Get Started: Immigration, Keystone pipeline

NEW YORK (AP) — KEYSTONE XL PIPELINE

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline that will pass through six Midwestern states will help small businesses grow and create jobs.

That was the sentiment at a hearing held last Thursday by the House Small Business Subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy and Trade to discuss the potential impact on small businesses of the proposed pipeline. The Keystone XL would carry oil from the Canadian province of Alberta to refineries on the Gulf Coast. It must be approved by President Barack Obama.

The owner of a chemical distribution business said the pipeline would benefit his company in several ways, among them, lowering transportation costs. Mat Brainerd, CEO of Brainerd Chemical Co., in Tulsa, Okla., also predicted that it would help economic growth, which would also help lift his company's revenue.

The portion of the pipeline that is already being built and that runs from Cushing, Okla., to Port Arthur, Texas, has already created jobs for 4,000 workers, said Brent Booker, secretary treasurer of the Building and Construction Trades Department of the AFL-CIO. Local businesses including raw materials providers have been supplying the contractors working on the pipeline, bringing them added revenue, he said.

Christopher Knittel, a professor of energy economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, testified that construction of the pipeline would likely lead to the creation of jobs as the pipeline is being built. However, it's unclear how many pipeline-related jobs will be created over the long term, he said.

Knittel did say that given the fact that the economy is still recovering from the recession, this would be a good time to build the pipeline because it would lead to the creation of jobs.

The pipeline is supported by business and labor groups. Opponents include environmentalists who are concerned about a possible oil spill.

IMMIGRATION HEARING

Small business owners and advocates told a congressional committee hearing they're concerned about the potential burden on small businesses of a proposal in the immigration bill being considered by the Senate.

The proposal would require all companies to use E-verify, the government's online system for checking whether employees and prospective employees are authorized to work in the U.S. Currently, only companies that hold federal contracts, or that are located in about a third of the states, are required to use E-verify.

Witnesses at Thursday's hearing by the Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship complained that the system has a high error rate — it can list eligible workers as ineligible. They also said that if a prospective worker is in fact eligible, a company can be in limbo, unable to hire the worker while the situation is resolved.

Another problem is the penalties that small businesses could face under the proposal if they're found to not be complying with the law. David Burton, general counsel of the advocacy group National Small Business Association, noted that even a first-time violation could carry a fine of $2,000 to $5,000, and that penalties could run as $75,000 per violation.

"These are ruinous fines that will destroy people's life savings," Burton said.

Three-quarters of owners surveyed by the advocacy group Small Business Majority said E-verify is difficult to use, said John Arensmeyer, the group's CEO.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is working on the bill. Thursday's hearing was intended to be an information-gathering session about the potential impact of the bill on small companies.

"I am not going to support a bill that is overly burdensome to small businesses," said Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., chair of the small business committee.

ONLINE SEMINARS

The Small Business Administration is holding online seminars to help small companies use social media and prepare for disasters.

Small businesses can learn more about the art of creating content for social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter at a seminar on Thursday, at 1 p.m. Eastern time. Register at: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/8248962092793044480

Businesses will get the 2013 Atlantic Hurricane Season forecast at a May 28 seminar along with tips on disaster preparedness. The seminar will be at 2 p.m. Eastern time. Register at: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/327979008

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Follow Joyce Rosenberg on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JoyceMRosenberg

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