According to an AP story last week, Minnesota residents have gotten more than half of the Enbridge Line 3 construction jobs. Its source was Mike Fernandez, Enbridge’s chief communications officer. The AP accepted it as fact when it deserved a more critical eye.
Other media outlets picked up the AP story, including the Washington Post, the Pioneer Press, the Bismarck Tribune, and the Detroit News, spreading the questionable claim.
Enbridge promised the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) that at least 50 percent of the Line 3 construction jobs would go to Minnesotans. (The PUC didn’t require Enbridge to report on the number of Minnesotans employed, or include a sanction if Enbridge failed to meet its promises.)
Enbridge initially fell short of its jobs promise. Then it stopped reporting data.
Enbridge’s first jobs report (fourth quarter of 2020) voluntarily provided information on Minnesota-specific employment. It showed Minnesotans had only 33 percent of the jobs and 28 percent of the total hours, well below the 50 percent threshold.
Enbridge caught flack, with the Star Tribune writing: “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.”
When Enbridge released its next jobs report (first quarter of 2021) it omitted data on Minnesotans hired.
Presumably, if Enbridge met or exceeded its jobs promise, it would have published and promoted the fact. The company’s decision to omit the data from its latest jobs report suggests Enbridge again fell short.
Yet a company spokesperson says Minnesotans filled at least half of the Line 3 jobs and that’s what goes into the AP story and gets spread around the country.
Enbridge continues to inflate its job creation numbers. Its website continues to state it would require two consruction seasons to build Line 3. Enbridge has been clear about its plan to finish before the end of the year.
With only one construction season instead of two, Line 3 would create approximately 50 percent fewer jobs than Enbridge promised.
Further, Enbridge has used a scaled-back workforce in recent months because of springtime construction restrictions. Line 3 construction isn’t always running at full capacity of 4,200 jobs, again reducing the overall jobs impact of its single construction season.
Elsewhere on its website, Enbridge clarifies how it would create 8,600 jobs. It counts 4,200 direct hires and then another 4,400 spin-off jobs created for the hospitality industry and suppliers in local communities. Counting spin-off jobs, Enbridge claims Minnesotans would get 6,500 jobs, or 75 percent of the total.
There’s no way to verify the number of spin-off jobs Line 3 creates.
Enbridge based its spin-off jobs estimate on a study by the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.
The Area Partnership for Economic Expansion, or APEX, funded the study, Minnesota Native News reported. Enbridge, UMD and the Duluth News Tribune all sat on the APEX board — “and the group had publicly declared its support for the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline project,” a source of potential bias.
Enbridge used the study to get positive press, while a corporate watchdog raised serious concerns about it.
Eyes on the Ties, an online news site of Public Accountability Initiative & LittleSis, criticized UMD’s analysis. The report “lays out the details about the undisclosed payments, significant conflicts of interest, and methodological problems surrounding the UMD study,” the LittleSis website said.
Here are a few highlights from “Enbridge to Nowhere: How Fossil Fuel Interests Funded, Influenced, and Promoted the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Line 3 Pipeline Study.”
- An Enbridge consulting firm and APEX “paid UMD over $15,000 to produce the study. None of this was disclosed in the study.”
- Enbridge provided much of the data researchers used to produce the report, calling into question whether this was an unbiased result.
- The study looked only at job creation, ignoring environmental costs and other project harms.
There are plenty of reasons to be skeptical of Enbridge’s job claims.
Here’s hoping the AP takes the opportunity to revisit this issue.
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