LINCOLN — A recent government report says the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline would create 35 permanent jobs, a number that seemed to underwhelm the president as he met this week with project supporters.
President Barack Obama held a closed-door meeting Wednesday with House Republicans at which topics included the controversial Canada-to-Texas pipeline that would run through Nebraska.
U.S. Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., a strong pipeline supporter who attended the meeting, said afterward that the president suggested the project won't create many jobs.
Pipeline supporters said the president and others who focus on permanent jobs discount the thousands of workers who would be hired to do temporary construction and manufacturing.
Opponents on Thursday pointed to the State Department's recent analysis, which estimates the pipeline will create 35 permanent jobs after construction is complete.
The State Department's estimate lines up with other reviews that contend proponents have inflated the economic benefits of the pipeline, said Jane Kleeb, director of Bold Nebraska, an opponent of the Keystone XL pipeline.
TransCanada, the company that hopes to build the pipeline, accused opponents of ignoring the jobs created during construction. The company has estimated that the pipeline will employ 9,000 construction and 7,000 manufacturing workers, said Shawn Howard, a company spokesman.
“I don't understand why the opponents of this project seem intent on attacking the value of the work these construction workers will do,” Howard said.
The 1,700-mile pipeline would carry diluted bitumen from Canada's tar-sands region to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast. Environmentalists fear a spill could severely contaminate underground and surface water supplies, while labor groups and energy interests tout the project's economic benefits.
Obama must approve a permit for the pipeline since it would cross an international border. The State Department will hold a public hearing in Nebraska on its recent analysis at a time and place to be announced.
The question of how many jobs would be created is confusing because of the wide-ranging estimates published in different reports.
While the State Department analysis revealed a relatively small number of permanent jobs, it also estimated the project's direct expenditures at $3.3 billion.
The analysis additionally said the pipeline would support 3,900 construction jobs and about 38,200 additional direct and indirect jobs on its route over a one- to two-year construction period.
Earlier this year, Creighton University economist Ernie Goss released an analysis of the project on behalf of the Consumer Energy Alliance, a pro-pipeline group.
His study, derived from data supplied by the company, estimated that the project would result in 5,500 direct and indirect jobs in Nebraska during construction.
But Goss' study also put the number of new, permanent employees working for TransCanada in Nebraska at 23, because once it is operational, the pipeline requires far fewer workers to maintain.
Economically, Goss said, construction jobs are important, even if temporary.
“It's a little bewildering to me,” he said. “All construction jobs are temporary.”
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