Friday, November 27, 2009

Jigsaw Ownership of Jim Bridger Power Plant

If you live anywhere in Sweetwater County, you are familiar with the 4 unit, coal-fired power plant located 35 miles east of Rock Springs, Wyoming. It is named after Jim Bridger, an earler years mountain man who trapped and lived a pretty solitary life. It is aptly named as it stands like a monument to coal energy out in the middle of nowhere. When I was still working construction, I drove that 35 mile stretch twice daily to work more times than I can remember. Almost every person you meet around here has some ties to the Jim Bridger Power Plant. If they haven't worked there, someone in their family has, and we are all customers of Rocky Mountain Power which operates the plant. In turn, Rocky Mountain Power is a subsidiary of Pacificorp, which is a subsidiary of Midamerican Energy Holdings Company which is owned by billionaire, 79 year old Warren Buffett. Did you get all that?
The day before Thanksgiving, a letter to the editor of the Rocket-Miner written by one of the union employees at the power plant let us all know that on November 20, 2009, Pacificorp notified UWUA Local 127 that it intended to terminate the current existing contract effective January 19, 2010. They are currently engaged in contract negotiations in which Pacificorp wants to do away with pension benefits and raise costs of medical care over 100%. Naturally, the union and its members do not agree with that stance. Nor do I. When the power company raised basic rates and changed the monthly bills so that you need to be a CPA to figure them out a few months ago, it increased my monthly bills by over $20 a month. They also included a statement that in the long run, we would find our electricity bills cheaper. I didn't believe them in that case and I don't believe them now either. When notifying Local 127 of their intent to terminate their contract, they started training replacement workers who, with only 60 days of training, they expect to man and run the plant. Having worked there, I know this would be a disaster for the customer and the community. It would be like having brain surgery performed by someone with only 60 days of training! I already contacted Pacificorp and told them at some length, what a stupid thing they are doing. Throwing away experienced journeymen and replacing them with 60 day wonders is not what I want from a company that supplies the power my money pays for.
I was reading a biography of Warren Buffett, which said he is planning to give 85% of his billions of dollars of wealth to charity before he dies. He is currently 79 years old. I think it would behoove him to pay out some of that money instead to keep the hard working people who staff his various energy companies the pensions and medical care costs they have earned. Without their strong loyalty and work ethics, he wouldn't be sitting on such a huge pile of wealth. When did it become okay to treat workers as disposable, to be discarded like a used tissue? As a customer, I expect the employees of a company to be treated fairly in the workplace and compensated well for their work. Profit hungry corporations should never take priority over the well being of their workers and customers. What kind of country have we become if we let this happen? Certainly not one where I'd want to live!
I sincerely hope that Rocky Mountain Power, Pacificorp, Midamerican Energy Holdings Company, also known as Warren Buffett, reconsider this ghastly decision and instead ratify a new fair contract. If not, I will be investing in a home power generator for when the lights go out!

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