"That's just not true," Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's international program, told reporters Friday, calling Donohue's jobs estimate "wildly inflated."
As President Obama draws closer to the Feb. 21st deadline to make a decision about the pipeline, the environmental community has been working overtime to counter Republican and industry claims that the 1,700-mile pipeline would create a mini job boom in the United States.
Supporters of the pipeline assert that nearly 20,000 temporary construction and manufacturing jobs will be created in the short term, along with hundreds of thousands of indirect jobs in the coming decades.
Construction of the pipeline will create about 13,000 temporary jobs, according to TransCanada. That's 500 workers for each of the 17 pipeline segments, 100 workers for each of the 30 pump stations, 600 jobs at various construction camps and 1,000 jobs focused on management and inspection.
In addition, TransCanada estimates that the project will result in 7,000 manufacturing jobs at companies that make key components of the pipeline.
"These are new, real U.S. jobs," TransCanda CEO Russ Girling said in a statement this week.
Pipeline supporters also say the pipeline will create hundreds of thousands of indirect jobs. Many of those jobs would come from ramped up petrochemical, plastics and fertilizer production along the pipeline route. Supporters even count increased tourism and new restaurants in the figures.
"Why groups like NRDC and Cornell continue to question job creation in the United States is a concern," TransCanada spokesman Terry Cunha said. "None of them are pipe engineers or experts.
"We fully understand the jobs that are needed to build a piece of infrastructure of this size. We like to think of ourselves as the experts."
Martin Durbin, a lobbyist at the American Petroleum Institute, the powerful oil industry trade group, echoed TransCanada's comments.
"The allegations they are putting out there are a sideshow," he said.