January 2020 Vol. 75 No. 1


PLCA Effectively Tackles New Industry Challenges


Jeff Griffin | Senior Editor

Members of the Pipe Line Contractors Association (PLCA) closed out a strong year in 2019, but the year’s workload totals fell short of the previous year. 

Jimmy L. Crotts
Jimmy L. Crotts

“After one of the strongest years ever in terms of hours worked in 2018, the momentum was slowed by delays on numerous projects throughout the U.S.,” said PLCA President Jimmy L. Crotts. “Keystone XL, Line 3 Replacement, Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Mountain Valley Pipeline – all were delayed due to permitting and other regulatory challenges. These unpredictable delays and start-stop working conditions put tremendous strain on PLCA members and our union workforce.”

Even so, Crotts said, PLCA contractor members continued to provide diversified pipeline services to owner/operators, including integrity maintenance work and facilities work, along with major pipeline construction, to support the country’s energy infrastructure.

“The need for the pipeline construction services performed by PLCA members is still strong and the future looks good,” said Crotts.

A primary responsibility of PLCA is contract negotiations and ongoing coordination with the four industry unions – the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters (UA), International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE), the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT).

“We have worked closely with owner/operators, industry allies and our union partners to support projects and advocate for the pipeline industry as a whole,” Crotts said.

A summary of accomplishments and activities during 2019 includes:

  • The PLCA office relocated from Dallas, Texas, to Arlington, Va. “The move enables the association to work more closely with its union partners, who all are located in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, and also provides access to Capitol Hill and federal regulators to more easily address issues relevant to the PLCA,” said Elizabeth Worrell, managing director and chief legal counsel for the PLCA.
  • In November, the second-annual tripartite meeting of PLCA members, owner/operators and union representatives gathered in Houston to discuss the value of a strong relationship in the pipeline construction industry. Crotts described it as a well-attended and highly successful event.
  • In October, the annual Safety and Quality Conference was also held in Houston. Representatives from PLCA member companies, as well as owner/operators, Unions and other guests came together to prioritize safety and quality in the pipeline construction industry. Through panel presentations and roundtable discussions, attendees spent time addressing issues of concern throughout the industry, sharing lessons learned and discussing best practices.
  • In February, 700 members of the PLCA community came together at the association’s annual convention to attend pipeline industry business sessions, network with industry colleagues and reconnect with old friends.

Getting better acquainted

Also, in 2019, the PLCA and its union partners hosted the senior leadership team from Southern Company Gas at the Pipeliners Local 798 Training Center in Tulsa, Okla. The team, including CEO Kim Greene, spent the day touring the facility and participating in a roundtable event to discuss growth opportunities for Union contractors throughout Southern Company operations.

“We have been encouraging the owner/operators to visit the many PLCA/
union training facilities around the U.S.,”
Crotts said. “PLCA member contractors and our union partners are investing in the future by training young men and women at these facilities.

“We are stressing that there are high-quality, good-paying jobs with great benefits available in the pipeline construction industry that are an alternative to college. PLCA members employ the most highly skilled and experienced workforce in the industry because of these training programs.”

Looking ahead, Worrell said the focus
in 2020 will be labor negotiations.

“The National Pipe Line Agreements (NPLA) with our union partners expire in the summer,” Worrell said. “These negotiations fall at a unique time in our industry, as we face new challenges from outside forces unlike any time in our past. As a result, we view these negotiations as an urgent opportunity to address the long-term future of the union pipeline construction industry, and are working hard to achieve that goal.”

Worrell said that in conjunction with NPLA negotiations, the PLCA and union partners will further develop their new Market Recovery program.

“The program,” she explained, “is a joint PLCA-union effort to regain market share in certain markets throughout the U.S. We are aggressively targeting certain projects in Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma, among others, in order to get more union contractors working in these areas.

“We also have a number of ongoing negotiations with owner/operators for Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) covering upcoming projects. A PLA locks in wages, guarantees a highly trained workforce and provides owners with valuable political, regulatory and grassroots support from the PLCA and our union partners during the always-contentious permitting and approval process.”

Crotts is executive vice president and general superintendent of Appalachian Pipeline Contractors. His term as PLCA president will end at the 2020 annual convention in February.


PLCA, (571) 570-2700, plca.org


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