September 16, 2011
By Marc Bussanich
Back in 2009 President Obama committed $5 billion to jumpstart the weatherization industry whereby legions of workers would be deployed to improve the energy efficiency of the nation’s building stock. In New York, thanks primarily to state and city government financial support, the weatherization sector is proving to be a resilient source of employment despite the continuing economic recession.
Weatherization industry advocates have done a good job in promoting and elaborating on the environmental and cost savings benefits derived from improved energy efficiency, which in turn has contributed to employment growth and opportunities.
One dimension of the Heat & Frost Insulators Local 12’s political action and lobbying strategy is to promote the environmental benefits and cost savings of mechanical insulation. Leading the charge for Local 12 is its financial secretary, Matty Aracich. In his role, he has been meeting with representatives from Con Ed and the Long Island Power Authority and presenting them with the facts that make a strong case for the need to insulate their facilities.
Some of the facts he presents are that mechanical insulation contributes to annual energy savings of $4.8 billion, creates 89,000 jobs annually and eliminates 43 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere.
“About 77 percent of emissions originate from buildings, but executives of many companies don’t necessarily equate mechanical insulation with energy efficiency. However, we inform them that if they just insulated one inch of their mechanical network, they could realize significant emission reductions and dollar savings.”
As noted, the weatherization got a financial shot in the arm two years ago. While there are also incentives for roofing and lighting, incentives for mechanical insulation have been lacking. But that may change as the Mechanical Insulation Installation Incentive Act of 2011 (MIA 2011), introduced by Congressmen Donald Manzullo of Illinois and Tim Ryan of Ohio and supported by numerous New York congressmen and women, is waiting to be voted upon in the Committee on Ways and Means in Washington, D.C. If approved, the legislation could save $35 billion in energy costs over five years and create 25,000 jobs for insulators, according to the bill’s sponsors.
In the meantime, Aracich is not sitting around waiting for approval in Washington. He continues to reach out to legislators, directors and executives to impress upon them the energy savings that can be achieved through the hard work of Local 12 members. Just last week, the city’s comptroller, John Liu, was at Local 12 offices in Queens to listen to Local 12 officials describe how the union can help multiple and varied businesses such as hospitals, refineries, power plants and universities reduce energy costs.
“There was a time when environmental issues and concerns didn’t resonate among unions because they might have feared job losses. But today, requirements and the necessity to make buildings and facilities more energy efficient is the driver for job growth,” said Aracich. Aracich noted, echoing President Obama’s favorite refrain during his jobs speech to Congress last week, “If you’re worried about jobs, the environment and reducing emissions, you should pass the MIA 2011 bill right away.”