Strange Bedfellows in the Sunlight

By January 17, 2009Energy, Labor Unions


The campaign for a new solar energy ballot measure in Los Angeles has raised more than $267,000, nearly two-thirds of it from groups affiliated with the union that represents Department of Water and Power employees, according to a report released Wednesday.

An International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers local contributed $50,000 to support Measure B, a March ballot initiative to add 400 megawatts of solar panels throughout Los Angeles by 2014. The nation union, IBEW Education Committee, gave $75,000, the Times reports, and an IBEW astroturf group ponied up $45,000.

Critics say the unions are trying to force the city into a monopolistic arrangement that narrowly benefits their members but sticks it to Angelenos with higher electrical rates. But we were struck by this weird connection:

Backers of the solar plan say it will create good jobs and has support that extends beyond DWP employees to include groups such as the Coalition for Clean Air, the Sierra Club and the American Lung Assn

Right, sure, those reliable proponents of new electrical generation and transmission, the Sierra Club.

Organized labor is generally pretty good in promoting new energy projects, but in this case, they’re getting into bed with anti-energy zealots. The Sierra Club led the opposition to a solar energy project promoted by San Diego Gas & Electric because transmission lines offend their environmental sensitivities.

The Sierra Club filed a motion with the [California Public Utilities Commission] demanding that they require SDG&E to proceed with an EIR before any route is established. The Sierra Club stated that by determining the route in advance, the public and the CPUC would be conceding the need for the power link plan and avoiding the mandatory listing of alternative plans, including a “no-project” alternative that would compare the impacts to the environment if the Sunrise Powerlink plan was either approved or denied.

 “The alternatives discussed should focus on ways to avoid or substantially lessen the project’s significant environmental effects,” said Paul Blackburn of the San Diego Sierra Club.

Once an electrical-generation project moves beyond the theoretical stage into threatening to become reality, big-money green organizations like the Sierra Club go into action to prevent its completion. Why would the IBEW make common cause with a group that, history tells us, will eventually try to block the realistic steps needed for the project?

Government subsidies must be involved, but in the end, the IBEW is just hurting itself. Dumb.

(Hat tip: Jim Gray.)

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