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June 2016

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A First Step on Energy Policy

On April 20, the Senate passed a bipartisan energy policy bill 84-12. The House passed a very different energy bill in December.

The Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2016 is not a perfect bill, but it is a good start (more detail about the bill can be found on page 7).

First, it ends almost nine years of inaction that saw every energy reform bill stall and die. The production, transmission and use of energy have changed more in the last decade than in the previous century and our laws have fallen far out of step.

Worse, crucial decisions about the future of our economy, the power grid and our environment have been left to regulatory agencies with important, but narrow, interests.

Balancing the need for good jobs, reliable energy and a clean environment can only be done by elected officials. Under our cobbled together national energy policy these interests often compete, so an advance in one leads to a loss in the others. It does not need to be that way.

For example, the legislation streamlines permitting for liquefied natural gas exports, interstate transmission lines, pipelines, and hydroelectric projects that would begin to deliver some of the promise of green energy production and would mean thousands of good, union jobs.

The bill also recognizes that organized labor is a necessary partner in developing energy policy. It gives apprenticeship training programs the same status as community colleges when applying for federal grant money, crucial in an industry where the average worker is approaching retirement.

Sometimes what isn't in a law is as important as what is. Our Utility and Political and Legislative Affairs departments worked diligently to remove some of the worst parts of the original bill. The initial proposal would have gutted Davis-Bacon protections in new federally supported construction. Sections that would have made it harder to site high-voltage transmission lines are also gone.

We still need comprehensive energy reform that will ensure green jobs are good jobs and the 21st century power grid is built on reliable and clean technology.

Until we get that bill, however, Congress should make this the beginning, and President Obama should sign it.


Also: Stephenson: Growing Our Brotherhood Read Hill's Column

Salvatore J. Chilia

Salvatore J. Chilia
International Secretary-Treasurer