by Suzanne Walker
I started pipelining in 2008 during one of the worst economic recessions our country has ever witnessed. I’ve seen disaster after disaster, both natural and policy-related, devastate our oil and gas supply over the past 13 years of my pipelining career. Yet through all of this, I have never been more concerned for our nation and its energy security than I am right now, watching the Biden administration minimize the progress we have made over the past decade.
I began my career as a welder’s helper before realizing that I had all of the necessary skills to be a pipeline welder myself. I’ve become passionate about doing my part to bring reliable, affordable, safe energy to the American people. Being married to someone in the pipeline industry as well, we’ve seen the industry change over the years— sometimes for the better and lately, for the worst.
After working 10 to 12 hour shifts on projects across the country and making a good living, I was instantly out of a job when President Biden decided to favor foreign pipelines over critical infrastructure projects like the Keystone XL pipeline here at home. Not only was I immediately out of a job during a struggling, post-pandemic job market, but I was pregnant with my first child. This past year and a half was supposed to be the most joyful year of my life— not the most stressful. However, President Biden seemed to have other plans for pipeliners like myself.
When you have a child, your entire mindset changes. I instantly went into “provider mode” yet I no longer had a job and paycheck to help provide for my family. I’ve now been laid off for over a year, and disadvantaged because of the effective halt on new pipeline projects in our country. At this point, I see very little hope for the future of American energy. I’m disappointed in President Biden’s failing leadership, which has impacted my husband, my newborn son, and the course of our nation.
Pipeline welding is all I’ve ever known. And I don’t just believe in it because it’s my job, I believe in it for the sake of my son’s future – our nation’s future. Hardworking families like mine need affordable gas for our vehicles and cheap energy to heat our homes, dry our clothes, and cook dinner. I can’t imagine how bad it will be if these rising gas prices continue.
Prioritizing pipeline infrastructure in America is the best path forward from an environmental perspective. A recent study reaffirms that pipelines are 4.5 times safer than transporting oil and gas by rail or truck. If the Biden administration is trying to be environmentally conscious, they better look at the facts before trying to threaten viable pipelines like Dakota Access. Pipelines are the most climate-friendly, effective option; far more “green” and safe compared to the alternatives.
One missed paycheck at a time, I lose more hope in the current state of our country. During his campaign, Joe Biden promised to be an advocate for middle class families. However, he has instead killed thousands of family-sustaining pipeline jobs. I will most likely have to settle for an entry-level job with entry-level pay here in Tennessee now that there seems to be no realistic options. John Kerry’s empty promise of employing us in solar panel jobs has so far not come to fruition. The Biden administration is putting people like myself out of jobs that are needed now more than ever as we try to recover post-pandemic.
I found purpose in working on projects like the Keystone pipeline, Mountaineer Express, and the Buckeye Express over the past thirteen years. My hope is that one day I’ll get to do the job I love again, in order to provide for my family and provide reliable energy to Americans.
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Suzanne Walker is a pipeline welder based in Reagan, Tennessee who lost her job after President Biden canceled Keystone XL. She is affiliated with Pipeliners Local Union 798.