White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Monday dodged a question from a reporter about when unemployed Keystone pipeline workers can expect new “green” employment.
The move to scrap construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline could directly eliminate an estimated 11,000 jobs and affect another 60,000.
The action was part of a series of executive orders signed by President Joe Biden on his first day in office affecting “permits signed over the past four years that do not serve the U.S. national interest, including revoking the presidential permit granted to the Keystone XL pipeline.”
The president has said he has plans for mine reclamation and cleanup projects that would create new jobs where workers are laid off.
Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry said on Jan. 28 that Biden wants to make sure workers in the energy industry “have better choices” in jobs that “pay better” and are “cleaner.” Kerry gave an example of being a solar power technician instead of a miner. He disputed that “dealing with climate” comes at the expense of energy workers, adding that there is “a lot of money to be made” in the creation of new “healthier” jobs in sectors such as green hydrogen and geothermal heat.
On Monday, Fox News’ Peter Doocy asked Psaki at a White House press conference, “When is it that the Biden administration is going to let the thousands of fossil fuel industry workers, whether it’s pipeline workers or construction workers who are either out of work or will soon be out of work because of a Biden [executive order], when it is and where it is that they can go for their green job?”
“I would certainly welcome you to present your data of all the thousands and thousands of people who won’t be getting a green job,” Psaki responded. “Maybe next time you’re here, you can present that.”
“But you said that they would be getting green jobs. So I’m just asking when that happens,” Doocy shot back, before citing AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka who had criticized Biden’s revocation of the Keystone XL permit.
“The Laborers’ International Union of North America said the Keystone decision will ‘cost 1,000 existing union jobs and 10,000 projected construction’ jobs,” the reporter continued, referring to a report published on Jan. 20.
“There are people living paycheck to paycheck. There are now people out of jobs once the Keystone pipeline stopped construction… it’s been 19 days since that [executive order]. So what are these people who need money now—when do they get their green job?”
Psaki responded by saying that Biden will share more details of a plan to create “green” jobs “in the weeks ahead.”
“The president and many Democrats and Republicans in Congress believe that investment in infrastructure—building infrastructure that’s in our national interests, that boosts the U.S. economy, creates good-paying union jobs here in America, and advances our climate and clean energy goals—are something that we can certainly work on doing together,” the press secretary said.
Psaki’s response was met with widespread criticism on social media, including from Fox News’ Laura Ingraham.
“Psaki Translator: I have no flipping idea where these green jobs are going to come from or how much taxpayers will be fleeced to ‘create’ them,” Ingraham wrote on Twitter.
Biden’s energy policies since Jan. 20 have been heavily criticized by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
He said at a Senate session on Jan. 28 that the Biden administration’s actions so far are “the wrong prescription,” including the decision to revoke authorization for the Keystone pipeline, the decision to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord, and other actions taken in the name of addressing climate change.
“There’s nothing green about a tsunami of pink slips for American workers, or carting Canadian crude around in trucks and trains instead of a pipeline,” McConnell said. “This piecemeal Green New Deal is the wrong prescription. Wrong for the environment, wrong for national security. And most of all for the working Americans who will soon be formerly working Americans if this keeps up.”
He added, “China, Russia, and our other competitors must be thrilled, absolutely thrilled, that our new government is essentially declaring war on some of our own economic foundations to satisfy a craving for symbolic gesture.
“Willfully throwing our own people out of work, reducing our domestic energy security, raising costs and prices for working families—all for no meaningful impact on global temperatures.”
The Republican senator praised the policies of the Trump administration saying, “The last four years prove that growing our prosperity, reducing emissions, and expanding domestic energy are actually not in tension—we can achieve all three.”
The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Mimi Nguyen Ly contributed to this report.