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Lodi Energy Center Helmets-to-Hardhats Program Falls Flat

Lodi Energy Center Helmets-to-Hardhats Program Falls Flat

In an effort to declare outright victory, it appears that the targets and goals for a power plant in Lodi were altered, with at least one underperforming matrix being dropped from media advisories and announcements.

The project was unable to hire a single veteran, despite the state ranking second-to-worst for unemployed veterans of Post-9/11 wars.

The Lodi Energy Center is a 300-megawatt power plant that was designed to serve 13 municipalities in Northern California with energy. It was recently highlighted by POWER Magazine, the “definitive information source for the power generation market,” as a top new plant in the country.

Among its accolades is its use of water, being sourced from the adjacent wastewater treatment plant that will be used to cool the turbines. Additionally, its fast-start technology will enable the plant to quickly increase its output capacity in times of need – specifically suited to the state’s requirement for renewable energy. When weather impedes the green-technology production, the LEC can fill the gap. And it does it with 70 percent less greenhouse emissions than traditional gas-fired plants.

The project was designed to be a boon to the local economy, and it is already paying off. The city of Lodi has received about $1 million in sales tax revenues directly related to the project, and the long-term lease and water deal will provide an additional $900,000 on an ongoing basis.

Workers who helped construct the facility were to include the local workforce, by way of a local hiring requirement established in the contracts for the facility. At the dedication of the plant, it was announced that nearly 80 percent of the total workforce came from within a 50-mile radius of the site.

Another hiring provision, however, was not as successful. Included in the project labor agreement adopted at the outset of the project was a helmets-to-hardhats program. As outlined in section 15.1 of the project labor agreement, the Northern California Power Agency and its employers would use a center to recruit, evaluate, train, and employ veterans of the military to work on the project.

That provision and its results were omitted from announcements, press releases, and materials relating to the project. In a series of emails reviewed by PublicCEO, those in charge of the project were unable to verify a single helmet-to-hardhat hire.

At least two unions did register with the Center for Military Recruitment, Assessment, and Veterans Employment, but they could not account for any “takers” in the program, meaning the project appeared to be devoid of veterans, despite the 2011 veteran unemployment rate in the United States being above 12 percent.

In California the unemployment rate for veterans of the War on Terror was 20 percent. That ranks 49th in the nation, with only Oregon underperforming the Golden State.

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