest,” O’Sullivan said.  The Nebraska case challenges a state law that let the GOP governor OK the route there.

“It’s not the oil that’s dirty, it’s the politics.  Once again, the administration is making a political calculation instead of doing what is right for the country.  This certainly is no example of profiles in courage.  It’s clear the administration needs to…perhaps take a lesson from Popeye and eat some spinach,” O’Sullivan said.  The White House denied a political motive.

McGarvey called the delay “a cold, hard slap in the face for hard-working Americans who are literally waiting for” Keystone’s “approval and the tens of thousands of jobs” building it.
“Despite this administration’s own findings that Keystone will result in significant economic benefits to our country, President Obama placed politics over substantive policy that only serves to advance the agenda of well-funded radical environmentalists.  Where does this leave the president’s actual core constituency of working Americans?  Why does President Obama continue to side with radicals instead of the middle class that, twice, put him office, and supports this project by a significant majority?”  McGarvey asked.