TransCanada has said in interviews and regulatory filings that the construction of the pipeline would require 13,000 “job years” — meaning 6,500 people working two years — plus create about 7,000 jobs among companies supplying pipe, valves, software, pumps and other goods needed during construction. Those figures fall far short of the figures often cited by House Republicans and an industry consulting firm in support of the project.
Long term, however, the pipeline would create few direct U.S. jobs. The pipeline will be monitored from TransCanada’s computerized control room in Calgary, and pump stations and pipelines require little attention or maintenance, with technicians visiting once or twice a week.
TransCanada chief executive Russ Girling said in an interview that there would be job benefits from replacing oil imported by the United States from other parts of the world with oil imported from Canada, which generally spends more of its oil money in the United States than other U.S. trade partners.
Steele City, population 54, near the southern border of Nebraska shows the cycle of job creation — and evaporation. Only a couple of years ago, TransCanada installed another Canadian crude oil pipeline, also called Keystone. It ran farther east of the Sand Hills, cost $6 billion to build and raised little fuss.
For a while, Steele City saw an influx of workers. They set up about 20 trailers and frequented the Salty Dog Tavern, a local bar.
“The pipeline was good for me,” said Margo D’Angelo, who has owned the Salty Dog for 27 years. The workers didn’t drink much, she said, but they often came to the saloon for lunch and left good tips. She was able to buy a new air conditioner by the time they were done.
“There were some rough characters,” she said. “We had to squish out some of them, but there were others who were the nicest people you’d met.”
Then the workers left.
Today, Steele City seems a lot like it did before the Keystone pipeline came through. The streets are deserted. The school population is dwindling.
To celebrate July 4, D’Angelo and her husband, Greg Compton, an ironworker, drank quite a few beers in the clearing behind the tavern. One other couple was there with a black pickup truck, doors flung open, playing country music.
D’Angelo and Compton launched 3½-foot-tall paper lanterns by lighting wicks inside; the hot air from the flames pushed the lanterns up. Gradually, gracefully the lanterns rose into the sky, carried by the wind until they disappeared from view.
Jon Cohen contributed to this report.