Steelworkers protest India-made steel in Ill.Steelworkers, many of them laid off from a century-old steel mill that has defined this St. Louis suburb, rallied Tuesday against using foreign-made steel for U.S. projects, including a planned North American pipeline built partly with Asian steel.
By: By Jim Suhr, The Associated Press , The Jamestown Sun
GRANITE CITY, Ill. — Steelworkers, many of them laid off from a century-old steel mill that has defined this St. Louis suburb, rallied Tuesday against using foreign-made steel for U.S. projects, including a planned North American pipeline built partly with Asian steel.
Using as a backdrop stacks of hundreds of 25-foot-long steel tubing stamped “Made in India,” organizers of the protest that drew roughly 1,000 people in near-freezing temperatures pressed that such pipes could have been made from metal crafted by the idled United States Steel Corp. plant nearby.
A “Buy American” clause tucked in the nearly $800 billion stimulus package President Barack Obama signed in February requires the use of U.S. iron, steel and other manufactured goods for public buildings and public works funded under the bill.
But the clause does not apply to private projects such as the 2,148-mile, $5.2 billion Keystone Pipeline that, when completed by Alberta-based TransCanada and ConocoPhillips by the end of this year, will send Canadian tar sands crude oil from Calgary to southwestern Illinois, then into Oklahoma.
The pipeline, according to diagrams on TransCanada’s Web site, is to cut through the Dakotas and Nebraska before branching off in Kansas, with one leg stretching across Missouri into Illinois and the other continuing south into Oklahoma.
Organizers of the largely symbolic rally considered the stockpiled pipes from overseas an insult to Granite City and its struggling steel mill just a couple of miles away. They urged governing bodies in the pipeline’s path to say no to the project unless U.S.-made steel is used.
“We feel it’s a slap in our face to bring (foreign-made pipes) to our community and park it right in front of us,” said Russ Saltsgaver, president of the United States Steel plant’s United Steelworkers Local 1899. “This pipe behind me is a symbol of what’s gone wrong with American trade laws.”
TransCanada has defended the use of steel from India, saying the industry is a global one and that steel and pipe production are competitive.
Robert Jones, the Keystone Pipeline project’s vice president, said Monday that when TransCanada solicited bids for the pipe in 2007, “it became pretty apparent that North American pipe mills weren’t going to be able to fulfill our needs” because many were at capacity. Complicating matters, he said, was that only a certain number of pipe suppliers worldwide could make the high-tensile pipe required for the project.
So TransCanada contracted for about half of the pipe to come from U.S. and Canadian sources, with the rest from overseas, Jones said.
Still, construction of the pipeline, scheduled to be completed by the end of this year, will employ thousands of union workers, Jones said.
Bill Stephens, a ConocoPhillips spokesman, de-ferred questions Tuesday to TransCanada, saying ConocoPhillips has only a 20 percent stake in the pipeline and had no role in the bidding process involving the pipes or steel for them.
Holding a sign “Rebuilding America with American Jobs,” Leon Halter attended Tuesday’s rally and said the green pipes in the background “make me angry, for sure.”
“We produce the steel they’re shipping in, yet we’re laid off,” said Halter, who got his pink slip in December from the U.S. Steel plant, where he’s worked nearly 36 years. “It is a slap in the face.”
On the Net:
TransCanada, http://www. transcanada.com
ConocoPhillips, http://www. conocophillips.com/index. htm
United Steelworkers Union, http://www.usw.org