Senator John Thune
For more than six years, the Keystone XL pipeline has been at the bottom of the Democrats’ list of priorities. Yet, less than a month after the voters soundly rejected the Obama agenda at the polls on Election Day, the Democrat leadership in the Senate was suddenly willing to vote on the Keystone XL pipeline. Unfortunately, the vote wasn’t due to the tens of thousands of jobs it would create for the American people, but instead was used as a bargaining chip to help save the job of one senator who’s facing a tough run-off election.
It’s disappointing that they finally lifted their objection to voting on the pipeline when the job of one of their own was on the line. Regrettably, even after all of the theatrics, a majority of Democrats still voted to block this common-sense, job-creating project, which failed by a single vote.
The Keystone XL pipeline is a no-brainer. It would invest billions of dollars in the U.S. economy and would put thousands of Americans back to work, all at zero expense to the American taxpayer. The Obama State Department estimates that in South Dakota alone, the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline will bring 3,000-4,000 jobs. These jobs will range from construction jobs for welders, pipefitters and laborers, to spin-off jobs at local hotels, restaurants, and gas stations. This will generate well over $100 million in earnings and some $20 million in annual property taxes to local counties. That represents funding for a lot of schools, roads, bridges, and law enforcement personnel in our state.
In addition to the economic boom, the Department of Energy concluded in 2011 that Keystone XL oil will be refined in the U.S. and will offset imports from Venezuela. Another benefit of the pipeline is that it would transport 100,000 barrels of U.S. oil per day from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota and Montana, which would relieve over one unit train per day and help to alleviate the rail bottleneck preventing farmers and other shippers from reaching markets. Farmers in South Dakota have piled harvested grain on the ground because much of the rail capacity they depend on is tied up moving Bakken oil – the very oil that could be moved in the Keystone XL pipeline.
While opponents of the pipeline like to cite environmental concerns as their reason for opposing the pipeline and its jobs, five separate environmental reviews from the president’s own State Department found that the pipeline poses no meaningful risk to the environment. In fact, the State Department admits that the Keystone pipeline is the safest way of transporting the oil. Pipelines also produce fewer emissions than other modes of transport.This fight is far from over. One of the first priorities of the new Republican majority next Congress will be to send the president a bill that approves the Keystone XL pipeline. It’s time for the president and Democrats to put the interests of hard-working Americans ahead of the extreme environmental wing of his party. Let’s get this passed and put Americans to work.