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By Barry Simonson
We can all agree that energy infrastructure is important – it’s what keeps our homes warm, cars and trucks fueled, equipment working in fields and forests, it powers industry, and drives our economy. Although Winona LaDuke, according to her April 23rd commentary might disagree, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has decided pipeline workers are essential during the COVID-19 response. Actually, their work maintaining pipelines is essential every day. Let’s not forget that replacing the decades old Line 3 with new pipe made of thicker steel is really a maintenance project that will restore the pipeline’s original capacity and function while better protecting Minnesota’s environment.
The Covid-19 pandemic is testing us all. Our thanks go out to the healthcare professionals and first responders on the front lines, and our hearts go out to everyone touched by the virus -- at some point, hopefully soon, its spread will be halted, and we will begin to recover together – our families, communities, and economy.
Enbridge remains committed to replacing this aging infrastructure. We serve critical markets across North America that continue to need energy now and during the recovery. We deliver our customer’s products to some of the most complex and competitive refineries in the world including here in Minnesota. We do our work safely, responsibly and in accordance with the high standards people who live along our pipelines expect…and deserve.
A project the size and scope of replacing Line 3 requires extensive preparation. When construction finally moves forward, Enbridge will continue to follow the latest guidance provided by local, federal and international public-health and government authorities to protect workers and communities. As always, if we can’t do the work safely, we won’t do it.
All contractors currently working on Enbridge projects have a safety plan and a pandemic plan in place for all work sites and for all contractors and subcontractors under their control. Any worker confirmed to be infected with COVID-19, or in contact with a person infected with COVID-19, is not allowed access to work sites and is quarantined for a minimum of 14 days. Wherever possible, contractors safely transport anyone who exhibits signs of COVID-19 to their point of origin for treatment as opposed to using a local medical facility.
We will all be adjusting to new ways of working in the days ahead. When construction moves forward on Line 3, contractors will also have hazard management measures in place on site to minimize the potential for spread of COVID-19. These include increased implementation of universal cold and flu precautions (hand washing, sanitizing), social distancing, increased site hygiene and deep cleaning protocols, and active monitoring of these activities by dedicated personnel.
The Minnesota portion of Line 3 will bring a $2.6 billion-dollar private investment boost to our state’s recovering economy. It will provide good-paying jobs to 4,000 men and women in the construction trades, and contrary to what LaDuke writes, the majority of those skilled workers will come from union halls right here in Minnesota.
After more than five years of environmental study and permitting review, after more than 70 public hearings, open houses, townhalls and teleconferences, it is the most studied pipeline project in Minnesota history. Once permits are in hand, we’ll be ready to go with safeguards in place that will protect workers and communities during construction.
It is past time to move the Line 3 project forward.
Barry Simonson is director of the L3R Project for Enbridge.