June 2011

From the Officers
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We Need Clean Air and Jobs

No one ever said that developing a framework to reduce pollution while supporting good jobs and affordable energy would be easy. For too long, Capitol Hill has punted the issue, putting off the hard decisions we need to make about our energy future. But time is running out.

Proposed Environmental Protection Agency air standards for coal-burning utilities go into effect by 2014. While we fully support the goal of reducing emissions, the limited three-year time frame for utilities to retrofit plants for coal-scrubbers and close aged facilities would have a disastrous effect on jobs and energy prices, dramatically slowing our economic recovery.

The new rules could potentially eliminate more than 50,000 utility and other related jobs, with more than 200,000 in indirect job losses. Many of those lost jobs would be in the industrial belt—including Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia and Pennsylvania—a region that has been particularly hard hit by the recession.

While the IBEW has been active in efforts to help reduce our dependence on coal by developing alternative energy sources such as solar, wind and nuclear, the reality is we are still very far from being able to rely on those sources for most of our energy needs.

The EPA itself was forced to admit in May that its proposed standards were based on faulty math, leading it to underestimate the effect they would have on jobs and the economy.

But at this point the agency has no freedom to alter the timeline. A 2007 Supreme Court ruling ordered the EPA to implement the Clean Energy Act's emissions guidelines within a three-year period, which means the job of crafting a more realistic implementation schedule now lies with Congress.

Finding the right balance between our energy needs, defending good jobs and cutting carbon emissions is a challenge that all of us—elected officials, industry leaders and union members alike—need to take up.


Also: Hill: The Courage to Rebuild Our Economy

Salvatore J. Chilia
International Secretary-Treasurer