LIUNA Minnesota House Testimony on Clean Energy First Act (H.F. 10)

Remarks as delivered by Kevin Pranis, Marketing Manager
Jan 14 2021

My name is Kevin Pranis and I am a Marketing Manager for LIUNA Minnesota & North Dakota, a union of more than 12,000 proud construction laborers who build and maintain our state’s transportation, water, energy and building infrastructure. 

Our world and our jobs are changing as public and private sectors across the globe pursue decarbonization. We are committed to ensuring that these changes make our state, our industries, and our workforce stronger, more prosperous, and more competitive. And we are committed to making sure that energy continues to create high-quality family-supporting jobs for Minnesotans.

For decades, LIUNA men and women have worked alongside Building Trades brothers and sisters to construct and safely maintain Minnesota’s fleet of conventional and nuclear power plants, and a growing number of members are employed in the wind and solar energy installation. 

When it comes to jobs in energy, we have a simple principle: clean energy jobs should be as good, and as available to local workers, as jobs in conventional and nuclear energy that have supported generations of Minnesotans and their families. 

I am happy to report here the climate successes that we've made a lot of progress in this area over the past few years, resulting in the creation of hundreds of family-supporting construction jobs concentrated in Greater Minnesota and the promise of thousands more in coming years.

Five years ago, as investments in wind energy were ramping up across the nation, we took a hard look at utility-scale clean energy construction projects in Minnesota and what we saw was not pretty. Wind projects that were supposed to be providing opportunity for local workers were overwhelmingly being filled by out-of-state workers, costing local communities tens of millions of dollars in lost wages and economic activity. And I should point out those were not projects that were being built by Mortenson, which has been a good local employer, committed to putting Minnesotans to work on these projects and a partner.

Fortunately, thanks to the efforts of Building Trades unions, clean energy industry, including Clean Grid Alliance, utilities, advocates, and Minnesota’s Public Utilities Commission, we have seen a significant shift to overwhelming reliance on skilled local workforce in just a few years.

Together with clean energy industry partners, Xcel Energy, Great River Energy, Minnesota Power, and Minnesota Municipal Power Agency have built or committed to more than 2,000 MW of wind and solar energy that has been built, or will be built by largely local, skilled workforce creating good jobs and supporting local families; as well as additional hundreds, potentially thousands of megawatts being developed by independent power producers, many of which can be exported to customers in other states that are struggling to meet clean energy goals; creating this as an export economy in which Minnesota can lead.

Minnesota’s leadership in prioritizing good, local clean energy has been recognized by Ceres, the leading national voice for corporate and investor sustainability, which recently issued a report calling for others to follow Minnesota’s example by prioritizing good jobs and local workers as the only way to sustainably accomplish this transition.

As a construction union, we don't think there’s ever a bad time to create high-quality construction jobs, especially in Greater Minnesota, but those jobs are needed now more than ever as our members and construction generally face an ugly construction cliff and what could be very lean years if the experience of the last recession is any guide. We could have many members out of work, and one of the bright spots for this energy infrastructure investment, particularly investment in renewable energy across Southern Minnesota.

We have members who have been in work in the last couple of years, getting family-sustaining work. Great Rivers Energy's commitment, 700 MW of wind over the next three years in Minnesota, creating more than 700 jobs, including a recently approved 700 MW of wind, a $750 million investment in creating good jobs across Southern Minnesota. These are going to make all the difference to families that otherwise will struggle for work. Stacey Karels, who's a member of ours and president of the Building Trades of Mankato, lives in Rep. Munson's district and talks about how difficult we think the next few years will be. These jobs are great jobs occurring in Greater Minnesota.

I just spoke to one of our members who comes from Southwest Minnesota. We talked about how proud she feels to be helping this beautiful planet, and making a living, and hoping to finish out her retirement, working on where she gets the opportunity for the next five years. We have all kinds of members like that and new entrants that are coming into the workforce, excited to be doing this work.

The reason it's important for this committee is because as you'll be considering legislation that can help create those opportunities, so we can simply flag bills like Clean Energy First. They (these pieces of legislation) will help prioritize local workers. Rep. Stephenson has introduced as well, the Natural Gas Innovation Act, which provides opportunities to do the same thing on the natural gas side that helps create jobs.

We thank the committee very much for your time.