Texas House: Green Jobs Bill Hearing

The House Technology, Economic Development and Workforce Committee met today to discuss HB 516, a bill to establish and fund a green job skills training program under the Texas Workforce Commission.  Representative Mark Strama (D-Austin) authored the bill, which specifies green jobs as being “jobs in the field of renewable energy or energy efficiency.” These include jobs in energy efficient building, construction, and retrofitting, renewable electric power, biofuels, deconstruction and reuse of materials, energy efficiency assessments, manufacturing of sustainable products, and manufacturing using sustainable processes and materials. Considering the fact that Texas unemployment rate has hit a 19-year high and is home to an increasingly environmentally-conscious public, creating green jobs simply makes sense.  Austin City Council’s recent approval and the public’s support of the Webberville solar plant shows that there is local a push for a greener economy. The fact that $43 billion of the recently passed stimulus package is slated towards energy, especially green energy, speaks volumes about what direction the country would like to go towards its use of energy. If the bill does pass, federal funding will be the principal source of money.

These points were brought up throughout the meeting by Strama and others who testified in favor of the bill. The emphasis on the benefits of creating green jobs in this economic downturn was mentioned by several, including Representative Strama, Doug Ridge, Director of Employer Initiatives for the Texas Workforce Commission, Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director for the Lonestar Chapter of Sierra Club, and Hector Aguilar, chair of ACC’s Department of Electronic and Advanced Technologies. This emphasis is consistent with the governor’s state energy plan, which projects that two-thirds of all energy jobs created over the next decade will be in renewable energy. Aguilar testified about the importance of setting up programs in colleges that train students in renewable energy, speaking of the success of Austin Community College courses that offer training in solar, wind, and geothermal related jobs. Aguilar noted that all of these classes are full. Those who testified also stressed the importance of getting the bill passed as soon as possible in order to receive federal money. It is therefore ideal that the bill doesn’t go through the conference committee process.

Strama concluded by saying that the committee will hopefully vote on the bill next week and, based on the support voiced at the hearing, move it to the House floor for vote. Considering the poor economy and national push towards green energy, this bill makes good sense.  Stay tuned for updates!