Oilsands pipeline to U.S. a job killer: labour group; Study says 18,000 jobs in the balance

The head of the Alberta Federation of Labour says TransCanada Corp.'s proposed Keystone pipeline to the United States is a job killer that needs to be stopped.

In a submission to the National Energy Board, labour federation president Gil McGowan said the proposed 3,000-kilometre pipeline to the U.S. Midwest is not in the public interest because it would export refining and upgrading jobs from Canada, where the oil is produced.

"Canadians should be getting the greatest value for their resources," he said.

"The Keystone project falls well short of providing maximum value in the areas of jobs, economic opportunity and long-term economic and energy security."

According to a study by the economic consulting firm Infometrica, the labour federation insists 18,000 jobs would be created in Canada if bitumen was refined in Alberta instead of being shipped to the U.S. on the proposed pipeline.

"If Keystone goes ahead, we will miss a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create a broad, healthy, value-added, and research industry centred around a rejuvenated refining industry, McGowan warned.

Instead, "billions of dollars will be spent to retool and renovate current refineries in places such as Illinois and the American Gulf Coast."

If approved, Keystone would transport some 435,000 barrels a day from Hardisty, near Edmonton, to refineries in Illinois.

In February, TransCanada received National Energy Board approval to transfer assets from its main natural gas line to a subsidiary that would operate Keystone.

In December it filed a formal application to build the line and National Energy Board hearings seeking approval to construct and operate the Canadian facilities are scheduled to begin on June 4.

TransCanada spokeswoman Shela Shapiro said the company doesn't comment on intervenor submissions or the regulatory system.

"We're aware they have filed and it's part of the process," she said.

But David MacInnis, head of the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, said at least 450,000 barrels a day of new pipeline capacity is needed by 2009 to avert slowdowns and job losses in the burgeoning oilsands sector.

TransCanada, along with Enbridge Inc. and Kinder Morgan have put forth proposals to increase oilsands export capacity to the United States.

Although MacInnis wouldn't comment on the merits of any specific proposal, he said CEPA supports "market-backed solutions" to add new pipeline infrastructure and alleviate what he said is a looming capacity shortage.

He further suggested that upgraders planned for the Edmonton area over the next several years are threatened by a lack of skilled labour.

"With all that construction, I don't get the sense anybody is worried about losing jobs. In fact the opposite is true."

He said the labour federation's call for a moratorium on future pipeline construction would threaten oilsands growth and actually cost jobs in the long run.

"The AFL need to look in the mirror," he said.

"The short story is that these oilsands pipes create jobs. If they get their way, they will absolutely devastate the economy.

"There will definitely be shut-ins in production at oilsands plants . . . that's what's going to kill jobs."

Calgary Herald, Tues Apr 17 2007

Byline: Shaun Polczer

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