A statewide labor group accused of fighting power plants on environmental grounds just to win job contracts has set its sights on the Valley’s young solar industry.
California Unions for Reliable Energy is scrutinizing dozens of solar-project proposals between Bakersfield and Fresno and, in partnership with a handful of local residents, recently submitted challenges to three ventures in Fresno County.
The group claims that the Fresno County projects don’t live up to state environmental standards, potentially ruining wildlife habitat and bringing traffic and air pollution.
But county officials, solar advocates and even other labor organizations say the objections are merely a ploy to gain leverage and negotiate high-paying work for members.
“It’s extortion,” said Fresno County Planning Commissioner Barbara Ferguson, who believes the group will drop its environmental protests once its labor demands are met. “Their agenda is simply to get these projects manned by union folks.”
The group denies the charges.