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In this Dec. 3, 2012, file photo, crews work on construction of the TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline near County Road 363 and County Road 357, east of Winona, Texas. Credit: Associated Press In this Dec. 3, 2012, file photo, crews work on construction of the TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline near County Road 363 and County Road 357, east of Winona, Texas. Credit: Associated Press

In this Dec. 3, 2012, file photo, crews work on construction of the TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline near County Road 363 and County Road 357, east of Winona, Texas. Credit: Associated Press

By Kelly Smits July 21, 2022

Michels on target with claim his company was building Keystone Pipeline when Biden ended it

If Your Time is short

  • Michels Corporation, the construction company Tim Michels co-owns, was awarded a contract to build eight pump stations in the United States for the Keystone XL pipeline.

  • It was awarded another contract to build around half of the Canadian portion of the pipeline.

  • Construction of the pump stations was likely nearing completion and construction of the segment of the pipeline’s Canadian portion was likely one-third complete when President Biden canceled the construction permit for the pipeline in January 2021.

  • In total, however, only about 8% of the pipeline had been built when President Biden canceled the permit.

On his first day in office, President Joe Biden put the final nail in the coffin of the Keystone XL pipeline when he revoked its construction permit via an executive order.

Several months later in June 2021, TC Energy Corporation announced the termination of the project, bringing an end to more than a decade of debate and legislative back-and-forth on it.

The Keystone XL pipeline would have been an extension to the Keystone pipeline, an already existing structure that brings tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada to storage and distribution facilities in Cushing, Oklahoma and eventually to refineries in Texas. The extension would have boosted this by carrying an additional 830,000 barrels per day from Alberta to Steele City, Nebraska.

Environmental activists, Indigenous communities and climate change experts hailed Biden’s decision to cancel the pipeline, which could have damaged sacred sites, caused pollution and water contamination, imperiled wildlife and dramatically contributed to carbon emissions.

But the decision was criticized heavily by many Republicans, including U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, former Vice President Mike Pence and – most recently – Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels, who had a personal stake in it all.

On June 23, 2022, Michels tweeted: "My company was building the Keystone Pipeline when Biden canceled it. Both he and Tony Evers are making us all pay the price. I'll stand by Wisconsinites and ensure you keep more of your hard-earned dollars as your next governor."

He made another claim in a video posted with the tweet: "Biden killed hundreds of jobs, sent gas prices way up, making everything more expensive." We rated that Mostly False.

Michels is the co-owner of Michels Corporation, an energy and infrastructure contractor headquartered in Brownsville, Wisconsin, with locations across the United States and Canada

Was Michels Corp. building the Keystone XL pipeline when Biden canceled it? 

How big of a role did the company have?

In an email to PolitiFact Wisconsin, TC Energy confirmed that Michels Corp. had been awarded "a significant construction scope" on the Keystone XL pipeline for both the pipeline and facilities. 

Michels Corp. provided more details in an email: "Michels Pipeline, a Division of Michels Corporation, received a contract related to the Keystone XL pipeline to construct pumping stations. Michels Canada Co. received another contract in Canada to help build the mainline pipeline of the Keystone XL pipeline."

According to a post on Michels Corp.'s website from September 2020, Michels Corp. was awarded a contract from TC Energy to construct eight pump stations for the pipeline in Montana, South Dakota, Oklahoma and Texas. 

Featured Fact-check

Pump stations are facilities along a pipeline that maintain the flow and pressure of oil as it's being transported. They were one type of ancillary facility required for the Keystone XL project, which would have traversed through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska. Oklahoma and Texas, however, are part of the existing Keystone pipeline structure, so some of the pump stations Michels Corp. was constructing may not have been for the Keystone XL pipeline.

The post said that construction on the eight pump stations started in late June 2020 and was scheduled for completion in the first quarter of 2021. It also said the company would employ more than 350 workers at peak construction.

According to a June 2020 post on Michels Canada’s website, Michels Canada was awarded a contract from TC Energy to construct approximately 260 kilometers (about 162 miles) of the pipeline in Alberta. A TC Energy fact sheet about the Canadian portion of the pipeline said it would be approximately 530 kilometers (about 329 miles) from Hardisty, Alberta, to Monchy, Saskatchewan. So Michels Canada would have constructed about half of the Canadian portion of the pipeline.

The full pipeline was to run around 1,200 miles.

So, Michels’ company was clearly a significant part of building the pipeline, but as stated readers might think it was the primary – or even sole – contractor.

The post said that Michels Canada was projected to hire 1,000 workers each year of the two-year construction period, which was scheduled to begin the summer of 2020 near Oyen, AB, and finish in the spring of 2022 near Hardisty, AB.

At the time Biden canceled the permit for the pipeline, on Jan. 20, 2021, Michels Corp.’s construction of eight pump stations in the U.S. was likely nearing completion. Michels Canada’s construction of its segment of the pipeline’s Canadian portion was likely about one-third complete.

According to Reuters, only about 8% of the planned Keystone XL pipeline had been built by the time President Biden canceled the permit.

Our ruling

In a tweet, Michels claimed his "company was building the Keystone Pipeline when Biden canceled it."

The way it was stated could leave readers thinking his company was fully responsible for the pipeline. And some of the pump stations his campaign and company cited apparently are tied to the existing portion of the pipeline. So, there is a lack of precision there.

But Michels is right that his company had a significant role in the pipeline project.

We rate the claim Mostly True.

 

 

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More by Kelly Smits

Michels on target with claim his company was building Keystone Pipeline when Biden ended it

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