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Pipeline workers still not paid

Pete Fowler
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

PARACHUTE, Colorado ” Chris Goodwin thinks oil and gas politics are upside down.

He says the regular worker should be put first ” not the large, multi-million or multi-billion dollar extraction companies.

He’s one of around 150 workers still left without pay for a little over two weeks after a disagreement over a contract for natural gas pipeline work between a gas company and its contractor. He’s got four kids and said he can’t get unemployment because he didn’t make enough last year.



Goodwin, of Douglassville, Texas, said the situation seems especially relevant now with upcoming ballot questions like Amendment 58 that would increase severance tax bills for energy companies by eliminating a property tax credit.

“How is it that they can get these $300 million subsidies and they can allow the basic laborer not to get paid?” Goodwin said.



The company he worked for, U.S. Central Pipeline, called a meeting on payday Friday and told employees the job was over and it couldn’t pay them because Energy Transfer Corporation wasn’t paying any more, employees said.

U.S. Central Pipeline (USCP) said Energy Transfer Corporation (ETC) owes it around $2.5 million and it’s taking legal action to get the money.

An attorney retained by Arkansas-based USCP, Patrick Owen, said, “I’m in the process of filing a lien and a lawsuit to try to get what ETC owes U.S. Central Pipeline so they can pay their bills.”

But ETC, of Texas, said it has gone above and beyond its contract requirements and USCP’s unpaid workers are USCP’s problem. A company spokeswoman said this week, “We would hope that USCP would do the right thing by their employees, and doing the right thing by their employees means paying them.”

She said the company is working to get another contractor in quickly to finish the 14-mile natural gas gathering line loop near Rulison and Parachute.

In the mean time, the workers still haven’t been paid.

“Everybody else is in bad shape,” Goodwin said. “They got rent due. They got car payments. They don’t have insurance. People are trying to scrounge up money just to get gas to go back home.”

Goodwin said it seemed suspicious that the USCP owner said he’d be there on Tuesday to talk to employees but apparently left to go back to Arkansas. The owner declined to comment, saying comments must come from his attorney. Owen said he wasn’t aware of any scheduled meeting Tuesday.

Over the weekend, law enforcement responded to the contractor’s rented yard near Parachute. One disgruntled welder reportedly made threats and stole a trailer, filling up his truck with diesel fuel without permission and cutting an electrical line or fuel line.

Rob Emery, who worked for USCP, said the Garfield County sheriff’s deputies picked up his stolen trailer and were holding it in an impound lot and hadn’t yet decided whether to charge the man who he says stole it. Emery was on his way back to Gulf Shores, Ala., because the Sheriff’s Office wouldn’t release the trailer unless he provided a copy of the original title, Emery said.

“In the mean time I’ve got to, out of my own pocket, pay for all of these things that somebody did to me,” he said.

Emery said he hasn’t received about a week’s worth of pay. He said USCP’s owner didn’t show up Tuesday because he “didn’t think that it was in his best interest with these crazy people to stay here.”

Contact Pete Fowler: 384-9121

pfowler@postindependent.com


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