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Construction Union Welcomes Malloy’s Approach To Energy

by Hugh McQuaid | Nov 19, 2013 3:57pm
(6) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Energy

Hugh McQuaid Photo

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy touted the benefits of his natural gas expansion plan Tuesday before a construction workers union whose industry is poised to gain jobs over the next decade under the plan.

Malloy spoke at a training center in Meriden for the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 478. The union is working to train its Connecticut members to fill pipeline construction jobs that will be created as the state greatly expands its natural gas infrastructure under a plan proposed by Malloy and recently given preliminary approval by regulators.

Under the plan, Southern Connecticut Gas, Connecticut Natural Gas, and Yankee Gas will expand 900 miles of natural gas lines to 280,000 customers. According to Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Daniel Esty, that likely will mean between 3,000 and 4,000 construction jobs over the next 10 years.

The plan also seeks to reduce upfront conversion costs for homeowners and businesses by increasing their rates and spreading that over a 10-year period.

Although the heating oil companies have opposed the plan and claim it will put their small, family-owned businesses out of work, Malloy was welcomed at the construction workers union shop. The construction industry was hit hard by the recession and has been slow to rebound.

Hugh McQuaid Photo The event’s organizers had affixed a large blue banner to a pipe in the garage bay. It read, “Governor Malloy Local 478 Dedicated To Connecticut’s Energy Future.” Once Malloy arrived, he was given a black Local 478 jacket with “Gov. Malloy” embroidered on one side.

Craig Metz, the local’s business manager, even offered the governor some chewing tobacco “to be a real pipeliner.” Malloy waved off the chew.

“We’re drawing the line, we’re drawing the line,” he said.

Malloy, who last month told reporters he was not yet a candidate for re-election, said energy costs have dropped and job creation has increased since he has been governor. Some have argued that rates have decreased largely because of a drop in natural gas prices and despite the policies of the Malloy administration.

Regardless, Malloy said the state’s high energy costs have put it at a disadvantage when it comes to attracting jobs and businesses, but his energy plan was helping to address the issue.

“We are winning this war with respect to energy costs, but we’re going to have to stay the course,” he said.

The governor said natural gas is not perfect and has emissions associated with it. However, he said those emissions are less than those that come from burning oil.

“We will have a substantial positive impact on the environment while we lower costs, while we make Connecticut competitive for jobs. That’s what we’re trying to do here,” he said.

Lori Pelletier, head of Connecticut AFL-CIO, praised the natural gas expansion and the construction jobs it would create.

“Often times we hear that government doesn’t create jobs. Well this plan creates jobs and it was a government plan,” she said.

The hope is that those new jobs will go to construction workers from Connecticut. The International Union of Operating Engineers is sending $4 million in equipment and experts to teach pipeline construction classes at the Meriden facility to prep its local members for a new type of project.

James T. Callahan, president of the union’s national organization, spoke about the investment at Tuesday’s event.

“If this work is so plentiful, we’ll make sure that you have well trained, safe people to do this,” Callahan said.

Asked whether enough Connecticut workers will be properly trained to fill all the pipeline construction jobs, Esty said it was a question the administration was asking as well. He credited the union with working to get its members up to speed, but he said there are a whole set of other “training opportunities” that Connecticut workers will need to quickly master for the project.

Esty said he wants to make sure in-state workers are “on the fast-track” through the necessary training. Asked whether a shortage of qualified workers could slow the 10-year project, he said “there’s people out there” to do the work.

“The question is whether they are Connecticut people or whether you end up with out-of-state contractors. I want to make sure that it is in-state residents that are getting the benefit of this infrastructure investment,” he said.

Nate Brown, Local 478’s referral manager and government relations director, said the union was confident its members would be prepared for the expansion projects.

“The majority of the heavy equipment operators we have now are ready to do this kind of work,” he said. “Our focus is going to be making sure Connecticut residents are out here doing this work.”

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(6) Comments

posted by: art vandelay | November 19, 2013  7:44pm

art vandelay

Nine Hundred Miles and Two Hundred Eighty Thousand “potential” customers.  Sounds great on paper Right!!!.  WRONG.  The problem comes in converting customers from oil to gas heat.  The average cost to convert a single family home from oil to gas is $13,000.00.  I have gas on my street.  Yankee Gas will gladly extend a service line into my house for free. The out of pocket conversion fee for me is $13,000.00.  I doubt if there will be any takers at that price.  In my case there is no return on investment.  Tax incentives or interest free loans will not do the trick either.

posted by: dano860 | November 19, 2013  10:46pm

Well here is the first play in the re-election game plan. Dannel has the ball and these guy’s are his defense team.
It’s going to be a long and interesting game.

posted by: art vandelay | November 19, 2013  11:33pm

art vandelay

To dano88,
Let’s just home Barry O offers Malloy an Ambassadorship to Iceland or Greenland.

posted by: Stan Muzyk | November 20, 2013  11:21am

Gov. Dannel Malloy is shrewdly reinforcing his hold on the state union vote—which is an indication that he will run for reelection. The cost of doing business in Connecticut will remain sky-high as long as Malloy and his legislative Democratic supporting cronies get the vote. It’s no wonder our state is in massive debt—as he do not have a businessman, only an elected taxpayer-bleeding politician as our leader. It’s no wonder Malloy rival’s Pres. Barack Obama’s 37% job approval rating today.  Malloy leads by example of the same failing policies as his presidential idol.

posted by: JAM | November 20, 2013  11:36am

Without more pipeline capacity into the State,there isn’t the existing supply to serve all these new lines. What’s Malloy’s plan to get more gas into the State? All these lines won’t do anything if there’s no gas to fill them.

posted by: Stan Muzyk | November 20, 2013  12:35pm

As I have no gas on my street, this is one issue I don’t have to worry about.  However if I had gas available—the $13,000 conversion cost quoted by Art Vandelay would turn me off.