Welders worked on Enbridge’s Line 3 oil pipeline near Hill City on Jan. 26, 2021.
Enbridge has repeatedly said it expected to fill about half of its Line 3 construction jobs with local workers. Credit: Rilyn Eischens / Minnesota Reformer

This article was originally published at Minnesota Reformer.

Enbridge pledged to hire thousands of local workers for its Line 3 pipeline project. But we may not know whether they fulfilled that promise until the pipeline is completed.

The Canadian energy company’s pledge to create jobs in rural communities was a major selling point for the $4 billion project. But Enbridge only has to publicly report worker residency numbers annually, according to a Public Utilities Commission project permit, and an update isn’t due until after November 2021.

The pipeline is more than 60% complete and scheduled to be operational by the fourth quarter of this year, Enbridge says.

When asked Tuesday if Enbridge would share recent worker residency numbers or planned to provide an update before November, spokesperson Juli Kellner said the company is “on track with reporting per the PUC Line 3 Replacement permitting requirements.”

Enbridge signed an agreement with four unions in December 2019 that guaranteed only union workers would be hired for Line 3 construction jobs. The company has repeatedly said it expected to fill about half the 4,200 jobs with local workers.

Enbridge’s worker residency report filed in February covered hiring through Dec. 31, the first month of construction. About 33% of the 4,600 workers were from Minnesota, and they had put in roughly 28% of hours worked on the project.

Kellner said Tuesday the labor agreement stipulates that contractors supply half the workforce, and local union halls provide the other half. The local union halls often include members in neighboring states, she said.

“Thousands of union workers are currently employed working on the Line 3 Replacement Project in Minnesota. Minnesota benches have emptied as union workers fill jobs on the project,” Kellner said in an email to the Reformer

Jobs creation has been a central pillar of arguments in favor of the Line 3 project. In a section of Enbridge’s website titled “Why Minnesota needs Line 3,” the company says the project will create “8,600 jobs (6,500 of them local) in Minnesota over a two-year period.”

Enbridge and pipeline supporters also say the new line is necessary to replace the existing Line 3 — which was built in the 1960s and requires more upkeep each year — and to meet demand for oil.

Opponents say the pipeline will eventually leak and contaminate Minnesota’s forests and waters with crude oil. The cultural significance of these lands and the wild rice beds near the pipeline makes the risk intolerable for Native people, who say the project also violates their treaty rights.

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