'I literally cried': Former Keystone XL workers still reeling two years after Biden axed pipeline

It was 'numbing' to hear President Biden had canceled Keystone XL pipeline, former worker on project tells Fox News Digital

EXCLUSIVE: Pipeline workers who had secured jobs on the Keystone XL project before President Biden revoked its federal permits said they are still struggling to recover two years later.

The workers told Fox News Digital that they and their fellow workers lost their jobs on the pipeline after Biden's decision nearly two years ago in January 2021 and have since struggled to make ends meet. Immediately after taking office, Biden signed an executive order effectively shutting the project down despite the thousands of jobs it was expected to create and arguing the U.S. "must prioritize the development of a clean energy economy."

"I was going to be on the Keystone XL project, but none of those jobs went. It got canceled, so I didn't see any of that work," Suzanne Walker, a pipeline welder who was hired to work the pipeline in North Dakota until Biden canceled its permits, told Fox News Digital. "That was a job down the drain and there really hasn't been much since."

"I know a lot of members went and have done different things now because the pipeline business — it's just gone basically," she continued. "I know there are a few jobs out there, but we're trying to make it at home. I know a lot of people who fell on hard times."

TRADE UNIONS REPRESENTING LAID-OFF KEYSTONE XL WORKERS SILENT AFTER REPORT SHOWS THOUSANDS OF JOB LOSSES

Workers remove a large clamp from a section of pipe during construction of part of the Keystone XL Pipeline Project in March 2013.

Workers remove a large clamp from a section of pipe during construction of part of the Keystone XL Pipeline Project in March 2013. (Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Overall, the pipeline would have created between 16,149 and 59,468 construction jobs that would have lasted roughly two years and would have had a positive economic impact of between $3.4-9.6 billion, according to a congressionally-mandated report issued by the Department of Energy in December. 

And the project's labor agreement signed in August 2020 promised the pipeline would create 42,000 American jobs and provide $2 billion in total wages.

BIDEN ADMIN QUIETLY ADMITS CANCELING KEYSTONE XL PIPELINE COST THOUSANDS OF JOBS, BILLIONS OF DOLLARS

"It did surprise us when it happened," Neal Crabtree, who worked on the pipeline in Nebraska as a foreman, told Fox News Digital in an interview. "I was upset over it. I literally cried about it. I was a foreman on one of the compressor stations. We'd been there for three weeks."

"We were excited to start this project. You know, we have to work to keep our insurance hours going, we have to work to build our retirement," he added. "And when you just spent a whole year [during the COVID-19 pandemic] not working and then we think we got this huge project that's going to provide millions of man-hours for people in our industry and then the rug is pulled out from under you, it was devastating."

"It was numbing, I can tell you that," Crabtree said.

President Joe Biden signs his first executive orders, including one canceling the Keystone XL pipeline's federal permits, in the White House on Jan. 20, 2021.

President Joe Biden signs his first executive orders, including one canceling the Keystone XL pipeline's federal permits, in the White House on Jan. 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Crabtree said he and many of his fellow Keystone XL workers had heard Biden's campaign promise to shut the pipeline, but didn't think he would follow through given the billions of dollars that had been invested in it. 

The project had been slated to be completed early this year and transport an additional 830,000 barrels of crude oil from Canada to the U.S. through an existing pipeline network, according to its operator TC Energy. Lawmakers and energy industry representatives have argued the pipeline would have helped keep gas prices down and bolster U.S. energy security by increasing crude oil supplies being fed to Texas refineries. 

Advocates of the project had also pointed to the number of jobs it would have created.

FORMER KEYSTONE PIPELINE WORKER RIPS BIDEN AFTER COMMENTS ON OIL PRODUCTION

"I know it impacts families firsthand because my husband is also a pipeline worker and we had to go from, you know, work in making good money to now trying to make it," Walker added. "From 2020 to now, we had saved some money, but with kids, money don't last forever."

"For the bills you have, it don't add up to what you're making. It definitely impacts people a lot."

Walker and Crabtree also took aim at the Biden administration's arguments that their jobs would be replaced with green energy jobs and that the Keystone XL job losses meant less since they were temporary. 

President Biden shakes hands with White House chief of staff Ron Klain alongside Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm on June 30, 2021. The administration has argued pipeline workers can find new jobs building clean energy infrastructure.

President Biden shakes hands with White House chief of staff Ron Klain alongside Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm on June 30, 2021. The administration has argued pipeline workers can find new jobs building clean energy infrastructure. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

Following its Keystone XL jobs report last month, for example, the DOE told Fox News Digital it concluded the pipeline cancelation had "limited job impacts, with approximately 50 permanent jobs estimated to have been created were the pipeline operational."

"That one pipeline, it was our project for that year," Crabtree said. "You're talking about a 10 or 11-month project. People saying that, 'well, it's just temporary' — every construction job is temporary. When you're in this industry, you know, just like a carpenter — he doesn't spend his entire career building the same house.He finishes that house and then hopefully there's another house for him to go build."

"That Keystone pipeline was our house to build in 2020 and we didn't get to do it," he told Fox News Digital. "And it is putting a severe hurting on this industry. When it happened, my main concern wasn't just the Keystone pipeline. Myself and a lot of other people were afraid of the domino effect."

GREEN ENERGY PROJECTS FACE STARK ENVIRONMENTAL, LOCAL OPPOSITION NATIONWIDE

He also said he would be unable to transition to working on green energy projects such as solar panel installations, saying he was trained in pipeline work.

A worker installs a rooftop solar panel.

A worker installs a rooftop solar panel. (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File)

"What aggravates me the most is the government, when it comes to construction workers, they just kind of lump us into one big group like we've had no specific training," Crabtree continued. "They think just because we didn't go to college and because we work construction, we can go do any other type of construction project."

"I'm a professional pipeline welder. That's what I do," he said. "I spent countless years perfecting my skill. For them to tell me that I can just go out and build solar panels to me that something is more suited for an electrician. I know nothing about being an electrician."

Walker echoed Crabtree, saying she hadn't heard from anybody offering green energy jobs.

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"I haven't seen anybody call me about a solar job," she said. "I don't think I can just go from a pipeline welder to the wind farm or the solar world and make a living."

TC Energy ultimately gave up on the Kesytone XL project in June 2021 as a result of Biden's decision canceling its permits. And last year, a federal judge tossed a legal challenge from nearly two dozen states asking the court to reinstate the pipeline's permits.