Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Union pulls shale conference support over Trump speech

One of the Appalachian shale industry’s biggest supporters and beneficiaries, the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 66, broke with the Marcellus Shale Coalition by pulling its sponsorship of the organization’s annual conference because Donald Trump is scheduled to speak there Thursday.

Anya Litvak reports for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

“There’s just no way that I was going to associate Local 66 with any function that gives this guy an avenue to speak,” said Jim Kunz, business manager for the union who called the Republican presidential nominee a “snake oil salesman.”

The union’s sponsorship, at around $10,000, represents a drop in the bucket for the annual event that began today at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

But it underscores the uneasy position that unions such as the operating engineers find themselves in, having publicly endorsed Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton who — judging from the comments and presentations at Shale Insight — is not the industry’s preferred choice.

The keynote address at the conference was delivered by oil and gas industry legend — and Mr. Trump’s energy advisor — Harold Hamm. Mr. Hamm, the chairman and CEO of Continental Resource, likened Mr. Trump to former President Ronald Reagan and said Ms. Clinton would work to hurt the industry. He played a clip where she says that with enough safeguards there won’t be many places left in the U.S. where fracking can take place.

“You heard it from her. Not me. She wants to stop it. She wants to stop what we’re doing,” Mr. Hamm said.

The attitude was pervasive among conference participants. Oil and gas company leaders and their suppliers expressed concern that a Clinton presidency would mean more regulation and lead to fewer jobs.

At a booth for London-based energy publisher Kallanishnergy, which featured cardboard cutouts of the candidates, several participants took selfies strangling Ms. Clinton. Others overwhelmingly "voted" for Trump on a white board with the candidates' names.

Mr. Kunz, whose local represents 7,000 members who work on roads, pipelines, and well pad construction projects, said he believes that the vilification is misguided and that the real danger to jobs and working people would come from Mr. Trump.

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