As the 2020 legislative session wound to a close, California lawmakers were presented with a unique, time-limited opportunity to put people back to work in good union jobs, building new clean vehicle infrastructure and making essential school improvements – while simultaneously protecting students, teachers and parents from the spread of COVID-19.
AB 841 (Ting), backed by IBEW 1245, the California State Association of Electrical Workers, and more than 70 other organizations, will create many sorely needed clean-energy jobs by streamlining the approval process for investments in EV charging stations – and those investments will go directly towards installation and maintenance work that is traditionally performed by IBEW members. Increasing EV charging usage will also put downward pressure on electric rates, which helps stabilize the overall utility industry, and a study by Synapse Energy Economics found that hundreds of millions in net revenue from EV drivers can actually help to save ratepayers money. The CPUC has been slow to approve these projects, but AB 841 rectifies that, creating new IBEW-represented jobs right away.
AB 841 would also help prevent COVID 19 in the classroom by making urgently needed upgrades to HVAC systems in schools most in need, as recommended by health agencies. Poor ventilation is a systemic problem in California schools, according to a recent report by the UC Davis Western Cooling Efficiency Center and the Indoor Environment Group of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, exposing students and teachers to wildfire smoke, carbon dioxide — and now COVID.
Additionally, AB 841 will also ensure our children have access to clean drinking water. State law requires commercial and residential buildings to replace old, inefficient plumbing fixtures. However, this requirement does not apply to public schools. AB 841 would replace these fixtures with new, more efficient ones to reduce lead in our children’s drinking water and save six billion gallons of water a year.
“Making these efficiency improvements will lead to long-term savings for schools, freeing up funds to invest in students, while conserving water and energy, and slashing climate pollution,” California’s state superintendent of public instruction, Tony Thurmond, wrote in an op-ed in the Sacramento Bee.
And AB 841 does it all at no cost to the taxpayer, by temporarily redirecting unspent IOU energy efficiency funds to create a grant program for schools to repair and replace HVAC systems and water fixtures. The program gives priority to low-income schools and mandates a trained workforce to properly install and repair systems.
AB 841 passed out of the state legislature just moments before the end of the session, thanks to support from a diverse coalition of labor unions, public health organizations, green energy advocates, climate scientists, policy experts and business groups. Gov. Newsom signed the bill into law on Sept. 30.
“Many Californians are struggling right now, and we need job creation,” Assemblymember Phil Ting, the author of AB 841, said in a statement. “My bill jumpstarts projects that can begin in a matter of months and pay good wages, providing stability to families and helping the state’s economic recovery.”
“AB 841 is a win-win for our union, for our children, for out-of-work Californians, for our environment, and for our economy,” said Local 1245 Business Manager Tom Dalzell. “We are proud to have been part of the effort to pass this important, common-sense legislation, and we applaud Gov. Newsom for signing this bill into law.”