Labor groups urge action on stalled pipeline

By Ellen M. Gilmer | 10/03/2016 07:07 AM EDT

A coalition of labor groups is urging the Obama administration to move forward on the embattled Dakota Access pipeline.

In a letter to President Obama today, the heads of five trade unions slammed the administration’s decision last month to intervene in the project and withhold a necessary easement while agencies conduct further review.

"The intervention by the Departments of Justice, Interior, and the U.S. Army to indefinitely halt a project that is more than halfway constructed and has received state and federal approval raises serious concerns about the future of infrastructure development in America, and the livelihoods of our members," the letter says.


"We urge you to adhere to the well-established regulatory process for permitting private infrastructure projects and approve the easement for the remaining section of the Dakota Access project without delay," it continues.

Signing onto the letter are James Callahan of the International Union of Operating Engineers, James Hoffa of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Terry O’Sullivan of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, William Hite of the United Association, and Lonnie Stephenson of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

The union leaders say the administration’s involvement in the project is creating delays that are putting members of the pipeline’s all-union workforce out of a job.

"Our members make careers out of jobs created by projects like Dakota Access, and our jobs depend on the investments of conscientious employers," the letter says. "If companies like Energy Transfer Partners cannot trust that the regulatory process outlined in federal law will be upheld, who will continue to invest in America?"

The groups say the Obama administration should allow the court system to address complaints from tribes and environmental groups opposed to the pipeline.

Oral arguments are scheduled for Wednesday at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit over whether a work freeze in a contested area in North Dakota should be extended while the judges review a lower court’s decision.