Jobs? Obama 'Should Be Working Overtime' to Get Pipeline Approved

By Susan Jones | October 7, 2011 | 11:38 AM EDT

(Map from TransCanada Web site)

( - Without spending a dime of taxpayer money, President Obama could put tens of thousands of Americans to work over the next four years and pump billions of dollars into the economy, if only his administration would get moving on a Canada-to-Texas crude oil pipeline.

That's the message from labor unions and the petroleum industry, which find themselves on the same side when it comes to completing the 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline.

"At a time when our nation is struggling with high unemployment and is concerned about having a dependable energy supply, the president should be working overtime to approve this $7 billion project, which is funded entirely by private industry," said Danny Hendrix, the business manager for United Association Local 798.

"Keystone will yield $6.5 billion in personal income for U.S. workers and produce $600 million in state and local taxes along the pipeline route."

On Friday, Hendrix and other union leaders were testifying in support of the pipeline at a U.S. State Department hearing in Washington, D.C. The hearing took place shortly after the U.S. Labor Department announced the September unemployment rate remained stuck at 9.1 percent for a third straight month.

For three years, the State Department has been conducting a thorough environmental assessment of the pipeline, and it is scheduled to make a final decision on the project by the end of 2011. Because a foreign country is involved, the State Department must decide if the project is in the national interest.

President Obama never mentions the Keystone XL pipeline when he travels the country, demanding more taxpayer funds for job creation.

Republicans call his jobs bill a stimulus bill because it would use federal funds -- acquired by taxing wealthy Americans -- to support jobs for teachers, firefighters, police officers, and construction workers. Many of those union workers traditionally support Democrats.

This file photo from Sept. 29, 2011, shows a mowed swath of pasture in the sandhills along the planned path of the Keystone XL pipeline. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

But union leader Hendrix says the Keystone pipeline is the "perfect project" to get the economy moving because it would "secure a source of energy from a dependable neighbor" that is not subject to Middle East turmoil. "In today's difficult economic times, coupled with the present uncertainty in the Middle East, this project should be at the forefront of any plan for putting Americans back to work."

As for concerns about the environment, "There are skilled American workers who are ready to put their training and experience to work to ensure proper protection to the environment, rivers, and aquifers," Hendrix said.

Environmentalists and some landowners strongly oppose the pipeline, warning of environmental devastation along its route as well as its negative impact on advancing "clean energy" investments. Those critics are urging Obama to nix the project, no matter what the State Department says.

The final environmental impact statement issued by the State Department in August found that the project would have "no significant impact on the environment."

As previously reported, the American Petroleum Institute also insists that the pipeline should be a priority for the president.

"Surely, enhancing our nation's energy security and providing thousands of new jobs has got to be in the best interest of all Americans," said API Executive Vice President Marty Durbin on September 19, the third anniversary of the State Department's consideration of the project. "With the pipeline, U.S. crude imports from Canada could reach four million barrels a day by 2020, twice what we currently import from the Persian Gulf."

"President Obama says the economy needs to grow faster, and we agree," Durbin added. "More jobs will speed up our economic recovery, and our industry is ready to put Americans back to work."

API also has taken part in the State Department's public hearings.