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January 30, 2014

Local Congressmen Pocket Cash from Wind Power's Foes While Jobs Blow Away In Their Backyards

Pretend you are a member of Congress. You’ve just received word that unless you take action to protect a certain policy, people in your district will lose their jobs and a growing industry in your community will be stopped in its tracks. What do you do?

Do you contact the leaders of your party to demand action? Do you hold a press conference telling your constituents what is at stake? Do you pledge to support that policy as best you can?

Well, if you are Pennsylvania Republicans Keith Rothfus and Bill Shuster, you keep your mouth shut, sit back and count the money you’ve raked in from the Koch Brothers.

That’s the devastating reality people in Cambria County, PA are seeing play out before their eyes, as the Gamesa wind turbine plant in their community just announced it was closing amid dire uncertainty over whether Congress will renew critical wind energy investments (see the Sierra Club's statement here). Now, with Gamesa leaving town, the steelworkers once employed there are left trying to make ends meet. To add insult to injury, these jobs could have been saved if people like Rothfus and Shuster had stepped up to protect them.

If anyone does, Rothfus and Shuster should know the huge positives of wind power. Out of 24 wind farms in the Commonwealth,16 are in their own districts - two out of every three. Wind is  flourishing there, creating jobs, and powering thousands and thousands of homes and businesses, putting their friends and neighbors to work. But it’s sadly not that simple. With wind booming, fossil fuel billionaires like the Koch Brothers have gotten desperate to protect their profits and market shares, and opened up their wallets to try to kill wind energy.

To do so, the Kochs have launched a massive campaign targeting the Wind Energy Production Tax Credit - the vital investments that have helped spur wind innovation and job growth in Pennsylvania and across the country. They know that one of the reasons the cost of producing wind power has been cut in half in recent years is because we’ve been making wind turbines here at home, creating American jobs, so they’ve made it their goal to sabotage the industry. And, while the Kochs have been doing that, they’ve also dumped thousands upon thousands in campaign cash into the coffers of members of Congress like Shuster and Rothfus. In fact, in 2012, Shuster took $10,000 from Koch Industries while Rothfus took $5,000 -- and added another $7,000 this year. That’s thousands in anti-wind jobs money going into their pockets while wind jobs were about to get blown away.

It’s mystifying how these elected officials - meant to represent their constituents - could look at a plant just down the road from their homes and ignore the simple solutions before them that could save it from closure. Yet while they’ve been collecting those big checks from the Kochs, Rothfus and Shuster have been doing nothing to protect their constituents good-paying wind jobs. They haven’t voted in support of wind energy, they haven’t stood up with the other Republicans calling for action to protect wind investments, and they certainly haven’t told the Kochs to take their anti-American jobs agenda elsewhere.  

Now, their constituents are paying the price in the form of lost jobs. Meanwhile, in a cherry-paneled drawing room somewhere, David and Charles Koch are toasting victory. This was a banner day for them, but devastating news for families in an area where wind jobs provided hope for a better future in the struggle to recover from the loss of steel industry jobs to overseas plants. Now, these wind jobs themselves may head overseas as well.

Workers in Pennsylvania and nationwide deserve better than a Congress that bows to the demands of fossil fuel executives who’ve proven they will destroy American manufacturing just to cling to their profits. By failing to protect wind jobs in their backyards, Shuster and Rothfus have shown they aren’t very good at their own.

--Dave Hamilton, Director of Sierra Club’s Clean Energy Program and Tom Schuster, Pennsylvania Campaign Representative

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