Union accuses Obama of throwing it under the bus on Keystone pipeline decision
One of the largest Democratic unions in the country, the Laborers' International Union of North America, angrily denounced President Obama's decision not to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, saying he took the side of "elitists" and was more concerned with "his legacy" than he was with working families.
“President Obama today demonstrated that he cares more about kowtowing to green-collar elitists than he does about creating desperately needed, family-supporting, blue-collar jobs,”said Terry O’Sullivan, the union’s president, in a release following Obama’s Friday announcement.
Obama joined Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry at the White House to announce that the administration would not approve the long-awaited TransCanada pipeline. He said that the pipeline and fossil fuel development and transportation “would not serve the national interest of the United States,” while claiming that the State Department was ultimately responsible for the decision. He also downplayed the economic benefits of the multi-billion-dollar project.
“For years, the Keystone Pipeline has occupied what I, frankly, consider an overinflated role in our political discourse. It became a symbol too often used as a campaign cudgel by both parties rather than a serious policy matter,” Obama said. “The pipeline would not make a meaningful long-term contribution to our economy.”
O’Sullivan said that the White House’s approach to the approval process was one of “cowardly delay.” He disputed the contention that Keystone was environmentally harmful, citing a 2014 State Department report that found not approving the pipeline would increase emissions by up to 42 percent.
“Facts apparently mean as little to the president as the construction jobs he repeatedly derided as insignificant because they are ‘temporary.’ Ironically, the very temporary nature of the president’s own job seems to be fueling a legacy of doing permanent harm to middle- and working class families,” he said.
LIUNA represents about 500,000 workers in the construction industry, one of the sectors hardest hit by the 2008 economic collapse. Keystone, which was expected to create 42,000 construction jobs, has been awaiting approval for about seven years. O’Sullivan said that Obama’s attempt to minimize job gains demonstrated his “utter disdain” for blue-collar workers.
Politically, the criticism is meaningless. The union would never endorse a Republican for president, given all GOP candidates being in favor of right to work laws. But it could mean a little less enthusiasm for the Democratic candidate, given Hillary Clinton's flip-flop in opposing Keystone in her pandering to environmentalists.
The nature of construction jobs is that they are mostly temporary anyway – a point that apparently escaped the president and his advisers. I think it far more likely that the president wanted to please environmentalists around the world who wish to damage the fossil fuel industry. If his legacy is to make energy more expensive, then so be it.