January 2018 Vol. 73 No. 1


PLCA Members Experience Construction Rebound

The year 2017 was one of the busiest on record for the Pipe Line Contractors Association (PLCA), said association President Robert Osborn.

“In an industry where workloads run on ups and downs,” Osborn said, “2017 was an upturn. The increase of work from 2016 to 2017 was 45 percent, quite dramatic in terms of managing growth.consisted of major transmission, maintenance, integrity, replacements and facilities projects. Some of this was the result of projects slated to start in 2016 that were pushed to 2017 due to the permitting process and logistical issues at FERC.”

Osborn said when the new administration in Washington took over in January 2017, the industry saw things happen on Capitol Hill that allowed owner companies to get long-awaited projects launched.

“The new administration,” he continued, “recognized the importance of building up our infrastructure to create energy independence by using cleaner-burning sources like natural gas to supply our power plants. They understood we needed to transport oil to our refineries to meet the nation’s demand. They also recognized that our current infrastructure was aging and needed to be replaced, so that all Americans may continue living the lifestyles that pipelines and the pipeline industry have provided us over the years.”

In February of 2017, the PLCA and its partners – United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters, International Union of Operating Engineers, International Labors Organization and the Brotherhood of Teamsters – negotiated a three-year labor agreement.

“This was critical to both the PLCA and organized labor,” Osborn said. “Part of the negotiations were focused on the aging workforce and how to ensure that we had a plan in place to replace the retirees with qualified new members.

“All four unions stepped up to the plate and started to enhance their current training programs, and the PLCA and union members made financial commitments to their training centers. It’s now our job as members of the PLCA and managers of the unions to see this through and develop the next generation of talent to build America’s infrastructure.”

Future looks bright

Looking ahead, Osborn believes 2018 looks to be much like 2017.

“Projects scheduled to be built in 2016 and 2017 are finally receiving the necessary approvals to start construction,” he said. “PLCA contractors haven’t seen workloads like this since the late 1960s when America’s infrastructure was built out.

“Think about where America was 50 years ago versus today, and the population in the ‘60s compared to today, and think about the energy needs of every family and how the demand for natural gas, oil, refined products, and other by-products of oil have increased.”

Osborn said in the ‘70s the country depended on the Middle East, South America and other countries to meet our increased demands.

“Remember the mid-’70s when we thought we were running out of oil because of our relationships in the Middle East? We were struggling, and compromised our integrity to be able to maintain relationships so that we could keep up with our own demand. For those who remember this time, the thought of running out of fuel was a chilling reality. We didn’t know how the farmers were going to raise the volume of crops needed to feed the growing population. We didn’t know how we were going to heat our homes, schools and businesses. As children growing up in Minnesota during those times, we were forced to go to school only four days a week and keep the thermostat at 60 degrees.

“Thankfully, those days are gone. Today we have the ability to put measures in place to protect Americans, yet we still battle with portions of the general public that don’t see the current demand on our infrastructure. There are alternative energy sources, all of which the gas and oil industry endorse, but the bottom line is they can’t meet the demand. We should continue to build and pursue these alternatives – and we will – but we have a responsibility to provide energy to all Americans in a reliable and economical way.


“Owners of gas and oil companies don’t get the recognition they deserve when it comes to all the money and resources they put forward to protect the environment, including their investments in safety and quality assurance. The push-back against their efforts to keep up with demand has driven costs up substantially. At the end of the day, this affects every single consumer. Having said that, I hope people see the importance of building new infrastructure and replacing the old.”

As an industry, Osborn concluded, all involved need to step up and be proactive to support the gas and oil business, instead of sitting back and being reactive to opposition and push-back, which drives costs up.
“We need to help educate the public about today’s energy needs and all the good work that is going on,” he emphasized.

The PLCA also experienced internal changes in 2017.

Managing Director Pat Tielborg is retiring after more than 40 years of leading the PLCA. Elizabeth Worrell took over as managing director and general counsel on Jan. 1.

“On behalf of all our members, honorary members, associate members, our union partners and all past presidents – we thank Mr. Tielborg for all he has done to help build and grow the association,” Osborn said. “We wish him and his wife, Julia, the best in their retirement.”

Osborn is senior vice president of Michels Pipeline Operations, a division of Michels Corporation. His term as president of PLCA ends in February at the association’s 70th annual convention.

“It has been my pleasure to have served as the PLCA president this year,” Osborn concluded. “I have been so blessed to have had the PLCA board of directors, the labor committee, and all of the regular and associate members there supporting me all the way. Thank you all for the great responsibility and trust in my performance ability.”

Pipe Line Contractors Association,
(214) 969-2700, plca.org

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