Texas Power Crisis Puts Keystone XL Cancellation into Perspective

Progressive blackouts in Texas have put the importance of pipelines into perspective, business executives say.

Ryan Palazzo, a former chief operating officer for a pipeline construction company and a Houston resident, received text messages on Feb. 15 about ongoing blackouts to protect the state’s power grid, which was hit by a huge winter storm that brought temperatures. record and heavy snow. Since then, millions have been affected.

“It is not because there is not enough natural gas. It is for the change to renewable energies. They cannot, in the short term, keep the network stable. It’s unfortunate, but energy is essential to everything we do, ”said Palazzo, who was fired in November, just after the elections.

Following the cancellation of the Atlantic coast gas pipeline in July 2020, his business owner had a strong feeling that the Keystone XL (KXL) project would also be canceled and decided to downsize, according to Palazzo.

Biden’s executive order revoking the KXL permit was « obviously aimed at a certain industry with no real basis, » Palazzo said. « In fact, a political movement more than logical, contrary to life here in the United States. »

Ryan Palazzo, a pipeline operations executive with 30 years of industry experience, speaks to The Epoch Times via video link. (Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

Data from the Electrical Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) shows that Texas has steadily increased electricity generation through wind farms, to 25 percent of total electrical capacity in January 2021 from 3 percent in 2007. Last year it was the first in which renewable sources generated more electricity than coal. in Texas.

“This record cold not only forces customers to increase their energy consumption to stay warm; it’s also freezing wind turbines and depleting our natural gas-powered resources, ”said Commissioner Arthur D’Andrea of ​​the Texas Public Utilities Commission in a statement calling for energy conservation on February 14.

There is no magic bullet or silver bullet when it comes to energy, Palazzo said. Renewable energy, particularly wind and solar, is intermittent. A solar power plant uses 100 times the amount of land as a traditional power plant, while a wind power plant requires up to 1,000 times more. They also need rare earth metal components, which require a significant amount of mining.

« The [pipeline] spills are very, very, very rare. I think the public just hasn’t been educated and honestly hasn’t taken the time to learn the facts about renewables and what we do in oil and gas, « Palazzo said.

In addition to KXL, the Canadian company’s Enbridge pipelines, known as Line 5 and Line 3, also face protests and lawsuits. Line 5 passes through the Straits of Mackinac, connecting Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. Environmental organizations urge the Biden administration to cancel Line 3, arguing that it is another KXL. Both KXL and Line 3 are oil sands pipelines.

“Line 5 in Michigan doesn’t just deliver products from Canada to Canada through Michigan. Furthermore, 65 [percent] of propane in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula comes from Line 5. Texas is experiencing a cold snap. Imagine what Michigan feels like today. So it’s a very serious matter, ”Maryscott Greenwood, executive director of the Canadian-American Business Council, said at a forum hosted by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute on February 16.

Data from the Electrical Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) shows that Texas has steadily increased electricity generation through wind farms, to 25 percent of total electrical capacity in January 2021 from 3 percent in 2007. (Source: ERCOT)

Financial challenges

These are challenging days for Josh Williams, a pipeline with 20 years in the industry. Union pipelines have to keep work hours at a certain level to qualify for a benefits package that includes health insurance and 401 (k) retirement accounts.

« I lost my insurance six months ago, » he told The Epoch Times.

He said his local union has a first-in, first-out job coordination system. Williams shared a union document showing that, as of February 12, 1,768 welders, 257 day laborers and 1,990 helpers are « behind the wheel, » indicating that many people are currently out of work and looking for one. If a person is at 1,001 on the list, they will have to wait for the first 1,000 to get work before it is their turn. Therefore, the prospect to overcome the bar looks bleak.

Some jobs require pipelines to cover the cost of travel to the job site before they start generating income. Williams said she also knew friends who had to choose between nice Christmas gifts for their children or spend the money to travel to a job. Some decided to stay home; others chose to sacrifice Christmas to get another job.

Disappointment with Union

Williams expressed his disappointment with the United Association (UA), the parent union his location is affiliated with. He said the AU endorsed candidate Joe Biden during the election and sent letters to members urging them to vote for him.

“You cannot vote for someone who is going to close your job. You just can’t do that. No one in their right mind will do that, ”he said.

For some, the reality wasn’t established until the first week of the Biden administration, according to Williams. He said some were confused by the mixed messages about the Keystone XL pipeline and fracking during the election and thought that Biden would back the unions because the unions donate a lot of money to his campaign.

On February 16, Gary Doer, Canada’s former ambassador to the United States, said at a forum hosted by the Ottawa-based Macdonald-Laurier Institute that Biden vowed to cancel KXL during the primary season, while trying to secure the nomination.

“I think it is unfortunate that the construction sector delegates in the Democratic Party could not have as much power at that time in May last year that environmental lobbyists, particularly with the threat of [Sen. Bernie] Sanders is still in the race, ”he told The Epoch Times.

He said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should focus on protecting Line 5 and Line 3.

A local political action committee to obtain signatures to petition governors and organizations worked, but not as well as it should, Williams said.

On February 8, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed an executive order to protect the state’s oil and gas industry from « federal overreach and rejection of Oklahoma’s constitutional ability to properly determine how to best develop its own natural resources ».

As a resident of Poteau, Oklahoma, Williams appreciated his governor’s action.

“The Governor’s executive order told the administration: Stay out of the business of Oklahoma’s oil and gas industry. It supports thousands and thousands of families in Oklahoma alone, ”he said.

Life form under attack

« He [Biden] he was attacking our profession, our industry, our lives, everything, ”Williams told The Epoch Times.

“The important thing for me is the camaraderie, the family atmosphere, the brothers. It is a brotherhood; it is a brotherhood.

“The important thing in every job is when you are away from your family, your immediate family, this is our family away from home. You build many relationships; you can meet new people. When I go to these jobs and projects, I try to find the names of these guys and make friends with them. And we all have the same interests at heart, each of us.

Not having this is taking away his way of life, he said.

Palazzo, who has overseen 3,500 miles of various pipelines throughout his career, knows that pipelines have a demanding job, often working 60 hours a week. However, they still find time to help out local charities.

“Many times, they don’t even ask companies. They would take care of that themselves, ”he said.

He recalled that in Ohio when COVID-19 first struck, pipelines organized food drives for the elderly and donated N95 masks to local medical facilities. They also prepared food for local rescuers and medical personnel to collect, all at the pipelines’ own initiative.

“The goal is always when you go and do a project, you want to be a good neighbor, you respect the community and you try to make it a better place while you’re there,” he said.