Kinder Morgan’s decision to ‘suspend’ pursuing a private-public partnership with the state of Delaware’s Port of Wilmingon, signifies, for many, a huge loss to the tune of $200 million.
News of Kinder Morgan stopping negotiations with the state on a long-term lease broke Thursday. In a letter sent to port chair Alan Levin, John Schlosser, Kinder Morgan’s president of terminals, blames International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1694-1 president Julius Cephas for the breakdown.
“Julius Cephas, is antagonistic to the point of making a productive relationship with our future work force impossible.”
Over the weekend, Cephas emailed his response to WHYY (see below). He writes, “Our intent was to protect 30 year pensions and jobs and not accept a three year promise that would see at its end a potential elimination of local job opportunities for residents that invest in this community.”
Kinder Morgan presented a three-year deal with no reduction in work force – a starting point, Kinder says, for negotiations. However, Cephas argues, that option was offered only to non-union port employees. Additionally, Cephas says he could not negotiate on behalf of his union without Kinder’s deal in writing or approval from the General Assembly.
“We were unwilling to accept a temporary promise under these circumstances and wanted a relationship that provided for partnership without taking away the rights of a company to do business but instead protect the community from possible traumatic events that had been witnessed in the past by their former partners that resulted in lost pensions, elimination of jobs, lives destroyed, communities left in ruins, and an environment damaged by toxic chemicals and contaminated waste,” Cephas wrote.
“What we’ve done is we’ve taken away what could’ve been a very strong future for the port and we’re just continuing to put band-aids on problems,” said Levin. “The state of Delaware doesn’t have the hundreds of millions of dollars necessary to make the capital improvements at that port and to take advantage of what will be a deeper channel on the Delaware River.”
Crews are dredging the Delaware River in preparation for larger ships coming through a wider, deeper Panama Canal starting in 2015. Without necessary upgrades and improvements, Levin believes the Port of Wilmington is missing out on a lucrative opportunity.