Throughout the approval process, TransCanada has stressed those benefits, saying the pipeline could support thousands of people in economically rough times. Hendrix said the jobs were appreciated but not as urgent as they've been portrayed.
"All that being said, here's the deal: We've been very fortunate in the pipeline business," he said. "When the rest of the economy was in terrible shape, we've been doing very well. It's not a deal breaker or a killer for us if we don't get it."
Work started in Oklahoma about two months ago. Dodson, from TransCanada, said protests against it — formerly limited to Texas — have come with it. At least two so-called "direct actions" involved people locking themselves to construction equipment to prevent its use, leading to 10 arrests in central Oklahoma.
Such civil disobedience tactics have become a mainstay of the pipeline's opposition. A rally near the White House on Feb. 17 drew 35,000 protesters, according to organizers, a few days after celebrities and prominent environmental activists tied themselves to the White House fence.
"What we're working on — and experiencing some success with — is trying to amplify the voices of people who aren't represented by the national discourse," said Jay Morris, a spokesman for the Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance in Oklahoma. Those people include those living at both ends of the Keystone XL proposal, he said: where the oil is extracted and where it's processed and refined.
Protests will continue, Morris said, and his group will keep trying to unify opposition even if the Keystone XL pipeline is finished from Canada to Texas.
In the meantime, Hendrix said, pipeline workers with his union will keep an eye on Washington.
"If the permit gets approved, we'll start construction on the northern end of it immediately," he said.