James Callahan, general president of the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE), says he’s disappointed the Obama administration rejected TransCanada’s application for a proposed $7-billion, 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to Texas.

“Today’s announcement by the U.S. Department of State to withhold approval of the Keystone XL pipeline is a blow to America’s construction workers,” Callahan said in a statement released by his office Jan. 18.

“As the sector hardest hit by the recession and one that still grapples with an unemployment rate of 16 per cent, this project could have been a lifeline to thousands of unemployed operating engineers.”

Although “deeply disappointed” at the decision, Callahan said the IUOE would keep working to bring future energy projects to fruition.

“We will continue to work with our partners in labour and the industry to bring vital energy projects online and to create the kind of high-paying, skilled jobs that are so vital to our economy, our members and their families.”

The IUOE represents more than 400,000 members in 123 locals across the U.S. and Canada, including Local 793.

Operating engineers work as crane and heavy equipment operators, mechanics, surveyors in the construction industry, stationary engineers in building and industrial maintenance, nurses and other health care professions, and public works departments.

The Obama administration announced it was denying a presidential permit for the proposed pipeline because it does not serve the national interest.

The U.S. Department of State had recommended the project not proceed.

In a statement, President Barack Obama said he concurred with the recommendation because it was determined the Department would not have the time necessary to assess whether the project, in its current state, is in fact in the national interest.

TransCanada intends to re-apply for a permit. However, any decision on the fate of the pipeline is expected to be pushed well beyond November’s presidential election in the U.S.

Upon completion, the proposed pipeline would be capable of transporting 830,000 barrels per day of crude oil.