PALM SPRINGS – Unemployed union electrician Trenalee Pieper walks with her son at what she hopes will be her next job site.
“It’d be great. I’d get off the county (welfare), get back to work, be successful and provide medical insurance for my children and be productive,” said Pieper.
Dozens of other union workers watched local politicians Friday morning talk about plans to build a new power plant near the iconic desert windmills.
“At the end of the day, what the goal of this bill is to create jobs,” explained Assemblyman Manuel Perez of the 80th State Assembly District.
“I haven’t worked in a few months,” unemployed electrician Tim Wagner added.”Things are getting tight. My savings are gone. Things are getting tight. It’s been that way for a while. Hopefully, with something like this, the future will be a bit brighter.”
The dirt plot near the windmills north of the Interstate 10 freeway may be the home of the Sentinel Natural Gas power plant providing 600 megawatts of electricity.
Democratic Assemblyman Perez wrote a bill to speed up power plant construction. These union workers could be on the job within a couple of months.
“We need to get this project going for the construction trade — cement masons which we belong to,” unemployed mason Rudy Luna said. “We start at the ground up. Once holes are dug, we start filling it with concrete.”
Local Republican leaders John Benoit and Brian Nestande support Perez’s bill.
We asked Assemblyman Perez why this power plant hasn’t been built yet if it promises to be such an economic advantage for the Coachella Valley. Perez responded, “Well, because there have been some struggles quite frankly. Not here, locally, but outside this area, out in the L.A. area. There is a lawsuit, in which the lawsuit indicates there aren’t any credits.”
The National Resources Defense Council sued saying state officials are allowing too much pollution from power plants and want construction stopped until it’s all sorted out.
Tim Grabiel, environmental justice attorney with the NRDC said, “The air district is selling credits that flat out don’t exist to the very companies pumping pollution into our lungs everyday. This has real and significant negative impacts on our health and the environment.”
Power plant leaders say at least 350 union workers could get work if this project comes through. That could mean a big difference for Trenalee Pieper.
“Having to go to the food banks is really bad. It really bruises a person’s self respect down, looking forward to not having to do it again,” Pieper said.