Colorado Gov. Jared Polis recently signed legislation, some of it at Pueblo Local 12, that sets the stage for future labor-backed energy policy.
"We have long maintained that labor can and should be a partner in tackling the climate crisis," said International President Lonnie R. Stephenson. "Legislation like what's been passed in Colorado is a strong example of what that can look like."
Polis signed SB21-246 on June 22, making his state the first in the nation to pass an electrification policy with support from organized labor. The Colorado BlueGreen Alliance-backed legislation will help Coloradans upgrade to energy efficient electric appliances, furnaces and water heaters that will also keep their bills low and the air clean. The state's BlueGreen Alliance is a coalition of more than 20 labor and environmental organizations committed to creating clean energy jobs and preserving a healthy climate.
The bill aims to save money by directing utilities to create incentives for households and businesses to upgrade to energy-efficient electric appliances that reduce their bills. This increased efficiency will reduce indoor air pollution while also creating family-sustaining jobs.
"The transition to pollution-free buildings is a once-in-a-generation job creation opportunity for our members," said Local 68 Business Manager Jeremy Ross. "As businesses and industry take advantage of new rebates and incentives to upgrade to modern and clean electric systems, they create demand for local, qualified electrical workers."
On June 30, Polis visited Pueblo Local 12 to sign House Bill 1290, which calls for $15 million for the Office of Just Transition. The office supports coal workers and the communities dependent on those jobs as the state pivots toward other forms of energy, some of which are in the Pueblo area.
"The Office of Just Transition is to make sure that as we transition away from coal to cheaper forms of energy, and we save money for consumers ... that we don't leave behind those who have powered our state's prosperity for generations," Polis said.
The law includes $8 million to implement the transition plan and $7 million for a newly created fund for a coal transition worker assistance program. The funding, which Polis called a "an important down payment on helping people get the jobs of the future," will go to assistance programs for workers. Any remaining money would then go towards supporting family and other household members of coal transition workers. The plan also creates a pilot program to test coal transition work support programs.
Denver Local 111 Business Manager Rich Meisinger says the transition will help members employed at coal plants by giving them a pathway to a new job, or to retirement, depending on the member.
"Jobs in power plants are typically cradle-to-grave jobs. Most of our members take these jobs and work at the plants their entire careers. The only skills the worker has are skills that benefit the power plant," Meisinger said. "Since legislation is forcing the closure of the plants, the government should help those impacted workers. We won't have a just transition if we don't pay for it."
Polis also signed the Increasing Access to High-Quality Credentials bill, which provides financial incentives for participating school districts and charter schools to encourage high school students to enroll in and complete programs like internships, residencies and pre-apprenticeships.
"This bill could potentially help all the IBEW locals in the state," Meisinger said. "The money from HB 1290 can go to the creation of new training centers where we can do training for various certifications, including those needed for electric vehicle charging stations."