WASHINGTON - Union leaders split on President Barack Obama’s Jan. 18 denial of a federal permit to build the 1,700-mile Keystone XL oil pipeline from the U.S.-Canada border to the Texas Gulf Coast. Construction unions called Obama’s ruling a “job killer,” but at least five unions sided with environmental groups against Keystone.
Obama said the controversial project could not be constructed as planned by its sponsor, TransCanada, because it would endanger a valuable underground aquifer in Nebraska. He said TransCanada could apply again once it worked out a new route around the aquifer. TransCanada said it would do so.
Environmental groups strongly opposed the pipeline because they said it would pump bitumen-laden “dirty oil” from Albertan tar sands to the Gulf Coast, increasing the pollution that leads to global warming. The Transport Workers, Steel Workers, Communications Workers, Auto Workers and Service Employees sided with them.
Construction union presidents were particularly upset as four unions signed a project labor agreement with TransCanada several years ago to use unionized labor to build Keystone. At that time, the unions calculated the pipeline’s construction would employ 20,000 workers directly and many more thousands of people indirectly.