Editor’s note: This story was updated Aug. 6, 2020 to include more detailed information about health and safety protocols TC Energy has required of its contracted workers, along with updated information from the Phillips County Health Department.
The developer of the Keystone XL oil pipeline confirmed Aug. 5 that two of its workers in northern Montana tested positive for the novel coronavirus last week.
In a statement, pipeline developer TC Energy says the first pipe yard worker tested positive at a local clinic last July 28 and the company took protective measures when it learned about the results. That included shutting down activity at the site in Phillips County.
The company says it then used contact tracing and identified six close contacts. One tested positive. The company says all are in quarantine at home. They will not return to the worksite as construction is expected to wrap up at that location in the coming days.
A spokesperson from the Phillips County Health Department says there’s still a lot of unknowns, but that the two workers are not connected to five county residents who Phillips County announced Tuesday tested positive.
Phillips County is now subject to Gov. Steve Bullock’s mandate that requires face coverings be worn in indoor spaces open to the public.
TC Energy started construction on the highly disputed 1,200 (twelve-hundred) mile crude oil pipeline in April. At the time, it met with backlash from nearby Native American tribes, who worried workers could bring coronavirus into the area.
Bozeman-based Barnard Construction contracted with workers from various locations. In a statement, TC Energy said that the workers were quarantined before beginning work.
Since construction began in April, TC Energy says workers go through both countywide and companywide protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including remaining in their housing for a quarantine period before starting work, reporting if they feel sick and conducting worker symptom checks on site.