U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works
Hearing Statements
Date:   02/01/2005
 
Statement of Abraham Breehey
Legislative Representative
Goverment Affairs Department
International Brotherhood of Boilemakers
Legislative Hearing on S.131, the Clear Skies Act of 2005

Chairman Inhofe, Senator Jeffords, and Members of the Committee, good morning. I am Abraham Breehey, Legislative Representative for the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers. On behalf of our International President Newton Jones and our approximately 75,000 members across the country, thank you for the opportunity to present our views on S. 131.

The Boilermakers are the principal union responsible for the installation, maintenance, and repair of industrial boilers, as well as the installation of the pollution control equipment utilized to achieve the emissions reductions that are the goals of this legislation. As a result, our members have a dual concern: first and foremost, to have safe and productive workplaces for boiler operations; and second, to ensure the sensible implementation of clean air standards that foster the market for our services while protecting the environment.

Boilermakers have been active participants in the policy making process. Representatives from our locals across the country have testified at EPA field hearings, and our Government Affairs Office has submitted testimony for the record and letters on Clean Air topics going back for some years. The discussion of Clear Skies is one in which all participants share the same goal: sensible protection of air quality. There are good natured disagreements about the best approach to achieve that goal, but that should not keep us from proceeding with dedication.

Indeed, the Boilermakers have a significant interest in ensuring the latest control technology is used to meet federal multi-pollutant emissions standards and we have much to gain through its deployment. As an EPA analysis of the engineering factors affecting the installation of pollution control technology notes, the labor requirements needed to retrofit flue gas desulphurization systems – generally referred to as scrubbers – to remove SO2 for a 500 MWe utility include approximately 150,000 boilermaker man-hours. Similarly, a retrofit of SCR NOx control technology of 500 MWe requires as much as 350,000 man-hours of construction labor, with 40-50% of that amount available for boilermakers. However, the vast majority of our man-hours are generated providing maintenance, renovations, and upgrades to existing coal-fired electric utilities. Too often, under the status-quo this work is being put off, delayed, or abandoned.

The legislation before the Committee today would provide great benefits to our union, as well a number of other AFL-CIO affiliates in the energy and construction sectors. It requires $52 billion in investment to meet air quality standards, a significant portion of which will be paid in wages to Boilermakers and other union craftsman. We believe it provides a clear path forward for new plant construction, sets standards that are both technologically feasible and no doubt within the current labor capacity. We encourage the committee to support the Inhofe-Voinovich bill.

Some would prefer to maintain existing Clean Air Act authorities to wring additional emissions reductions out of existing facilities. This “command and control” approach relies on litigation-heavy, case-by-case analysis, such as the New Source Review (NSR) program. While NSR can produce successes in some cases, it is too often cumbersome and slow as it applies to existing sources. We support the provisions of the Clear Skies bill for addressing these issues.

The Boilermakers are aware of the balancing act that must be undertaken in developing environmental policy. However, we believe this legislation achieves a significant balance in that it provides a protective approach on clean air that maintains the competitiveness of our industrial facilities, keeping Boilermakers and other union member’s work from being outsourced. By ensuring a continued role for coal in our energy-mix and providing greater regulatory certainty, this legislation will promote stable energy prices that are necessary for the economic growth that creates good paying manufacturing and industrial jobs.

I know we all agree that America’s workers are the most productive in the world. However, they are forced to succeed under tremendous competitive disadvantages resulting from several factors, including unfair tax and trade policies, foreign subsidies, and health care costs not assumed by overseas producers. In addition, American manufacturers spend relatively more on pollution control than foreign competitors. Regulatory policies that delay efficiency improvements or that might lead to fuel-switching from coal to natural gas would only exacerbate our problems keeping good paying manufacturing jobs here at home.

The Boilermakers Union supports the expansion of the Acid Rain Program “cap and trade” system for SOx to NO2 and mercury as suggested under this legislation because it sets predictable deadlines that are achievable with current technology. Also, rather than proceeding case-by-case, they apply to all regulated facilities simultaneously. Under current law, our work often comes in fits and starts. This legislation will encourage a more steady work load for our members.

Our union is committed to ensuring the safety of the facilities where our members and thousands of others work. It is a major and ongoing concern. Workplace safety is a cornerstone of the Boilermaker’s National Joint Apprenticeship Program, and our members work together with our employers to limit workplace injury and promote efficient operations. Reasonable and consistent rules are needed to encourage repair and maintenance of power plants, and protect worker safety. Too often, important work is delayed due to the uncertainty of the regulatory and permitting process. Power-generating facilities operate most efficiently when they undertake repair and replacement projects on a regular basis. The varying interpretations of the requirements of NSR often forces facilities to delay maintenance work for 12 to 36 months while they await EPA approval.

Further, the threat of litigation too often acts as a deterrent to capital investments that create work and maintain safe facilities for our members. Boilers operate under high temperatures and pressures – with superheater tubes exposed to flue gases at temperatures as high as 2,000 degrees and pressure around 3,000 lbs./square inch – and must be maintained in order to be safe for workers. While NSR can present obstacles to maintenance and repair, Clear Skies does not.

The good news about Clear Skies is that the program sets expectations that can be met with feasible technological applications. Our members training and expertise at installing pollution control technology is unmatched. However, applications that have not been tested across all fuel types and under actual operating conditions and for which there are no guarantees should not be the basis of clean air policy.

S. 131 also will prevent the litigation and delay associated with U.S. EPA rulemaking proceedings. The bill's approach to mercury emissions will avoid the need for a controversial EPA mercury rule, while ensuring the use of cost-effective emissions trading as the means to achieve a significant reduction of emissions. We specifically support the use of a "co-benefits" approach for the first phase of a mercury control program to enable more accurate measurements of the mercury control capabilities of existing technologies, and to allow time for advanced mercury-specific control technologies to mature in time to meet the final 2018 mercury cap.

Further, the caps, timetables, and incentives of the Clear Skies Act will result in high emissions reductions goals through the application of clean air technology, as opposed to fuel-switching. Sections 455 and 475 provide for early action reduction credits to encourage NOx and mercury reductions, respectively, through the application of technology, as opposed to fuel-switching. Certainly, the Boilermakers and the members of the United Mine Workers of America will realize significant benefits from the provisions, but the implications of widespread fuel-switching to costly natural gas would be devastating across the manufacturing sector. An important benefit of this legislation is that it will foster reliable and affordable electricity generated from coal. More than one-half of our nation’s electrical output is generated by coal. Reducing the use coal in our energy supply mix would inevitably result in increased demand in natural gas, a fundamental change in energy policy that raises important concerns about natural gas availability and cost.

The current regulatory framework has resulted in most new power generation facilities being gas-fired. With demand for natural gas spiking, and prices increasingly volatile, continuing down this path will have a devastating impact on American workers, as firms look to move operations overseas for cheaper natural gas prices. Under S. 131, any new coal plants will be included under the emissions cap and the clear path forward with regard to emission reductions requirements allows our employers improved investment planning, which contributes to reliable and affordable electricity generated from coal.

Our union also recognizes the needs of states and localities to comply with U.S. EPA’s new 8-hour ozone and fine particulate standards. The deadlines for compliance with these standards are approaching, and states are beginning to prepare State Implementation Plans. Computer modeling by U.S. EPA demonstrates that the reductions proposed by S. 131 would allow many states and localities to meet the new ozone and PM2.5 standards in a timely manner. Some areas, however, may not be able to demonstrate attainment with the new standards. For this reason, some states advocate adjustment of the bill’s final compliance deadlines for sulfur and nitrogen oxides. While we support the timetables established under S. 131, we note that reasonable adjustments of these final deadlines would not, in our judgment, raise issues about the availability of skilled labor to install and operate emission controls.

In conclusion, our union believes that among the greatest challenges this distinguished body is faced with is maintaining the competitiveness of American manufacturing in the global marketplace. Since its peak in 1998, the United States has lost more than 3 million manufacturing jobs. There is a palpable anxiety among working-families across the country. The International Brotherhood of Boilermakers is committed to providing the highly skilled labor necessary to power the American economy. We believe the legislation proposed by Senators Inhofe and Voinovich, S. 131 sets our electric-generating facilities on a path forward toward an affordable, stable, domestically-produced energy supply. I know our members look forward to continuing our role in this important debate.