By “Duke” Dujakovich, President of the Kansas City Labor Council
For the past few weeks, there has been debate across Kansas City about the city’s proposed “Climate Protection & Resiliency Plan.” Promoting sustainability and taking steps to mitigate the impact of climate change is an important initiative that aims to create a better environment for current and future generations, and officials should be commended for beginning this critical dialogue.
While everyone can support the goal of caring for people and the planet, the current draft of the plan proposes measures that could negatively impact our local communities. These issues need to be addressed before the plan is finalized.
As President of the Kansas City Labor Council, I want to share that we are concerned with the energy policy outlined in the current draft of the plan, which would eliminate natural gas as an option and make electricity the only energy source for Kansas City. We need a revised climate plan that embraces a balanced energy policy and allows for electricity, natural gas, renewable, and other sources to be utilized.
Families across Kansas City utilize natural gas to heat their homes, cook, and feed their families. Natural gas is an affordable, reliable energy option for heating and using appliances, and customers experience fewer outages when compared to electricity. Some critical infrastructure facilities such as hospitals and fire stations have backup generators that run on natural gas during outages.
Kansas City is rebounding from the pandemic with more jobs for workers, but there are still challenges and officials must use every resource to foster economic growth. Kansas City is still facing unprecedented challenges with supply chain issues and the increased cost of goods because of inflation. The electrification policy outlined in the current draft of the plan will further increase costs and will negatively impact the companies and institutions our members work at, as many have relied on natural gas as a vital fuel source for decades. Kansas City needs both natural gas and electricity to fully recover from the pandemic and to continue to serve as the economic engine for the local economy.
While the increasing employment numbers for Kansas City are encouraging, union members and the companies where we have collective bargaining agreements need policies that will ensure our city has the resources needed to open and consistently create employment opportunities. A move to solely electrify Kansas City is not feasible in our already strained economy. It will result in higher operating costs for employers, which will jeopardize the economic recovery and will likely mean fewer union jobs in our community. Now more than ever, we need officials to promote growth for the near and long-term, and this plan could hinder the progress that has been made.
A critical part of building a better future for Kansas City is enacting policies that will create both a cleaner environment and economic opportunities for current and future residents of the city. Any climate plan that our city adopts must strike this balance and incorporate a balanced energy policy that gives the community the choice to utilize the right resources to meet their needs.