Monday, June 29, 2009

Solar advocates urge veto of NJ union wage bill

A coalition of New Jersey solar energy businesses, electrical contractors, independent electricians, and solar energy workers is urging Governor Jon Corzine to veto (A-3372), legislation that the group says will not only drive up costs for ratepayers, but cost the state hundreds of new green energy jobs as well.

In a press release, the coalition said the legislation imposes an "oppressive new mandate" on all renewable energy and energy efficiency installation projects in New Jersey, with the sole exception of residential projects, by mandating that state "prevailing wage" rates be paid to workers on all such projects.

Prevailing wages, the coalition says, are synonymous with union wage rates and "often forces businesses to hire union labor and sub-contractors at additional cost."

"This legislation must be vetoed by Governor Corzine. It is anti-solar because it will result in increasing the labor costs of solar by 180%. It contradicts the Governor's and Legislature's policies of growing solar and reducing global warming gases, " said Dennis Wilson, vice president in New Jersey for the Mid-Atlantic Solar Energy Energy Industries Association, a trade group representing solar energy companies, manufacturers, and solar project developers in NJ, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.

The coalition says the legislation applies to all energy efficiency projects--along with renewable projects such as wind, solar, and biomass--that receive any "approval" or any authorization by the NJ Board of Public Utilities.

The group claims that the legislation is so broad that it would includes energy efficiency upgrades for non-profits such as churches, and small businesses.

In opposing the bill in committee and on the floor of both legislative houses, the solar industry and its allies were supported by the NJ Business and Industry Association and the state Chamber of Commerce.

A large number of union organizations lobbied in favor of the legislation.

Curiously absent from the legislative debate were environmental organizations, like the NJ Environmental Federation and the Sierra Club, which normally are outspoken advocates of alternative energy technologies and projects.

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