The WSLC and its affiliated unions are working to center quality job creation in clean-energy policies.
OLYMPIA (May 24, 2023) — This year, the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO and its affiliated unions made the creation of quality climate jobs one of the top priorities in the WSLC’s 2023 legislative agenda. As Washington state continues to lead the nation on clean-energy policies, our state’s labor movement wants to make sure the Legislature embraces the concept that jobs in this sector should be good-paying union jobs.
Those legislative efforts were successful on multiple fronts, and less than a month after Gov. Jay Inslee signed some climate jobs bills into law, they are already paying dividends. Dutch company SkyNRG announced last week that — largely due to two labor-backed bills that just passed — it has chosen Washington state to locate a new $800 million plant to produce sustainable aviation fuel.
The Legislature approved HB 1216, sponsored by Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (D-West Seattle), to improve the siting and permitting for clean-energy projects, processes that recently have hindered the construction of the infrastructure necessary to achieve our state’s climate policy goals. Lawmakers also approved SB 5447, sponsored by Sen. Andy Billig (D-Spokane), creating tax incentives for new investments in alternative jet fuel production in the state.
The WSLC’s Legislative Department — which includes Government Affairs Director Sybill Hyppolite, Legislative Director John Traynor, Chief of Staff Joe Kendo, and Administrative Assistant Laurel Poplack — joined the Washington State Building and Construction Trades Council (WSBCTC), Machinists (IAM) District Council 751, and multiple other unions in supporting these bills’ passage.
In announcing its decision on the new biogas plant, SkyNRG CEO Philippe Lacamp told the Seattle Times that these two bills were what tipped the scales for Washington. He expects the plant to be operational by 2028 or 2029. Its construction will provide about 600 jobs, and running it thereafter will provide about 100 permanent new jobs.
A representative of the Boeing Co., which also supported the legislation, told the Times that IAM District 751 President Jon Holden played a strong role in convincing the Legislature to support the bills.
“Machinists District 751 was proud to support SB 5447 because it keeps workers at the forefront of efforts to incentivize climate solutions in our industry,” Holden said. “With the announcement that SkyNRG will be making this investment in our state, we will continue to advocate for training that provides our workforce with a path to family-wage careers in the clean-energy economy.”
Likewise, WSBCTC Executive Secretary Mark Riker stressed the importance of centering workers in legislative efforts to meet Washington’s clean-energy goals.
“Washington’s building trades cannot overstate the importance of making sure that any jobs in jeopardy of being lost during the transition away from fossil-fuel energy production must be replaced with local quality family-wage careers,” Riker said. “We think that both HB 1216 and SB 5447 will help us achieve those job-creation goals and we were pleased to support them.”
Prompted by the Biden administration’s aggressive goal to produce three billion gallons of sustainable aviation fuel by 2030 and 35 billion gallons by 2050, SkyNRG decided to build its first U.S. SAF production facility somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. Now the company has chosen Washington, although it has yet to decide where in the state it will be located, pending consultation with various communities.
“This is what we hoped would happen,” Sen. Billig told the Times. “It’s rewarding to see this bill pay dividends for the state so quickly.”
WSLC Wednesdays is a feature of The Stand where different departments of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO describe their recent activities and the services they are providing to WSLC-affiliated unions.