Labor group warns of job losses from planned Enbridge oil line

Tue Sep 4, 2012 9:23pm EDT
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By Jeffrey Jones

EDMONTON, Alberta (Reuters) - Enbridge Inc's proposed Northern Gateway oil pipeline to Canada's Pacific Coast could cost thousands of high-paying refining jobs in Alberta, a labor group warned on Tuesday as the company faced its first day of grilling at public hearings into the contentious project.

Alberta Federation of Labour contends the C$6 billion ($6.1 billion) line, which would ship 525,000 barrels a day of oil sands-derived crude to tankers bound for Asia, would mean 5 percent less refinery throughput at home and the loss of 8,000 jobs.

Enbridge and the oil industry say it would open up lucrative new markets for growing volumes of Canadian crude in regions overseas where the producers can escape the deep price discounts their oil now sees in the North American market.

"China is in the midst of a building boom in terms of refineries and refining capacity, so our fear is that if our policymakers allow this pipeline to be built we'll end up in a situation where our own homegrown refineries are no longer economic and they'll close down," federation President Gil McGowan said during a break in the hearings.

"We'll end up in a situation where we're sending our raw bitumen oil to China and then buying back the refined product."

Enbridge's evidence shows the project creating 907,067 direct and indirect jobs across the country through 2048.

The current phase of the hearing into the 1,177 km (731 mile) pipeline across the Rockies is examining its financial need and economic benefits to the industry and Canada. Enbridge's numbers show a benefit to the industry of at least C$24 billion through 2035.

It is the first time since proceedings began in January before a federal review panel that Enbridge has had the chance to make its own case for the development, a key part of a strategy to diversify oil markets and forge greater energy trade ties with China and other Asian countries.   Continued...

The Enbridge Tower is pictured on Jasper Avenue in Edmonton August 4, 2012. REUTERS/Dan Riedlhuber