Gas Pipeline

The Left’s Obsession With Job-Killing “Green” Policies Is Bringing It Into Conflict With One of Its Most Important Voting Blocs

DCNF(DCNF)—A powerful labor union in deep-blue Illinois is campaigning against the pause on an initiative to replace gas pipes in Chicago and putting pressure on Democrats across the state, according to E&E News.

The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) opted to suspend a multi-billion dollar effort to upgrade thousands of miles of gas lines in Chicago, prompting the politically-connected International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 to push back against what it perceives to be a job-killing decision made in pursuit of a broader climate agenda, according to E&E News. The union’s 510(c)(4) organization has run advertisements in the Chicago area urging residents to call on “(Democratic Illinois) Gov. (J.B.) Pritzker and the ICC to decarbonize the right way.”

“We’re not against anything in terms of having a greener future,” International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 spokeswoman Kristine Kavanagh told E&E News. “It’s more, how are we proceeding with that?”

While the union is dissatisfied with the ICC’s decision on gas lines, its members have benefited from projects constructing solar and geothermal energy projects, Kavanagh also told E&E News. The decision to suspend funding for the gas line replacement initiative could imperil work opportunities for more than 1,000 union laborers, including 200 or so affiliated with the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150.

Pritzker’s administration has run its own advertisements countering those sponsored by the local, characterizing his administration’s policy on the gas line upgrade program as a win for consumers against interests seeking to hike their utility bills, according to E&E News.

The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 and other Illinois unions interpret the ICC’s decision to suspend funding for the Chicago gas line upgrade project as part of a broader political agenda to eventually get rid of nearly all gas infrastructure in the coming years, according to E&E News. The leader of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), a major labor organization with political influence of its own, has written to the ICC and asked the commission to reconsider its choice to suspend funding for the gas pipe upgrade initiative.

The conflict over the gas line upgrade program is playing out while the Chicago City Council is working on a new municipal ordinance that would essentially outlaw natural gas in most new construction projects, according to E&E News. Democratic Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson has thrown his support behind the so-called “Clean and Affordable Buildings Ordinance” despite pushback from labor and Peoples Gas, the city’s major utility provider.

Natural gas lines and emissions from buildings are blind spots in the state’s Climate and Equitable Jobs Act, Pritzker’s flagship climate bill that he signed into law in 2021, according to E&E News. While the dispute over the gas line program has become somewhat hostile, labor unions and elected Democrats have mostly been on the same page with respect to other key aspects of the law.

Meanwhile, Illinois Democratic House Floor Leader Jay Hoffman is working to require the ICC to factor in the impacts that decisions regarding utility orders could have on labor unions when making such choices going forward, according to E&E News.

The tension in Illinois is the latest example of conflict between organized labor and Democrats’ climate policies. In 2023, the major United Auto Workers (UAW) strike was motivated in part by electric vehicle (EV) production — which the Biden administration is pushing aggressively with substantial market regulation and subsidies — while labor unions in California have pushed back against bills instituting buffer zones for oil wells and mandate corporate emissions disclosures for large companies, according to E&E News.

Pritzker’s office and Johnson’s office did not respond immediately to requests for comment.

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