SMART Leadership Conference fireside chat with Sec. Buttigieg
DOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson, and SMART General President Michael Coleman.

The 2023 SMART Leadership Conference concluded Wednesday, Aug. 2. The joint session featured a wide variety of pro-labor speakers and allies from Congress, the Biden administration and beyond, demonstrating the strength of our union’s relationships as we work to seize this moment of opportunity.

SMART Army award winners honored for practicing union values

Each year, SMART awards the Joseph J. Nigro SMART Army award to local union members who dedicate themselves to building their local SMART Armies and serving their union – and their communities.

A SMART-TD member and two sheet metal members from Canada and California were the latest honorees to be recognized by General President Michael Coleman.

TD Local 1409 SMART Army Award winner Dan Bonawitz

The first recipient, SMART-TD Local 1409’s (Kansas City, Kansas) Dan Bonawitz, Jr., accepted the honor with modesty, and he admitted he had some embarrassment at being singled out for his activism in safety, organizing for our union and helping honor fallen heroes.

The TD National Safety Team Alternate Director for the East Region and local legislative representative declared that it’s not an individual honor, but one that came as a result of the support system that the union provides, from his local level on up to the national headquarters.

“Nothing happens without an entire army, an entire team. I may be the schmuck up here speaking before you, but this is a collective effort,” he said, running down a long list of local, state and national officers and staff who helped reinforce and uplift his efforts.

GP Coleman presented Bonawitz with a railroad spike to symbolize his constant efforts to promote safety and bring together members of his local union.

Next, Coleman introduced sheet metal award winners Jeff Lind of SM Local 280 (British Columbia, Canada), and Manuel Zapata of SM Local 105 (Los Angeles, Calif.)

SMART Local 280 SMART Army Award winner Jeff Lind

Lind, who helped create and craft the Local 280 SMART Army, has made the SMART Army both a place for members to come together and a place of service. Among the projects were the fabrication of metal tables for the local Meals on Wheels, volunteering for events like the Terry Fox Run for cancer research and much more.

“It’s an honor to accept this award, but really this is all about the membership of Local 280,” Lind said, thanking local leadership, his fellow Local 280 sisters and brothers and the members and leaders of SMART Canada.

Zapata, a longtime servant of Local 105, is the creator and leader of Autism Spectrum Athletics, a community organization in Los Angeles that provides a safe space for kids and families to play and socialize.

The organization started with 30 kids — it now has more than 140 participants playing sports including baseball, basketball, bowling, flag football and soccer.

“Brother Zapata exemplifies the values of our organization,” Coleman said.

“It’s an honor to be here, I’m truly humbled to be given this award. As a sheet metal worker, I’m as proud as I can be,” Zapata said, thanking Local 105, his wife and children while accepting his award.

SMART Local 105 SMART Army Award winner Manuel Zapata

Following the SMART Army award presentation, SM Local 100 Business Manager Richie Labille joined GP Coleman for a truly inspiring announcement and demonstration of our union’s solidarity.

“I am proud to announce that the Maryland Special Olympics will receive $173,582 from us,” Coleman declared.

As a token of appreciation, Special Olympics of Maryland Global Ambassador and Coach Tim Gowen presented General President Coleman and Labille with medals.

Visitors from Congress, Biden administration Cabinet

The joint session’s first visitor was pro-labor U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania, who has worked to prioritize infrastructure funding and union jobs at the state and federal levels.

“I’ve been with you all along, you’ve been with me all along, so we have a very good partnership,” Dean said.

Dean, who is in her third term representing Pennsylvania’s fourth district, noted the extraordinary opportunity at hand to invest in America and do so by using union labor. Dean was instrumental in passing three transformation laws over the last several years: the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act. Those laws, she explained, will define America’s future: Updating our country’s infrastructure to build climate resiliency, investing in manufacturing to meet the demands of modern technology and more. Union labor, she said, will be essential for implementing all the investments in that federal legislation.

Congresswoman Madeleine Dean

“These huge investments are reaching communities across the country, and that’s where we work with you,” she said.

“Those three bills are important to our nation and to how we will leave the world,” she added. “Your devotion to country, to your families is and has been good for America. It inspires me and my own work. I am grateful for the continued strength and contribution of America’s labor unions as we reimagine and reinvest in America’s future.”

Next, GP Coleman and Transportation Division President Jeremy R. Ferguson welcomed U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg for the Leadership Conference’s first-ever “fireside chat,” during which the secretary answered questions from both presidents, engaging in a candid conversation on how the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law invests in transportation and union jobs; how our bus and transit operators need better on-the-job protections; and more.

Buttigieg described the test that faces both the Department of Transportation and the labor movement as funding continues to flow in from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Passing the bill was one thing, he noted, but implementing and performing the work is the key. It’s an opportunity to reverse decades of disinvestment in our country and an opportunity to put skilled tradespeople to work.

Secretary Buttigieg with members of Local 20, Indiana TD SLD Kenny Edwards and Michigan TD SLD Don Roach.

“Part of the idea was to create good-paying union jobs that are going to be the foundation of middle-class lives and livelihoods in the years ahead,” Buttigieg said. “This is a big test. Getting the bill done was one test. Now the bill got passed and the president signed it, we spent most of the last year expanding on these programs, including 45 major programs just at the DOT alone — some of them multi-billion-dollar programs.”    

Coleman also asked Buttigieg about the work being created by federal funding – HVAC retrofitting, indoor air quality and more – and which organizations local unions should get in touch with to secure that work.

Federal funding from agencies like the Department of Transportation is often implemented by local bodies, from state governments to local airport authorities, and Buttigieg said that DOT is working closely with fellow agencies, like the Department of Labor and the EPA, to ensure that federal funding is creating good-paying, union jobs for SMART members.

“America is expecting a lot from all of us. Not only from this administration, but from the skilled trades in order to actually get these things done,” Buttigieg said. “This is an infrastructure decade, which means people can plan a career and plan to educate their kids and buy that house, and in that sense, we’re just getting started.”

President Ferguson asked Buttigieg about the ever-expanding length of trains on the railroad, and what DOT is doing to mitigate the effects of that, especially after a ProPublica and InvestigateTV report showed videos of children risking their lives, moving between and crawling under stopped trains to get to school.

“You can’t help but notice these trains, two miles long … three miles long, four miles long,” Buttigieg said. “Common sense tells you this is going to have an impact.”

To measure just what sort of impact, DOT is putting resources toward data collection and improving or eliminating rail crossings and more, Buttigieg said.

FRA also has resumed work on implementing a two-person crew law, opting not to wait for Congress to act but to undertake the steps available at the federal agency level to procure information for any future rulemaking and/or enforcement, he added.

Incidents involving attacks on SMART bus members in North Carolina and California – and on other unionized transit workers and bus operators – have escalated in their ferocity and frequency. Ferguson asked Buttigieg to describe what steps DOT is taking to protect bus and transit operators nationwide.

“The definition of an essential worker is one who makes it possible for other essential workers to get to work,” Buttigieg said. “We counted on transit operators in a way that was very visible during the first days of COVID. None of these assaults are acceptable.”

DOT, Buttigieg said, is working with local transit agencies and helping develop a regulatory process that would empower workers in the process of developing safety protocols that protect operators.

“It is a danger to the operators, it’s a danger to the traveling public,” Buttigieg said. “We are not going to let this go until there are zero assaults.”

Finally, Ferguson read a question submitted by a SMART-TD member, who asked what DOT is doing to gather information from workers and to address safety concerns on the railroad.

Buttigieg, noting that the last presidential administration’s rulemaking process included scant input from workers, urged the Transportation Division and its members to continue taking advantage of procedural measures like public commenting on notices of proposed rulemaking. He also listed steps DOT is taking to ensure commitment from the Class I carriers to participate in the Confidential Close Call Reporting System (3CRS) and to enforce that commitment, and said his agency has been ordered to actively seek labor’s input through open dialogue.

“All of that connective tissue in an administration that, not that I wouldn’t do this anyway, has very clear directions from the very top to make sure we never miss an opportunity to get the input, the views and concerns of workers into all of our processes, official and informal, so we really understand safety from the people who have the most at stake and the people who know the best,” he said.

Educating future workers

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona spoke next, addressing how the Department of Education partnered with SMART on issues like indoor air quality and reopening schools in the midst of the pandemic. He also talked about how the Department of Education is shifting focus away from the idea that a four-year undergraduate degree is the only path forward for young people.

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona

“Union workers don’t just get the job done. They get the job done right. That’s because union workers are highly skilled workers,” Cardona said. 

Echoing Rep. Dean, Cardona pointed out that the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Inflation Reduction Act and the CHIPS and Science Act are creating millions of jobs, including for SMART members, and the country is going to need skilled people to fill them.

“We have a job tsunami on the horizon. Career opportunities that will support families, strengthen communities, and fuel America’s competitiveness for decades to come,” he said. “If we don’t prepare our young people for these careers – then shame on us! If we don’t fundamentally change our high schools to make sure we have pathways to these high skill-high paying careers, then we are failing our kids.”

SMART, Cardona noted, is already doing the work by partnering with high schools and CTEs everywhere from Idaho to Georgia to bring young people into the trade.

Cardona pledged to lead a Department of Education that partners with organized labor to continue that progress; that creates pipelines into the trades that benefit SMART, students and communities as they work to transform U.S. high schools and treat trade education and college as options of equal weight to grow a future career.

Labor secretaries past and current

Former U.S. Labor Secretary and National Hockey League Players Association Executive Director Marty Walsh next received a warm welcome as a fellow member of the labor movement. Walsh gave two shout-outs to start his speech: General President Emeritus Joseph Sellers, and Local 17 President Robert Butler, who, Walsh said, “has been with me in every race I’ve ever run.”

Former Labor Secretary Marty Walsh

He also offered his condolences for the passing of General Vice President John D. Whitaker III and TD General Chairperson Gerald Wallace, noting that any loss to our union family is a tragic one.

Walsh then got into the meat of his speech, which focused primarily on one theme: Elections have consequences. There’s nothing more important, he said, than making sure elected officials support union workers, understand our value, understand what we do and act on our behalf. That’s how pro-labor policy is made – and that’s how we create an economy that works for SMART members.

“The labor movement is the greatest force for economic justice that’s ever existed,” Walsh said.

As Labor Secretary, he added, he was proud to work for a pro-labor administration in President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

The American Rescue Plan, he said, put working families back on the job and reopened the economy. While the last presidential administration talked about passing an infrastructure bill, this one actually did it with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The CHIPS Act is bringing manufacturing back home – when fully implemented, Walsh noted, it will create hundreds of thousands of new jobs. And the Inflation Reduction Act is creating green energy jobs to combat the climate crisis and lower costs for working families.

All of that can only happen, he reiterated, when unions work with pro-labor elected officials to make it happen.

“We stand on the shoulders of the founders of our local unions,” Walsh said. “It’s our obligation to continue what they started so the next generation has the same opportunity. That’s why elections matter.”

During his time as labor secretary, Walsh said, the Department of Labor worked to make sure labor protections, the right to join a union, project labor agreements and pathways to the trades were included in federal investments.

“We’re investing in today’s union jobs. We’re investing in tomorrow’s union jobs, and we’re investing in our retirees as well,” Walsh said.

Unemployment has been brought down to levels not seen since the 1960s. That strategy is part of a move away from decades of trickle-down economics, replaced by an economy built from the bottom up and the middle out, he said.

“We didn’t get a drop of the trickle,” Walsh said. “And only because organized labor was able to save what was left of the middle class, otherwise we wouldn’t have a middle class in this country.”

Now, he said, union members need to spread the message far and wide – both to their communities and to their fellow members – to make sure working families are voting for candidates who act on their behalf.

Finally, he talked about the importance of confirming Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su.

“I want you to know that she has your back, just like I had your back. Brothers and sisters, I will always stand with you,” he concluded.  

Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su

Su was next up in the joint session, with GP Coleman declaring: “We will not rest until she has won her confirmation as labor secretary in the U.S. Senate.”

Su stated that she was here, with SMART and in her place at the Department of Labor, to finish the good work that she and Secretary Walsh started. To demonstrate the importance of a union career, she told the story of recently retired Local 28 member Leah Rambo, who now works in the Department of Labor Women’s Bureau.

“Leah’s career as a SMART sheet metalworker gave her a life she couldn’t have imagined for herself — homeownership, pension, a pathway to middle class,” Su said. “Today, I am so proud to work alongside Leah at the Department of Labor, where she is part of our women’s bureau and pays it forward every single day by making sure we are connecting people, including women, to jobs across the country.”

As the entire theme of this conference demonstrates, these are historic times, she said. But federal investments don’t turn into good, union jobs by accident – that’s the work that the Department of Labor and unions like SMART must perform to build an economy that is truly pro-worker.

At the DOL, Su said, that takes several forms. First — empowering and educating workers in everything the department does, putting workers at the center of the agenda, supporting workers’ rights to organize and the collective bargaining process.

“We see workers’ ability to demand more at the bargaining table not as a threat, but as a critical tool to advance and build a strong economy,” she said.

Second — equity. Embedding equity in everything the department does, including in the federal investments going out.

Third — Enforcement. Using every tool available at the DOL to combat wage theft, protect pensions, and more. Part of that work, Su noted, is having the department update Davis-Bacon laws, for the first time in 40 years.

“Marty started that, now we’re going to finish it,” she declared.

Su’s mission, she said, is to fundamentally change the American workforce so that everyone can get ahead; so that every community has the opportunity to gain a pathway into the middle class.

“We need to build the bridge from poverty to prosperity … the bridge that families need to the middle class,” she said. “This is our time, this is your time, so let’s build together.”

Commerce and climate crisis poised to define future jobs

Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves

Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves visited the joint session to update attendees on the work that the Department of Commerce is doing to help create an economy for and by working people.

“There’s great things happening all across the country,” he said. “As you all know, the work of you and your members is integral to the infrastructure of our country.”

The Biden administration’s “Investing in America” agenda is making the once-in-a-generation investments that we should have been making for decades, Graves said.

“We believe that SMART members are going to be at the forefront of that work.”

Most people think of the Department of Commerce as the Department of Business. Under this administration, he explained, it’s the “Department of People, Communities, and American Workers.” Along with Secretary Raimondo, Graves added, he is working to distribute billions of dollars in federal funding with the goal of American competitiveness – so SMART members, union workers and communities thrive. CHIPS funding alone, he noted, will spur hundreds of billions of dollars in private capital investment, creating thousands of union jobs and sparking the recruitment and retention of a diverse skilled workforce.

“The construction jobs we’re going to create are going to change lives.”

Under President Biden’s direction, he said, the Department of Commerce is calling on companies and contractors to work with unions, requiring companies to submit workforce development plans that allow workers the freedom to organize.

“Every project using these funds needs to pay prevailing wages,” Graves declared, adding that the Department of Commerce will continue to work with SMART moving ahead. “Thank you for your leadership, thank you for your partnership, and thank you for pushing us.”

White House Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi

The joint session’s final speaker was White House Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi, who discussed the progress that SMART has made in making it known that green jobs – like those in energy efficiency and public transit – are real jobs and good, union jobs that tackle the climate crisis while bringing people into the middle class.

“This is the essential part of the transformation that we seek,” he said. “We’ve got the solutions – now we’ve got the workers that will build those electric buses that will hit the road across the country. … It’s because of your membership that we’re able to get that done, not just in a way that deploys that technology, but in a way that builds it in the United States.”

If we only go from a dirty energy economy to a clean energy economy, we will have missed the moment, Zaidi said. We can’t just lift ourselves to a clean energy economy. This has to be a moment where we lift up the middle class and inspire a manufacturing renaissance.

“Folks, we’re doing that,” he declared, citing the 800,000 manufacturing jobs created by the Biden administration. “You all are the engine that’s driving us forward to not just a strong economy, but a clean energy economy.”

There are huge workforce needs in the clean energy space, Zaidi said, pointing to the work that SMART is doing to diversify and expand the pool of workers being brought into our union.

By growing the labor movement and combating the climate crisis simultaneously, he concluded, we can create a green energy future that works for all.

“I’m so optimistic about our chances, because you are the ones on the front lines.”

Then, for the last time, sheet metal and Transportation Division union leaders parted ways, bringing an end to joint activity at a productive and educational leadership conference.

Read about the sheet metal session here.

The 2023 SMART Leadership Conference’s final sheet metal session, like the joint session, brought an array of pro-labor guests to union leaders, solidifying our union’s relationship with figures in the Biden administration and beyond. Then, conference attendees heard department reports from officers in the International, laying the informational groundwork for the work that lies ahead.

Guest speakers show strength of important relationships

Helmets to Hardhats Executive Director Martin Helms took the stage to begin the sheet metal session, where he urged local union leaders to take advantage of Helmets to Hardhats’ (H2H) system and bring veterans into our trade. SMART is one of the leading affiliates in recruiting veterans, Helms said, pointing to a recent success story out of SM Local 18 (Wisconsin). Nonetheless, he challenged us to do better, making use of H2H, the GI bill and other resources to strengthen our union AND help our veterans.

H2H Executive Director Martin Helms speaks to union sheet metal leaders
Helmets to Hardhats Executive Director Martin Helms

“There’s nothing better than when you get to change people’s lives and pass that on,” Helms said. “Please get in contact with us to pay it forward.”

Sheet metal leaders were next joined by General Services Administration (GSA) Administrator Robin Carnahan, who has led GSA’s efforts on initiatives including indoor air quality in federal buildings and project labor agreements on federal projects that cost more than $35 million.

Carnahan has a long history of working with SMART and labor leaders, dating from her time as the Missouri secretary of state. She used her speech to describe what GSA does: Essentially, delivering on the Biden administration’s agenda of investing in America, whether managing the country’s largest portfolio of buildings or buying and managing power. That makes GSA a crucial partner for unions like SMART as we look to seize this moment.

GSA Administrator Robin Carnahan

GSA, Carnahan said, is working to modernize facilities across the country, creating good-paying, union jobs across the country.

“Thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, we are investing in sustainable building materials, updating HVAC systems and improving indoor air quality in building systems,” she declared – all of which create opportunities for SMART members.

GSA estimates that its investments alone will create 15,000 jobs. Carnahan listed some of the specific initiatives that GSA is working on, including upgrading border crossing facilities – which will create 6,000 jobs at the northern and southern borders, including on HVAC work. GSA is also investing billions of dollars in sustainable building practices, such as funding for HVAC and heat pumps, and the agency is “laser-focused” on implementing President Biden’s executive order on project labor agreements.

“Through these once-in-a-generation investments, we have the money and momentum to improve America’s infrastructure, bolster our economy, and support healthier communities,” she said. “We are going to need a lot of well-trained SMART members on projects all across the country.”

GSA and SMART have a lot of work to do together, Carnahan added, to fulfill a “win-win” situation for both GSA and union members. That means making sure local unions know how to find pipelines to work on GSA projects, collaborating to enforce prevailing wage for federal contractors and more.

“Once again we are witnessing this moment where organized labor is stepping up to lead the country,” she concluded. “Organized labor is providing the people we need to make these investments in America – organized labor is recruiting, funding and training the next generation of American workers. We need to tell that story more.

“Let’s get to work!”

EPA Administrator Michael Regan

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan was the final speaker to join the sheet metal session, where he emphasized the challenge – and the golden opportunity – presented by the climate crisis.

“I want to express my gratitude for your tireless efforts to protect and empower workers across this country,” Regan said. “Your work on innovative technologies and advocating for strong climate legislation is impacting working people across the country.”

As climate change continues to impact our nation and our world, he continued, we have a chance to rebuild America with clean energy jobs – putting people to work and spurring economic growth through investments in clean energy. Funding from federal legislation like the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is putting union members on the job strengthening our climate resiliency. The Inflation Reduction act, he added, unlocks a surge of incentives to spark private investment and create hundreds of thousands of union jobs.

“At EPA we know that if we want a clean economy, we must invest in workers who will carry out this transition,” Regan explained. “We’re pushing ourselves to think ambitiously about creating high-quality jobs for a diverse set of Americans.”

There are tens of millions of dollars flowing to communities to improve indoor air quality across the country, he noted, and billions of dollars to help school districts switch to EV buses – many of which are made by SMART members. And EPA has updated its master grant terms and conditions to make clear that anyone who receives a grant from EPA will not use EPA funds to oppose union organizing. That, Regan said, is all part of EPA’s holistic focus on working with labor to create our green energy future.

“We need to hear from you, we need to lean on you, and we need to continue to work alongside you,” Regan concluded. “Addressing the climate crisis is a massive undertaking, but it’s also an opportunity. To protect our environment and to treat workers with dignity.”

Department reports illustrate SMART’s solid foundation

Louise Medina, director of special projects, took the stage to overview the department’s activities – which have been a massive success in a short period of time. Initiatives including the Recruitment and Retention Council, the SMART Women’s Committee, the BE4ALL Committee and the revamped SMART disaster relief system have helped our union take care of and protect members, advancing equity and belonging across our organization. That includes distributing bathroom kits, toolbox talks and the BE4ALL calendar, as well as creating websites for the Recruitment and Retention Council and the women’s committee.

Chris Paswisty, director of Canadian Affairs, provided attendees with an update on developments in Canada. SMART Canada represents sheet metal workers, roofers, architectural and building enclosure workers, production workers and dockyard & shipyard workers. Paswisty emphasized the need to put our members to work preparing for the ramifications of climate crisis. He updated attendees on progress made by SMART Canada to make sure architectural and building enclosure work is recognized as a Red Seal trade, as well as the work Canadian locals are performing to make sure stakeholders and politicians know: SMART members are the workers who can perform sheet metal, roofing and building enclosure work to keep Canadians safe.

“Our skills are in demand – let’s leverage that,” Paswisty declared. “The future depends on what we do today.”

Paswisty also detailed ongoing efforts to bring workers from all communities into SMART, as well as legislative victories including the Labour Mobility Tax Deduction, prevailing wage for Green Tax Credits, ant-scab legislation and more.

“We need all hands on deck,” he said. “We need to be telling stakeholders and politicians what we do – every single day. This is our time, brothers and sisters.”

Christy Foley – SMART manager of membership services – overviewed SMART’s scholarship fund and the work of the scholarship committee, explaining how local unions can get involved, thanking donors and playing a video of this year’s winner for best scholarship essay.

General President Coleman then thanked the SMART staff, the UNITE HERE Local 25 members who worked the conference, General President Joseph Sellers, General Secretary-Treasurer Joseph Powell, the General Executive Council and all participants in the conference.

“I want to thank you. A lot of you I know, some of you I just met,” Coleman said.

“We do great work. We change lives. How does it happen that that message gets lost?

“That’s what we do. We lift people up. So I say: Somehow, we still have enemies out there. They’ve knocked us down in the past, but we now have a level playing field. So I have a message to our enemies: mess around and find out. Because I’ve got your back, and you’ve got mine. It’s one fight, all fight.”

With that, General Secretary-Treasurer Powell and General President Coleman brought the conference to an end.


ATLANTA – The House Natural Resources Committee voted without opposition Thursday to a resolution urging the federal Environmental Protection Division to make its Clean Power Plan less stringent for Georgia.

Business and labor groups warned the plan would result in higher electricity rates and fewer jobs while environmental groups said compliance would trigger creation of different jobs and improve air quality.

Read the complete story at

pa_outlinePennsylvania State Legislative Director Paul Pokrowka is asking all SMART Transportation Division members from Pennsylvania to take action and contact the office of Gov. Tom Corbett, requesting he sign House Bill 2354 into law.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced the first ever regulation of carbon dioxide emissions for existing stationary sources (power plants). Under the preliminary EPA rule, Pennsylvania is given an emissions target to meet by 2030 and will be able to write its own implementation plan on how best to meet those reductions.

The legislation, which already has approval from both chambers of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, would require the state’s Department of Environmental Protection to receive approval from the General Assembly prior to submitting the plan to the EPA.
“This bill is important to our members because it helps to give us a voice in regulations concerning the coal industry,” Pokrowka said. “We need Corbett to sign this bill into law by Oct. 26 or the bill is dead in the water.”
Rep. Pam Snyder (D), who authored the bill said, “Pennsylvania deserves the opportunity to forge its energy future and protect electric ratepayers and jobs. The state legislature will be the final arbiter of how the commonwealth approaches greenhouse gas regulation. It is what we were elected to do, and leaving Pennsylvania’s energy destiny in the hands of unelected, unaccountable federal regulators would be irresponsible.”


SMART Transportation Division Georgia State Legislative Director Matt Campbell testified before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency July 29 in Atlanta, addressing the concerns of the union and its members regarding the agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan.

In its proposed rule, the EPA is proposing state-specific rate-based goals for carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector, as well as guidelines for states to follow in developing plans to achieve the state-specific goals.

The rule seeks to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from existing fossil fuel-fired power plants in the United States.

The EPA plan would reduce carbon emissions from the power sector by 30 percent nationwide and reduce particle pollution, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide by more than 25 percent.

Campbell noted that the transportation of coal by U.S. railroads is vitally important to the welfare of the members he represents.

“We are concerned and we care about this issue because of the impact this plan will have on our jobs and our future. There are 25 freight railroads in Georgia that employ thousands of people. These are not temporary jobs – they are careers. These people’s – my co-workers, your neighbors – precious careers are in jeopardy because of the hit being taken by the coal industry,” Campbell said.

Campbell noted that nearly 40 percent of all freight railroad cars in the U.S. are coal cars, accounting for 25 percent of the freight rail industry’s revenue and 20 percent of all freight rail jobs.

“Hauling coal is a big part of what our members do and it accounts for about 20 percent of all freight railroad jobs in America,” said SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich. “Our state directors are playing a vital role in trying to make this proposed rule workable.”

Alternate National Legislative Director John Risch noted that Pennsylvania State Legislative Director Paul Pokrowka and Colorado State Legislative Director Carl Smith would be also be testifying at EPA hearings in their home states this week.

Added Risch: “This proposed rule, coupled with EPA’s recently enacted mercury rule, will cause one-third of our nations coal-fired power plants to shut down in the next six years.”

“We are working with our allies in Washington on ways to make carbon capture and storage economically viable so coal remains a part of America’s energy mix for the foreseeable future,” National Legislative Director James Stem said.

Campbell went on to provide SMART Transportation Division’s suggestions for amending the proposed Clean Power Plan, including providing states with credit for prior carbon dioxide reductions and delaying implementation of the plan by several years to allow states and affected sources adequate time to prepare and submit state plans.

“We believe that the rule is premature since we do not know the extent to which other nations, particularly large developing countries, will be willing to commit to a truly global program of greenhouse gas reductions,” Campbell said. “We, America, cannot ‘go it alone’ and expect that our actions will have any meaningful climate impact in a world economy that is using more coal and other fossil fuels every day. Developing nations already emit more carbon dioxide than advanced industrial nations, and the Department of Energy projects that their share of global emissions will grow steadily, and will continue to do so, regardless of what the United States decides to do.

“Before I surrender the microphone, I want to make something clear. I love our environment and I am thankful for the clean air we breathe. That being said, I value my career on the railroad that allows me to provide for my family.

“As a middle class worker, speaking on behalf of other middle class workers, I plead with the EPA to listen to our recommendations and work to find a sensible, common sense solution that works for everyone.”


SMART Transportation Division Georgia State Legislative Director Matt Campbell, right, testifies at a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency hearing July 29 in Atlanta regarding the agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan.

WASHINGTON – The Association of American Railroads (AAR) issued the following statement by President and CEO Edward R. Hamberger in response to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan proposal.

“While AAR is still reviewing the proposal, freight railroads are concerned about the economic consequences the rule could have for both the coal industry and the larger American economy. We must not lose sight of the energy needs required to maintain our nation’s well-being and economic competitiveness in the years ahead. EPA needs to strike the right balance between environmental goals and technological and economic feasibility, and avoid actions that undermine job growth or place American manufacturers at a competitive disadvantage in world markets.”