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Industry Perspectives Op-Ed: Line 5 is critical – on both sides of the border

Sean Strickland
Industry Perspectives Op-Ed: Line 5 is critical – on both sides of the border

Keystone XL was cancelled on a Tuesday and by Friday 1,000 workers lost their jobs.

When offshore oil and gas shut down in Newfoundland, thousands more lost their jobs.

Now the latest assault on good paying, energy-sector jobs is the potential cancellation of Enbridge’s Line 5 — a safe, functioning, existing pipeline that has been delivering oil and byproducts, including propane, to thousands of businesses in Michigan, Ohio, Ontario and Quebec for 65 years.

If the Governor of Michigan is successful in her court action to revoke the easement by which Line 5 crosses the Straits of Mackinac, linking Lake Michigan to Lake Huron, the pipeline would be closed by May. It will take an estimated four years to complete construction of the approved tunnel project under the straits that will eventually replace existing pipeline, but that’s four years without a contingency plan.

Shutting down Line 5 now would have dire and unnecessary consequences for Michigan, neighbouring states and Canada.

It would mean higher fuel prices for consumers and manufacturers as regional refiners scramble to source alternative feedstock. Propane shortages would affect home heating and agricultural industries.

Line 5 transports an average of 540,000 barrels of oil and natural gas liquids every day. That’s the equivalent of 2,000 trucks on the road, or the equivalent of 800 rail cars travelling one way, every day. Pipelines continue to offer the safest means to transport our natural resources.

Not to mention the consequences it would have on the petrochemical industry in Ontario and Quebec. In Sarnia-Lambton alone, one in every four jobs is tied to the petrochemical industry.

Six refineries rely on Line 5 in Ontario and the U.S. Midwest. Additional refineries in Quebec and in the U.S. also rely on Line 5, as do numerous petrochemical plants in these regions. The petrochemical industry in Montreal’s East End employs about 3,600 workers.

Line 9, which is fed by Line 5, supports the unique polyester manufacturing chain consisting of four factories in east Montreal. Thousands of good jobs are at stake.

The safety of existing Line 5 infrastructure where it crosses the straits has been validated by its regulator, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

There’s no basis for shutting this line down and causing hardship on both sides of the border when existing pipeline can safely flow during construction until it is time for a seamless transition.

Shutting down Line 5 does not shut down demand for energy. Refineries in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Ontario and Quebec will receive approximately 45 per cent less crude from Enbridge.

Agricultural demand for propane would not decrease. Nor would our need for oil and gas. Nor would demand for plastics.

You may like your Tesla, but that Tesla has numerous plastic parts, thanks to the petrochemical sector.

Electric vehicles are great and our industry is supportive of their future development and prospects for reducing greenhouse gases. But electric vehicles still run on rubber tires, which are oil byproducts.

Yes, we need a greener planet. But we also need some time to transition workers and adjust demand for oil and byproducts.

Michigan recently had its coldest week in decades and demand for propane was astronomical. People would have literally frozen to death without propane provided by Line 5.

Clearly, we cannot afford to cut off a safely operating pipeline that remains vital to our economy and thousands of jobs on both sides of the border. Canada and the U.S. need to work together, as we’ve done throughout our history, to prevent an interruption in this vital trade linkage.

Canada’s Building Trades Unions (CBTU), representing 600,000 highly-skilled workers from coast to coast, believe in energy independence for North America and, without reservation, advocate for the continued, uninterrupted operation of Line 5.

The CBTU has joined more than 40 like-minded organizations across Canada and the U.S. to save Line 5.

Ottawa’s recent initiative to create a special committee on the economic relationship between our two countries with Line 5 on the agenda is a welcome step. We need a long-term, continental energy policy that brings labour, industry and government to the table addressing our energy needs, safely, while moving towards a greener economy.

But until then, Line 5 is too important to shut down.

Sean Strickland is the Executive Director of Canada’s Building Trades Unions. Send Industry Perspectives column ideas and comments to editor@dailycommercialnews.com.

 

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