As a fourth-generation Oklahoman, I know the importance of the oil and gas industry to the state and region. Killing the Keystone XL pipeline does no tangible good and will doubtless cause harm to countless Americans, and even to the environment that the decision pledges to protect.
Throughout my career, I have worked in the industry at almost every level: first, as a roustabout in college to help pay my way through school, then as an attorney in the private sector and general counsel to the state’s oil and gas regulator. Now, as attorney general, one of my most important responsibilities is protecting the state’s economic activities from unlawful federal intrusion.
In Oklahoma, oil and gas production employs thousands, pumps millions of dollars into local economies, and creates billions of dollars in economic activity. The same is true for many states across the country.
Keystone has led to thousands of good-paying jobs, now snuffed out with the stroke of a pen. Again, the impact will be felt not just in Oklahoma: The pipeline here increases the transport of oil to Cushing, one of the largest transshipment and oil-storage locations in the world.
In response to the president’s decision, lawmakers have introduced legislation to mandate continuation of the project, estimating that the pipeline’s expansion would create 11,000 “direct high-paying jobs” and “up to 60,000 indirect and direct jobs.”
Indeed, by revoking Keystone’s permit, President Biden is relegating these workers to the unemployment line, when our country can ill afford to strain our already overstressed unemployment system.
But these economic realities are just some of the reasons why ending the Keystone XL pipeline is a bad policy for America.
The president justified revoking the pipeline’s permit on the grounds that the status quo undermined U.S. climate leadership. Yet in addition to the cancellation’s adverse economic consequences, it also negatively affects health and human safety. (A pipeline is a far better and safer way to transport crude oil than freight is.) It also ignores the painstaking measures that the Keystone developers have taken to enforce environmental-safety rules.
Also, despite the president’s supposed priorities, the executive order would lead to the destruction of 10,000 union jobs, as well as the $500 million allocated for indigenous suppliers and a $10 million fund for green-jobs training.
Under President Barack Obama, the State Department published an environmental impact report in 2014 that posited that the pipeline expansion would not have a serious or even substantial impact on greenhouse-gas emissions.
In fact, the impact report stated that the State Department expected extraction of oil in Canada and changes to the environment “regardless of any potential effects” from the Keystone XL project.
Crushing the pipeline-expansion project will instead force companies to adopt riskier modes of transporting crude oil, such as trucks and rail service — an unwelcome prospect to West Virginians especially, who remember the 14 tankers that derailed six years ago. These forms of transportation also increase emissions.
To anyone truly interested in optimizing health and human safety for the American people and our friends in Canada — as well as protecting the environment and promoting well-paying jobs — supporting Keystone XL is a no-brainer.
Unfortunately enough, these serious consequences reveal how working-class Americans who voted for President Biden are the ones who will suffer the most as he focuses on an ideological, rather than fact-based, climate agenda.
Dubious policy ought to never be prioritized over the real and immediate needs of hard-working American families. It is my hope, and the hope of a great many elected officials and countless Americans, that the president will reverse his position and allow construction of the Keystone XL pipeline to continue.