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December 14, 2011 05:56 PM

Did SD Pipeline Jobs Live Up To Promises?

Washington, D.C.

South Dakota Senator John Thune says the proposed Keystone XL pipeline is one of the main sticking points to getting a payroll tax cut bill passed through the Senate.

The oil pipeline would cut through western South Dakota on its way from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.

President Obama has delayed a decision on the permit until 2013 to look at the environmental impacts.

Republicans in the House of Representatives tacked on a provision to the payroll tax bill that passed Tuesday night in an effort to fast-track approval of the pipeline because they say America needs the jobs now.

So what did TransCanada promise for jobs in South Dakota for the first Keystone pipeline that it built through eastern South Dakota and what was actually delivered?

In its application to the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission back in 2007, TransCanada said it would need 1,600 workers to build the portion of the pipeline that cut through the eastern side of the state.

TransCanada actually had 1,700 workers in the state at the peak of construction in 2009. They also had 700 workers in the state the year before in 2008 for a total of 2,400 jobs over the two years of construction.  However, it’s likely some of those jobs overlapped from year to year.

Overall, TransCanada did exceed its estimates for workers in the state on the first Keystone pipeline.

With the Keystone XL project, TransCanada has said it needs 1,200 workers in South Dakota to build the portion of the pipeline.

And we do know that TransCanada told the South Dakota PUC that a limited number of permanent jobs will be created by the XL project.  In other words, South Dakota will see a surge of construction workers and then the jobs will be gone. It’s a scenario very similar to the first pipeline.

Senator Tim Johnson says the Keystone XL project needs to be studied more as they look for a new route around the Sandhills of Nebraska, and he believes the project shouldn't be in this payroll tax cut bill.

Republicans in Washington, D.C., including Thune, believes these temporary construction jobs are jobs the country needs now, and he believes the president is telling Democrats to block this bill for political reasons.

"They don't want to have an issue going into his re-election year that splits his political base. They've got labor unions that have come out very much in favor of this because it's jobs. They've got environmental groups that have come out very opposed to it, and he doesn't want to tick either one of them off,” Thune said. “So, delaying it for 18 months was the political solution for them, but it's a solution that absolutely undermines the very thing the administration talks about wanting to do and that's to get jobs out there and shovel-ready jobs."

"I agree with the governor of Nebraska, the Republican governor of Nebraska, that it should be moved elsewhere and that requires some substantial environmental matters. It doesn't belong in this tax cut bill anyway; it's two different items," Johnson said.

It's unclear how the House bill will move forward in the Senate, but it's expected that it will be voted down by the Democrats. 

Thune believes if that happens, Republican House Speaker John Boehner and Democratic Senator Harry Reid will hash out a bill both sides can agree on, but the bill needs to get passed before Congress leaves for Christmas.

President Obama says he will veto the payroll tax cut bill if the pipeline is included.
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