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What We're Reading, Listening To, and Watching

Thursday, August 22, 2019

7 trends making engineering, construction claims bigger and costlier A new report from Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS) examined rising claims costs related to construction and engineering projects. The hope is that understanding the significant, steady increases in construction claims will enable insurers to better manage the associated risks. The report, Engineering and Construction Claims and Insurance Trends, outlines several trends contributing to these rising costs. 

California Clean California's clean energy efforts received a five-start review from E2, a coalition of business leaders that advocates for better environmental policies. The coalition released its 2019 Clean Jobs Report yesterday that found the Golden State is home to more than 500,000 clean energy workers - more than any other state. It also found that one out of every seven of the United States' clean energy jobs is located in California. The hundreds of thousands of workers are scattered throughout the state working in industries to advance energy efficiency, renewable energy and clean vehicle initiatives. "Year after year, clean energy provides immense value to the California economy - creating thousands of good-paying jobs, protecting the environment for future growth, and attracting billions in investments," said Andy Wunder, E2's Western states advocate. "California lawmakers have a responsibility to ensure those jobs, and the state's clean energy economy, continue to grow by strengthening and implementing forward-looking policies." Most of the jobs are located in the San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego metros, although Central Valley and coastal counties also account for a significant portion of clean energy posts. The workforce is diverse, too. A quarter of the workers are employed by small businesses with fewer than five employees, 40 percent live outside major cities and close to 10 percent are military veterans. Despite its glowing report, E2 urges California to more aggressively work to reach its carbon reduction targets. "State lawmakers should advance policy that allows for full integration of the Western electric grid to open new markets for California's clean energy resources and reduce customer bills," the report noted. "They should also increase and ensure outgoing, stable funding for clean vehicle initiatives." 

DOL Backs Up on Building Trades Decision: The department quickly reversed course last week on cancelling several apprenticeship contracts with labor and business groups after complaints from the North America's Building Trades Unions, a group that's been a Trump ally, Bloomberg Law's Ben Penn reports. "It appears to us a political decision has been made by a new regime at the Department of Labor," North America's Building Trades Unions chief of staff Mike Monroe told Penn of the initial cancellation. Recently installed acting Labor Secretary Patrick Pizzella, "who was not involved in the cancellation decisions, made the call to walk them back Aug. 15," according to Penn. This isn't the first time the Building Trades - which embraced Trump at the start of his presidency - recently has been at odds with the administration. The powerful union federation has "been at the brink of war" with DOL over its apprenticeship initiative, which it worries will undermine its own job-training programs, POLITICO's Ian Kullgren reported. The disagreement threatens to upset a key voting bloc that was essential to Trump in 2016. [Politico]

Central Valley lawmaker files initiative that would boost hydropower Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced) has submitted a ballot initiative that would allow large hydropower projects to qualify for state renewable electricity targets, continuing a push by Central Valley lawmakers to boost the resource. Gray filed the initiative Friday with the Secretary of State that would count large-scale hydropower toward California's renewables portfolio standard for utilities. The target is currently set at 60 percent by 2030 by CA SB1000 (17R), but does not include hydropower projects above 30 megawatts because policymakers are trying to encourage development of wind and solar power. "For years, the people of the Northern San Joaquin Valley have been trying to get hydropower recognized for what it is: the original source of clean electricity," he wrote in a recent op-ed in CalMatters. "Our efforts have been stymied by people who feel entitled to decide what is, or isn't, green enough." Gray also introduced a constitutional amendment in the Legislature last month, CA ACA17 (19R), that would do the same thing. And Sen. Anna Caballero (D-Salinas) introduced CA SB386 (19R) earlier this session specifically to allow municipal utilities in her region, the Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts, to count electricity from Don Pedor Dam towards their renewables requirements. Gray also cited the financial burden on Merced, Modesto,  and Turlock in his op-ed, estimating that allowing Turlock to count hydropower would save its 100,000 customers $300 million. "Several environmental organizations and SB 100's author, former Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, went nuts" over Caballero's bill, Gray wrote. "The bill was halted even though the federal government and virtually every other state considers hydropower renewable." An environmentalist pointed out that large hydro would count towards the 2045 "zero-carbon" goal, also contained in SB 100. "It totally counts as a zero-carbon power source once we hit 2030," said Dan Jacobson of Environment California. "I just think we don't need to incentivize hydropower, and we need to continue to incentivize and encourage solar and wind development." [Politico]