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Opinion: Pipelines protect Michigan families

Geno Alessandrini Sr. and Chris Ventura

It’s time to face the hard truth: Workers, their families, and our friends who labor in the nation’s manufacturing sector are under siege.

Since 2000 our country has seen almost five million good-paying manufacturing jobs vanish — more than 299,000 in Michigan. These are the types of jobs that have provided stability for our families for generations.

Our nation’s energy infrastructure is vital to the creation of jobs for Michigan’s construction and manufacturing workers. More importantly, it also ensures an affordable and reliable supply of energy across Michigan.

We have the opportunity to create these family-supporting jobs right now due to an increased supply of oil and natural gas in the Midwest. This is energy that our families, seniors, and those on fixed incomes use daily, and it’s all transported by pipelines.

Unfortunately, anti-development activists have waged a misinformation campaign designed to stall and prevent the construction of key infrastructure projects in Michigan. They’ve even advocated for the destruction and tampering of existing infrastructure that was built to safely deliver energy throughout our state and country.

As LIUNA General President Terry O’Sullivan made clear, these so-called “keep it in the ground” activists oppose all pipeline construction and upgrades no matter how safe or how important the project is to the citizens of Michigan.

Pipelines remain the safest and most environmentally sound way to transport the energy our families, manufacturers, and schools need by decreasing traffic through various channels that run through our communities.

One does not have to look much further than the attempts to shut down Line 5, a major part of Michigan’s energy infrastructure, to visualize what could happen if infrastructure development and access to the energy it supplies were compromised. The pipeline supplies most of the propane we use to heat homes in the Upper Peninsula, in addition to supplying Michigan’s only refinery with most of its crude oil. This refinery provides enough fuel each day for Michigan’s families to drive more than 120,000 cars, and it employs thousands of Michigan citizens in good-paying, family-supporting jobs.

Families living below the poverty line often spend more than 20 percent of their disposable income on energy costs. How will Michigan’s families, already struggling to make ends meet, benefit when their fuel or electricity costs increase?

We are proud of what our laborers’ contribute to Michigan’s economy and our state’s energy future by building, maintaining, and upgrading our pipeline infrastructure.

And we do more than build pipelines. We build Michigan’s wind and solar farms, natural gas plants, and geothermal projects all over the state.

It’s beyond time we get past the unproductive, divisive, and often misinformed debate about energy infrastructure and pipelines. Now is the time to work together to build the energy future Michigan deserves, a future made up by secure, reliable, and affordable energy, produced by the hardworking men and women of Michigan.

Geno Alessandrini Sr. is business manager of the Michigan Laborers’ District Council, which represents over 13,000 Members of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA). Chris Ventura is executive director of the Consumer Energy Alliance – Midwest.