James T. Callahan, general president of the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE), says the union shares TransCanada’s determination to see the Keystone XL pipeline built and fully supports the company’s decision to reapply for a federal permit.

“It’s time to put politics aside and put thousands of construction workers back to work,” he said in a statement released May 4. “The Operating Engineers strongly encourage the State Department and other relevant federal agencies to aggressively implement President (Barack) Obama’s March executive order to approve this project as quickly as possible.”

In January, the Obama administration rejected TransCanada’s application for a proposed $7-billion, 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to Texas. Obama later reversed course, saying he was fast-tracking approvals on part of the project which he had earlier rejected.

Obama has said he will expedite approval for a portion of the Keystone XL pipeline.

“After three years of study and significant environmental improvement, after the rerouting of the pipeline around the sensitive Sandhills area of Nebraska, it is beyond time to approve this project,” said Callahan. “America’s construction workers simply cannot afford to wait.”

Callahan said the pipeline project will create the kind of high-paying, skilled jobs that are vital to the American economy.

April employment data showed that construction contractors again cut workers from their payrolls, he said, even as the construction season should be in full swing.

“It is clear that Keystone XL offers game-changing potential to the sector hardest hit by the recession and where the unemployment rate is still near 15 per cent.”

Callahan said Operating Engineers are among the most highly trained and skilled pipeline workers in the world.

“Their expertise will ensure that Keystone is built right, built safe and built to last.”

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