#Bridgeport CT–Monday evening at Shiloh Baptist Church in Bridgeport state Senator Dennis Bradley (D-Bridgeport) will join a group of the Park City’s pastors and community leaders for a public hearing addressing PSEG’s failure to honor the Community Environmental Benefits Agreement (CEBA) at the Bridgeport Harbor Station. Through the CEBA, PSEG is required to extend job and development opportunities to residents, minorities and women in the city, but has since failed to do so.
Below is a letter written by the pastors with their concerns:
At the end of 2017, dozens of Bridgeport pastors, residents, and stakeholders marched to the gates of the Bridgeport Harbor Station in the South End of Bridgeport, where a controversial new methane gas-fired plant is being constructed. Holding up signs that read “ACCOUNTABILITY” and lifting their voices with chants demanding more jobs and equity, this cadre of concerned citizens concluded their demonstration with prayer, asking God to provide the residents of Bridgeport with economic justice and a challenge, asking PSEG to live up to the Community Environmental Benefits Agreement (CEBA), PSEG’s written commitment to the city and region. Unfortunately, after months of failed negotiation and delay tactics, we have not seen any real progress.
Before a corporation of PSEG’s stature could begin to build the controversial polluting plant in the Environmental Justice community of Bridgeport, PSEG had to gain community approval. After months of negotiation, the community allowed PSEG into our city, but only after PSEG consented to the terms and conditions of the CEBA, which was approved by the Bridgeport City Council. We as pastors, community leaders and stakeholders stood in support of this CEBA, as it promised job, supplier and contractor opportunities and economic development for residents and businesses in our city.
This CEBA required PSEG to work cooperatively with us to identify and qualify Bridgeport residents, minorities, women, veterans to work as subcontractors at the site. PSEG failed this requirement, by making no public announcement or open public outreach to minority contractors and suppliers leading up to plant construction, which began in April 2017. PSEG’s first documented attempt was October 2017, only after receiving pressure from local clergy. Based on testimony to the Bridgeport City Council on February 5, 2018 by Rick Thigpen (PSEG Vice President of Legislative Affairs), we calculate that this has resulted in an estimated loss of up to $95 million in potential contracts for which qualified Bridgeport minority, women, and veteran businesses never had a fair opportunity to compete.
The CEBA also required PSEG to maximize efforts to create a robust apprenticeship program for Bridgeport residents. ", At the very least, such an apprenticeship program would have to include paid full-time stipends for participants. PSEG’s pre-apprenticeship program does not represent maximum effort towards providing Bridgeport residents with union apprenticeships: so it does not fulfill PSEG’s requirement under the CEBA. Not only was the pre-apprentice jobs program cut from 125 participants to 50, but participants are being asked to train and work full- time on PSEG’s plant and other locations without adequate compensation. Undoubtedly, this is the reason that the January 2018 cohort of PSEG’s Ready2Work program missed its meager target of 10 participants. To ask already unemployed people to work 40 hours a week for seven weeks with neither pay nor promise of a job upon completion of the program – is a deterrent to even the most eager applicant. We want to know why the federal dollars and tax credits earmarked to pay participants are not being utilized; we full accounting for all federal and state dollars allocated.
The plant is nearly finished. PSEG&s failure to work with us to hire and contract with Bridgeport residents, minorities, women and veterans at the site is a permanently lost opportunity. Going forward, the CEBA also requires PSEG to invest at least $5M in renewable energy projects in Bridgeport, and to explore redevelopment or reuse of PSEG’s currently unused property. On these projects, PSEG absolutely must make public announcements and open public outreach to minority contractors and suppliers at the earliest opportunity, and maximize efforts to create a real apprenticeship program at the earliest opportunity.
To add insult to injury, we recently learned of water quality violations that occurred at the site from 2007 to 2015, documented by Connecticut's Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). To our dismay, these violations were not mentioned or addressed by PSEG or DEEP during permit renewal hearings. Nor have we heard anything from PSEG on its compliance with the environmental requirements of the CEBA: to support the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, invest at least $5M in renewable energy projects in Bridgeport, and to implement new operating protocols at Bridgeport Harbor Station to reduce emissions. The lack of transparency is greatly disturbing. This immediate loss of jobs and economic development for the Bridgeport community is a travesty. What is also devastating is the pattern of major corporations persuading their way into urban communities like Bridgeport with “good faith” promises, only to ignore their commitments with bait and switch tactics. This is a textbook example of corporate railroading that would not be accepted in wealthier towns like Greenwich and Westport. We refuse to accept it in Bridgeport.
We hold PSEG accountable for the promises they have made and broken, which have been documented by nearly 125 pages of flyers, documents, and email correspondence. We insist that they meet with us, along with federal, state, and local legislators and stakeholders to address unresolved issues and offer concrete remedies for their failures. Months of delay tactics have cost the people of Bridgeport millions in jobs, apprenticeship opportunities, and minority contracts.
We also issue warning to other communities across the tri-state region where PSEG is aggressively expanding their footprint. Take note of PSEG’s unscrupulous behavior and proceed with caution and all due diligence.
Dexter B. Upshaw Jr. Senior Pastor, New Vision International Ministries