In this weeks’ news update, the United Steelworkers union will vote on a deal, and Pennsylvania environmental regulators propose a task force on pipelines.

The United Steelworkers union announced on March 12 that a tentative deal to end the largest U.S. refinery strike in 35 years was reached with the oil companies. 

The new agreement, which affects about 30,000 workers, would last four years. The deal still needs to be ratified and may not end strikes immediately at all refineries that have suffered walkouts as local union chapters could need to work out pending issues.

Royal Dutch Shell, the lead industry negotiator, says union members are set to vote on the agreement in the coming days.

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The deal addresses worker fatigue and the use of contractors versus unionized labor. It also safeguards gains made in previous contracts, the union says. They added that annual wage increases would be 2.5 percent in the first year and 3 percent each in years two and three and 3.5 percent in the fourth year.

A total of 12 refineries were hit by strikes over the last 40 days. Companies have responded by calling in temporary workers after 6,550 people walked off the job.

L.B. Foster Purchases Inspection Oilfield Services

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L.B. Foster Company announced on March 13 that it has purchased Inspection Oilfield Services, a company providing non-destructive testing and inspection services for tubular products used in oil and gas applications.

Inspection Oilfield Services, based in Houston, has locations throughout the U.S. The company generated sales of about $120 million in 2014.

The company will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of L.B. Foster Company.

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Alberta Releases Plans for Managing Tailings Ponds

The Alberta government released a new plan for managing oilsands tailings ponds, which will encourage companies to generate less of the wastewater and clean it up sooner.

Officials say operators will have clear guidelines on how big the tailings ponds can be during and after mining operations.

Environment Minister Kyle Fawcett says the rules will be backed up by possible financial penalties. The new guidelines were created by the Alberta Energy Regulator and include details on enforcement and penalties.

Specific rules on tailings pond size will be created for each project, although all will be required to have no more than five years of accumulated tailings in their pond at the end of the mine life. 

Pennsylvania Considers Task Force on Pipelines

Pennsylvania environmental regulators are proposing a collaborative task force to develop ways to plan as companies build miles of pipeline in the next decade to bring Marcellus Shale natural gas to market.

John Quigley, acting secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, told a House panel on March 11 about the pipeline initiative.

The task force would include pipeline companies, nonprofits, municipalities, conservation agencies and others to propose ways to reduce community impacts and improve economic efficiency in pipeline planning.

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