By Mike Brown, Assistant Business Manager, IBEW Local 77
I am a proud member and representative for IBEW Local Union 77, with over 8,000 members, including our union brothers and sisters who work in the utility gas industry for Avista. I’m also proud to join the more than 20 local labor and union organizations who have joined the Partnership for Energy Progress, a collaboration of utilities, workers, farmers, small and large businesses and community advocates communicating the work we do to provide reliable, affordable energy to homes and businesses in the Pacific Northwest.
IBEW Local 77 acknowledges that being good stewards of our environment is a fundamental component of the utility industry. We’re all part of the Spokane community and want to take good care of it for generations to come. And natural gas and its infrastructure are part of our clean energy future.
Natural gas is a reliable, efficient fuel source that is helping businesses and union workers stay at the forefront of new clean energy solutions, like renewable natural gas and renewable hydrogen. Avista recently announced it would be investing more in these new technologies to meet their emission reduction goals of 30% by 2030 and 100% by 2045.
Renewable natural gas is made from waste that would otherwise pollute our planet, and renewable hydrogen is created from excess wind and solar power. Both renewable fuels are delivered through our existing natural gas system. Our current natural gas infrastructure can be utilized with new fuel and not disrupt the workers and the communities we live in while still providing customers choice.
The natural gas industry employs nearly 2 million Americans. Affordable natural gas powers millions more families and businesses—like farmers, restaurants, grocers and hospitals right here in Washington and Oregon. Additionally, renewable gas projects are predicted to create 7.3 million jobs by 2050. These are family-wage jobs that come with education, healthcare and pensions.
IBEW Local 77 commends Spokane’s Sustainability Action Committee for evaluating options to deploy renewable natural gas, allowing utilities, like Avista, to continue to invest in cleaner, renewable energy that will retain the reliability and affordability people enjoy from natural gas. We must incentivize innovation and research in these new, clean solutions rather than limit options through arbitrary bans which would eliminate choice and put unnecessary burdens on an energy grid.
With the different climates in Washington and Oregon, we need multiple energy options, not a one-size-fits-all approach. Workers from unions like mine are prepared to provide support to energy customers as we transform natural gas infrastructure to renewable natural gas infrastructure. Brothers and sisters who agree are encouraged to join the Partnership for Energy Progress as we continue to work toward a clean energy future for all other humans now and in the future.
Mike Brown is assistant business manager of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 77 headquartered in Spokane, Washington.
This article was originally published in NW Labor Press.