Says who? TransCanada itself. In response to a Plains Justice inquiry, TransCanada provided this data on whom it hired to work on the Keystone I pipeline in eastern South Dakota through July 2009. Out of 2580 workers laying pipe in South Dakota, only 282—just under 11%—were permanent South Dakota residents. TransCanada breaks down the jobs in the following table:
|Position||SD Residents||Non-SD Residents||Total Jobs|
|Supervision (Superintendents, foremen, office manager, clerical, etc.)||20||281||301|
|Welders, Welder Helpers, Pipe Fitters, etc.||3||395||398|
|Construction Management, Surveyors, Inspectors, etc.||90||148||238|
The biggest categories for South Dakotans was the least skilled, general laborers, and even in that category, TransCanada only bothered to fill 13% of its need with our people. The only category in which we came out with a majority of the jobs were in management, surveying, and inspection. We missed out on most of the big money to be had in skilled work like equipment operation and welding (only three welders in all of South Dakota got work from TransCanada? Come on, TransCanada, share the wealth!).
Now let's check: Keystone I crosses 10 South Dakota counties: Marshall, Day, Clark, Beadle, Kingsbury, Miner, Hanson, McCook, Hutchinson, and Yankton. South Dakota Department of Labor numbers tell me that in July 2009, those ten counties had 1870 unemployed people. I'm thinking at least 800 of them would have been fit to operate a shovel. Out of the remaining 1000... well, take any 1000 South Dakotans at random, and I'll bet you can find more than 32 who can drive a truck, and more than 27 who can drive a skidsteer.
When I visited the Keystone I construction site in Miner County last year, I found Michels Pipeline Construction of Brownsville, Wisconsin, in charge. I have no reason to suspect these pipeliners weren't decent men doing good work to earn a living. But having a few more South Dakotans working on a big oil pipeline running through our state would do more than circulate more money in our economy. It would bring a little more comfort knowing that more of the workers building this environmentally hazardous project will be sticking around to live with the consequences of their handiwork.
Now building a pipeline does create temporary jobs. 282 jobs is certainly better than none. But the jobs data on Keystone I makes clear that TransCanada does not transmit the bulk of the benefits of pipeline construction to the South Dakota labor force.