Pipe Trade Unions Picket Tar Sands Pipeline Company in Mobile

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tarsandsoilmobile

Aerial photos

By Glynn Wilson

The United Association union and associated pipe trade locals along the Gulf Coast and in Mobile, Alabama, called a picket on Plains Southcap LLC last week for using out-of-state, non-union labor and substandard contractors and pipe in the early construction of a controversial oil pipeline planned through the watershed of the main drinking water supply for the people in the southwestern corner of the state.

A large, diverse crowd protested the pipeline, along with some of Mobile’s plans to turn the city into an even more dangerous center for the petrochemical industry, in a town hall meeting last week.

Darrell Turner, a spokesman for UA regionally and the one who called for the picket, said the company was using new contractors without much of a track record and bringing in inexperienced, non-union workers from Texas.

“The new contractor cut the local scale all to pieces,” Turner said in a telephone interview.

He confirmed that the pipe laid in the early phase of the project was substandard pipe from Korea made with “no quality control,” and he said the company purchased it at “bargain basement prices” and then let it sit out on a barge in the salty coastal air of the Gulf Coast for months. Welders were having trouble even getting a weld on the pipe. It was falling apart.

Yet the substance the company wants to move through the pipeline — under the drinking water reservoir — is the controversial thick, hot tar sands crude from strip mines in Canada.

The company even admits in communications with the Mobile County Commission, obtained by the Locust Fork News Journal, that the pipe was not “engineered” for tar sands crude. It doesn’t have to be under the current federal regulatory structure, a problem that should be addressed by the Environmental Protection Agency — if it can ever get a presidential appointed director past the Republican Congress.

Research indicates that the regulatory process is lagging behind as usual in dealing with this most dangerous of fossil fuels, at a time when the country and the White House are in the mood to start doing more to combat global climate change.

The picket is on hold this week, Turner said, since the company now appears to want to sit down and talk with organized labor and the local government. But it could be ordered again at any time, if the unions do not get satisfaction.

Meanwhile, local citizens and government officials are continuing to organize for either the re-routing of the pipeline, or against it entirely.

Several key questions have been raised. If national environmental leaders are so hell-bent on stopping the burning of tar sands crude for fuel, since it is about the worst of the fossil fuels, then should not the mining be stopped in the tar sands by the Canadian people? If not, should it not be stopped at the border? Why does it have to travel on an antiquated rail system just to be shipped out of the Port of Mobile to China?

With all the emphasis against the Keystone XL Pipeline nationally, most people don’t even realize that tar sands crude is already making its way to the Gulf Coast by way of the Canadian National Railroad. Some of the oil is being shipped by tanker and barge to refineries on the Gulf Coast, like the Chevron plant in Pascagoula, Mississippi.

But it would seem the optimum route by ocean to China and India would be through British Columbia. Yet provincial government and tribal authorities there are actively resisting Ottawa’s desires about this, according to Mobile Bay Sierra Club Conservation Chair David Underhill.

“They have certainly slowed and maybe stopped the export plans via BC,” he said in an e-mail exchange.

If the tar sands crude has to come here, the pipe trade unions are for the newer pipeline anyway as a safer, faster and more efficient route than trains, and since the pipeline work does provide high paying jobs for Americans. Turner said the route is already overladen with many other pipelines anyway, many of them so old they need to be rebuilt.

He also indicated that a lot of the early controversy over the Keystone XL pipeline had to do with disputes between Nebraska, Oklahoma and Kansas.

“Fox News and them right-wing newspapers just put that stuff out there and people lap it up,” he said.

Meanwhile, Canadian authorities have opened a criminal investigation into the fiery crash of a runaway oil train in Lac-Megantic, Quebec last week, as the death toll in that disaster rose to 15, with dozens more bodies feared buried in the burned-out ruins.

Quebec police Inspector Michel Forget said Tuesday that investigators have “discovered elements” that have led to a criminal probe. He gave no details but ruled out terrorism and said police are more likely exploring the possibility of criminal negligence.

More on that from CBS News.

keystoneXL-map

While this map depicts what has come to be known as the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline, what is not shown is that Canadian tar sands crude oil is already making its way to the Gulf Coast by train. Other sections of the national tar sands crude network of pipelines have received less attention, like the one in Mobile

© 2013, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.

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