Use Unions To Build Wind Projects, Ed Markey Says

Printed from:

Companies hoping to build offshore wind turbines in Massachusetts waters should commit to using labor unions to build them, U.S. Senator Edward Markey said this week.

Markey wrote and publicized letters to the companies on Tuesday, December 30.

In the letters, Markey says the wind turbines are “poised to create tens of thousands of jobs across the region,” and he urges the companies building them to enter into “Project Labor Agreements” with unions “to make sure that local, highly skilled workers can have good-paying and safe jobs in this important new industry.”

The companies receiving the letters are subsidiaries of companies headquartered in Denmark.

The parent companies are Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Avingrid Renewables, which are jointly planning to build 84 wind turbines in the ocean about 15 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard, a project known as Vineyard Wind; and Ørsted, which has a joint venture with Eversource, the electricity and natural gas provider, to build another wind-turbine project south of Martha’s Vineyard known as Bay State Wind.

“Massachusetts labor unions stand ready to tackle the opportunities and challenges of projects like Vineyard Wind, and can train and develop the local workforce to meet the demands of the offshore wind industry,” Markey’s letter to the Vineyard Wind company states

In his letter to Ørsted, Markey describes the second proposed set of wind turbines, Bay State Wind, as “the nation’s first utility-scale offshore wind project,” and he touts union labor as essential to making it work.

“The future of offshore wind is extremely important to the Massachusetts economy and to our statewide clean energy targets,” Markey’s letter to Orsted states. “.. To ensure the industry’s success, these jobs must be filled by a highly skilled and competent workforce. Massachusetts labor unions stand ready to tackle the opportunities and challenges of projects like Bay State Wind …”

Markey (D-Malden) is engaged in a battle for re-election against U.S. Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-Newton). Markey has been snagging more high-profile endorsements from left-of-center groups than Kennedy has. The Democratic primary is scheduled for September 2020.

Markey’s letters say union labor would help keep the wind-turbines projects “on time and on budget,” but they do not directly address cost. Union labor on construction projects often translates into higher building costs.

The cost of providing electricity through wind turbines is a frequent criticism of the projects. A wind-turbines project in Rhode Island, called Deepwater Wind, led to higher electricity rates for customers there.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, a Republican and a supporter of the wind-turbine projects here, has touted the cost containments in electricity rates his administration has negotiated with the companies seeking to build the offshore turbines.

On February 6, during an appearance before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Natural Resources Committee in Washington D.C. to discuss climate change, Baker said the Vineyard Wind project will actually save Massachusetts electricity customers money.

“And with respect to affordability, I come back to the procurement that we just did on offshore wind, and the hydropower procurement we did, which involves hydropower from Quebec. The price points on both of those initiatives – each of which are worth. you know, hundreds of megawatts of resource to Massachusetts families and businesses — both came in at price points that over time are going to be more cost-effective than it would have been than to use traditional resources,” Baker said.

(The “offshore wind” reference is to Vineyard Wind. His comments as recorded by C-Span come at 31:04 of the network’s online video.)

Supporters of wind turbines say they can generate electricity in a renewable fashion without harming the environment through the release of carbon into the atmosphere, as happens with oil, natural gas, and coal. They worry about climate change, which they say is harmful and is made worse by manmade carbon emissions from so-called fossil fuels.

Critics of wind turbines say they are impractical because the projects couldn’t get started or continue without massive government subsidies, since the delivery of electricity to the grid is less efficient than in more common methods.

Vineyard Wind has run into federal regulatory problems, largely over fishermen’s challenges to the project out of concerns about what installing wind turbines might do to the fish population.

President Donald Trump expressed skepticism about wind turbines last week, referring to cost, noise, ugliness, effect on property values, and bird deaths.

“I never understood wind. You know, I know windmills very much, I’ve studied it better than anybody. It’s very expensive,” Trump said during a speech Tuesday, December 23.

Trump noted that wind turbines kill thousands of birds a year.

“Why is it O.K. for these windmills to destroy the bird population? And that’s what they’re doing,” Trump said.