GREAT FALLS — President Joe Biden passed a flurry of executive orders on day one in office, including revoking the permit awarded to TransCanada by President Trump for the Keystone XL Pipeline. The new proposed route for the pipeline would have cut through parts of eastern Montana.
The decision by President Biden to revoke the March 2019 permit drew strong criticism from some of Montana's elected officials. Let’s break down some of those claims.
On Jan. 20, Inauguration Day, Gov. Greg Gianforte sent a letter to the incoming President congratulating him and urging him to reconsider the executive action.
In the letter, Governor Gianforte makes the following claims: the pipeline has bipartisan congressional support in Montana, thousands of American jobs will be lost, as will hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue that would support local schools and communities.
In 2015, Democratic U.S. Senator Jon Tester joined several other Democrats in voting with Republicans to override President Obama's veto of a bill approving the construction of the pipeline. The veto override was unsuccessful, ultimately failing by a vote of 62-37.
Then in May 2016, the state of Montana filed briefs supporting TC Energy, then called TransCanada, in their lawsuit against the Obama administration.
So, that claim is true; the pipeline does have support from members of both parties in Montana.
The next claim is something that GOP U.S. Senator Steve Daines echoed recently. Both Daines and Gianforte claim that revoking this permit will "kill American jobs." This is actually a fairly common claim among supporters of the pipeline project, and while it’s true, there is some important context to consider here.
The TC Energy group has already said they will have to eliminate over 1,000 jobs after the permit was revoked. Back in 2014, the U.S. State Department released a report estimating the total number of jobs created by the project would be about 42,000. However, that same report conceded that many of those jobs were temporary, and added that over 16,000 of them would be contract-based. Also, it’s important to understand that many construction jobs rely on temporary projects anyway.
According to the report from the State Department, once the proposed project became operational, it would only require 50 total employees in the U.S. 35 of those would be permanent employees, and 15 would be temporary contractors.
As for the final claim that millions of dollars of local revenue will be lost, the State Department also addresses this in their report. They say that property tax revenue during operations would be substantial for many counties. For reference, the proposed pipeline would have gone through 27 counties, including six in Montana. The total estimated property tax that would have been generated from the pipeline’s first full year in operation was approximately $55.6 million spread across the 27 counties.