The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, November 04, 2016

News Briefs

By The Building Tradesman

Energy reform atop Lansing's agenda

LANSING - There aren't many days remaining in the 2016 legislative session, but there is growing confidence that a deal can get done that would institute energy reform legislation.

The building trades and others fear that if the reforms that are moving toward a consensus agreement are not put in place, the state's large utilities would be disinclined to continue investing in their Michigan-based power plants and other properties, potentially resulting in the loss of billions of dollars in construction work.

State Sen. Mike Nofs (R-Battle Creek) has a leading role in the energy reform legislative package, which is likely to be the first bill taken up when the state Legislature reconvenes on Nov. 9, according to the news service MIRS.

The influential Michigan Chamber of Commerce signaled its approval of the package. "Although this bill is not perfect, it is a fair and balanced compromise that addresses three key issues to our satisfaction: sustaining customer choice; competitive bidding; and improving reliability," says a memo from the Chamber to lawmakers.

Nofs said "many others" are piling onto the support list and that he believes the support demonstrates the bills' strength as "good public policy." Among those on board are the state's two largest utilities, DTE Energy and Consumers Energy, and the Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council.

The wide ranging legislation would increases the state's renewable portfolio standards from 10 percent to 15 percent by 2021, continue limited deregulation of utilities with limited energy choice for consumers, and guarantee a competitive bidding process for electricity generation.

The primary concern of the building trades regarding the legislation is that a law allowing excessive customer choice will drive electrical generation plants - and the maintenance and upgrade jobs they provide - out of state.

Can union advocates accompany OSHA?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration wants union advocates to go along with an inspector at a Nissan North America Inc. auto plant in Mississippi, but the company is fighting the effort in federal court, according to the Union Labor Report.

OSHA initially tried to inspect the plant Aug. 8, following a report from Nissan that a worker had three fingers amputated, court records show. At the request of more than 30 plant workers, OSHA said, it wanted two committee representatives to be with the inspector while working conditions were examined.

Although a magistrate judge from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi approved the warrant Sept. 1, Nissan asked the court to quash it and on Sept. 19 the court issued an order staying the inspection until it rules on the auto manufacturer's motion.

At issue is whether the automaker must allow two representatives of the Nissan Workers Organizing Committee, a group affiliated with the United Auto Workers, to be with an OSHA compliance officer during the plant inspection. The two representatives are Nissan employees; however, neither serves on any plant safety committee, according to the company.

A 2013 OSHA letter of interpretation said inspectors may allow worker representatives at nonunion worksites to accompany them during inspections. The workers committee has tried for several years to unionize the 6,400-employee plant in Canton, Miss., where Nissan assembles Titan pickup trucks and other vehicles. The Obama administration has supported the group.