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How Trump’s Broken Promise About A Pipeline Is Failing U.S. Workers

by Ben Jervey

March 13, 2017
Oil from fields near Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada, would travel through the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline. Photo by Michael S. Williamson of The Washington Post via Getty Images.

Blocked by President Obama, the controversial Keystone XL pipeline—which would transport “especially greenhouse gas intensive” tar sands crude oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast—was recently revived via executive order from President Trump, who has hailed it as opportunity to energize U.S. manufacturing. Yet despite the president’s repeated, public promises that the pipeline would be built with American steel, it will not. Rather, most of the steel was manufactured in Canada by a Russian company with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and is already sitting in fields in North Dakota.

40 percent of the steel created so far was by a subsidiary of a company 31 percent owned by Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich.

Let’s take a look at a few of those promises, starting with Trump’s late February assurances to the CEO of U.S. Steel that, “We put you heavy into the pipeline business because we approved, as you know, the Keystone Pipeline, but they have to buy ... steel made in this country and pipelines made in this country.”

Or the next day, when while speaking at the CPAC conference for conservative activists, Trump not only made the same false claim, he created a whole story to surround the fallacy. 

Trump's comments on Keystone XL steel at around the 27:24 mark.

Trump told the crowd:

We have authorized the construction—in one day—of the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines. And issued a new rule … this took place while I was getting ready to sign. I said, ‘who makes the pipes for the pipeline?’

‘Well sir, comes from all over the world. Isn’t that wonderful?’

I said, ‘Nope, it comes from the United States or we’re not building it.’

Trump went on to say, “If they want a pipeline in the United States, they’re going to use pipe that’s made in the United States.”

Roughnecks build a drilling rig at the MEG Energy site near Fort McMurray.There is explosive growth in the oil field areas around Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada. The oil extracted from this area is the product that would travel through the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline. Photo by Michael S. Williamson of The Washington Post via Getty Images.

Except, that’s not what is happening. TransCanada, the Canadian developer of the Keystone XL line, is getting a pipeline in the United States, and it’s not using pipe that’s made in the United States. So how is that possible, when Trump’s executive order essentially called for all new pipelines to be built using American steel? 

Read that again: All new pipelines. And therein hides the escape hatch. TransCanada has lobbied that the Keystone XL is already under construction, and that the order only applies to new projects or to those under repair “to the extent possible.”  Plenty of wiggle room. And the White House quietly confirmed last week that the Keystone XL would be exempt from the “Buy American” requirements and, effectively, that the President’s public comments about the pipeline’s steel were totally bogus.

The White House quietly confirmed last week that the Keystone XL would be exempt from 'Buy American' requirements.

“The way that executive order is written,” said White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders last Friday, “It’s specific to new pipelines or those that are being repaired. Since this one is already currently under construction, the steel is already literally sitting there; it would be hard to go back.”

That Trump so brazenly lied about the Keystone XL using homegrown steel is egregious. But it gets worse. As Steve Horn revealed in an exclusive investigation on DeSmog, “40 percent of the steel created so far was manufactured in Canada by a subsidiary of Evraz, a company 31 percent owned by Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, who is a close ally of Putin and a Trump family friend.”

Whoa. Let’s unpack that a bit. So of all the steel that has already been produced for the Keystone XL line, 40 percent comes from a Russian steel company doing business in Canada. (The majority of the remaining 60 percent was purchased from an Indian company, Welspun Tubular, based in Mumbai, India.) Horn’s report alleges that Abramovich, who owns one-third of Evraz, helped Putin get elected in his first presidential race—and his wife is friends with Ivanka Trump.

Horn also exposes some old efforts by Evraz back in 2015, when the company lobbied against the original “Buy America” provision for the Keystone XL pipeline—an amendment introduced by Democratic Senator Al Franken of Minnesota.

Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., conducts a news conference in the Capitol to call on Republicans to support amendments that would require the Keystone XL pipeline 'be constructed using only American-made steel and prohibit the exporting of oil and refined product like gasoline and heating oil from the pipeline,' January 20, 2015. Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call.

So let’s summarize: Trump stole the “Buy American” idea from Senator Franken, claimed it as his own, then publicly claimed at least twice that the Keystone XL would be built with American steel, while knowing that it would, in fact, be built by Canadian and Indian steel that has already been purchased. And don’t forget, Putin’s buddy is lining his pockets on the deal.

Preview image via Flickr user Zio Fabio (cc)

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How Trump’s Broken Promise About A Pipeline Is Failing U.S. Workers