President Joe Biden promised that he would be “President of all Americans.” He said he wanted to rid our political culture of the red vs. blue state dialog.
There are a group of red states out west, however, who aren’t feeling so loved by the new president. Union workers expecting to earn good wages on the Keystone XL Pipeline from Montana south through the Dakotas, Nebraska, Oklahoma to the Texas Gulf received the news that President Biden was canceling the pipeline permit, reversing former President Donald Trump’s approval right after the new Trump administration was installed in 2016.
Montana Governor Greg Gianforte (R) led the growing pushback on the President’s action: “The Keystone XL Pipeline is a lifeline for rural Montana. Over $100 million in annual taxes that we were counting on to pay for teachers, to pay for law enforcement, to pay for infrastructure—we need this in rural Montana.”
The President’s shutting down the pipeline came as no surprise. What was surprising was the August 17, 2020, endorsement of the Biden campaign by a national plumbers and pipefitters union. The President’s move quickly did away with an estimated 11,000 U.S. jobs—including 8,000 union jobs. For example, members of pipelines Local Union 798 on the job at pump stations in Nebraska were laid off immediately following Biden’s executive order.
In a classic example of glib doublespeak, Biden Administration spokespersons characterized the pipeline permit repeal as one of several “critical first steps to address the climate crisis, create good union jobs, and advance environmental justice, while reversing the previous administration’s harmful policies.”
Transportation Secretary nominee Pete Buttigieg piled on with his take: “We are very eager to see those workers continue to be employed in good-paying union jobs, even if they might be different ones.”
The executive order says that the pipeline “disserves the U.S. national interest, given the climate crisis faced by the United States and the rest of the world.” Channeling the hyperbole of the 2001 Al Gore warnings, the order continued: “That crisis, must be met with action on a scale and a speed commensurate with the need to avoid setting the world on a dangerous, potentially catastrophic climate trajectory.”
Mark McManus, president of the United Association of Union Plumbers and Pipefitters, clearly regrets his union’s endorsement: “In revoking this permit, the Biden Administration has chosen to listen to the voices of fringe activists instead of union members and the American consumer on Day 1 (of his presidency).”
McManus emphasized that when built with union labor, “pipelines like Keystone XL remain the safest and most efficient modes of energy transportation in the world.” Advancements in technology, said McManus, “mean that these pipelines are a low-carbon method of energy transportation and a critical part of delivering affordable energy while achieving our shared climate goals.”
A group of Republican senators from western states joined the fray. Senator Steve Daines (R-Mont.) complained, “It’s only day one, and with the stroke of a pen, Biden has already taken steps to kill American energy projects (like Keystone)” which will “create thousands of jobs, generate tax revenue…and promote North American energy security.”