As Americans, we too often take for granted the energy that powers our homes, businesses, and daily lives. We flip a switch, and we know the lights will turn on. It’s a reality that each of us can take comfort in, but many don’t see the delicate process of getting the energy from where it is produced, to where it can be generated and turned into the electricity we all use.
My industry is helping to ensure affordable access to energy, amid one of the worst energy crises of our lifetime. I’ve been building pipelines for twenty-five years, and I understand the importance of having a strong energy network. Transporting energy via pipelines can be two to three times less expansive compared to other forms of transportation. Without pipelines, we would not be able to efficiently or safely transport the oil and natural gas that is required to power our modern-day economy.
Unfortunately, some politicians in Washington don’t see the value of transporting affordable energy as it relates to our economy. On day one of the Biden presidency, he signed an executive order terminating the Keystone XL Pipeline and instantly thousands of workers, myself included, were out of work.
We didn’t just lose key infrastructure, but thousands of workers lost family-sustaining salaries, strong benefits, and a strong essence of fulfillment.
The Keystone XL pipeline was projected to run 1,179 miles from Alberta, Canada, to Steele City, Nebraska. The pipeline had the potential to carry 830,000 barrels of Canadian crude oil each day. After President Obama rejected the pipeline in 2015, President Trump quickly reinstated the project upon taking office, and issued a permit allowing its construction. To thousands of laborers across the nation, that permit represented a stable job and income.
However, hopes of financial stability were shattered when President Biden killed the permit within hours of taking office, bowing to pressure from fringe factions who don’t represent the perspectives or interests of most Democrats, much less a majority of Americans.
In addition to the loss of jobs from canceling KXL, the Biden administration championed an agenda that was aggressively anti-fossil fuels. The result has been detrimental to Americas – record-high energy prices fueling record-high inflation levels. Thankfully, prices have been declining in recent weeks, but are still much higher than they were just a year or two ago.
If we want to solidify our pipeline network, President Biden should re-authorize the Keystone XL pipeline and prioritize permitting reform.
While we should all ensure these projects are vigorously vetted to determine environmental and ecological impact, activists and lawyers have hijacked the process to essentially delay construction in perpetuity. A 2018 study by the Council on Environmental Quality, review times for energy infrastructure projects have more than doubled since the 1970s and many projects now take more than six years to gain approval. It’s a bureaucratic nightmare that is slowing our productivity and threatening our energy security. Federal reforms are urgently needed, and there is no time to waste.
A good place to start would be Senator Joe Manchin’s permitting reform framework that was released in July. As part of the deal to earn Senator Manchin’s support for the reconciliation bill, Democratic leadership promised to pass reforms to the federal energy permitting process by the end of the fiscal year. Manchin’s reforms would truly help address some aspects of the cumbersome federal permitting process that plague so many projects, like the Dakota Access Pipeline, Mountain Valley Pipeline, Keystone XL, and so many others.
A one-pager released by Senator Manchin’s office indicates he is seeking numerous reforms that would streamline the approval of both clean energy and fossil fuel projects. Specifically, the bipartisan energy permitting framework includes requiring the President to designate a list of 25 high-priority energy projects to expedite construction, approval of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, maximum timelines for NEPA reviews, and much more.
As the world’s leading oil and natural gas producer, the United States must maintain its vast pipeline network to ensure widespread access to abundant, affordable, and reliable domestic energy. With energy prices once again volatile, environmental extremists must not dictate America’s energy policy as American livelihoods are at stake.
It is important the President Biden support this framework without delay so we can get back to building safe, Made-in-America energy infrastructure. Our country needs good paying jobs during these uncertain times, and it’s long overdue for Washington to recognize this reality.
Neal Crabtree is a pipeline worker affiliated with Pipeliners Local Union 798. He has worked on projects in every state except for Alaska and Hawaii and lost his job after Keystone XL was canceled.