Opinion Column: Small Businesses Need The Keystone Pipeline

By Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Colo.), Chairman, Small Business Subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy and Trade

Small Business owners are concerned about the threat of rising fuel and energy costs. According to a U.S. Chamber of Commerce survey, 77 percent of small businesses say that rising energy prices pose an immediate threat to their business. The Chamber’s survey shows that 80 percent feel that the administration is not doing enough to keep gas prices low, increase domestic energy sources, or develop an energy policy that supports American jobs. The United States can do a number of things to ease these concerns but one in particular stands out from the rest.
 
The Keystone XL Pipeline is a viable remedy for many of the threats and concerns that plague small business owners. The ongoing discussion in Washington is aimed at determining whether or not TransCanada Keystone L.P. should construct a pipeline from the tar sands fields of Alberta, Canada into the United States to utilize more North American energy.  In order to do so, TransCanada must get a permit from the State Department, to which the President delegated this authority. There lies the debate, which focuses on whether the permit for the pipeline would “serve the national interest.”
 
The term “serve the national interest,” as it appears in the series of Executive Orders that govern the requirements for constructing the pipeline, is not defined by the President’s orders or any statute, leaving the determination in the sole discretion of the Secretary.

As the nation continues to struggle with idle job creation and economic growth, the ‘national interest’ is not hard to see. Not only would the nation be served by the thousands of small business jobs created and lower energy prices for the future, but also by the assurance that comes with energy independence and price stability.
 
The initial proposal by TransCanada, made in 2008, proposed a route through the Sandhills region of Nebraska, but, in the face of questions about the potential impact on the Sandhills region, TransCanada submitted a new proposal that rerouted the pipeline completely around it. From top to bottom the project would have a minimal environmental impact.
 
The opportunity and promise associated with the Keystone XL Pipeline is one small businesses and labor groups are hungering for. Sean McGarvey, of the AFL-CIO, the largest federation of unions in the United States, has remarked, “We are tired of waiting and we believe the time has come to make the final decision on one of the most important projects to unlock the energy future for this country – the Keystone XL pipeline.” The Keystone XL Pipeline is a $7 billion investment that is estimated to create 20,000 jobs directly and another 22,000 jobs indirectly over the project’s construction period. The Canadian Energy Research Institute estimates that the pipeline will add $172 billion to America’s gross domestic product by 2035.
 
Even the State Department recently estimated that approximately 42,100 jobs would be created over the project construction period. Today, the Small Business Subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy and Trade, which I chair, is holding a hearing on the benefits of the Keystone XL Pipeline for small companies. While individual studies are not broken down into large vs. small business, TransCanada states it has contracts with more than 50 suppliers across the U.S. The majority of suppliers that do this type of work are small companies.   
 
Small businesses account for 99.7% of the businesses in America. The sentiment of small business owners overwhelmingly favors aggressive energy exploration, as they believe it would boost the economy. The Keystone XL Pipeline is an economic catalyst that will serve the national interest at a pivotal moment. In the words of the AFL-CIO, “Any further delay by the Obama Administration is unacceptable.”