BlueGreen Alliance | Colorado Ensures Good Jobs for Energy Infrastructure Projects

Colorado Ensures Good Jobs for Energy Infrastructure Projects

May 23, 2023

DENVER – Today Governor Jared Polis signed SB23-292, the Labor Requirements For Energy Sector Construction Act. This legislation was originally sponsored by Senators Steve Fenberg and Chris Hansen and Representatives Monica Duran and Shannon Bird.

The new law adds a category of energy sector public works projects to existing state prevailing wage law. Projects that:

  • receive over $500,000 of state, public utility, or rural electric co-op funding;

  • generate one or more megawatts of power; and

  • non-electric generation projects with a total cost of at least $1 million

now have the option to adhere to Colorado’s prevailing wage and apprenticeship standards or use a Project Labor Agreement when procuring an energy sector public works project. Similar prevailing wage laws have increased state and local tax revenue by tens of millions, including a $37 million increase in Minnesota and a $73 million increase in New York.

SB23-292 also outlines a clear pathway for the Colorado Public Utilities Commission to comply with existing state labor standards when awarding utility contracts. Projects that use federal Inflation Reduction Act tax credits or other federal programs are exempt from this process since these funding mechanisms already require prevailing wage and apprenticeship standards. Thus, the law will align the labor standards required at the state level with those already required on projects receiving federal funding. Aligning state and federal labor standards could encourage utility companies to take advantage of a 30% federal tax credit and pass savings onto their customers.

“As communities across our state transition to a clean energy economy, we need to do everything we can to support our workers,” said House Majority Leader Duran. “With this legislation, we’re uplifting apprenticeship programs that empower Coloradans to pursue careers in clean energy while paying our workers the higher, fairer wages they deserve. Our bill helps Colorado attract federal investments, increases wages for workers, creates more good-paying jobs, and creates pathways for our workers to secure careers in the communities they call home.”

“Colorado has always had a responsibility to ensure our infrastructure is built safely, efficiently, and with community buy-in,” said Rep. Bird. “The Labor Requirements For Energy Sector Construction Act makes quality labor standards law and gives our communities a voice in the projects that are built near their homes and businesses. These family-sustaining jobs will go to Colorado workers and train them to build careers around the state’s transition to cleaner energy.”

“SB292 provides clear guidance and direction for labor agreements in energy and public work projects and will have widespread impacts for Colorado’s workers and communities,” said Sen. Hansen. “Federal funding from the IRA will lead to billions of dollars in new investment in wind, solar, storage, electric charging infrastructure, and new climate technology that will accelerate our energy transition. This legislation will ensure that those projects will also bring quality jobs, great training opportunities, and uplift Colorado communities. This bill is vital to our energy work in Colorado, and I am excited to see it signed into law.”

“Colorado needs SB23-292 for good, clean jobs and better utility costs. For too long, the Public Utilities Commission has failed to comply with high-road labor standards for Colorado’s clean energy projects, depriving Colorado workers of the jobs they deserve,” said BlueGreen Alliance Colorado Policy Organizer Elena Santarella. “By adding in workforce requirements to energy project contracts, we are making sure that Colorado workers are prioritized in hiring and will receive family-sustaining wages. Not only is this a benefit to Coloradans, it is also what they prefer. Increasing wages for workers on energy projects is a law that Coloradans want and that we need to ensure we are keeping wages and benefits in state.”
“By aligning state labor standards with the requirements for receiving federal tax credits, utilities save big money and those savings are passed on to customers. As a result, this law has the potential to put more money in ratepayers’ pockets and increase wages—a win for Colorado workers and communities. With this legislation we can ensure our clean energy infrastructure is built safely and efficiently by a highly skilled workforce and Coloradan construction workers are paid a family sustaining wage. The BlueGreen Alliance is proud to support this legislation and its implementation,” Santarella added.