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May 2018

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Pushing Infrastructure on Capitol Hill,
IBEW's Ross Urges Action

Construction and Maintenance Department Director Jim Ross testified before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Energy Feb. 27 about how the federal government can improve the state of the nation's energy infrastructure.

Ross and representatives of local government, industry, labor, higher education and the environmental movement were asked about what the federal government should do to help modernize energy infrastructure and improve workforce training and development in the energy sector.

"Our nation's energy infrastructure — the traditional baseload power plants, windmills, solar panels, hydroelectric dams, pipelines, power lines, fossil fuel production facilities, and import/export terminals — make up the backbone of our economy," said committee chairman, Oregon Republican Rep. Greg Walden. "While there are many difficult details to work out, I believe there is support for a broad infrastructure bill."

Ross said the need to upgrade the nation's infrastructure was getting its rightful attention these days. He noted, however, that the recent conversation has left out the fact that the United States has not made meaningful upgrades to its energy infrastructure since the 1970s.

Ross testified that private investors have approximately $140 billion in transmission system overhauls and development of new clean lines awaiting permit approvals.

"Our current electric distribution system is outdated and inefficient, and the permitting and approval process for large-scale transmission projects is more than burdensome: it's an outright barrier to construction," he said.

Ross was joined at the witness table by a number of leaders from the energy sector and environmental organizations.

There was wide agreement among the witnesses that the current system is holding the nation back, and some broad agreement on what to do.

Beyond the universal plea to accelerate the approval process by reducing the number of agencies involved and a more aggressive coordination and planning role by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the hearing broadly focused on two topics.

First, since the majority of electrical infrastructure is privately owned and built, the witnesses offered several ways the federal government could encourage investors to build more and larger projects. Suggestions included allowing the use of tax-exempt bonds to fund private projects and federal incentives to build extra capacity into transmission projects to meet future demand.

Ross was invited to speak about the second issue: developing the skilled workforce that will build the projects.

Ross told the committee members the IBEW is ready to provide the next generation of construction linemen, but the uncertainty caused by approval delays makes that job harder.

"It takes three years to train a journeyman lineman to perform transmission line construction and maintenance, and we anticipate the need for approximately 50,000 new linemen over the next 10 years," he said. "While projects are held up, we are losing valuable training time."

Political Director Austin Keyser said he was heartened the Republican-majority committee invited the IBEW to speak and was pleased with Ross's reception.

"We received a great deal of the committee's attention and that isn't always good, but this time it was," he said. "We were asked important questions and I think that they — on both sides of the aisle — heard how important our members will be in this monumental task."

Keyser hopes that the Republican-led committee won't be wedded to the president's flawed proposal and will look closely at the $1 trillion proposal introduced earlier this year by Democrats.

"It has been 10 years since we last talked as a nation about investing in infrastructure," he said. "What we saw today was that Congress is hearing the message: the need is great, and the hour is late. Now, we work to get the right policies into law."


Construction and Maintenance Department Director Jim Ross was invited by the U.S. House Subcommittee on Energy to testify about the state of the electrical infrastructure workforce. Sitting behind Ross is IBEW Political Director Austin Keyser and International Representative Breanna Malloy.

Local 15's Apple Honored for
Teamwork on Jobs, Clean Energy

An award honoring a successful labor-management effort to save jobs and fight for a clean energy future in Illinois was presented in March to Dean Apple, business manager at Downers Grove, Ill., Local 15, and to Exelon CEO Chris Crane.

The John D. Dingell Award is presented annually to leaders "who exemplify and promote labor-management cooperation." It is given by the National Labor Management Public Affairs Committee, created 10 years ago by the IBEW and the Edison Electric Institute.

Working together, the IBEW and EEI's Commonwealth Edison persuaded the Illinois Legislature to pass the Future Energy Jobs Act in December 2016. The law expands energy efficiency and low-income programs, protects 4,200 jobs, provides job training and keeps Illinois' nuclear facilities open, preserving 1.2 billion in economic activity.

Apple said he and Exelon "worked both sides of the aisle, a real collaborative effort" to get the bill passed. "It was a long process, but, in the end, it was about saving those nuclear plants and the good-paying jobs for our members."

One of the sites the bill saved was the Quad Cities Nuclear Plant, where Apple was a business representative from 1995 to 2007. "I know a lot of those members well," he said, "so this whole effort was very personal."

Apple said he's always had a respectful relationship with Exelon. "I try to listen, and I hope they try to do the same for me," he said. "It was nice to be working toward the same goal. We were able to get it done at the last minute before the legislative session ended."

Their achievement embodies National LAMPAC's goals of cooperation and partnership among energy company executives and IBEW leaders to address U.S. energy challenges and achieve the common goals of a well-managed, efficient business with a safe and highly skilled workforce.

"What Dean and Chris accomplished is exactly what LAMPAC strives for — an outcome that is good for our members, good for the industry and good for the communities we serve," International President Lonnie Stephenson said.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell of Michigan presented the award, named for her husband, to Apple and Crane at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. John Dingell retired from Congress in 2015 after 60 years of service, including 30 years as chair or ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.


Left to right: Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), International Secretary-Treasurer Kenneth W. Cooper, Exelon CEO Chris Crane, Local 15's Dean Apple and EEI's Tom Khun.