An editorial in the February 14, 2011 Barstow Desert-Dispatch (“Greenmail” a Threat to Energy Projects) is blunt about the union “greenmail” scheme to exploit the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and block permits for the construction of solar and other renewable power plants in the Mojave Desert:
…we now have another reason to be concerned about the proposed solar and wind projects for the desert: Union groups are attempting to block projects unless they get hiring agreements with the developers. Observers are calling it “greenmail,” as these groups are using the lengthy, complicated environmental regulations that already make any sort of development difficult in order to challenge the approval of energy projects, but apparently only the projects that don’t have labor agreements. The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors rejected last week a challenge by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Unions to stop the approval of a solar project in Kramer Junction. Their representatives claimed their concerns were about water use for the project, a claim that nobody with half a brain believes.
The editorial mentions how environmental objections delayed the construction of a Walmart distribution center in Barstow. It concludes by decrying how this union tactic hinders economic growth and job creation:
And so Barstow has to wait for more jobs to come. The irony that the people hurt most by these labor actions are other laborers is lost on these folks. They don’t grasp that if their actions keep causing projects to be canceled or delayed, this ultimately reduces demand for construction workers, pushing labor value down. Their actions result in laborers getting paid less, not more. No wonder private sector unions are on the decline in America, down to less than 9 percent, levels not seen since 1932.
The February 9, 2011 Barstow Desert Dispatch and Victorville Daily Press (Kramer Junction Solar Project Approved by Board of Supervisors / Supervisors OK Kramer Junction Solar Project – same article text) reported on the controversy at the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors over the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) greenmail against the 40-megawatt solar photovoltaic generating facility in the Mojave Desert. Remarks by ABC of California are in the article, along with remarks from the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction:
Members of two organizations that are opposing labor unions that attempt to stop or delay solar projects say that the labor unions are essentially using elements of the California Environmental Quality Act to “greenmail” project developers into signing project labor agreements. Once a developer signs a labor agreement, the opposition to the project disappears, said Kevin Dayton, state government affairs director for Associated Builders and Contractors of California.
Dayton said that labor unions are the biggest obstacle to solar projects in California because of their attempts to get project developers to sign labor agreements. He said that he hoped that Gov. Jerry Brown would amend CEQA in order to keep labor unions from blocking solar projects throughout California.
A representative of another organization opposing the “greenmail” tactics used by labor unions said that he believes that the lawsuits and environmental injunctions filed on the behalf of labor unions are going to become increasingly common in Southern California. Eric Christen, a representative of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction, said that the project developers normally win such disputes, but pointed out that such delays cost money and can cause a developer to cancel the project.
“Is the delay and the cost of the delay worth the win?” asked Christen.
Neither the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) nor the representative of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo was available to the reporter for comment.
Eric Christen of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction appeared on the Rick Amato Show on KCBQ AM 1170 in San Diego during its February 9 evening broadcast to discuss this incident. Amato declared his excitement about a group actually being immersed in the fray to stand up to the unions and support the taxpayers.
Meanwhile, Kevin Dayton, Government Affairs Director for Associated Builders and Contractors of California, appeared on the “Top Story @ 6” / Chris Reed Show on KOGO AM 600 in San Diego during its February 14 evening broadcast to discuss union exploitation of the California Environmental Quality Act to squeeze costly Project Labor Agreements out of solar energy developers. Dayton suggested that Governor Jerry Brown work with legitimate environmental groups to reform CEQA so that unions can no longer exploit the law for purposes unrelated to environmental protection.