Senator Bigham Introduces Legislation addressing St. Paul Park Refinery Concerns

To address ongoing safety concerns at the St. Paul Park oil refinery, Senator Karla Bigham (DFL-Cottage Grove) has introduced legislation that would ensure operational safety remains the highest priority for the work at the refinery.

“Right now hundreds of highly-skilled Minnesotans want to get back to their work but only if their safety, and the safety of the surrounding community, is prioritized,” said Senator Bigham. “This legislation would take necessary and essential steps that would ensure this safety while also guaranteeing the continued high-quality operation of this refinery.”

Senator Bigham has introduced two bills addressing safety concerns. The first would require the establishment of an on-site fire safety brigade at every refinery within the state. The brigade would be charged with the responsibility of providing fire protection to the refinery that is sufficiently trained, equipped, and staffed to respond to fires at the refinery and to conduct inspections to prevent fires.

“The Minnesota Pipe Trades Association (MPTA) strongly supports the High Hazard Facility Safe and Skilled Workforce Act.  These facilities are critical to our economy but are also inherently dangerous and subject to catastrophic failure.  Only the most highly trained professionals should build, maintain and repair them,” said David Ybarra, President of the Minnesota Pipe Trade Association. “The Act’s requirement that any contractor working in the facility have a legitimate, bona fide apprenticeship program helps ensure that only the safest, best-trained workers are employed therein and are recognized as the “gold standard” in workforce training and development. We applaud Senator Bigham for her leadership and view this bill as a top legislative priority.”

The second bill would require any person performing work in the facility is required to have graduated from an approved apprenticeship program, or have documentable, related experience in the field they will be performing at a given site. This bill would require that these outside contractors hired to do work at high-hazard facilities have at least the same experience as required for the apprentice level for the applicable occupation. 

“I thank Senator Bigham for introducing this bill and taking on the issue of refinery safety. In the last year, we have seen one of our refineries take an approach to labor that should concern us all. We cannot allow refineries to cut corners on the skill of their workforce. Minnesota has high labor, environmental and safety standards. We expect companies to meet them,” said Jason George, Business Manager of the  International Union of Operating Engineers – Local 49. “This bill will help make sure that high standards are met by requiring subcontractors that work in dangerous situations to have registered apprenticeship programs. This will ensure that the workers that are operating the plants and keeping the community safe are skilled enough to do so. Given what is happening at Marathon refinery right now, the timing of this bill could not be more important. I urge the legislature to have this conversation, and move this bill forward, and the Governor to sign it into law.”

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Karla Bigham represents District 54 in the southeast Twin Cities metro, including parts of Dakota and Washington counties.

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