September 2010

From the Officers
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Wanted: Reasonable Carbon/Energy Debate

Frustration is growing as policy makers, energy companies and the public struggle for a responsible approach to reducing carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Like Portland, Ore., Local 125, which is featured in this issue, many are facing unreasonable, pie-in-the-sky or downright hypocritical opposition from some environmental organizations.

We, too, want a safe environment for our children. Many of our members hunt, fish, hike, boat and enjoy camping. We are deeply engaged in wind, solar and other renewable energy technologies.

But instead of working with us on issues facing coal-fired power plants, some environmentalists are taking an undemocratic approach that is hostile to our members, our jobs, our communities and our nation's economic health.

There's no better example than the Sierra Club's opposition to a public meeting in Boardman, Ore., for workers at the state's only coal power plant to express their thoughts on the club's insistence that the utility shut the plant down by 2015. Let me restate that: they opposed a public meeting in the community that would lose its biggest employer.

This is not an isolated case. The Sierra Club is spending $18 million and has deployed 100 lobbyists across the nation to challenge coal power.

The IBEW would rather be lobbying Congress, where citizens and unions have a voice for comprehensive energy legislation that would include building more nuclear plants.

But an energy bill isn't going to be passed anytime soon. So the executive branch of government has stepped into the vacuum. Now the Environmental Protection Agency is issuing unrealistic mandates on carbon emissions.

It would certainly make sense for environmentalists and conservationists to work with us on how these regulations will be implemented. Instead, we have more hypocrisy.

In March, I sent a letter to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) supporting the building of a massive wind farm, consisting of 45 wind turbines on private land. The project—which would create hundreds of jobs—is being held up by conservationists who claim that turbines could be seen from 25 miles away on a federally-protected desert.

I want to thank IBEW members and leaders who are standing up for reasonable energy policy. Your efforts are in the best interests of your communities, our nation and our labor movement.

Also: Lee: We Need More Jobs, Less Lobbying

Edwin D. Hill
International President