XL pipeline- Getting the facts straight

Pieces of the Keystone XL pipeline await construction in South Dakota. Photo:North Platte Post

Every big controversy seems to generate its own information fog.  Facts may be  incomplete or missing altogether. Reporting can get fuzzy.

The debate over the proposed Keystone XL pipeline is no different. Rhetoric abounds. Facts may be iffy.

The question is whether the fact omission is deliberate or accidental.  Both happen. Either may detract from what should be an informed, vigorous public discussion.

Take Darrin Goode’s Politico article this week entitled “On Keystone XL Pipeline, Democrats slow to probe.”  Goode writes:

“Labor unions — an important constituency for Obama and a lot of other Democrats — are backing the pipeline and the jobs it could bring.”

Goode’s statement is inaccurate. Early today, I wrote the following to Mr. Goode and requested a correction in his Politico article.

“You did not note that large labor unions also oppose the Keystone XL pipeline. They include the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) and the Transport Workers Union (TWU). The two unions represent more than 300,000 workers in the U.S.
These unions are calling for “New Deal” type public investments in infrastructure modernization and repair, energy conservation and climate protection as a means of putting people to work and laying the foundations of a green and sustainable economic future for the United States.”
I ask that you add this correction to your story for the sake of fair and balanced journalism.”

I will let you know if Mr. Goode agrees with my clarification and makes a correction. I should note that the Politico article is not the first to make the false assumption that labor stands unified in favor of the proposed pipeline.

TransCanada's Keystone pipeline, shown here under construction. Photo: The Globe and Mail

Meanwhile, in the comment section for Goode’s Politico article I received this reply to my clarification from a reader.

While the ATU & TWU represents a measly 300,000 workers opposing the pipeline, they are trumped by the AFL-CIO (11,000,000 members), Teamsters (1,400,000 members) and LIUNA (630,000 members).

Last time I checked, 13,000,000 is more than 300,000.

Need more proof? Here:
“It’s the vision and competence of TransCanada in the U.S. that provides our skilled local workforce with the means to perform the trade they have been taught while contributing to their communities.” – William Hite, General President, AFL-CIO.

“TransCanada has a solid reputation for its responsible construction practices, and Canada is our largest and most responsible oil supplier. Allowing the project approval process to move forward was the right decision to make.” – Jim Hoffa, General President, Teamsters

In a protest, debate or fist-fight between a group of Environmentalists and Union workers, I will place my money on the Union workers everytime!”

To which I replied:

“Hello Van-

Yes, some unions and union members support the XL pipeline. BUT- The ATU and TWU are in fact AFL/CIO member unions who oppose the Keystone XL pipeline. Many other unions and union members in the U.S and Canada have also stepped forward opposing the pipeline.

Examples: The Alberta Federation of Labor and the CEP (Communications , Energy and Paperworkers Union), the Canadian union that represents the tar sands and refinery workers who would work on the project oppose the pipeline claiming it is “unsustainable and cuts off the possibility of creating a democratic energy policy that benefits workers in Canada for the long haul.”

The Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP) is opposed to Keystone XL. “The pipeline will create environmental destruction, take potential upgrading and refining jobs away from Canadians, and put our country’s energy security at risk,” says CEP President Dave Coles.

The president of the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL), Alberta’s largest labor organization, thinks the pipeline shouldn’t go ahead. “Members of the Alberta and federal governments have been acting like sales executives for pipeline company TransCanada, travelling to the U.S. to persuade Americans what a great idea the raw bitumen pipeline will be, but they are ignoring what’s best for Alberta and Canada,” said Gil McGowan, AFL president.

These examples disprove your contention that this debate is strictly between labor and environmentalists.  In fact, hundreds of thousands of union members on both sides of the border are against the XL pipeline. They’re joined by nine Nobel laureates, ranchers, farmers, first nations members, students, NASA climatologist James Hansen, politicians, clergy and others.

In short, you made a poor bet backed more by rhetoric and less by fact when you assumed all labor unions and all union members (of which I’m one) support the XL pipeline.”

Pieces of the Keystone XL pipeline await transport. Photo: National Radio Canada

Let there be a fair, factual and informed debate over the Keystone XL pipeline. Likewise, let there be fair, factual and informed reporting on the topic.  It’s in the best interest of our democracy and the credible journalism citizens rely.  It’s also how society can best demand transparency, accountability and clarity on an important issue.

About Bernard McCoy

My views are my own and not a reflection of my employer. I'm a professor of Journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I've also been a working journalist for the past 29 years. I have covered news stories in war zones, reported on human and natural disasters, presidential conventions, a presidential inauguration and the September 11th, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. My career experiences include work as an award-winning documentary producer, television news reporter, photographer, producer, and anchor. I worked at WIBW-TV, Topeka, KS., KCTV, Kansas City, MO, WKBD-TV, Detroit, MI., WILX-TV, Lansing, MI. and WBNS-TV, Columbus, OH. I have also worked as a contributing reporter for The Columbus Dispatch, Associated Press, CBS, CNN, the Ohio News Network and lecture at the Kosovo Institute of Journalism and Communications. I have a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Kansas and a master’s degree in telecommunications management from Michigan State University.
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3 Responses to XL pipeline- Getting the facts straight

  1. Amanda says:

    Hello i am doing a poster for a film directed by Leslie Iwerks called Pipe Dreams, for the San Francisco Film Society who are premiering this film.I was wondering if it is ok for me to use one of your images.

  2. Pingback: Obama administration rejects Keystone XL pipeline project | JournalCetera

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