Hess takes part in Pittsburgh energy roundtable | Local News


Indiana County Commissioner Sherene Hess was among those invited to a roundtable conducted earlier this week in Pittsburgh by US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm.

Granholm invited government leaders and representatives from across the energy sector to discuss challenges and opportunities of a 21st century energy economy in Pennsylvania.

Hess said it was an opportunity to show “the countryside being as much involved as the city” in efforts to promote “a skilled and ready workforce” that is found in west-central Pennsylvania as well as in Pittsburgh.

“Don’t forget about us in the rural areas,” was part of her message to a discussion that also included US Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills; Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald; United Steelworkers International President Thomas Conway; Dr. Joylette Portlock, executive director of Sustainable Pittsburgh; and Tom Melcher, business manager, Pittsburgh Regional Building Trades Council.

Hess serves on the board of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Corporation, a non-profit 501c3 organization that accounts for the funds and contracts that support the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission.

It in turn is a cooperative forum for regional collaboration, planning and public decision-making in Indiana and nine other Pittsburgh-area counties.

Hess and her fellow county Commissioners R. Michael Keith and Robin A. Gorman are on the commission’s board along with Indiana County Chamber of Commerce President Mark Hilliard and Indiana County Office of Planning & Development Executive Director Byron G. Stauffer Jr.

Hess also has been involved in a regional task force that became involved with an interagency working group including various federal cabinet departments and the Energy Department’s National Energy Technology Laboratory, that came up with 25 priority “Energy Communities,” one of which includes west-central Pennsylvania in a multi-state Appalachian region.

The roundtable was part of an agenda highlighted by the announcement that utility-scale solar trackers fabricator Nextracer LLC was reopening a historic Bethlehem Steel factory in Leetsdale, Allegheny County, some 73 miles west of Indiana.

The plant will incorporate BCI Steel’s new and restored equipment shipped to the US from factories in Malaysia and Brazil and produce items to serve rapidly growing solar markets in Pennsylvania and the nearby states of Indiana, New York, and Ohio.

“BCI is proud to advance Pittsburgh’s legacy as the heart of America’s steel industry,” said Matt Carroll, CEO of BCI Steel, in Nextracer’s news release. “This partnership with Nextracer showcases our steel fabrication and quality control technology and unlocks additional domestic solar capacity with our low-cost manufacturing.”

It also was the stage for Granholm to announce release of the 2022 US Energy and Employment Report, a comprehensive study designed to track and understand employment across the entire energy sector.

The report argues that achieving an equitable transition to a net-zero emissions economy-wide by 2050, with a diverse workforce, will require additional public and private investments in the clean energy sector.

It also says it will also require commitment from industry to support workers, by creating stable and secure good-paying jobs and investing in education and training programs to help workers, of all backgrounds, and advance clean energy careers.

Also this week, the Biden administration, through the Energy Department, issued a request for information regarding a $500 milliion program funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, also known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, to place clean energy demonstration projects on current or former mine lands across the nation.

Hess said she hadn’t heard anything in particular about that idea, but that she had been talking to area state legislators about the cleanup of abandoned mine lands.

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