PATH & Jobs for West Virginians

The West Virginia Affiliated Construction Trades (ACT) Foundation is the political advocacy arm of the West Virginia State Building and Construction Trades Council.  ACT has filed as an intervenor in the WV PSC PATH case in support of AEP/Allegheny FirstEnergy’s boondoggle.  ACT is also part of the power companies’ bogus front group, West Virginians for Reliable Power, er, Energy.  ACT is clearly on board as a major mouthpiece for the PATH project.  ACT’s main claim is that PATH helps create jobs, particularly union jobs, for West Virginians.

Let’s take a look at those claims.

StopPATH WV has an excellent dissection of ACT’s claims at this link.  StopPATH looks at the Construction Trades Council’s own agreement with AEP/Allegheny FirstEnergy and finds that union construction workers will be thrown a few crumbs, building the few buildings and roads that are part of the project.  The union boilermakers, electrical workers and ironworkers, who are also members of affiliated Trades Council unions, apparently have no part in the agreement that the Trades Council signed.

Here is a direct quote from the ACT newsletter about what jobs Trades Council union members will get on the PATH project:

The Trades portion of the work includes the foundation and site preparation for the substations as well as work on roads and buildings.

So some operating engineers will work on site prep, and some road building, and a few other union carpenters and sheet metal workers will work on buildings associated with two substations.  As StopPATH points out, all of the actual construction of the PATH towers and conductor installation will be done by highly specialized out of state companies.  We have already seen from the work on Allegheny FirstEnergy’s TrAIL line that most of the surveying, right of way clearing and transmission line construction will be done by out of state companies and many other non-union contractors.

Three members of the Denison family from Braxton County spoke at the 2009 public hearing held by the WV PSC in Flatwoods.  All of them are union boilermakers.  Here is my earlier report about what they had to say about PATH and jobs:

If you want to see what union working people have to say about the PATH transmission line, you should read the testimony of two generations of union boilermakers who have worked on electric company projects all over the US.  They testified at the PSC public hearing on PATH in Flatwoods last fall.  Here is the link to the hearing transcript. Look for the testimony by Dale Denison and Misty Denison starting on page 44 of the transcript.

Here is how boilermaker Misty Denison concluded her testimony:

And I’ve heard and heard a lot about jobs being talked here this last little bit. Like I said, I’m a boilermaker. My husband is a boilermaker.  We’ve had to travel for years to find work. This line would only make jobs for a short amount of time. This no way is going to create jobs for the long term. If that were the fact, they would have been there a long time ago. This is not the answer to finding jobs. I know West Virginians are desperate for jobs, but don’t just go for this PATH because you want a job. You’re not going to — we’re not going to benefit from jobs from this PATH project. It’s not worth our farms and our land that our families have had for years to come.

There is another way to build high voltage transmission lines.  This is what Dominion Virginia Power (known as VEPCO in the WV PSC case) told the WV PSC about its rebuilding of the Mt. Storm to Doubs 500 kV transmission line:

The work will be performed by Dominion Technical Resources, Inc., an affiliate with extensive experience and technical expertise. Further, VEPCO recently used construction techniques proposed for this project to build portions of the
TrAIL line in Virginia.

Dominion will be performing most of its rebuilding of Mt. Storm to Doubs with its own construction company and its own workers.  It will not be hiring Illinois-based Kenny Construction or Connecticut-based Supreme Industries to run its project with largely out of state crews.  Here is a link to Dominion’s description of the project.

So why doesn’t ACT support the construction of the remainder of Dominion’s Alternative One?  Why doesn’t ACT advocate for the rebuilding of Allegheny FirstEnergy’s Pruntytown to Mt. Storm line with the same kind of local workforce that Dominion will be using on its Mt. Storm to Doubs line?

Why is ACT pushing a project that will use out of state contractors and workers hired from other states when Dominion is proving that the work can be done much more cheaply and effectively using workers from West Virginia, Maryland and East Virginia?

I would guess that all union construction workers in West Virginia will end up paying much more in lost land values, timber sales and higher electric rates than those same workers will ever make on a few temporary jobs on PATH.