Nurses welcome veto of Keystone XL bill

ATLANTA – National Nurses United, one of the unions that sits on the AFL-CIO’s executive council meeting here this week, has issued a statement that strongly welcomes President Obama’s veto of the XL pipeline.

The president yesterday vetoed attempts by pipeline supporters in Congress to rush through approval of a measure to force construction of the 1,700-mile pipeline from the forests of Alberta, Canada, to the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. 

“With this veto the President has made an important statement on a project that poses a significant threat to public health and the climate crisis,” said NNU Co-President Karen Higgins. “That’s the leadership we need from the administration. Now we urge the President to take the next step and further announce the U.S. will formally reject approval of the pipeline itself.”

President Obama yesterday followed through on his promise to veto the GOP bill that would have immediately approved the Keystone XL pipeline.

When the Senate got the president’s veto message Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the GOP-run Senate would try to override the veto.

The GOP bill to approve the 1,700-mile pipeline from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf Coast was designed to force immediate approval by bypassing a State Department process that will determine whether the project is in the U.S. interest.

Despite their majority in the Senate the GOP is four votes short of being able to override President Obama’s veto.

The labor movement represented here at the executive council meeting has not been of one mind on approval of the pipeline with the building trades pushing hard for approval on the grounds that jobs would be created. The federation itself, two days after last November’s election and under pressure from those trades, backed the project but has not really done much to push for it since.

“The miniscule number of jobs it would create are far outweighed by the enormous damage that this project creates to our health and in accelerating the climate crisis,” said Higgins. 

While some contend that transporting the dirty tar sands oil by pipeline is safer than shipping it by rail or tanker, there have been five pipeline explosions across the country since January. Moreover, NNU has always said the totality of the damage from the mining, refining, and transport of tar sands are all reasons for the pipeline to be rejected. 

Tar sands mining pollutants have been linked to cancer, leukemia, genetic damage, and birth defects. Tar sands pipeline spills have beset local residents with cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, neurological, and respiratory impacts, as well as persistent coughs, headaches, nausea, and eye and skin problems. 

Tar sands refining has been linked to ailments of the nervous and respiratory systems. Dust storms in Chicago and Detroit off piles of petcoke, the byproduct of tar sands refining, have coated homes and areas where children play and raised concerns about heart attacks, decreased lung function, asthma, already at epidemic levels in America, and premature death. 

“Transporting 860,000 barrels of carcinogenic, flammable tar sands might be good for the Koch brothers,” Higgins said, “but it is certainly bad for the rest of us.”

Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP


John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.