Keystone XL would have cost rail jobs

Published: February 1, 2021

Misinformation has been circulating regarding an executive order signed by President Joe Biden that revoked the permit of the Keystone XL pipeline and supposedly “eliminated 11,000 union jobs.”

The 11,000-job number came from a press release issued in October 2019 by TC Energy – the main contractor on the Keystone XL project and was then used on social media posts attacking the decision to revoke the permit.

However, a PolitiFact.org report says that TC Energy’s president announced that somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,000 of those union jobs were laid off. The remainder of the “11,000” positions widely quoted on social media were not filled, and the jobs never existed anywhere but on paper.

PolitiFact reporter Daniel Funke also said the release may have had an inflated number to begin with. According to the State Department’s initial review of the pipeline project back in 2014, the jobs number was about 10,400 temporary, seasonal jobs.

More importantly, and something not widely reported, is that, once the project was done, it would have sustained just 35 to 50 or so full-time positions to maintain the pipeline.

Had it gone through, Keystone XL was projected to carry a capacity of about 830,000 barrels of oil per day. At least 500 SMART-TD members per day are needed to haul the 27,000 rail cars carrying oil that would have been displaced by the pipeline.

Keystone would have also displaced refinery capacity at locations across the East and West coasts, costing approximately another 100 SMART sheet metal jobs. Those 600 jobs that would have been lost by SMART members also do not include the thousands of jobs lost by union members in the trucking industry who would have seen their jobs displaced by the pipeline.

While the loss of 1,000 current temporary jobs in trades outside SMART is not a positive, Keystone XL also would have resulted in a permanent job loss for those SMART-TD and SMART brothers and sisters.

This is not the first time our union has had to defend our rail jobs from a pipeline and echoes the coal slurry fight that happened in the 1970s during the Gulf Energy Crisis.

Rail labor organizations and carriers joined forces to oppose the plans for coal companies to transport the fossil fuel from the Upper Plains and Powder River Basin as a slurry in pipelines instead of transporting it by rail. Our objections were heard. That project was stopped in its tracks and a drastic reduction in rail carloads was avoided, saving many railroad jobs.

Allowing this Keystone pipeline project to go ahead would have taken thousands of carloads off the rails, would have resulted in further rail traffic declines, and would have cost at least 600 of our fellow members of SMART their jobs. This is not even taking into account all the other rail crafts that would have been affected.

To the contrary, one railroad has begun the procedure to recall 40 to 50 furloughed employees to return to service immediately, and two others have posted job openings for at least 200 additional new conductors because of an anticipated increase in oil traffic. Likewise, additional hiring sessions are being planned to account for a forecasted increase in oil traffic, which, according to them, could begin by the the third quarter of this year.

“While we are always supportive of all unionized labor, as Transportation Division President of SMART, I am tasked with having our primary focus on what is in the best interests of our membership,” said SMART-TD President Jeremy R. Ferguson. “When viewed in that capacity, I think it is clearly a positive decision for our members that the Keystone XL pipeline project has been shut down.”