Industry ramps up oil-sands campaign ahead of key decision

Schild said the project will create 13,000 organized labor jobs and potentially thousands more over time. “There is virtually nothing the administration could do to create more jobs” than approve the Keystone XL project, Schild said.

The project, if approved, will carry Canadian oil sands from Alberta to oil refineries in Texas. The oil industry has been one of the strongest proponents of the project, but environmental groups are vehemently opposed, pointing out the potential for spills and the environmental effects of oil-sands production.

Environmental groups take issue with the oil industry’s claims, particularly when it comes to the number of jobs the pipeline project will create.

“TransCanada has been greatly exaggerating the domestic jobs that would result from the pipeline,” said Tony Iallonardo, a spokesman for the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). “An analysis they paid for makes claims of thousands, while an official State Department analysis puts the number at just a few hundred, and many of those would be temporary.”

Iallonardo said a pipeline rupture would have major consequences for farmers and ranchers in the United States. “Perhaps they should try and account for the jobs in ranching and agriculture that would be lost from a spill in their pipeline? I don't think the handful of jobs they'll toss to Americans is worth the jobs in agriculture that they will imperil,” he said.

Environmental groups — including NWF, the Sierra Club and others — have launched a major campaign against the Keystone XL project, raising concerns about the greenhouse gas emissions that result from oil-sands production. The oil industry has launched its own campaign to promote tar sands ahead of the administration’s decision on the project.

Oil-sands production results in higher greenhouse gas emissions than conventional oil production, but the exact emissions are an issue of dispute between environmentalists and the oil industry.

But Schild, speaking to reporters Thursday, said the environmental effects of oil sands have been “overblown.”

The final decision on whether or not the project can move forward may not come for months. While the State Department is expected to issue either a final environmental impact statement or another draft environmental impact statement in the coming weeks, the project is still subject to a determination as to whether the project is in the national interest. That determination could take several months.