Friday, October 24, 2014
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For gov candidate McGinty wind plant closure is personal

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Kathleen McGinty seized on the closing of a Western Pennsylvania wind turbine plant as a campaign issue, not just because of he loss of good-paying jobs in a still recovering economy, but because it means the loss of jobs she helped create.

For gov candidate McGinty wind plant closure is personal

 

For Democratic gubernatorial candidate Kathleen McGinty the loss of a Western Pennsylvania wind energy plant is personal - and political.

Not just because of the loss of good-paying jobs, she said, but because it means the loss of jobs she helped create.

When Spanish wind giant Gamesa decided to locate its U.S. headquarters and open manufacturing plants in Pennsylvania in 2005, it was hailed by then Gov. Rendell and then DEP secretary McGinty as the dawn of a new era: the launching of the next generation of alternative energy sources in a state long dominated by fossil fuel production.

On Monday, came a major blow to the fledgling  industry when Gamesa USA gave notice that it will close its Ebensburg plant, which manufactures giant turbine blades, and eliminate the 62 remaining jobs by the end of March.

After the layoffs, Gamesa's Pennsylvania work force will total 200 people. At one time in the not so distant past Gamesa employed roughly 1,000 people. 

Now McGinty, one of eight candidates who want to challenge Corbett in November, is laying the blame at the governor's feet.

"Not only did Gov. Corbett fail to fight for good manufacturing jobs he actively worked against the jobs," said McGinty. She argues that Corbett worked to "kill" the industry by opposing federal wind energy tax credits and did not support efforts in the legislature to accelerate alternative energy goals in the Commonwealth.

Corbett's top energy adviser Patrick Henderson fired back.

"It's insulting to the alternative and renewable energy industry that Ms. McGinty believes they can only be successful if they receive taxpayer subsidies," said Henderson in an email. "She should also educate herself on the facts: Gov Corbett worked - and will continue to work - with the renewable energy industry on how we can support and sustain their growth here in PA."

He also said the wind energy industry has never sought changes in the alternative energy portfolio standards which call for energy companies to meet 8 percent of their power from alternative sources by 2021..

Henderson said Corbett is is committed to the alternative energy portfolio standards law and recognizes that win and other renewable energy industries have the same interests as other business lower taxes and reasonable regulations."

A candidate for governor says windmills are the future of energy in Pennsylvania and can help save billions of dollars.

The Ebensburg plant served as a backfrop last spring for another Democratic candidate and former DEP secretary John Hanger, who predicted a future with 129,000 new jobs by boosting renewable power.

Gamesa said Tuesday that closing the Ebensburg plant was prompted by a shift in the market from Pennsylvania and the Midwest to the Southwest. The giant lades will now be supplied from other plants.

Gamesa and other renewable energy companies have taken advantage of federal and state tax credits (like the ones that brought it to Bucks County) in recent years, but the businesses suffered when those credits dried up.

The company is now downsizing across the globe, shutting 24 offices and cutting 2,600 jobs. The Fairless Hills plant, which once manufactured turbines and other components, is now primarily a warehouse and its future is in question.

A federal production tax credit, which provided wind generators with 2.3 cents per kilowatt hour for 10 years, sparked a frenzy of construction before it expired at the end of 2012. The tax credit was restored through the end of 2013 but failed to generate new development..

McGinty said the job losses sadden her, especially in a region that has yet to recover decades after the collapse of the steel industry.

"This rips a big piece of my heart out," said McGinty. "These were jobs with good salaries and good benefits. They were a lifeline to a good hard working people and they are not easy jobs to replace."


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About this blog

Commonwealth Confidential gives you regularly updated coverage of the state legislature, the governor and the workings of the state bureaucracy. It is written by Angela Couloumbis and Amy Worden in the Inquirer's Harrisburg bureau, based right in the statehouse, and by the newspaper's far-flung campaign reporters.



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