The Obama administration’s decision to withdraw and reconsider permits it issued for the proposed Dakota Access crude oil pipeline raises serious questions about the future of building US systems and the livelihoods of the project’s construction workers, general presidents of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and four other labor unions said (OGJ Online, Sept. 12, 2016).
“The project is being built with an all-union workforce and workers are earning family-sustaining wages, with family health care and retirement contributions,” they said in an Oct. 3 letter to US President Barack Obama. “However, the project delays are already putting members out of work and causing hardships for thousands of families.”
The Sept. 9 decision to withdraw a US Army Corps of Engineers permit for a portion of the proposed 1,172-mile, 30-in. pipeline that would connect the Bakken and Three Forks production areas in North Dakota to Patoka, Ill., came months after the project won final state and federal approvals after more than 4 years of state and federal reviews, the letter said.
It said the withdrawal and reconsideration decision also came hours after Judge James F. Boasberg of US District Court for the District of Columbia denied a request for a preliminary injunction by the Standing Rock Sioux Indian tribe and other opponents who argued that consultations had not been adequate.
Boasberg concluded that “not only had the US Army Corps likely met its National Environmental Policy Act and National Historic Preservation Act consultation obligations, it appeared to have exceeded the requirements in most cases,” the letter said. “In fact, the [Corps] held 389 meetings with 55 tribes on the Dakota Access project.”
The union leaders warned that the precedent created by “this extraordinary intervention following the conclusion of the regulatory process is chilling for future investment in necessary US systems—from highways and bridges to ports and factories.
“Our members make careers out of jobs created by projects like Dakota Access, and our jobs depend on the investments of conscientious employers,” they said. “If companies like Energy Transfer Partners cannot trust that the regulatory process outlined in federal law will be upheld, who will continue to invest in America? The family-sustaining jobs and benefits that this project provides are in jeopardy.”
General presidents of the International Union of Operating Engineers; Laborers International Union of North America; United Association of Plumbers, Fitters, Welders & Service Techs; and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers joined Teamsters GP James P. Hoffa in signing the letter.
A sixth organized labor leader—North American Building Trades Unions Pres. Sean McGarvey—expressed similar concerns during a teleconference with reporters that also included American Petroleum Institute Pres. Jack N. Gerard (OGJ Online, Sept. 13, 2016).
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