Labor and Environmentalists Unite to Bring Green Jobs to Kansas

With Kansas standing to gain more than 11,000 manufacturing jobs in renewable energy, local labor unions, community and farm organizations, and environmental groups came together to form a Kansas chapter of the BlueGreen Alliance.

January 8, 2009

Photo from Green Jobs Kansas eventKansas BlueGreen Alliance forms to highlight thousands of new jobs in the clean energy economy

Kansas stands to gain more than 11,000 family-supporting manufacturing jobs in the renewable energy industry, according to a recent report from the Renewable Energy Policy Project (REPP), a nonprofit, nonpartisan policy research organization based in Washington, DC.

The report, which projects $1.97 billion dollars of investment, spurred local labor unions, community and farm organizations, and environmental groups to form a Kansas chapter of the BlueGreen Alliance.

The newly-formed Kansas BlueGreen Alliance is an uncommon partnership born of a common goal: to realize the enormous opportunities of a renewable energy economy for Kansas. Partners including the United Steelworkers, the Communication Workers of America District 6, Kansas AFL-CIO, The Land Institute, Kansas Rural Center, Kansas Farmers Union, the Great Plains Alliance for Clean Energy, Sierra Club, Greenpeace, and other local unions and community groups will work together to promote programs and policies that create a green economy in the state.

“Some of the biggest issues facing Kansas – rising unemployment due to a struggling economy, our overdependence on imported fuels, and global climate change- can be tackled all at once,” said Emil Ramirez, of the United Steelworkers, and partner in the Kansas Blue Green Alliance. “In November alone, more than 530,000 Americans lost their jobs.”

The REPP report found that more than 425 existing Kansas firms could manufacture component parts for renewable energy technologies. Counties poised to benefit most from development of wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass resources include Saline, Johnson, Sedgwick, Ellis and Wyandotte.

“Our goal is to ensure that as the U.S. moves to develop renewable sources of energy, Kansas workers are positioned to reap the benefits,” said AJ Villegas, representative for the Communications Workers of America.

A renewable energy economy in Kansas would draw upon and expand the existing manufacturing base in the state, helping to offset the 11,000 manufacturing jobs lost between January ’01 and June ’07. “This is recovery for Main Street,” said Nancy Jackson, executive director of the Climate & Energy Project of The Land Institute.

Constructing wind projects for example, creates jobs for sheet metal workers, machinists, electricians, operating engineers, laborers, and truck drivers.

“Kansas workers would also be employed retrofitting homes, businesses and commercial buildings with high-efficiency heating and cooling systems and insulation, and creating the next generation of fuel-efficient vehicles,” said Scott Allegrucci, executive director of the Great Plains Alliance for Clean Energy (GPACE).

“For example, Kansas City Kansas GM Fairfax plant builds hybrid BAS (Battery Alternator System) technology vehicles in the Chevrolet Malibu and Saturn Aura. This project will present a great opportunity to further General Motors alternative propulsion (hydrogen fuel cell electric) vehicles in Kansas,” said Jeff Manning, President of local UAW 31.

“The development of a renewable energy economy in Kansas will use our abundant wind resource to produce clean energy – increasing our energy independence while protecting the health and environment of Kansas citizens,” said Stephanie Cole of the Sierra Club.

“We can work together to provide good, family-supporting jobs – helping future generations of Kansans to enjoy good careers close to home,” said Donn Teske, President of Kansas Farmers’ Union.

“Farmers and rural people want to own wind turbines. Labor and urban people want to build and install them.  Consumers want renewable energy. The prevailing business models serving our energy needs have been overtaken by events.  We need a revival of the entrepreneurial spirit in the Kansas business community that recognizes the opportunity before us,” said Dan Nagengast, Executive Director of the Kansas Rural Center.

“Our mission is to engage our multi-cultural society in a positive manner which empowers individuals to collaborate and promote ideas and activities which focus on building an accessible sustainable earth community that honors and preserves people and the environment,” said Richard Mabion, community activist with Building a Sustainable Earth Community.

The Kansas BlueGreen Alliance is a state chapter of the national partnership of the United Steelworkers, Communications Workers of America, Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club — two of North America’s largest private sector manufacturing unions and two of the nation’s largest environmental organizations. It promotes programs and policies that result in the development of the green economy.

Partners in the Kansas BlueGreen Alliance include:

Climate and Energy Project (CEP)
The Sierra Club
Great Plains Alliance for Clean Energy (GPACE)
Kansas Rural Center
Greenpeace
United Steelworkers
Communication Workers of America
UAW – Local 31
Kansas AFL-CIO
Kansas Farmers Union
Building a Sustainable Earth Community
Kansas City Jobs with Justice