Enbridge has fallen considerably short of goals to hire Minnesota workers for its controversial new 340-mile oil pipeline across the northern part of the state.
The Calgary, Alberta-based company and union representatives have said they had expected at least 50% of its construction workforce to be from Minnesota.
But at the end of December — the first full month of construction — just 33% of the 4,664 workers building the replacement for Enbridge's current Line 3 were Minnesota residents, according to a recent filing with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.
When broken down by hours worked on the project, the Minnesota percentage is even lower. About 28% of hours worked through December were by Minnesota residents. The filing didn't specify the home states of other workers.
With a price tag of more than $3 billion, the new Line 3 is one of the largest Minnesota construction projects in recent years.
Enbridge said its labor contracts stipulate that the project's contractors supply half the workforce. The rest come from union locals based in Minnesota.
"In many cases, local union halls include membership in neighboring states," Enbridge said.
There are three local hiring halls for the Laborers Union working on the project. Two of those halls — one in Virginia, Minn., the other in the Twin Cities — deploy almost entirely Minnesotans. But the one in Duluth-Superior has a strong contingent of Wisconsin members, said Kevin Pranis, the Laborers' Minnesota marketing manager.
"If you live on the Superior side, you are not in-state, but we consider that local," he said.
Still, he said that even accounting for Wisconsin workers from his union and others, Minnesota's 33% workforce share is still lower than expected.
The Laborers, the Operating Engineers and the Pipeliners unions each represent about 30% of Line 3 workers. The Teamsters, which represents drivers, cover the rest.
Operating Engineers Local 49, a union for heavy-equipment operators, primarily draws workers from Minnesota, but also from the Dakotas. Oklahoma-based Pipeliners Local 798 represents welders from across the country, including a contingent in Minnesota.
Pranis said the relatively low Minnesota quotient of workers partly stems from recruiting difficulties faced by the unions. The coronavirus pandemic has played a role in that, as has uncertainty over when Line 3 construction would begin, Pranis said.
Line 3 has been bitterly contested for several years, and its final permits were only granted in November.
Environmentalists and several Indian tribes said new Line 3 — which follows a new route — will open a new region of pristine waters to the prospect of oil spills, as well as exacerbate climate change by allowing for more oil production.
Enbridge said the new pipeline, which will transport oil from Canada, is a critical safety enhancement. The current Line 3 is so corroded it's running at only half of capacity. The new pipeline would restore full oil flow.
Mike Hughlett • 612-673-7003