Skerpon Op Ed: NY's REV needs a good jobs vision

Date Posted: 
Thursday, November 19, 2015
Politicians are led by polls and this is the case with Energy Reform in New York State. In a Clarity Campaign Labs poll, 77% of New York voters think the government should do more to support renewable energy and 10% of are already using renewable energy with 60% wanting to in the future. Basically, 2 out of 3 of us believe that being 100% reliant on renewable energy is possible. This is going to sound crazy, but 2 out of 3 of us have no idea what we’re talking about. Our desire to do is good is great, but our knowledge on how energy is created, stored and delivered lacks basic understanding. 
Climate change is real and we need to do something now, and we’re doing what we can here in New York. Major global polluters like Mexico, China and India still have much work to do when it comes to their carbon emission standards. The best we can do at this point is lead by example.
Governor Cuomo’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) public hearings are well intentioned but sadly have been circus shows designed to portray the State as a carbon emissions reduction leader that grants credit to anyone installing solar panels on anything. This is happening while FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant, which emits no carbon, recently announced it will be closing its doors eliminating 600 good Middle class jobs. The close will also eliminate $17 million local property taxes annually.  This could happen under the Governors watch absent State intervention. 
At REV Public Hearings taking place across the State, the environmentalist community is mobilizing to call for the closing off all power plants and to push for full reliance on alternative methods. It’s unreasonable, dangerous and lacks basic economic understanding of how energy is generated, stored and distributed.
To prematurely close coal, hydro and nuclear is pandering and it places our energy reliance intelligence in the hands of political appointees and affluent environmental activists while ignoring educated practitioners. New York’s REV grants credit to non-carbon emitting sources like solar and wind but discriminates against non-carbon emitting sources like Nuclear. Nuclear power needs Albany’s help but is unpopular with environmentalists. With State seats up for grabs, what New York politicians want to start fights with environmentalists? 
New York’s coal plants are some of the cleanest in the country. In fact, only 4% of New York's grid is supplied from coal generation plants and the burning of clean coal has made tremendous progress over the years. Our Pennsylvania and New Jersey neighbors are still far behind in this respect, but if Cuomo’s REV plan is put into motion, coal plants will close, more good jobs will be lost, schools will be defunded and pollution will float in the air over into our borders.  Dirty power imports are not documented in the State’s emissions report enabling a false perception that NYS is “cleaner”.
Granting credit to just Wind and Solar doesn’t make sense because looking at the reliability of the issue; wind dies and the sun sets.  With the topic of good jobs being omitted from the REV conversation, it is important to note that most of the jobs surrounding these industries are low wage and unskilled with facilities generating very little tax revenue. 
The 60,000 member NYS Association of Electrical Workers, a statewide organization of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers are involved in the REV initiative and have been actively participating in the hearings with the intent to join the conversation and offer their expertise on how to approach the issue by maintaining good jobs, creating emission free energy and finding real methods of reducing carbon emissions in existing power generating stations.  
Good jobs can be created and communities can be saved, but only if the pandering stops and the listening begins because rising above all the political noise, our public and economic health depend on us, now and for all future generations.
Ted Skerpon is the Business Manager of IBEW Local 97 and Chair of the 15,000 member NYS IBEW Utility Labor Council.
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