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Pipelines create jobs, lower costs

By Greg E. Sayles, international union representative for United Association members in Minnesota, Wisconsin, North and South Dakota

Much of our nation's energy infrastructure is built by skilled union labor like the members of the United Association of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry. This has provided good paying jobs to families across the country and here in Minnesota. Our work has provided safe, reliable energy infrastructure that benefits the daily lives of families across the country and right here at home.

Thirty two percent of today's construction industry workforce is employed on energy projects, amounting to more than 2 million workers. Hundreds of energy infrastructure projects across the nation — pipelines, storage, processing, rail and maritime — generate shovel-ready, middle class-sustaining jobs that do not rely on taxpayer funding. A new study shows that infrastructure investments in just the oil and natural gas sector could spur up to $1.3 trillion in new private capital investment, supporting 1 million new jobs per year and adding $1.89 trillion to national GDP between 2017 and 2035.

A substantial number of those jobs will come to our region with 13,000 for Minnesota alone. In counties across the pipeline route and nearby, we expect that hundreds of these skilled workers will spend $1,000 per week on average for room, board and entertainment. Furthermore, much of the workforce will be drawn from Minnesota, potentially benefitting families in Douglas County and beyond. That's is a measurable boost to Minnesota's economy.

The benefits of energy infrastructure extend well beyond jobs and impact the price of the fuel we put in our car, the manufacturing of products here in the United States, the price we pay for electricity, and also contribute to a cleaner environment.

Americans have been enjoying the lowest fuel prices in over a decade and that is made possible by the pipelines and other infrastructure built by skilled union labor. While production in places like Texas, North Dakota and Pennsylvania has made the United States the world's leading natural gas and oil producer, that energy must be transported for families and businesses to reap the benefits. That's where energy infrastructure comes in and our region is a critical pipeline hub. Minnesota's energy infrastructure system moves more than 2 million barrels of Canadian crude oil per day.

Pipelines also contribute to cleaner air. Carbon emissions from power generation have plunged to nearly 30-year lows and more than 60 percent of the reduction has resulted from switching to clean natural gas, delivered by pipelines.

We are proud of the work we do on our nation's energy infrastructure and the safety and reliability of the infrastructure we build. Pipelines are one of the safest, most efficient ways to transport the energy the U.S. economy needs, delivering crude oil, petroleum products and natural gas at a safety rate of 99.999 percent. Pipeline builders and operators in Minnesota are committed to maintaining and improving that 99.999 percent safety rate. Skilled, highly trained union workers ensure a construction process that complies with the highest standards of safety, quality and environmental stewardship. Once systems are operational, pipeline operators spend billions of dollars each year to evaluate, inspect, and maintain pipelines, using sophisticated technology like "smart pigs," which travel inside pipelines, scanning the walls with technologies similar to an ultrasound or MRI.

Currently in Washington DC, the pledge is to create jobs through infrastructure investments. Here in Minnesota, we stand ready to provide the skilled workforce to deliver on that promise, building the energy infrastructure that safely delivers fuel for the economy.