Foes of the project — which has become a test of how President Obama balances environmental considerations against economic and energy supply concerns — will try to turn up the noise Sunday with a rally around the White House. Unemployed workers who support the 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline are planning to counter with a blitz of media interviews over the weekend.
The Dec. 31 target date for a final decision is drawing closer, and it is unclear whether the State Department, which is in charge of the approval process, will meet it.
“We’d like to get it done by the end of the year, but if thoroughness demands a little bit more time, nobody’s slammed the door on that,” said State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland.
A delay could increase the costs and uncertainty associated with the $7 billion project.
TransCanada chief executive Russ Girling said Friday that the three-year review process has already imposed costs on his company, including $1.9 billion on pipe and other equipment stored in warehouses.
“The carrying costs on those are material, and we continue to incur those costs,” he said, adding that further delays beyond the end of the year could force U.S. refineries that have signed contracts with TransCanada to look at alternatives, either other sources of supply or other transport means.
In an interview with the Omaha television station KETV on Tuesday, President Obama said the State Department will “be giving me a report over the next several months and, you know, my general attitude is: What is best for the American people? What’s best for our economy both short term and long term? But also: What’s best for the health of the American people?”
A key question for the administration is how many jobs the Keystone XL project would create. TransCanada’s initial estimate of 20,000 — which it said includes 13,000 direct construction jobs and 7,000 jobs among supply manufacturers — has been widely quoted by lawmakers and presidential candidates.
Girling said Friday that the 13,000 figure was “one person, one year,” meaning that if the construction jobs lasted two years, the number of people employed in each of the two years would be 6,500. That brings the company’s number closer to the State Department’s; State says the project would create 5,000 to 6,000 construction jobs, a figure that was calculated by its contractor Cardno Entrix.
As for the 7,000 indirect supply chain jobs, the $1.9 billion already spent by TransCanada would reduce the number of jobs that would be created in the future. The Brixton Group, a firm working with opponents of the project, has argued that many of the indirect supply jobs would be outside the United States because about $1.7 billion worth of steel will be purchased from a Russian-owned mill in Canada.