The U.S. Department of Energy on Aug. 6 announced the formation of a working group in partnership with labor designed to maximize job creation from President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan.
Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, along with representatives from the IBEW, the Utility Workers of America and the United Steelworkers, gathered in Detroit for a roundtable focused on how to protect and create jobs in the wake of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Aug. 3 rule mandating a 32 percent reduction in carbon emissions from coal and gas-fired power plants by 2025.
IBEW International President Lonnie R. Stephenson welcomed the announcement, calling the working group a “positive step forward.”
“This partnership,” Stephenson said, “will allow the Energy Department and energy industry professionals – represented by ourselves, the Utility Workers, and the Steelworkers—to provide input to help state officials develop implementation plans with an eye on maintaining grid reliability and good jobs.”
The group is expected to focus on assisting states in creating individual implementation plans to help them meet the EPA’s mandated carbon reductions. States have until September 2016 to submit the plans under the rule, but thanks in part to IBEW input, they will be able to apply for an optional two-year extension.
In addition to the extension, IBEW criticism was instrumental in securing major changes to the final EPA rule, which included the option for multi-state or regional compacts allowing states to trade emissions credits, as well as the inclusion of zero-carbon nuclear power facilities in calculating emission targets. The final plan also includes a short-term “safety valve” for coal facilities determined to be critical to grid reliability.
In a statement, the Department of Energy cited numerous job-creating opportunities in helping states to comply with the new rule, including “retrofitting coal plants to capture carbon, installing combined heat and power units in manufacturing plants, updating energy infrastructure, or installing renewable energy and energy efficiency equipment.”
IBEW Utility Department Director Jim Hunter also pointed to the likely need for new transmission lines that could come as a result of the EPA rule’s carbon-trading provisions.
Stephenson said that the working group does not remedy all the problems IBEW has with the White House’s emissions plan. “We remain concerned about the effects of the EPA’s plan on our power system,” he said, “which could result in higher energy prices and increased brownouts and blackouts.”
“The only real way to create a sustainable energy policy,” he added, “is for Congress to act in a bipartisan way with full input from experts and industry stakeholders. We will continue to press lawmakers to develop a long-term plan to protect energy jobs and maintain reliability and service for customers across the nation.”