Statement of Ande Abbott
Director, Legislative Department
International Brotherhood of Boilermakers
Joint Hearing Before the
Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and the
Senate Committee on the Judiciary
Tuesday, July 16, 2002
Room 106, Dirksen Senate Office Building
Chairman Jeffords, Chairman Leahy, and members of the Committees, my name is Ande Abbott and I am the Director of Legislation for the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers, AFL-CIO. I thank you for this opportunity to present our views.
Commonly referred to as the Boilermakers Union, we are a diverse union representing over 100,000 workers throughout the United States and Canada in construction, repair, maintenance, manufacturing, professional emergency medical services, and related industries. Boilermakers, who make and maintain industrial boilers and the pollution control equipment they use, have had a long-time commitment to a clear, effective and reasonable new source review (“NSR”) policy. We support the recent efforts of this Administration to clarify the program. The efficiency of our facilities and the safety of our workers hang in the balance.
First, let me be clear today that Boilermakers do not oppose the Clean Air Act, nor do we oppose its rigorous enforcement. In fact, construction lodges of our union look forward to doing much of the actual work for the installation of new technologies and controls at utility plants and for industrial boilers across this region and the country. In reference to the NOx control program alone, our international President Charlie Jones recently wrote:
“The EPA estimates that compliance measures will cost about $1.7 billion a year. A sizeable portion of that money will go to the Boilermakers who do the work necessary to make the additions and modifications required by the SCR technology.”
Aside from NOx control, Boilermakers have always led the way on Clean Air Act issues. For example, Boilermakers were pioneers in installation of scrubbers and further in fuel-substitution programs at our cement kiln facilities. In short, Boilermakers have been there to meet the challenges of the Clean Air Act, to the benefit our members and all Americans that breathe clean air.
However, Boilermakers could not support the EPA’s 1999 recent interpretation of its authority under the New Source Review program. NSR, correctly interpreted, as we believe the Administration's clarification does, forces new sources or those undergoing major modifications, to install new technology, like the technology President Jones mentioned. We support NSR in that context.
But, when NSR is applied to the routine maintenance policies and schedules of existing facilities, very different results occur. In those cases, facilities are discouraged from undertaking routine actions for fear of huge penalties or long delays or both. By applying NSR in that way, we are pretty sure that Boilermakers won't have the opportunity to work on maintenance projects that we know are extremely important to energy efficiency. Just hearing about recent events in California is enough to make the case that facilities need to be as efficient as possible. We now have read that New York may be facing similar problems. The New York Times reported just a few days ago that, the State “is unexpectedly facing the potential for serious power shortages over the next couple of months.” Now is definitely not the time to play with the reliability of power grid.
Efficiency is not the only reason to encourage routine maintenance. Experienced professionals or Boilermakers new to the trade can both tell you: maintenance is necessary to maintain worker safety. Electric generating facilities harness tremendous forces: superheater tubes exposed to flue gases over 2000 degrees; boilers under deteriorating conditions; and parts located in or around boilers subjected to both extreme heat and pressure. Any EPA interpretation which creates incentives to delay maintenance is simply unacceptable to our workers.
Some critics of the June 13 action by the Administration have contended that the NSR decision was made with insufficient attention to public process. This simply has not been the experience of the Boilermakers or other unions working on this project. The U.S. EPA held four public hearings in each region of the country. Paul Kern, the recording secretary of our Local 105 in Piketon, Ohio, offered a statement at the hearing in Cincinnati. In addition, it is our understanding that over 130,000 rulemaking comments were received on this initiative. Given our experience with certain regulations that just seem to appear over night, the Administration's action on NSR seem pretty open and fair to us. When you compare the current clarification to the way the program changed by in 1999 -- without any rulemaking process whatsoever -- the Administration's June 13 announcement looks all the better!
Boilermakers are not just workers; they are also consumers of electricity that work hard for their wages. One item often lost in the mess regarding NSR is that capital expenditures not justified for environmental protection are still passed along to ratepayers. Unfortunately, the less money you make, the greater the percentage of your paycheck goes to your electricity bills. According to Energy Information Administration data, those living at or near the poverty level pay 4 to 6 times the percentage of their income for power. So, advocates of misusing the NSR program hurt those least able to afford it the most!
As you can see, Boilermakers have never asked for repeal or substantial revision of the NSR program. We encourage the development and installation of new technology, and we stand ready to continue to train and apprentice workers to meet the needs of the Clean Air Act. However, when the NSR programs goes where it wasn't intended -- and discourages the very maintenance, repair and replacement activities that constitute the livelihood of Boilermakers -- we must strongly object. Thanks for the opportunity to make a statement.