South leg of Keystone XL hits halfway mark

Nearly 4,000 workers in Oklahoma and Texas are aligning and welding the 485-mile section of pipe.

February 25, 2013   by The Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY—While the debate continues over whether the US will approve a proposed oil conduit from Canada to the Gulf Coast, the segment from Cushing, Okla., to the Texas Gulf Coast is halfway toward completion and could be transporting oil by the end of the year.

President Barack Obama travelled to Oklahoma nearly a year ago to tout construction of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline from the Cushing oil hub to Houston-area refineries. A decision on whether to allow the longer pipeline awaits the results of a US State Department review that is necessary because the oil would be carried across an international border.

Nearly 4,000 workers in Oklahoma and Texas are aligning and welding a 485-mile section, TransCanada spokesman David Dodson told The Associated Press.

“We’re right at peak right now,” he said. “We hope to have it in operation by the end of this year.”

Because the Gulf Coast segment doesn’t cross an international border, its approval process was much simpler and work began last August, Dodson said. When completed, the segment will carry 700,000 gallons of oil each day from the existing pipeline network centred around Cushing to the southern refineries.

Now about 850 labourers are at work in Oklahoma, with roughly 3,000 more in Texas. Most are temporary contracts. Dodson said he didn’t know when those numbers would start winding down.

Work started in Oklahoma about two months ago. Dodson, from TransCanada, said protests against it—formerly limited to Texas—have come with it. At least two so-called “direct actions” involved people locking themselves to construction equipment to prevent its use, leading to 10 arrests in central Oklahoma.

Protests will continue, Morris said, and his group will keep trying to unify opposition even if the Keystone XL pipeline is finished from Canada to Texas.

In the meantime, Hendrix said, pipeline workers with his union will keep an eye on Washington.

“If the permit gets approved, we’ll start construction on the northern end of it immediately,” he said.

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