Refinery workers' union critical of NEB decision on pipeline

Jennifer Moreau

The union representative for Chevron's refinery workers isn't convinced the National Energy Board is doing all it can to stop U.S. refineries from putting the squeeze on local oil supply.

The NEB released a tariff decision last week that would require Washington refineries to ensure they aren't asking for more than their fair share of oil from Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline, but Chevron's union rep isn't convinced the new measures will work.

"We had some hope the NEB was going to step in and do what they're supposed to do, which is regulate and protect Canada's interests," said Russ Day, president of Unifor Local 601. "It's pretty clear they are tipping the hand in favour of Washington refineries."

Day is the union representative for roughly 150 workers at the Burnaby refinery, which uses Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline to ship its oil supply from Alberta to Burnaby.

Chevron's supply problem, according to Day, started three or four years ago, when Washington refineries started using cheaper Alberta oil, which was roughly $20 a barrel less that the Alaskan supply they typically process. Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline is the only line running oil from Alberta to the West Coast, and the Washington refineries started competing for space on the line, leaving less supply for Chevron.

"We found out the Washington State refineries were playing a game," Day said. "They ask for twice as much oil as they need."

It's a game Chevron can't play, since there's no storage capacity at the north Burnaby refinery, so if Chevron overbids and actually receives the extra oil, there's no place to put it...more