Op-Ed: Pennsylvania can’t afford to lose nuclear power plants and their jobs

Posted by on Thu, Jul 5, 2018 @ 15:07 PM

In late May, HFIAW Local 23 Business Manager Bill McGee co-authored an Opinion Editorial published in the local newspaper, The Morning Call. McGee is an elected Northampton County Councilmen who takes the time to further advance the labor issues that affect the Brothers and Sisters in the Harrisburg, Pa. area. Below is the op-ed McGee wrote with Tony Iannelli, president and CEO of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce and a co-chair of Nuclear Powers Pennsylvania.

At a time when America is perhaps more polarized than ever, it’s hard to turn on the news without seeing another demonstration of a battle between blue-collar voters and corporate America or conservative purists and liberal progressives. 

Few situations arise anymore where party politics or ideology truly does not matter and people come together to advocate for a common goal. One exception involves the current situation facing our nuclear power industry in Pennsylvania and the fact that if something isn’t done very soon to help protect these power plants, Pennsylvanians are going to suffer from our lack of action. That’s why you’re seeing business and labor coming together because we both understand what’s at stake.  

Currently, two of Pennsylvania’s five nuclear power plants are slated for early closure – Three Mile Island and Beaver Valley. The two plants employ nearly 1,500 people. From educated engineers and scientists to skilled labor like boilermakers and insulators. White collar and blue collar – working hand in hand in these plants – generating reliable and clean energy for our commonwealth. 

These plants aren’t just job-producers, they are truly one of the biggest energy assets we have in Pennsylvania. While regulators in Harrisburg and Washington, D.C., continue to battle the impacts on our air and water from traditional fossil fuels, nuclear power accounts for 93 percent of the carbon-free electricity generated in the commonwealth. This allows Pennsylvania to be ranked second in the nation when it comes to nuclear power generation.

While much work has been done in the areas of solar and wind power generation, if even one of these plants is allowed to close prematurely, the gains we’ve made in wind and solar will be completely wiped off the map by the loss of clean power we will lose when these plants close.

Moreover these plants operate nonstop, regardless of temperature or weather conditions. They are truly one of the most reliable sources of power that has ever been developed. It’s no secret that Pennsylvania gets its share of extreme weather conditions. It seems ill-advised that we would allow the plants to shut down, even though they are among the very few that can practically guarantee operation through all of those conditions.  

Moreover these plants operate nonstop, regardless of temperature or weather conditions. They are truly one of the most reliable sources of power that has ever been developed. It’s no secret that Pennsylvania gets its share of extreme weather conditions. It seems ill-advised that we would allow the plants to shut down, even though they are among the very few that can practically guarantee operation through all of those conditions.  

But when these plants close, they are gone forever. The tax base for the local municipalities is gone forever. We need our leaders in Harrisburg and Washington to come up with a solution to ensure that these plants stay open.

We are encouraged to see that members of the state Legislature have come together to form the Nuclear Energy Caucus. They are hearing testimony and truly talking about the numerous benefits of nuclear power.

However, just talking will not fix this problem. We need action. We are writing as leaders of the business community and organized labor. If we can come together on an issue like this, there is no reason our elected officials aren’t able to do the same. 

Topics: Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers

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