I am a pipeline worker. My father was a pipeline worker. My grandfather was a pipeline worker. My family has been on the frontlines of the energy industry for a combined 91 years. It’s in our blood.
I have worked on hundreds of pipeline projects across the country including the Dakota Access Pipeline, Millennial Pipeline, Mountain Valley Pipeline and the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline. Like my father was before me, I have been part of the Pipeliners Union 798 since 1999 and have been hard at work since 18 years old.
I’ve spent my entire adult life learning this industry. I have developed my skill set to keep my good-paying job in order to pay bills and put food on the table for my family.
After President Biden signed the Executive Order to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline on January 20, 2021, he essentially signed my pink slip. I was planning to begin work in March, laying pipes across an 80-mile spread in Montana. Now at age 45, I have to start all over.
As John Kerry stood up in the briefing room, he promised we would all be placed in new jobs as solar or wind technicians. I figured it was just a pipe dream. And, so far, I have been proven right. No one from the Biden administration has reached out to me, or anyone in Pipeliners Union 798 to offer us a new job, or give guidance on how we can train for one.
I was earning $53 an hour, a wage I’ve worked my entire life to reach. After researching solar power jobs, I found on average they are paid $17 an hour. That’s a $35 an hour pay cut. They are not good paying, as Kerry promised, but sadly many of us do not have a choice.
Biden campaigned on creating jobs, yet he killed mine — along with 11,000 other pipeline workers on Day One of his administration. He pledged to work across the aisle and keep an open mind, but didn’t take time to learn the real environmental impact — or even hear from people in his own party who support the Keystone XL pipeline.
The irony in all of President Biden’s decisions here is the reason for canceling the Keystone XL pipeline will somehow help in addressing the risks of climate change and protecting the environment. In reality, transporting energy products by pipeline is much safer than by rail or truck where there is a much greater likelihood of oil spills or other accidents. President Biden runs the risk of contributing to potential environmental damages if pipeline transport from Keystone or other pipelines are halted. The blocking of the pipeline will also not magically reduce demand for America’s energy supply and the consequence will be further dependence on the Middle East and Russia to fuel our energy needs.
Mr. President, I am asking you to reconsider your decision. I speak for several of my fellow union workers at Pipeliners Union 798, some I have worked alongside for the past twenty years. We are real, hardworking Americans who care deeply about our families and communities. Please don’t take our jobs away.
Jason Jernigan is a pipeline worker based in Bald Knob, Arkansas, who lost his job after Keystone XL was canceled; he is affiliated with Pipeliners Union 798.