When Gary Westphal received word back in 2007 that TransCanada was planning to build a pump station in Butler County, Nebraska to support the original Keystone Pipeline, the born and raised Nebraskan couldn’t help but feel excited. The General Manager at Butler Public Power District remembers feeling excited for the benefits that the pipeline would bring for not only his business, but for the community he lived in as well.
Westphal says the community of Butler County saw real and direct impacts as a result of the construction of the pipeline in the form of property taxes and increased business at local cafes, motels and gas stations. His company, Butler Power, also directly benefited as they had the opportunity to work with TransCanada coordinating the technical details which were required to provide service and power to the David City pump station. When construction finished on the project and the pipeline transitioned to operations, the community of Butler continued to enjoy benefits from the pipeline and still do to this day.
“One of the real benefits of having the Keystone Pipeline is the folks from Keystone come here and occasionally do work,” said Westphal. “They bring in employees, they stay at the local motels, they eat at the local restaurants, they buy fuel, they stop at the Ace Hardware and so it’s a real positive economic benefit to not only Butler County, but to towns like David City.”
With all the debate surrounding the Keystone XL Pipeline, many people may not realize that the Keystone Pipeline System has been safely operating and transporting crude oil since 2010. This month marks the five-year anniversary of the official start of oil deliveries for the 2,639-mile (4,247-kilometre) cross-border pipeline from Hardisty, Alberta to markets in the American Midwest and in 2014 to the U.S. Gulf Coast. We can proudly say that we have now safely delivered the one billionth barrel of Canadian and U.S. crude oil on the Keystone Pipeline System – bringing with it millions of dollars in property taxes and thousands of construction jobs for the provinces and states it crosses.
“This is tangible evidence of how the safe delivery of Canadian and U.S. crude oil is helping to fuel the everyday lives of the American people in the safest, most efficient and least greenhouse gas intensive way possible,” said Russ Girling, TransCanada’s president and chief executive officer. “To put this achievement in perspective, it would take approximately 1.7 million train cars or 3.3 million trucks to transport one billion barrels of crude oil.”
To mark this occasion, we’re celebrating the real, tangible impacts that the Keystone Pipeline System had and continues to still have on communities, businesses and people in the regions it operates in.
Building stronger communities
Keith Toczek, the owner of a campground located along the west side of Yankton, South Dakota saw immediate and impactful benefits from the construction of the original Keystone Pipeline. Looking for additional income to plan his retirement, Keith never imagined that within a few days of the pipeline going into construction he would achieve 100 per cent occupancy at his campgrounds. Of his 50 sites opened, 49 were occupied by pipeline workers from the Keystone Pipeline. Toczek said the immediate boost in revenue helped him build better roads for the campground and allowed him to test his water systems and supply.
Since 2009 when TransCanada first broke ground with the Keystone Pipeline System, more than $200 million has been paid in property taxes across the three provinces and eight states that it runs through. This additional revenue has helped to address local infrastructure needs such as roads, bridges, hospitals and other facilities that improve the standard of living for many. Many local businesses such as Toczek’s also saw increases in revenue from pipeline workers being in town and taking advantage of local amenities.
Putting thousands to work
“…Good, family-supporting jobs with benefits…” is how Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) business manager Ron Kaminski describes the thousands of jobs that were created during the construction of the original Keystone Pipeline back in 2007/2008. It was his members that provided the manpower to build the pipeline through Nebraska and according to Kaminski the experience working with TransCanada and on the project was an extremely positive one.
“It was a great relationship, great project, we put a lot of people to work, provided a lot of income for members . . . We’re not talking about seven-dollar-an-hour jobs; we’re talking about packages in the 30- to 40-dollar-an-hour range.”
The original Keystone Pipeline put thousands of American men and women to work with the creation of 8,696 direct and indirect jobs. From construction jobs for welders, pipefitters and laborers to spin-off jobs at local hotels, restaurants and gas stations. An additional 4,844 jobs were also created during the construction of the Gulf Coast segment bringing the grand total of jobs to almost 14,000 along the entire Keystone Pipeline System.
These benefits have come while ensuring that impact to the land and the environment is minimal, said landowner Doug Zimmerman, whose Nebraska soy bean and corn farm is along the original Keystone Pipeline route.
“If you didn’t see the sign out there you would not know that there’s a pipeline five feet underneath the ground,” said Zimmerman. “After the mere settling that we had for the first two or three years, after that, we see no difference in crop yields in that particular area, and as I said before, the land was put back in better shape.”
Giving back to communities
Since 2008, TransCanada has been a proud supporter of community initiatives along the Keystone Pipeline System route. To date, TransCanada has donated over $1.8 million in support of 535 initiatives related to safety, community and the environment. Whether it’s partnering with community groups, supporting local initiatives or encouraging our employees to be involved in their neighborhoods, TransCanada’s goal is to build strong and vibrant communities across North America.
Time to recreate similar benefits with Keystone XL
Infrastructure projects like the Keystone Pipeline System have real, tangible benefits that reverberate throughout the entire economy of North America. From the companies extracting the oil out of the ground to the restaurants and towns that feed and house the hardworking folks building the pipeline, these projects put thousands of men and women to work and offer them the opportunity to earn a good wage, provide for their families and help secure the United States’ energy future. Just as the pipelines that are already in operation play a critical role in U.S. energy security, the Keystone XL Pipeline remains an important infrastructure piece for the very same reasons. Five years of safely and efficiently transporting North American energy and providing lasting benefits to communities reaffirms this.
“There are millions of barrels of oil every day still being imported from other countries,” said landowner Zimmerman. “And there isn’t any reason for it. The sooner we can get out of us depending upon foreign countries to serve us with oil, the better off I think the United States would be.”