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TransCanada Files Lawsuit Against The US Gov Over Rejection Of Keystone Pipeline

TransCanada Lawsuit Over Keystone Pipeline Heightens Fears Of Future Free-Trade Agreements

This week news broke that the Canadian company behind the Keystone XL pipeline is using the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provision of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to compel the United States to pay $15 million dollars or allow them to build the rejected pipeline. Using the ISDS to force the United States to build the Keystone Pipeline heightens fears brought forward by Senators Warren and Sanders of the expanded use of the ISDS in the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Politico reports in, “Obama hit with NAFTA challenge over Keystone pipeline” that TransCanada has filed two challenges to the rejection of the pipeline by the US State Department and the Obama administration.

“The legal challenges are unlikely to undo the rejection by Obama, but they may yet revive the lengthy political battle over the controversial Canada-to-Texas pipeline that shook up the oil industry and helped the White House cement its environmental legacy,” wrote Politico.

“…Under NAFTA, disputes between companies and foreign governments must go before an international tribunal with the power to award monetary damages — but not reverse the pipeline’s rejection. A win by TransCanada would mark the first U.S. loss in the international dispute system used under NAFTA, which has come under fire from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and other liberal critics of free-trade deals,” Politico continued.

Bill McKibben, co-founder of climate activist group 350.org, said in an email to Politico that the NAFTA challenge “is going to remind Americans how much of our sovereignty these treaties give away.”

If TransCanada can use the ISDS to force the United States to mandate that construction of the Keystone Pipeline what could other countries force the US to do?

Senator Elizabeth Warren spoke directly to the provisions of the ISDS in the newly proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership back in February of 2015.

“This provision fundamentally tilts the playing field further in favor of big multi-national corporations, worse yet it undermines U.S. sovereignty,” said Warren.

“If a Vietnamese company with U.S. operations wants to challenge an increase in the U.S. minimum wage it can use ISDS,” continued Warren. “If an American labor union believes the Vietnamese companies are paying slave labor wages in violation of trade commitments, the union has to try to wind itself through the Vietnamese courts. Good luck with that.”

Even the head of CATO Institute Trade Policy said, [ISDS] “Raises serious questions about democratic accountability, sovereignty, checks and balances, and the separation of power… These concerns about ISDS are ones the Libertarians and other free market advocates should share.”

These massive giveaways to multi-national corporations are just one of the many reasons conservatives and progressives alike should oppose the TPP.

“Progressives should oppose ISDS because it allows big multi-nationals to weaken labor and environmental rules,” concluded Warren. “So long as TPP includes Investor State Dispute Settlement the only winners will be international corporations.”

Please help us to encourage Senators Shaheen and Ayotte to rescind their previous support of the TPP and vote against the TPP legislation when it comes up this year. We would like to thank Congresswoman Annie Kuster for standing against this disastrous trade agreement and encourage her to stand strong.
Please sign the petitions below.

LTE: Bernie Sanders’s Plan On Climate Change Includes Opposing NH Pipeline

Dear Editor,

letters to the editorI endorse Senator Bernie Sanders and his well thought out Climate Plan.  You can read the details here, https://berniesanders.com/issues/climate-change/.  

In his plan Senator Sanders highlights the need to break the stranglehold that the fossil fuel industry has on our economy and our politics.  While most of our NH Democratic leadership celebrates the denial of the Keystone XL pipeline, they turn a blind eye to the push for export pipelines in our own state.   Why is that?

In August of 2014, FERC had 24 bcf/day of pending pipeline applications, approving 92% within a year.  By August of 2015, that number soared to 50 bcf/day.   Congress just passed a bill to lift the 40 year ban on exports of crude oil and speed up pipeline approvals.   They can’t sell off our future fast enough, I guess?

It’s disappointing to think that our politicians, in the face of overwhelming evidence that Greenhouse Gases  have a disastrous effect on our climate, find themselves unable to confront the oil and gas industry with the facts because they rely on their money to get elected. 

Why were there no questions about Climate Change or Energy in Saturday night’s Democratic Debate? 

Only Bernie Sanders has had the courage to speak the truth.  After he came out with his statement against the NED pipeline project, other elected leaders joined him (though with less robust opposition).  We need leadership.  We need Bernie Sanders as our next President.


Patricia Martin
Rindge, NH

Letters to the editor do not represent the opinions of the NH Labor News.
Submit your own letter to the editor here.

McCain Amendment to Keystone Pipeline Bill Blasted as a Job Killer by Sea Captains’ Union

John McCain (Image by Gage Skidmore CC Flikr)

(Image by Gage Skidmore CC Flikr)

 International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots Asks:       If Keystone is a “Jobs Bill” Why Would Congress Want to Send 400,000 Maritime Jobs in 26 States Overseas? 

WASHINGTON  –  S.1, the Keystone XL Pipeline Act, has been described as a “jobs bill” by the pipeline’s proponents since Keystone XL was first proposed, but a new amendment introduced by Arizona Sen. John McCain would turn S.1 into a “job killer” of epic and irreversible proportions.  The McCain amendment would gut a significant part of the Jones Act, a set of laws dating back to the 1920s that has helped build and maintain a domestic shipbuilding industry. Maritime unions and maritime industry groups are now mobilizing against the amendment’s passage. Among those actively opposing passage are the Maritime Labor Alliance and its coalition of maritime unions, and others in maritime and transportation labor, along with the Shipbuilders Council of America and the American Maritime Partnership.

“In Washington sometimes up is down and offense is defense, but an amendment that seeks to eliminate highly-skilled steady middle-class jobs employing hundreds of thousands of our countrymen should never be called good for America,” said Captain Don Marcus, who serves as the President of the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots, a union representing sea captains and deck officers on U.S. flagged vessels. “This is beyond hypocrisy,” he added.

McCain’s amendment, which has nothing to do with a pipeline that traverses the largely landlocked states of the Great Plains, seeks to repeal the build provisions of the Jones Act, the cabotage laws that require ships plying domestic waters to be built in the United States.

If S.1 is passed with McCain’s amendment included, it would decimate the nation’s shipping industry, eliminating as many as 400,000 U.S. jobs spread over 26 states, lead to the closing of shipyards and related industries, reduce GDP by an estimated $36 billion and erase $24 billion in American workers’ wages and benefits, according to figures compiled by the AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department.

Using Florida as an example, 21,890 shipyard jobs generating $1.6 billion in annual economic activity would be at risk, including more than $1 billion in labor income, according to the U.S Maritime Administration.

The economic threat to their state’s largest private sector business is why Mississippi Senators, Republicans Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker, have publicly opposed McCain’s amendment. Shipbuilding represents 23,450 jobs in Mississippi. The industry’s economic impact to the Gulf Coast state’s GDP is $2 billion, according to figures from the American Maritime Partnership.

Senators from across the aisle, including Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), oppose the change to the Jones Act.  Both Wisconsin and Pennsylvania have significant shipbuilding industries.

The parties that would most benefit from this amendment are heavily subsidized foreign shipping competitors not subject to U.S. laws, regulations, environmental standards and taxes.  Inexplicably, Senator McCain and his supporters would rather see fuel and cargo hauled in U.S. waters on tankers and freighters built overseas and operated by foreign crews rather than American-made ships staffed by U.S. citizens. “It’s outrageous that John McCain is doing this,” said Marcus.

Beyond the threat to the domestic economy, this amendment would also threaten national security by destabilizing the military’s strategic sealift needs. The Jones Act ensures that the U.S. has a reliable source of domestically built ships and skilled American crews available for its military and humanitarian aid operations. “Without the sealift capability and American maritime jobs provided by the Jones Act and the Maritime Security Program,” said Marcus, “the U.S. Armed Forces would be forced to rely on foreign-flag ships and crews with unknown loyalties to transport critical military cargo and personnel to overseas operations. Bad idea.” Among the groups that have voiced opposition to the McCain Amendment is the Navy League of the United States.

For more information on the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots, please visit www.bridgedeck.org

Obama Hints Of Vetoing The Keystone Pipeline

There is one thing that is abundantly clear now that the Republicans control both the House and the Senate, the Keystone XL Pipeline will pass through Congress. Republicans are trying to convince us that this monumental piece of crap will “spur economic growth” and “create thousands of jobs.”

Thankfully we elected a President who is willing to stand up for our Mother Earth by standing up against the Keystone Pipeline. Well maybe he has not said it yet, but like my Magic 8 ball says, all signs point to veto.

It is becoming more and more obvious that President Obama will not sign the Keystone legislation even if it was to pass. He told The Hill that, “building the Keystone oil pipeline would ‘not even have a nominal benefit’ to consumers, pushing back at claims it would lower gas prices further.”
That is what we progressives have been trying to say for years.

The Republicans are trying to sell the Keystone XL Pipeline as a “jobs bill” that would create tens of thousands of good paying jobs.

Yes, we need a jobs bill that will create tens of thousands of good paying jobs, but the reality is that the Keystone Pipeline would only create a few thousand temporary construction jobs and 35 permanent jobs.


We also need to look at who is really going to benefit from the Keystone Pipeline? It will not be us, it will the be the Canadian oil industry as they move their tar sands oil right through America’s heartland to the Gulf of Mexico to be shipped off and sold to foreign countries.

Even President Obama knows this.

“That oil currently is being shipped out through rail or trucks and it would save Canadian oil companies, and the Canadian oil industry enormous amounts of money if they could simply pipe it all the way down to the Gulf,” Obama said during his final press conference of 2014.

It also begs the question, why would this group of fiscal conservatives be willing to take out a $30 billion loan, pushing us further into debt, to benefit a foreign oil company? I will give you a hint, TransCanada’s profits would go through the roof and that would be very good for Wall Street insiders. (Side note: Did you know that Grover Norquest is the lobbyist for the Keystone XL pipeline?)

In 2009, the economy was hemorrhaging jobs and unemployment was skyrocketing. Congress passed the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)” that nearly every Republican balked at. The $900 million dollar investment in America increased the number of “people employed from between 1.5 and 3.3 million” workers, and reduced unemployment from “between .7% and 1.8%.” Ultimately the stimulus only added $200 million dollars to our national debt and started us back on the road to recovery.

How is this $3 Trillion dollar investment going to help us? Will you be one of the lucky 35 people to get a permanent job after the pipeline is created? Instead of spending $3 Trillion dollars for 35 jobs, we could spend $1 Trillion and create millions of jobs.

Lets not forget that we have seen a significant rise in oil pipes leaking their toxic sludge over the past few years.

“History has shown that these pipelines are notorious for springing leaks, and middle class American homeowners, farmers, and ranchers stand to lose the most if there is a spill,” said Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH) in her opposition to H.R. 5682, a bill to fast track the Keystone Pipeline. “The sections of the Keystone Project that are already in use suffered over thirty spills in their first year of operation.”

So let me sum this all up. The Republicans, who are heavily funded by Wall Street and oil tycoons like the Koch Brothers, are pushing a bill that would require us to take out a $3 Trillion dollar loan, potentially wrecking our environment, all to boost the profits of a foreign corporation.

Opposing the Keystone Pipeline is a bold step for President Obama. He is opposing the Republicans, opposing Wall Street, and standing up for our environment. We progressives need to stand behind him.

The fight is far from over, in fact it has just begun.

LIUNA Leaders From Across U.S. Pack Hill Offices, Press Congress on Key Priorities

Photo Credit: LiUNA!, Local 261

Image from Facebook
Photo Credit: LiUNA!, Local 261

Washington, D.C. (March 11, 2014) – More than 300 LIUNA leaders from across the country are in Washington this week to have their voices heard by Congress. The local union leaders are scheduled to meet with more than 150 representatives and senators to discuss key issues ranging from the Affordable Care Act to the Highway Bill to the Keystone XL pipeline.

“LIUNA members are angry at inaction in Congress and their anger is bipartisan,” said Terry O’Sullivan, General President of LIUNA, the Laborers’ International Union of North America.

Local leaders will urge Congress to:

  • Pass a well-funded and long long-term Highway Bill that creates jobs fixing our nation’s roads, bridges and transit systems;
  • Fix the Affordable Care Act, so the multi-employer health care plans many union members depend on aren’t unfairly impacted by the taxes imposed by the law;
  • Pass comprehensive immigration reform; and
  • Support the construction of the jobs-creating Keystone XL pipeline.

At the top of LIUNA’s agenda is strengthening the federal role in maintaining, fixing and making safer our nation’s transportation system, which provides work for about 70 percent of LIUNA construction members. In total, adequate investment could put about 8 million people to work over the next four years, according to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation officials.

Also the Affordable Care Act, passed by Democrats and signed into law by President Obama, now threatens the multi-employer health insurance plans that millions of working men and women have relied on for years. The law’s reinsurance tax could add more than a billion dollars to the costs in 2014 alone. Since the Administration has yet to fix its interpretation of the law, LIUNA has been working with other unions and employers in support of a bipartisan bill (HR 3489 ) that has been introduced by Representatives Pat Tiberi (R-OH) and  Dan Lipinski to repeal the Transitional Reinsurance Tax.

And among LIUNA’s longest fought battles has been the struggle to protect immigrant workers from abuse and exploitation at the hands of unscrupulous employers. LIUNA supports the bipartisan Senate-passed bill that awaits further action in the House of Representatives.

As LIUNA leaders make their way to Capitol Hill, O’Sullivan is speaking out, with other allies, in support of the Keystone XL Pipeline. Designed to be one of the safest ever constructed, the pipeline could be a life line for tens of thousands of workers in need of a job. TransCanada has executed a Project Labor Agreement with the four pipeline construction crafts that guarantee wage and benefit packages that will help more workers earn their way into America’s middle class. Now that the State Department’s Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement shows that the project won’t have a significant impact on the environment, there is no more excuse for further delay.

It’s Baaack! GOP puts US economy at risk (again) over the Keystone Pipeline

Trans Canada Keystone Oil Pipeline by Shannon Patrick via FlikrJust like an unwanted dinner guest that you can’t convince to leave, the Keystone Pipeline project is still on the GOP’s legislative agenda.  Actually, it’s now at the top of the GOP’s legislative agenda.

Read the news stories: Republican leaders have apparently given up on efforts to rein in their Tea Party legislators.  Last Friday, the House voted – for the 42nd time – in their futile attempt to repeal Obamacare.  Next Monday, the federal government is probably going to close down – because Congress can’t bring itself to pass annual Appropriations bills.  Jobs bills – and legislation to repair long-neglected roads and bridges – are gathering dust on Representatives’ shelves.  Immigration reform isn’t going anywhere.  Common-sense gun reform?  Yeah, right.  (About 8,400 Americans have been killed in the nine months since Newtown.  Crisis?  How many people have to die before Congress considers it a crisis?)

But no matter what else they’ve given up on, Republican leaders are still determined to force through TransCanada’s pipeline project.  Sometime in the next month or so, Republicans plan to use debt-ceiling legislation to bypass the administrative review process and authorize construction of the pipeline by Congressional fiat.

No, it’s not the first time the GOP has used fiscal emergencies to try to push the Keystone project through.  Back in December 2011, the Republicans traded about $30 billion in federal debt for an expedited review process (which resulted in the project being rejected).  Since then, House Republicans have inserted Keystone into four other pieces of legislation, including the federal budget.

But why does Congress even care about Keystone?  TransCanada’s pipeline is nothing more or less than a construction project built by and benefitting a private corporation.  Sort of like… if Walmart wanted to build another gazillion-square-foot distribution center.  (Except that a new Walmart distribution center would probably create more than 35 permanent jobs.  Yep, that’s the number of permanent jobs that Keystone is expected to create: just 35.)  So why is Congress getting so involved in the project permitting?

One more time: Keystone is a construction project of a privately-owned corporation.   (Wondering exactly who owns that corporation?  According to Morningstar’s shareholder records, it looks like a whole lot of TransCanada stock is owned by foreign banks.)

One more time: WHY are the Republicans insisting that TransCanada be allowed to build this pipeline?

And whatever happened to “fiscal responsibility”?  Do Republicans really want our government to default on its bills?  That’s the scenario they’re setting up, by tying the debt-limit increase to construction of this private pipeline.


You can read (experience?) the GOP’s latest press release about Keystone here.

Read NHLN’s “Why Is the House GOP Obsessed with the Keystone Pipeline” here.

Eminent Domain – who benefits now?

Eminent Domain Gate And Wall by Steve Soblick via FlikrYou just gotta laugh.

Eminent domain — the “police power” that allows government to seize private property — is back in the news.

Only this time, it’s not being used to seize homes so a private corporation can build a “comprehensive redevelopment” project. (Remember the Supreme Court decision in Kelo?)

It’s not being used to seize farms so a private corporation can build a transcontinental pipeline. (Farmers are still fighting in Nebraska and Texas.)

It’s not being used to seize forest land so a private corporation can build a power transmission line. (New Hampshire now has new restrictions against that, anyway.)

Nope. This time, the mayor of a “Desperate California City” is proposing to use it to resolve a huge housing crisis. Nearly half of the mortgages in Richmond, California are “underwater”, with homeowners owing more than the houses are worth — and at high risk of foreclosure. But since the mortgage companies haven’t been willing to write down those loans, Richmond’s mayor wants to use eminent domain powers to seize the mortgages and have the city do it. The banks, of course, have gone to court to try to stop this. (Read more about the situation here.)

Gotta laugh. Kelo, if you remember, was all about using eminent domain to remedy urban blight and improve the tax base. (Of course, a private corporation was going to benefit handsomely in the process.)

Now, here’s this Mayor trying to use eminent domain to prevent urban blight and stabilize the tax base.

“She said she fears homeowners will begin to abandon their homes, leading to blighted neighborhoods and the draining of public coffers to the point of municipal bankruptcy experienced by Stockton, Calif., and Detroit. ‘The city is stepping in where Wall Street and where the federal government have been unable or unwilling to do so,’ she said.”

But this time, local residents — not the corporations — would benefit.

Anybody want to predict how this is going to turn out?

The Kelo project, by the way, did not turn out so well. Apparently, the private developer was not able to get financing for the project, and at last report the cleared land was being used as a dump.

Gotta wonder how all those homeowners feel now.


Why is the House GOP obsessed with the Keystone pipeline?

Republican ElephantSo… President Obama met with the House GOP yesterday, trying to find common ground on the federal budget.

And after the meeting, what were the headlines about?  The Keystone XL pipeline.

Say, what?  Our economic recovery is at stake.  There are huge decisions about what sort of government we will have – one that benefits the rich and powerful, or one that takes care of the aged and poor?   Austerity or growth?  Contractors or entitlements?  Deficit reduction or stimulus?

And the headlines are about a private company’s proposal to build an oil pipeline?  Gotta wonder.

Remember December 2011?  Desperate times for tens of millions of Americans who were out of work.  Finally, at the last minute, there was a political compromise:  “An Act to extend the payroll tax holiday, unemployment compensation, Medicare physician payment, provide for the consideration of the Keystone XL pipeline, and for other purposes”.

For policy wonks, that bill was a fascinating political compromise.  In exchange for an expedited permitting process for this one private construction project, all costs associated with the bill were exempted from statutory “PAY-GO” requirements.  In plain English, that means Congress added all of the bill’s costs to the federal debt without any consideration about how to pay for them.

So, how much did that bill cost?  My best estimate, based on an earlier version of the bill, is about $30 billion (and only part of that total was attributable to the emergency unemployment extension).  Step back and look at that political “compromise” from the perspective of an old-fashioned, fiscally-conservative Republican: $30 billion of federal debt was traded for the expedited permitting of a single private construction project.

Waiting for the punch line?  Grover Norquist is their lobbyist. He has been using his position at Americans for Tax Reform to push for the project’s permitting – in whatever bill he can use to get it through Congress.

The merits of the project?  Depends on who you ask, what source you trust.  When Cornell University researchers looked at the data submitted to the State Department, its researchers found that “the project will create no more than 2,500-4,650 temporary direct construction jobs for two years… based on the figures provided by TransCanada… the new permanent US pipeline jobs number as few as 50.”

So, who exactly is going to benefit?  Here’s one guess about the three companies whose stockholders stand to benefit the most.

Having watched that huge “political compromise” back in December 2011, I’m guessing yesterday’s headlines mean that the pending budget and government shutdown bills are going to end up as interesting political compromises, too.

If you aren’t familiar with Mr. Norquist, read more here.

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