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ByStephanie Catarino Wissman and Lou D'Amico
It is amazing what consensus can actually accomplish these days. Earlier this month in Pittsburgh, groups that represent interests as varied as organized labor, business, veterans and agriculture came together to call on President Barack Obama to act and approve the Keystone XL pipeline.
While it doesn't run through Pennsylvania, the Keystone XL pipeline, bringing Canadian oil into the U.S., is vital for America's energy security and continued economic growth.
Although Congress can't agree on much of anything these days, groups that usually don't see eye to eye -- labor and business -- agreed that it is time for the president to approve the pipeline.
This gathering of a diverse group of supporters was met with ambivalence by the local press corps grasping for a local angle to a project that begins nearly 2,000 miles away in Canada and ends in Texas.
Reporters can t be blamed for being somewhat weary of six years of all oil and natural gas, all the time in Western Pennsylvania. But this is as important for Southwest Pennsylvania as it is for America.
If the Keystone XL pipeline is completed, Pennsylvania could see an increase to its gross state product of million and the creation of more than 800 jobs during the first five years following approval.
In all, the story of the Keystone XL is part of a larger debate on energy in America. The approval process for this project has lingered for more than five years while Americans have lived through a great recession, spikes in energy prices and an economic recovery that could be aided greatly by the construction of the Keystone XL.
It s no wonder 82 percent of American voters support the full pipeline, which would pump billion into the U.S. economy during the course of its construction, would help create an estimated 117,000 family-sustaining jobs within 25 years of construction (stemming from increased trade between Canada and the US), and would contribute five billion dollars in taxes to local counties over the pipeline s lifetime.
In Pennsylvania, we see a similar growing need for energy infrastructure to allow our natural gas to get to market safely and swiftly. Numerous pipeline projects underway all across Pennsylvania bring jobs and an economic boost to the Commonwealth.
Business and labor understand this and couldn't agree more that these projects and the Keystone XL are vital to the energy security of Pennsylvania, our nation and our neighbors to the north in Canada.
As we stood at the event in Pittsburgh, we were continually reminded, by groups that usually don't speak up on issues of this nature, that the need for this project is real.
Pennsylvania unions, business, agriculture and veterans all agree we need this project, the tens of thousands of jobs it would bring, the energy future it would secure and the economic benefits it would deliver to America.
While D.C. dysfunction is at an all-time high and people inside the Beltway can t even agree to disagree, these groups get it. We know America sees it, too.
Mr. President, it is time to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline. We don't want the approval process to drag on and reach a six-year anniversary of inaction.
It is time to bring the benefits of this pipeline project to Americans and Pennsylvanians alike.
Stephanie Catarino Wissman is the executive director of the Pennsylvania office of the American Petroleum Institute. Lou D'Amico is president of the Pennsylvania Indpendent Oil and Gas Association.
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