During the discussion between trade unionists and ecologists, the Pa alliance. House Blue-Green debuts on the legislative agenda

Labor leaders and environmentalists came together Tuesday as members of the Blue and Green Caucus of Pennsylvania announced a legislative agenda they say will create renewable energy jobs for union workers and protect the commonwealth’s air and water.

For Robert Bair, president of the Pennsylvania Building and Construction Trades Council, the event marked a years-long shift away from the belief that the interests of organized labor and environmentalists were mutually exclusive.

“It’s no secret that I have my industry partners. “You know the construction industry is all about jobs,” said Bair, who represents 115 local unions across the state.

But after meeting with Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler (R-Philadelphia), chairwoman of the Blue and Green Caucus, Bair said he understood that the construction industry could be a partner in reinventing Pennsylvania’s energy economy.

“We can help correct the sins of our ancestors when they were done wrong. We can still make Pennsylvania a leader in energy generation. We can start cleaning up our industry,” Bair said.

As a result of the dialogue, Fiedler introduced and passed the Solar for Pennsylvania Schools Act. The legislation would create a grant program that reimburses school districts for up to 50% of the cost of installing solar panels using funds from the federal Inflation Reduction Act, which includes pristine energy initiatives. The bill passed in June on a bipartisan vote of 134 to 69 and awaits consideration in the state Senate.

“We have long been told that environmental and labor groups do not get along. They really don’t like each other. They don’t talk at all… In this building, of course, we know that’s not true,” Fiedler said Tuesday.

But through ongoing discussions, Fiedler said, the Solar for Schools Act has grown into a series of bills that include measures to augment consumer access to solar energy, require prevailing compensation for green energy projects undertaken with state or federal funds, improve efficiency energy, providing more funding for mass transit and ensuring that privatization of public water and sewage systems does not result in skyrocketing rates.

The package of 11 bills represents a shared vision of environmental protection, pristine energy, union jobs and economic growth across Pennsylvania, said Katie Blume, legislative director of Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania.

“Taken together, these bills will create good union jobs, lower costs for working families and local businesses, and help protect our air and water now and in the future,” Blume said.

As recently as last summer, Democrats who control the House of Representatives showed signs of disagreement among their leaders on balancing environmental and labor interests.

Pennsylvania Democrats are seeking a balance between environmental policy and loyalty to workers

Environmental Resources and Energy Committee Chairman Greg Vitali (D-Delaware) abruptly canceled votes on bills aimed at mitigating the impact of gas drilling on nearby communities and stopping the reactivation of idle coal-fired power plants to fuel cryptocurrency mining.

Vitali said that with a slim one-vote majority and some members facing re-election in swing districts in 2024, Democratic leaders are wary of calling a vote on legislation that could be seen as killing jobs and hurting unions.

Blue-Green Alliance is a national organization promoting solidarity between workers and environmentalists on climate policy. Rep. Leanne Krueger (D-Delaware) said the Pennsylvania Blue-Green Caucus had been dormant for some time when she became chair and used her role as a member of the Labor and Industry and Environmental Resources and Energy Committees to build relationships with stakeholders parties of the ecological movement and stakeholders of the labor movement.

“I have seen that there is so much common ground and shared values, and yet outside sources often try to divide labor and environmental stakeholders for their own political game,” Krueger said.

In 2021, with the support of the AFL-CIO, the club formed a group of labor and environmental leaders to inform the policy work of the Blue and Green Caucus. This has led to a partnership in which labor stakeholders support good environmental legislation and environmental industry stakeholders support good labor legislation, Krueger said.

“We don’t always agree on everything. But there is real dialogue and strong movement towards common ground,” Krueger said.

Bills on the Blue and Green legislative agenda include:

  • House Bill 1032, intended to support schools build solar panels, is pending in the state Senate.
  • House Bill 1842 would allow consumers to subscribe to a portion of a public solar power plant. It passed 111-90 and awaits consideration in the Senate.
  • House Bill 949 would require prevailing wages to be paid for government-funded solar and electric vehicle charging and other pristine energy projects.
  • House Bill 491 would streamline the Public Service Commission’s approval of energy efficiency projects. It was adopted unanimously in the House of Representatives and referred to the Senate.
  • House Bill 1607 would create a statewide electronic waste recycling program.
  • House Bill 1615 would establish energy and water efficiency standards for commercial and residential appliances
  • House Bills 1862-1865 would reform the process by which the PUC oversees and approves takeover of municipal utilities by investor-owned companies. The laws were adopted by the Consumer Protection, Technology and Utilities Committee on April 9.
  • The Blue and Green Caucus and House Democrats support Gov. Josh Shapiro’s budget proposal to augment public transportation funding by $283 million.

Get in Touch


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related Articles

Latest Posts