The Oilworker: December 2020

From the NOBP Chair

Brothers and Sisters,

As we reach the end of an undeniably challenging year, I’d like to update you on some of the important work our union is doing.

As many of you know, the Enbridge Line 5 that runs through the Straits of Mackinac in northern Michigan came under scrutiny for its potential to cause environmental harm in the unlikely event of a rupture.

Enbridge, the line’s owner, filed an application with the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) requesting the authority to replace and relocate the line into a tunnel deep in the bedrock below the Straits. This project would eliminate the potential environmental harm without disrupting the critical supply chain. It is currently in the permitting stages.

It was a surprise then, when in November Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and Governor Gretchen Whitmer filed suit to revoke and terminate a 67-year-old easement that allows Enbridge to operate its dual pipelines on the Straits’ bottomlands.

If this suit prevails, it would jeopardize the tunnel project and thousands of jobs, including those of members from USW Local 912, Toledo Refining Company in Ohio, and Wisconsin Steelworkers from USW Local 2-2003 who work for Enbridge.

The union immediately leapt into action on these critical issues:

  • On August 5, USW Districts 1 and 2 Directors Donnie Blatt and Mike Bolton sent a letter to the MPSC to support Enbridge’s Act 16 application.
  • On August 24, Director Blatt, staff, and USW members testified during the MPSC public hearing to support the Enbridge Straits Line 5 Replacement Segment Project.
  • In October, Directors Blatt and Bolton, along with leadership from other affected labor organizations, met with Governor Whitmer’s administration to discuss the impact of a Line 5 shutdown and urge support for the continued operation while the tunnel is being built. 
  • In November, USW leadership, staff, and members met with legislators across Ohio and Michigan, on both the state and federal levels, to educate them on the effects of a Line 5 shutdown and ask for their support. 
  • On December 2, International President Tom Conway sent a letter to Governor Whitmer, urging her to reconsider her termination of the Line 5 easement.  

The legal battle between Michigan and Enbridge over the easement could span months, if not years, and it’s already affecting the tunnel project permitting process. Members at Locals 912 and 2-2003 need our continued support, so as we move into the new year, please be on the lookout for information.

There is no question that our sector struggled this year. Oil refiners continue shuttering operations in Asia, Europe and North America, as global fuel demand still has not reached pre-pandemic levels. This included a fourth quarter announcement that Shell would be permanently closing its Convent Refinery in Louisiana

But despite all the challenges 2020 brought us, I remain confident that we will prevail. Through it all, our members have been the essential workers who’ve kept the country running, day in and day out.  And when we make it to the other side, it will be because of all of you.

I want to wish everyone a safe and merry Christmas and a happy New Year – and thank you for your solidarity as we look to better times ahead.

Please be safe and enjoy connecting with your loved ones over the holiday season.

In solidarity,

Mike Smith
NOPB Chair

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