KINGSTON – Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan signed an executive order as part of the county’s ongoing Green New Deal plan on Wednesday afternoon.
The order ensures that any construction of renewable/green energy infrastructure projects must hire local unions and local private contractors and mandates that prevailing wage be paid to these workers on such projects.
Ryan said that the overall focus of the county’s Green New Deal is creating renewable energy infrastructure in the county and the county has a number of such projects in the works, but the most important focus is to bring new jobs to the county for local and union laborers, ones that pay good wages.
“To me, the core part of the Green New Deal, is creating good-paying, union jobs as we do that work to protect our environment to transition to clean energy and really to rebuild our infrastructure coming out of a once-in-a-century pandemic,” said Ryan. “Today, Ulster County is going to continue to lead in both protecting our environment and making sure we’re doing right by our working people and especially our partners in the building trades,” he said.
President of the Hudson Valley Building and Constructing Trades Council, Todd Diorio, said mandating a prevailing wage pay to workers in the trades that support the creation of such infrastructure is a negligible project cost increase when put into perspective, citing statistics he had gathered from a Berkley study.
“Evidence shows that higher wages due to prevailing wages does not slow the demand to build solar projects,” said Diorio. “Only 6 to 11 percent of total project costs on solar projects are wages. A 50 percent in labor cost would only increase the project cost by 3 to 5 percent, so on a $10 million solar project that we have maybe $300,000 would ensure good wages,” he said.
This solar project in question is a massive solar array the county is building on a landfill, but there are more similar renewable projects to come, all of which will now use local labor, union or private and guarantee prevailing wage for workers.
Ryan said the Green New Deal is an ongoing legislative initiative and added that within the next week, 50 new initiatives will be announced as part of the county’s Green New Deal.