Will Obama Administration Keep Rewarding Solar Power Firm For Submitting to Big Labor ‘Greenmail’?

Last week, UnionWatch, published by the California Policy Center, reported on what may be the most transparently cynical case of Big Labor “greenmail” yet seen in the Golden State.  (See the link below to read the entire article.)

The story dates back to August 2007, when the firm BrightSource Energy submitted an application with the California Energy Commission for construction and operation of a thermal solar power plant, known as the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, in the Mojave Desert.

For more than two years after the application was first submitted, it was held up by the intervention of a Big Labor front group known as “California Unions  for Reliable Energy” (CURE).  CURE purported to have concerns about the environmental impact of the Mojave Desert project, and in late 2007 announced its intent to request an array of data regarding the potential impact from BrightSource Energy.

But once California building trades union bosses announced in December 2009 that they had reached a deal to build the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System under a “project labor agreement” flagrantly discriminating against union-free construction employees and firms, CURE suddenly decided it had no questions to ask regarding the project’s environmental impact.    The plant was promptly built thanks in part to a $1.6 billion loan from the Obama Administration’s Energy Department in 2011.

Since then, public concerns about the $2.2 billion solar power plant have been mounting.  According to recent media reports, as summarized by UnionWatch, the plant is allegedly failing “to meet performance expectations for energy generation while greatly exceeding performance expectations for bird kills.”

One clear indication that Ivanpah really is in serious trouble is that BrightSource and its partners have now applied for a $539 million tax credit to help them repay the $1.6 billion loan they received from federal taxpayers in 2011.  Ivanpah’s owners are also seeking repayment extensions on the loan.

As 2014 draws to a close, one question that arises is whether the Obama Administration will continue rewarding BrightSource with massive taxpayer subsidies for having submitted to Big Labor “greenmail” five years ago by denying independent construction employees and firms who wanted to participate in the Ivanpah project a chance to compete for the jobs on a level playing field.  Another related question is how self-avowedly pro-Right to Work congressional leaders will respond next year to if the Obama Administration continues lavishing taxpayer money on Big Labor-controlled energy firms.

Last fall, California building trades union czar Bob Balgenorth (seen here with President Obama’s first labor secretary, Hilda Solis) commended the Obama Administration for putting a Big Labor-controlled solar plant construction project in the Mojave Desert on the short list of “green”-energy projects designated as “priority” for receiving federal taxpayer subsidies. Image: www.dol.gov

Federal Money to Ivanpah Solar Power Plant Would Be …