Prove your humanity

The Pennsylvania House Democrats’ Blue Green Caucus is hoping 11 measures that bring together jobs and climate action will get traction in the General Assembly this session.

The efforts include giving more money to public transit, mandating prevailing wages for clean energy projects, and updating efficiency standards for appliances. Prevailing wage rates are set by the state Department of Labor and Industry based on workers’ job classification, where the work is done, collective bargaining agreements and other data.

Robert Bair, president of the Pennsylvania Building Trades Council, said labor and environmental groups can find common ground in these areas.

“There has to be compromise. There has to be a path forward. We do have to protect the climate. We have to protect jobs. And we have to put Pennsylvania first,” Bair said.

Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler (D-Philadelphia) said the lack of communication between environmental and labor groups has been a huge hurdle to passing legislation like this.

“That for me is some of the most exciting work we can do here in the capitol, is bring together groups of unlikely–unlikely partnerships and then fight as hard as we can to get stuff over the line,” Fiedler said.

Fiedler added there is momentum for clean energy measures because there is a lot of federal money available now to spend in Pennsylvania communities.

Three bills from the package have already passed the House with bipartisan support. They include a measure to expand energy efficiency programs to include insulation for mechanical systems, not just insulation around buildings; help schools finance solar projects; and allow community solar projects, which are small installations that people nearby can subscribe to. Community solar is a way for renters or people whose homes aren’t right for panels to get solar energy.

The Republican-controlled Senate has not yet taken up the measures. A spokesperson for the Senate Majority Leader did not return a request for comment on the bills.

Spokesman for Gov. Josh Shapiro, Manuel Bonder, said the administration supports the efforts.

“The Blue-Green Caucus’ legislative package would build on Governor Shapiro’s plan and help ensure Pennsylvania remains an energy leader for decades to come – creating thousands of good-paying jobs across the Commonwealth while cutting costs for consumers and addressing climate change,” Bonder said.