Saying the U.S. faces a looming energy crunch as nuclear power plants shut down and coal-fired electric plants are taken offline, the Laborers have launched a “Clean Power Progress” campaign for more natural gas pipelines as a way to fill U.S. energy needs. Their drive, started this summer, focuses on a pipeline running through Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Michigan. If built, the pipeline would transport natural gas not just to consumers in those states, but also elsewhere in the U.S., the union says.

It’s particularly pertinent now: The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which must approve U.S. interstate pipeline construction, just received its staff report recommending erection of the Rover Pipeline through Michigan and Ohio to Pennsylvania and West Virginia, a project the union is strongly pushing on a special website. FERC’s next meeting is Sept. 22. 

In advocating for gas pipelines in general, and Rover in particular, the union’s fact sheet declares the U.S. “faces an energy SHORTAGE (their emphasis) over the next decade.” 

That’s because while Democratic President Barack Obama has set a goal of a 30 percent nationwide cut in carbon emissions by 2030, electricity demand – now fueled by those coal and nuclear plants – is expected to grow by 14 percent.

That combination, plus the shutdown of three elderly nuclear power plants and removal of “high-carbon sources” – the coal-fired plants – that now power 18 million homes, results in “at least a 21 percent power deficit by 2030,” the union declares. 

“That is more electricity than the U.S. industrial sector consumed in 2015 for agriculture, assembly lines and construction combined,” it adds. It put that statement in boldface type, again for emphasis.

One key solution to the looming shortage, the Laborers say, is building more natural gas lines which would in turn provide fuel to run power plants or other businesses, freeing up other remaining fuels to run electricity plants. Construction of new natural gas pipelines would employ tens of thousands of unionized building trades workers, including Laborers.

Specifically, Clean Power Progress is pushing the 713-mile, $4.2 billion Rover Pipeline. One third of Rover’s gas would go to Michigan consumers, while distribution hubs in Canada and in Defiance, Ohio, would send the other two-thirds of its 3.25 billion cubic feet of daily natural gas elsewhere in the U.S. Construction would employ thousands of workers, with  pipeline operations set to start late next year, the Laborers say. Segments are:

  • The main Rover pipeline, from Defiance all the way through northern and southeastern Ohio to the Ohio River, midway between Wheeling and Parkersburg, W. Va. That 42-inch pipeline would run east to a point just south of Canton, then turn southeast to terminals in Noble and Monroe Counties. Between 4,500 and 6,500 workers would build it.

The Ohio pipeline would have seven compressor stations along the way. It also would have two spurs into West Virginia, along with the spurs into Pennsylvania. 

  • South from Livingston, Mich., through Livingston, Washtenaw and Lewanee Counties into Ohio, where it would hook up with that state’s pipeline at Defiance. The Michigan line would also connect, through existing pipelines, to a natural gas storage and distribution hub in southern Ontario.  The union calculates its construction would employ 1,000-1,500 workers.
  • Two spurs headed east into Washington County, Pa., from just southeast of Canton, Ohio. Some 150-300 workers would build those spurs.

The Laborers’ advocacy of the Rover pipeline, and their entire Clean Power Progress campaign, is in line with the union’s prior and longtime advocacy of building pipelines: The Laborers were one of several unions that signed a Project Labor Agreement with TransCanada, sponsor of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline between the Alberta-Montana border and oil terminals in Oklahoma. 

Obama rejected that pipeline, which would have carried oil from Albertan tar sands and the Bakken fields in the northern U.S., on environmental grounds, drawing outraged protests from Laborers President Terry O’Sullivan and other building trades union leaders.

Article reprinted from Press Associated Union News Service.