Representatives of the construction industry told a U.S. House hearing yesterday that executive actions facilitating energy infrastructure projects, signed by President Donald Trump three weeks ago, have already created thousands of jobs.

At the end of January, the president signed four executive actions advancing the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines and expediting the regulatory approval process for infrastructure projects.

Rex Ferry (photo credit: National Electrical Contractors Association)

“From my personal experience, I can report that request for quotes and opportunities have kept my phone ringing in the few short weeks since the EOs [Executive Orders] were signed,” said Rex Ferry, a business owner representing the National Electrical Contractors Association. “There is a great amount of excitement in the oil and gas industry and many tradesmen are ready to get to work immediately.”

Terry O’Sullivan, president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA), said the order expediting the permitting process for the Dakota Access pipeline “put approximately 4,400 building tradespeople, including 1,000 LIUNA members, back to work.”

After years of anti-energy opposition and Obama-era regulatory hurdles, labor groups are welcoming the steps the new administration has taken to support domestic energy development.

O’Sullivan recounted how the half-million members LIUNA represents “watched with dismay as environmental extremists have distorted the facts, disrupted work sites, harassed our members, and abused the regulatory process to obstruct and delay critically needed projects.”

LIUNA Nebraska Keystone

Photo credit: Laborers-Employers Cooperation and Education Trust

This “opposition to almost every energy project threatens to derail any attempt to strengthen and improve [energy] infrastructure,” O’Sullivan warned, and it “also threatens the creation of good, middle-class jobs.”

Regulatory delays pose a similar threat, said Ferry, arguing that the permitting process for projects should be streamlined. “In America, the problem is not any one individual regulation. It’s the accumulation of decades of state, local and federal regulations that are often contradictory, redundant or outdated.”

“It is our experience that many projects are held up due to an unnecessarily complicated and protracted approval process,” he continued. “Funding for infrastructure is scarce and we cannot afford to waste critical resources on unjustifiable red tape.”

Lonnie R. Stephenson, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, agreed. “[U]nnecessary red tape must be eliminated from the siting and permitting process,” he wrote in his prepared remarks. The group represents 750,000 members who work in industries including utilities, construction, manufacturing and railroads.

The witnesses also testified to the oil and natural gas industry’s record of creating and supporting jobs in recent years.

“While it has been almost 40 years since the end of the steel era, the oil and gas boom in the Midwest has revived and modernized the region’s economy and is creating new job opportunities that are here to stay,” said Ferry. “More jobs have been created for the first time since the decline of the steel industry in the 1980’s.”

Terry O’Sullivan (photo credit: Laborers’ International Union of North America)

During the 2008 financial crisis, “pipeline projects served as lifelines to workers and communities that might otherwise have gone under,” said O’Sullivan. “Were it not for the jobs created by the boom in North American energy development, tens of thousands more workers would have been forced into unemployment.”

“These were good unionized jobs that … pay family-sustaining wages with good health insurance benefits,” O’Sullivan continued. “They are the means to put food on their families’ tables, roofs over their heads, and gas in the tanks of their cars and trucks,” “to put their children through college, to save for retirement,” “to build rewarding, middle-class careers, and to lift themselves and their families out of poverty.”

“This isn’t a Republican issue or a Democratic issue; it’s an American issue,” O’Sullivan said.