The Official Publication of the Power & Communication Contractors Association 4th Quarter 2022 DOE Announces $13 Billion to Modernize and Expand America’s Power Grid EEOC Issues Updated Rights Poster (Twice in Two Days) PCCA Opposes Overzealous, UnionProposed Regulatory Changes 2022 Year-End Product Showcase PCCA 2022 Mid-Year Meeting Recap Keynote Speaker Ross Bernstein delights the PCCA audience with his Code of Champions presentation
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PCCA Journal|4th Quarter 2022 5 4th Quarter 2022 Official Publication of the Power & Communication Contractors Association Publication Staff PO Box 638 Churchton, Maryland 20733 (800) 542-PCCA • www.pccaweb.org ©2022 Power & Communication Contractors Association Publisher TimothyWagner Editor Michael Ancell Advertising Sales Stacy Bowdring Photography Jorge de Casanova Information Technology Greg Smela Accounting James Wagner Layout & Design JosephWagner PCCA Opposes Overzealous, Union-Proposed Regulatory Changes 7 By Jaime Steve & Zack Perconti Fighting to protect your business from onerous new labor regulations has been Job #1 for PCCA in Washington, D.C., and will continue to be into the foreseeable future. From redefining the joint-employer rule to mandatory project labor agreement requirements, PCCA has been championing your interests. These overzealous, union-proposed regulation changes are forcing a focus on the details of employment law. PCCA 2022 Mid-Year Meeting: Crushing It in California! 13 What’s better than being in Napa during the annual grape crush? Being there with all your friends from PCCA, of course. And that was the case September 14-17, when 272 PCCA members, family, and friends convened at the beautiful Meritage Resort in Napa Valley, Calif., for the 2022 PCCA Mid-Year Meeting. The meeting featured fascinating speakers, the always-informative Issue Roundtables, fun-filled parties, and tours on foot, bike, bus, and hot-air balloon. And yes, a little bit of wine. 2022 Year-End Product Showcase 40 Human Resources | By Greg Guidry 10 Power News 28 Broadband News 30 News Briefs 35 Industry Calendar 53 New PCCA Members 53 Advertiser Index 53 Last Word | By Tim Wagner 54 Officer Directors Board of Directors Garrett Akin Brooks Construction Co., LLC Nick Anderson Anderson Underground, Inc. John Audi MasTec North America, Inc. Robert Breeden ElectriCom, Inc. Jeff Brown Global Machinery Bonnie Burnham Service Electric Company John Capodice Sterling Site Solutions Josh DeBruine Michels Corporation Justin Druffel Caterpillar, Inc. John Fluharty Mears Group, Inc. Robin Gilbertson J&R Underground, LLC Chase Lapcinski Push, Inc. Steve Sellenriek (Advisory) UtiliSource Sam Stephens Tjader & Highstrom Jason Tyler Brooks Construction Co., LLC Billy Vincent ElectriCom, Inc. Michael Whitebread J.J. Kane Auctioneers Chris Wozniak Intercon Construction, Inc. Chairman Jerrod Henschel Equix, Inc. Chairman-Elect Ed Campbell HMI Communications 1st Vice Chairman Matthew Gabrielse Gabe’s Construction Co., Inc. 2nd Vice Chairman Rob Pribyl MP Nexlevel, LLC Treasurer Craig Amerine Amerine Utilities Construction, Inc Secretary Heath Sellenriek Sellenriek Construction
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PCCA Journal|4th Quarter 2022 7 Fighting to protect your business from onerous new labor regulations has been Job #1 for PCCA in Washington, D.C., and will continue to be into the foreseeable future. From redefining the joint-employer rule to mandatory project labor agreement (PLA) requirements, PCCA has been championing your interests. These overzealous, union-proposed regulation changes are forcing a focus on the details of employment law. We wrote this just before the Fall mid-term elections, so by the time you read it the entire balance of power in Congress may have been reshuffled and become more favorable to PCCA interests on labor law and many other issues. Either way, we will be engaged in a bolder legislative strategy than in the past, which means more muster campaigns to bring your voice to House and Senate Members in Washington, D.C. PCCA Opposes Joint-Employer Rule Expansion For some reason, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) thinks it’s a good idea to force all subcontractors and independent business workers to become “employees” of the companies with which they work, whether they want to or not. This is the gist of the proposed joint-employer rule, which PCCA is also fighting against. We will file comments opposing this effort as well. While filing comments is part of the fight, we will also be working with our allies in Congress to turn back these heavy-handed regulations. These regulations are aimed primarily at so-called “gig” workers, such as Uber and Lyft drivers, in an effort to shift them from independent contractors to employees so they can more easily unionize. Our argument is that independent contractors working with PCCA companies are truly independent because they choose to make their own hours and to run, or start up, their own companies. Individuals should be free to make that choice for themselves instead of being forced into full employee status. At the same time, there are instances where some employers use the independent contractor label for some workers for the illegal purpose of avoiding paying taxes, and this, of course, is wrong and is a practice that PCCA does not support. Under the proposed expanded joint-employer standard, nearly every contractual relationship between businesses will trigger joint-employer status, making businesses responsible and liable for the employment practices of their franchisees, suppliers, vendors, contractors, and subcontracInsideWashington continued on page 9 InsideWashington Jaime Steve Government Affairs Solutions, LLC email@example.com (202) 841-5493 Zack Perconti Government Affairs Solutions, LLC firstname.lastname@example.org (703) 677-6049 PCCA Opposes Overzealous, Union-Proposed Regulatory Changes
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PCCA Journal|4th Quarter 2022 9 Inside Washington Continued from page 7 tors. Under the current standard, a business can only be joint employers if they exercise direct and immediate control over the essential terms and conditions of employment for the same group of employees. The NLRB, however, is trying to make indirect or even just reserved, unexercised control sufficient to trigger joint-employee status. This would be a radical and devastating expansion of the joint-employer standard. Under the proposed new rule, businesses would be forced to protect themselves against significantly more liability and obligations under the law. The new standard would force larger companies to subsume local small businesses rather than work with individually owned enterprises, stifling entrepreneurship, business innovation, and flexibility. The expanded standard even hampers businesses’ efforts to encourage “corporate responsibility” among their business partners to the detriment of workers, consumers, and their communities. In short, the expanded joint-employer standard would devastate and already wobbly economy. PCCA Continues Fighting Mandatory PLAs PCCA submitted comments in October opposing the Biden Administration’s effort to make project labor agreements mandatory on all federal projects over $35 million. Under current law, PLAs are recommended but not mandatory. Recently, PCCA President & CEO Tim Wagner and Jaime Steve spoke for PCCA during an online townhall-style meeting held by the Small Business Administration (SBA) on the issue. We told Washington, D.C., bureaucrats that mandating PLAs will drive up costs, reduce the already too small labor pool, and result in far fewer broadband buildouts and electric system upgrades throughout the U.S. Our argument against government-mandated PLAs is that they are jobsite-specific collective bargaining agreements unique to the construction industry that needlessly increase costs and unfairly limit competition by some of America’s best contractors. Ultimately, they exclude almost 9 out of 10 of the construction industry’s workforce from the middleclass jobs and benefits created by government investment in infrastructure via the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 and other measures passed by Congress that fund public works contracts without government-mandated PLA requirements. When mandated by government agencies, PLAs can supersede and interfere with existing collective bargaining agreements that contractors have already negotiated with various unions and prevent firms from using labor from certain unions. In addition, typical terms within PLAs unfairly discourage competition from quality non-union contractors and their employees, who comprise 87.4 percent of the private U.S. construction industry workforce, according to the most recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data. November 2022 Mid-Term Elections Should there be a wholesale shift in which party controls the House and Senate (a likely scenario, but unknown when this was written) there would be strong efforts in Congress to slow or stop the pro-union efforts discussed above. Republican control on both sides of Capitol Hill would shift to balance toward employers’ rights and retaining current law versus adding more onerous and costly regulations on contractors and other businesses. Whatever the outcome of the elections, PCCA will be there leading the fight on labor and other issues to protect and grow your business. Lubricants for Every Project • Blowing/Jetting Lubricants • FTTX Cable Lubricant • Pourable Lubricants for Easier Application • Lubricants Designed for Specialty Cables www.polywater.com 800-328-9384 651-430-2270
PCCA Journal|4th Quarter 2022 10 HUMAN RESOURCES Greg Guidry Ogletree Deakins Nash Smoak & Stewart email@example.com (337) 769-6583 On October 19, 2022, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released a new poster that covered employers are required to display in their workplaces entitled “Know Your Rights: Workplace Discrimination is Illegal,” which updates and replaces its previous “Equal Employment Opportunity is the Law” poster. According to the EEOC, the poster uses plain language and bullet points that will make it easier for employers and employees to understand their rights and obligations. Then on October 20, 2022, the EEOC reissued a revised poster without explanation. It issued a statement as follows “Please use the version marked (Revised 10/20/22) going forward. We apologize for any inconvenience”. IMPORTANT: If you posted the October 19 poster, you should replace it with the October 20 version. You can access the updated poster on the EEOC website at www.eeoc.gov. The EEOC stated that the new “Know Your Rights” poster informs employers and employees about discrimination based on: • “Race, color, sex (including pregnancy and related conditions, sexual orientation, or gender identity), national origin, religion, • Age (40 and older), • Equal pay, • Disability, • Genetic information (including family medical history or genetic tests or services), and includes • Retaliation for filing an EEOC charge, reasonably opposing discrimination, or participating in a discrimination lawsuit, investigation, or proceeding.” The new poster also makes some substantive updates from the previous poster, specifying that harassment is a prohibited form of discrimination and that sex discrimination includes discrimination based on pregnancy and related conditions, sexual orientation, or gender identity. The poster further provides a new notice of the pay secrecy requirements for federal contractors under Executive Order 11246, which was formerly part of a required EEO Is the Law Poster Supplement. The new poster features internet links and email addresses for employees to contact the EEOC if they suspect they have been the victim of prohibited discrimination. It also includes a QR code that links directly to an EEOC website with instructions for how to file workplace discrimination charge with the EEOC. In addition to the requirement that employers physically post the notice in a conspicuous location in their workplaces, the EEOC “encouraged” covered employers to “post a notice digitally on their websites in a conspicuous location.” The agency noted that employees without a physical work location or who work remotely may not have an opportunity to view the physical posting. In a recent statement, EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows called the new poster a “win-win for employers and workers alike” and said that the “plain language and bullet points” will make it “easier for employers to understand their legal responsibilities and for workers to understand their legal rights and how to contact the EEOC for assistance.” Key Takeaways The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has long required covered employers to conspicuously post summaries of applicable federal labor and employment laws, which employers have traditionally posted in break rooms or cafeterias. Some employers argue that such notice and posting requirements have become anachronistic, particularly with more employees working remotely. Nevertheless, the DOL, in January 2022, increased the maximum fines for noncompliance with EEOC Issues Updated Rights Poster (Twice in Two Days)
PCCA Journal|4th Quarter 2022 11 certain notice and posting requirements, highlighting the need for employers to understand these rules. And with issuance of the new poster, the EEOC noted that covered employers may be subject to fines for noncompliance with the posting requirements. In the utility construction industry, many employees never work at the contractor’s headquarters. It is important that posters be posted electronically and/or at jobsites in places where employees can view them. Notably, the EEOC’s new “Know Your Rights” poster makes a couple of specific updates to adapt to new technology, adding a QR code that easily links to information on making a workplace discrimination charge and encouraging employers to post a notice on their websites. It remains to be seen whether the number of charges filed will increase as a result, particularly as the total number of EEOC charges has been steadily decreasing each year since 2016. (Retaliation continues to be the most frequently filed type of EEOC charge.) The EEOC provided links to PDF versions of the poster in English and Spanish for employers to print, in addition to PDF and HTML versions of the poster optimized for viewing on a computer screen for electronic posting. The EEOC said posters in additional languages will be made available at a later date. Employers may further want to consider any other unique posting requirements under other applicable federal or state laws. Of course, employers can purchase required posters from poster vendors, who generally keep their customers up to date on required posters. They can also go the Department of Labor website to access required posters. Some additional federal posters that need to be posted by most employers (Note: federal contractors have additional posting requirements) include: • FLSA Minimum Wage Poster • OSHA Job Safety and Health: It’s the Law Poster • Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Poster • Employee Polygraph Protection Act Poster • Your Rights under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Act. This poster, issued by the EEOC on October 20, is the one that covered employers must display in their workplaces. You can access the poster at www.eeoc.gov. Pease note that this image is just page one of the two-page poster.
PCCA Journal|4th Quarter 2022 12 Thank You Sponsors 2022 MID-YEAR MEETING Meritage Resort and Spa, Napa, California September 14 - 17, 2022
PCCA Journal|4th Quarter 2022 13 PCCA 2022 Mid-Year Meeting: Crushing It in California! What’s better than being in Napa during the annual grape crush? Being there with all your friends from PCCA, of course. And that was the case September 14-17, when 272 PCCA members, family, and friends convened at the beautiful Meritage Resort in Napa Valley, Calif., for the 2022 PCCA Mid-Year Meeting. It eclipsed last year’s Mid-Year as the largest in PCCA history and also included 25 first-time attendees and a record 58 sponsors, the ones whose generosity allows for such an outstanding program. Planned by PCCA Chairman Jerrod Henschel, Equix, Inc., and his wife, Toni, the 2022 Mid-Year featured fascinating speakers, the always-informative Issue Roundtables, fun-filled parties, and tours on foot, bike, bus, and hot-air balloon. And yes, a little bit of wine. Following a chill Welcome Reception and sumptuous dinner on Wednesday evening, the Mid-Year licked off in earnest with the Opening Session on Thursday morning. Jerrod Henschel welcomed PCCA members to the meeting, saying “It is a great honor for me to serve as your chairman.” Code of Champions Henschel then introduced best-selling author and acclaimed speaker Ross Bernstein, whose Code of Champions presentation delighted the crowd with fun stories about champion athletes that he tied perfectly into sage and practical business advice. He talked about the passion of baseball great Kirby Puckett, the consistency of Tom Brady, the mental toughness of old-school Minnesota Vikings coach Bud Grant, the philanthropy of former U.S. Miracle on Ice hockey coach Herb Brooks, and the generosity of Wayne Gretzky, who famously said, “A goal makes one person happy; an assist makes two people happy.” A great takeaway from Bernstein’s speech: “If you’re not really, truly, authentically passionate about what you do, it’s time to reconsider what you do.” Farm Fresh Broadband Next up at the Opening Session was Dr. Christopher Ali, professor at the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications at Penn State University, who shared his profound passion for rural broadband. He delved into the complicated terrain of Continued on page 14 High above the vineyards in a hot air balloon, Meredith Tyler and Jerry & Kim Beyer take in the sights of the beautiful Napa Valley.
PCCA Journal|4th Quarter 2022 14 rural broadband policy in the U.S., which is, of course, where PCCA members work every day. He said that policy is “both incomplete and broken” and added, “The problem isn’t the amount of money we’ve been spending but with how we’ve been spending it.” Ali discussed his recent book, Farm Fresh Broadband: The Politics of Rural Connectivity, about his “rural broadband road trip with his hound dog Tuna.” He looked at life in broadband deserts, like Surry County, Va., “the least-connected county in America.” He said that broadband provides “digital dignity” and impacts economic development, education, healthcare, civic engagement, public safety, and quality of life. Ali is encouraged that the FCC is releasing a new national broadband map because, “The maps, my friends, suck.” He added, “The FCC can’t afford to get this wrong.” And he also gave the FCC credit for denying Rural Digital Opportunity Fund subsidies to Starlink and LTD Broadband because “They lied about what they could do.” While the PCCA hackers hacked at the Eagle Vines Golf Club on Thursday afternoon, other members enjoyed a gourmet culinary walk around downtown Napa, and some spent the evening taking a hands-on cooking class at the Meritage Food & Wine Center. Check out the photos that follow this article; it looks like they had a blast! Education &Workforce Issues Friday morning at PCCA Mid-Years is dedicated to discussing issues important to our members, organized around three broad topics: education, government & industry affairs, and economic issues. PCCA President & CEO Tim Wagner opened the Education Issues Roundtable by talking about one of his favorite jobs at PCCA: signing scholarship checks. He said that to date the PCCA Education & Research Foundation has awarded 24 4-year scholarships and paid out $142,000. Wagner then talked about PCCA’s participation in the Ohio Broadband & 5G Sector Partnership, which is part of a larger effort to grow the workforce needed to expand broadband access and 5G in Ohio. He and PCCA Past Chairman Todd Myers, Kenneth G. Myers Construction, have been attending the meetings and bringing real-world perspective to the group, explaining how broadband is actually installed and the types of skills and training that potential employees will need. Next were progress reports from the five schools in PCCA’s workforce development program: Monroe County Community College, Monroe, Mich.; Northwood Technical College, Rice Lake, Wis.; Somerset Community College, Somerset, Ky.; State Technical College of Missouri, Linn, Mo.; and Terra State Community College, Fremont, Ohio. State Tech has been at this longer than the other schools, and its Utility Systems Technician Program is well established. Andy Christine, Sellenriek Construction, reported that the program currently has 52 first-year students and 39 second-year students. They’ve had 55 graduates in the last three years, and the program growing every year. The school’s Utility Technology Center is in phase 2 of construction, and they are also building a Safety Village, a 200,000-square-fool outdoor laboratory simulating a residential neighborhood and all the associated underground utilities. The other schools have just gotten their programs up and running or are still establishing programs. The biggest need at these schools is students, and PCCA members are employing several tactics to attract them. Chase Lapcinski, PUSH, Inc., who is helping launch the program at Northwood Tech, discussed his company’s Skills Day in May, where some 300 students from local high schools engaged in hands-on learning. He said the day was a big success and that the high schools want to bring more students next time around. Government & Industry Affairs During the Government & Industry Affairs Roundtable, PCCA members met their new government affairs representatives Zack Perconti and Jaime Steve. Perconti discussed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program, “the largest-ever investment in broadband infrastructure.” But he said that the funding presents some challenges as well, including unrealistic Buy American requirements, mandatory or highly encouraged project labor agreements, and continuing workforce issues. He noted that President Biden said the BEAD Program will add 100,000 new jobs to the industry, which already has a worker shortage of some 500,000. “We need workers. We need immigration reform,” Perconti stressed. The PCCA audience next heard from Tom Cohen, Kelley Drye & Warren LLP, and a board member of the Fiber Broadband Association. When discussing the BEAD Program, he said that getting all Americans connected “is an incredible effort. And it will be an incredible accomplishment.” Next up, Shekinah Pepper, Senior Policy Advisor, Rural Utility Service Telecommunications, explained the agency’s ReConnect Program and the upcoming third round of ReConnect funding. Currently the program has about $1.15 billion dollars to distribute among different broadband projects. PCCA’s Jerrod Henschel led a discussion on immigration PCCA Mid-Year Meeting Continued from page 13
PCCA Journal|4th Quarter 2022 15 reform, which he called “a daunting task.” He said that the U.S. birth rate has been shrinking for decades and unemployment is at its lowest in 30 years, so “We need more workers in the workforce; it’s undeniable.” PCCA Past Chairman John Fluharty said that PCCA must make immigration a top priority. “We have to raise the flag, plant the flag, and have people looking at the flag. This is the place to start the conversation.” Fluharty also talked about the success of PCCA’s government affairs program since it was reinvigorated some seven years ago. He noted that in 2015, PCCA started a 100 up/100 down broadband push, and we were mostly alone. Now there are lots of groups on board, and we see our talking points being used by congressional offices, federal agencies, industry groups, and others. In 2017, he said, we started a damage prevention push because it is PCCA contractors’ biggest unknown on the job. We were looking for fairness in the process. PCCA was the driving force behind a comprehensive study of the nation’s 811 system, which found some $61 billion a year in waste and excess costs. PCCA built the coalition, engaged Continuum Capital to conduct the research and a high-powered PR firm to promote it, and is a major financial supporter. The study was released in November 2021 to considerable attention, and much work was done in 2022 to update reports and to get states to consider and adopt the study’s recommendations. And in 2019, PCCA began calling for accountability in the FCC’s RDOF program. Companies taking federal funds need to be held accountable, PCCA argued, and with Starlink and LTD Broadband being denied funding in August, perhaps our words are being heeded. “Where else in your business,” Fluharty asked, “can you get that rate of return on your investment?” Steve Sellenriek, Sellenriek Construction, discussed how ensuring accurate mapping of underground facilities is a top priority for PCCA, and he said that the association believes that Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping should be required by facility operators. He said that since his company started using GIS mapping, at-fault hits are down some 90 percent. Common Ground Alliance President & CEO Sarah Magruder Lyle updated PCCA on her group’s activities, including creation of the Damage Prevention Institute, which aims to generate insights and efficiencies that will reduce the rate of damages to buried infrastructure. Details are still being worked out, and CGA expects the release of DPI 1.0 in January. Economic Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity During the Economic Issues Roundtable, Mark Bridgers, Continuum Capital, said that the utility construction world is full of disruption and uncertainty, including supply chain issues, workforce shortages, Russia, mid-term elections, and more. He summed up the problems using the military term VUCA: Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity, and he used the same acronym to explain how to tackle the problems: Vision, Understanding, Clarity, and Agility. He said that the only wrong answer “is to sit still.” Bridgers said that utility markets are still sound thanks to federal spending and service demand, which “have formed a floor under these markets that will mitigate any general recession.” On the workforce front, he said that while unemployment may be low, 38 percent of working-age Americans are not working—”81 million people!” He said that the Great Resignation is real, as is “quiet quitting,” where people stay on the job but do as little work as possible. He said that businesses must develop new workforce development and retention strategies. Off to the Vineyards! Following a morning of serious issues, the PCCA crew split into three separate wine tours, where they visited some of Napa’s acclaimed wineries, learned about the art & science of winemaking, and perhaps sampled a bit of vino. On Friday night, the PCCA crew convened one final time at the Farewell Dinner on the Village Lawn for delicious food, a great band, dancing, and an enjoyable evening with old friends and new ones.
PCCA Journal|4th Quarter 2022 16 Images of Mid-Year 2022 6 Penn State professor Dr. Christopher Ali told PCCA members that “the politics of good enough is the enemy of great broadband. We need, we deserve, we require great connectivity.”
PCCA Journal|4th Quarter 2022 17 6 Tom Cohen (left), Kelley Drye &Warren LLP and a board member of the Fiber Broadband Association, and PCCA’s Zack Perconti during the Government & Industry Affairs Roundtable. Kelly said that our industry’s work to get all Americans connected “is an incredible effort, and once it’s done, “it will be an incredible accomplishment.” 4 PCCA Chairman Jerrod Henschel, Equix, Inc., explains the next steps for the Infrastructure Protection Coalition following last year’s release of the 811 Emergency study. The strategy is to work state-by-state using the study’s findings to help effect change in 811 laws.
PCCA Journal|4th Quarter 2022 18 3 Keynote speaker Ross Bernstein mixes in astute business advice with a slew of great sports anecdotes. “Sports, for me, is a universal language. People speak sports.” 5 When PCCA Past Chairman John Fluharty, Quanta Services (third from left), gives a report at the Government & Industry Affairs Roundtable, you’re certain to get valuable and timely information. And more times than not, you’re also going to get a few laughs.
PCCA Journal|4th Quarter 2022 19 5 PCCA Past Chairman Todd Myers, Kenneth G. Myers Construction, provides an update on the Utility Construction Installer Program at Terra State Community College, Fremont, Ohio. 6 Mark Bridgers, Continuum Capital, outlines the challenging times facing the construction industry and says that successful businesses will apply vision, understanding, clarity, and agility to their situation. 6 PCCA members were delighted to meet Shekinah Pepper, new RUS Senior Policy Advisor, who talked about the agency’s ReConnect Program. 6 PCCA President & CEO TimWagner details the association’s multipronged workforce development program, including participation in the Ohio Broadband & 5G Sector Partnership.
PCCA Journal|4th Quarter 2022 20 5 Telling the story of baseball legend Harmon Killebrew, keynote speaker Ross Bernstein urges his audience of business leaders to “lead with respect.” 56 Above & below, the PCCA Board of Directors goes underground to the Meritage’s wine cellar for their semi-annual meeting. Top left, Justin Druffel, Caterpillar Inc., explains to fellow board members how supply chain issues are affecting his company and, ultimately, their companies as well. 6 The sports theme of Ross Bernstein’s keynote speech was a big hit with the PCCA audience. 3 PCCA members kick off the Opening Session with the StarSpangled Banner. 4 When the topic is rural broadband policy, PCCA members are sure to listen, as they do here during Dr. Christopher Ali’s talk at the Opening Session. PCCA Chairman Jerrod Henschel welcomes fellow members to the Meritage Resort and PCCA’s 2022 Mid-Year Meeting.6
PCCA Journal|4th Quarter 2022 21 5 Zack Perconti, PCCA (far right), discusses how theWhite House’s position on project labor agreements only exacerbates the industry’s severe worker shortages. 6 PCCA’s Industry Roundtables always attract a big crowd and spur serious discussions on pressing industry issues. 6 During the Education Issues Roundtable, PCCA President & CEO TimWagner talks about one of his favorite PCCA duties: signing scholarship checks. He said that to date PCCA has awarded 24 4-year scholarships and paid out $142,000. 6 When Mark Bridgers gives his economic forecast for utility construction, PCCA members like Cory Yamaguchi, Finn Corporation, pay rapt attention. 6 Dan Levac, Preformed Line Products, weighs in during the Education Issues Roundtable. 4 Past Chairman John Fluharty discusses the major accomplishments of PCCA government affairs program in recent years and how they benefit the entire membership.
PCCA Journal|4th Quarter 2022 22 6 Board member Chris Wozniak and his wife Alise hanging out at the Chairman’s Welcome Reception. 3 A nice night, a little wine, and lots of rural broadband talk--no wonder Philip Shehadeh, Render Networks, and Dr. Christopher Ali, Penn State University, are having such a good time! 5 Dan & Sarah Shirey, Milwaukee Tool, enjoy theWelcome Reception on the beautiful Vineyard Terrace. 6 Mark & Alice Zickler and Mike Kruszewski, Power & Tel, are all smiles on a gorgeous Napa evening. 3 Doug & Mary Beth Boston, VERSALIFT, chat with Nick & Carrie Anderson, Anderson Underground, during the Chairman’s Welcome Reception. 4 Josh Hinrichs, UtiliSource, enjoys dinner conversation on the MidYear’s opening night. 6 Board member John Capodice, Sterling Site Access Solutions, greets Ariela Perconti.
PCCA Journal|4th Quarter 2022 23 3 Danielle & Matt Ropp, SFS Tools & Safety, at the Farewell Dinner on the Meritage’s Village Lawn. 4 Enjoying the Farewell Dinner are Andy & Heather Christine, Sellenriek Construction. 4 Could be a new cable plow, could be infrastructure funding, could be Badger football, but Brad Gabrielse, Vermeer Wisconsin, and Robin Gilbertson, J&R Underground, definitely find something very interesting. 6 PCCA leadership: Chairman Jerrod Henschel, Equix, Inc., and Chairman-Elect Ed Campbell, HMI Utilities, LLC. 4 Megan Jackson introduces PCCA’s newest member, KJ Jackson III, to Tori Henschel. 6 4 Below & right, breakfasts at PCCA meetings are always a fantastic place to meet fellow members and talk a little shop.
PCCA Journal|4th Quarter 2022 24 5Kay Gilbertson, J&R Underground, and Coquette Fluharty chat with PCCA’s newest board member, Michael Whitebread, J.J. Kane Auctioneers. 5Who’s having a great time? Matt Hilton and Adam Ousley, both from Sigma Technologies, Ltd. 3Talking a bit of business are Ted Clemens, General Machine Products, and Eric Farst, Rep Com International. 4Chef Gardner provides a few pointers to Jerrod & Toni Henschel during the Hands-on Cooking Class. 6The PCCA crew enjoyed the cooking class at the Meritage’s state-of-the-art Food &Wine Center. 6PCCA board members cutting it up at the Farewell Dinner, from left: Tucker Dotson, DitchWitch; Justin Druffel, Caterpillar, and Heath Sellenriek, Sellenriek Construction. 4Big smiles from Steve & Jan McKay, Spiradrill, at the Farewell Dinner. 6Everybody get out of the way; Flori Spears has this covered.
PCCA Journal|4th Quarter 2022 25 4Great day on the Eagle Vines course for, from left, B.J. Pritchett, Atkore, Inc., Bob Breeden, ElectriCom, Inc.; Ted Clemens, General Machine Products; and Gary Regan, WagnerSmith Equipment Co. 3 These guys must know what they’re doing. When you need to make a putt, send Don Stephens up to take it! 3Looks like a great day on the links for John and Anthony Xanthos, VCI Construction, LLC; Mark Gallucci, Digital Control, Inc.; and Matt Ropp, SFS Tools & Safety. 364Launching at sunrise in really cool hot air balloons, the PCCA crew enjoyed amazing views of Napa’s vineyards, mountains, and valley. 5With James Berry, Berry-It, and Tony Brigg, Vermeer, watching his line and SteveWelch, Genuine Cable Group, watching the cup, Derek Luangrath, CEC Facilities Group, rolls in his putt.
PCCA Journal|4th Quarter 2022 26 POWER NEWS National Rural Electric Cooperative Association CEO Jim Matheson called the North American Electric Reliability Corporation’s latest reliability assessment a “clear and constant warning about the nationwide consequences of continuing a haphazard energy transition.” “This assessment paints a stark and disheartening picture of the reliability challenges facing much of the United States this winter,” Matheson said. “As the demand for electricity risks outpacing the available supply during peak winter conditions, consumers face an inconceivable but real threat of rolling blackouts. It doesn’t have to be this way. But absent a shift in state and federal energy policy, this is a reality we will face for years to come. “The pursuit of an energy transition that prioritizes speed over practicality has jeopardized America’s ability to keep the lights on. Today’s energy decisions will determine whether there are sufficient resources for the lights to come on tomorrow. Failure is not an acceptable option for the American families and businesses we serve.” A recent report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory concluded that in order to reach the Biden administration’s goal of a zero-carbon grid by 2035, U.S. power generation capacity would have to triple from 2020 levels. Electric transmission infrastructure would need to double or triple as well. “Electric cooperatives remain focused on working toward meaningful solutions to address reliability challenges spreading across the nation,” Matheson said. “This includes pressing for meaningful action to reform the process for permitting and siting new electric generation and transmission infrastructure.” Biden Administration Announces Investment to Preserve America’s Clean Nuclear Energy Infrastructure The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in November announced the conditional selection of the Diablo Canyon Power Plant, near Avila Beach, Calif., to receive the first round of funding from the Civil Nuclear Credit (CNC) Program. Funded by last year’s federal infrastructure law, the $6 billion CNC program supports the continued operations of safe and reliable nuclear energy facilities, preserving thousands of good-paying clean energy jobs while avoiding carbon emissions. As the nation’s largest source of carbon-free power, America’s current fleet of nuclear reactors is a vital resource for achieving the President’s goal of 100 percent clean electricity by 2035 and a net-zero emissions economy by 2050. “This is a critical step toward ensuring that our domestic nuclear fleet will continue providing reliable and affordable power to Americans as the nation’s largest source of clean electricity,” Energy Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm said. “Nuclear energy will help us meet President Biden’s climate goals, and with these historic investments in clean energy, we can protect these facilities and the communities they serve.” Nuclear power currently provides 50 percent of the nation’s carbon-free electricity, but shifting energy markets and other economic factors have already resulted in the early closures of 13 commercial reactors across the United States since 2013. These closures have led to an increase in carbon emissions in those regions, poorer air quality for residents living in the surrounding areas, and the loss of thousands of high-paying jobs. Units 1 and 2 at the Diablo Canyon Power Plant were scheduled to be decommissioned in 2024 and 2025, but November’s conditional award of credits, valued at up to $1.1 billion, creates a path forward for Diablo Canyon to remain open. Final terms are subject to negotiation and finalization by DOE. Owned and operated by Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Diablo Canyon produces approximately 16 GWh of electricity annually, about 15 percent of the state’s clean energy. The award will save 1,500 clean energy jobs. NRECA’s Matheson: NERC Winter Reliability Assessment ‘Clear and Constant Warning’ to Policymakers
PCCA Journal|4th Quarter 2022 27 Introducing the ReelLift™ Reel Management System, the contractor-tested way to save on set-up, handling and takedown for cable and wire projects. Get 50% in REEL savings Hydraulically lifts, repositions and transports reels in tight spaces Integrated bed design eliminates the need for a trailer Variable-speed controls for cable payout, retrieval and figure-8 deployment 800-534-5624 hydrabeds.com/utility Toomey, Kelly Introduce Pipeline Permitting Reform Bill On December 1, Rep. Mike Kelly and Sen. Pat Toomey introduced the Pipeline Permitting for Energy Security Act, which aims to ease regulations for natural gas pipeline construction and would approve the completion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline project. “It is long past time to stop the exploitation of outdated laws to prevent the construction of pipelines, which are the safest and most efficient way to transport natural gas, by activists and the politicians who cater to them. The obstruction of commonsense, essential energy infrastructure projects has resulted in higher energy costs, increased global reliance on energy produced by tyrants like Vladimir Putin, and ironically prevented increased distribution of the energy source most responsible for the declines in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions,” Toomey said. “Through the Pipeline Permitting for Energy Security Act, Congress would create regulatory certainty for pipeline construction nationwide and greenlight the long-delayed Mountain Valley Pipeline. This would also enable increased access to low-cost, clean, and safe natural gas from Pennsylvania. Real, lasting permitting reform is pivotal to creating a sustainable American energy policy for the 21st century.” Kelly added, “Pennsylvania is the second-largest natural gas producing state in the country, and I’m committed to making sure the Keystone State can continue to serve as an energy leader in the United States and around the world. The Biden administration has created so many burdensome regulations on our domestic energy production during his first two years in office, driving costs up and shrinking the value of Americans’ hard-earned dollar. This bill eases regulatory conditions so pipelines can transport that gas from Pennsylvania to the Northeastern United States, ultimately lowering energy costs for families and businesses. I thank Senator Toomey for his joint effort to ensure Pennsylvania can lead America’s energy comeback!” The Pipeline Permitting for Energy Power News continued on page 28
PCCA Journal|4th Quarter 2022 28 DOE Announces $13 Billion to Modernize and Expand America’s Power Grid Note: The following is excerpted from a U.S. Department of Energy press release. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced in November $13 billion in new financing opportunities for the expansion and modernization of the nation’s electric grid. Funded by last year’s federal infrastructure law, the Grid Resilience Innovative Partnership (GRIP) program and the Transmission Facilitation Program together represent the largest single direct federal investment in critical transmission and distribution infrastructure and one of the first down payments on an over $20 billion investment under the administration’s Building a Better Grid Initiative. The Biden administration says these federal investments will unlock billions of dollars of state and private sector capital to build transformative projects that increase the reliability of the power grid and modernize it so that more American communities and businesses have access to affordable, reliable, clean electricity, helping deliver on the President’s goal of 100% clean electricity by 2035. “We are moving swiftly to deliver cleaner, cheaper energy to every American community by building a modern and reliable electric grid,” Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm said. “With nearly 70 percent of the nation’s grid more than 25 years old, the President’s agenda is making historic investments that will strengthen the nation’s transmission grid to drive down energy costs, generate good-paying jobs, and help keep the lights on during extreme weather events.” Independent estimates indicate that the U.S. needs to expand electricity transmission systems by 60 percent by 2030 and may need to triple current capacity by 2050 to accommodate the country’s rapidly increasing supply of cheaper, cleaner energy, to meet increasing power demand for electric vehicles and electric home heating, and to reduce power outages from severe weather. The funding announced in November, along with a $2.3 billion program that funds grid resilience investments by states and tribes to reduce impacts due to extreme weather and natural disasters, are programs under the Building a Better Grid Initiative. Launched in January 2022, the initiative brings together community and industry stakeholders to identify national transmission needs and is investing more than $20 billion to support the modernization and buildout of long-distance, high-voltage transmission and distribution systems that are critical to reaching President Biden’s goal of 100 percent clean electricity by 2035 and a zero-emissions economy by 2050. GRIP Program The federal infrastructure law provides $10.5 billion across three programs that make up the GRIP program to enhance grid flexibility and improve the resilience of the power system against growing threats of extreme weather and climate change. The program will deliver projects centered on: • Grid Resilience Utility and Industry Grants ($2.5 billion) fund compreSecurity Act would: • Limit state authority to delay pipeline construction by mandating concrete timelines for Clean Water Act review • Clarify factors unrelated to water quality not to be considered in the Clean Water Act review process • Provide clear scope of navigable waters included in Clean Water Act review • Protect the use of general permits to prevent duplicative review of construction along the same pipeline • Streamline the National Environmental Policy Act review process for major federal projects • Prevent the expansion of the Endangered Species Act qualifications to obstruct pipeline infrastructure • Shorten standard Endangered Species Act consultation timeframes and create a new expedited consultation process for projects proven to cause minimal effect • Permit Mountain Valley Pipeline construction to finally conclude after many unnecessary setbacks INGAA President & CEO Amy Andryszak said, “We welcome Senator Toomey’s contribution to the ongoing discussion on improving permitting processes for infrastructure critical to meeting our nation’s energy, economic, security, and climate goals. This legislation is focused on meaningfully addressing overly burdensome regulations associated with the Clean Water Act and National Environmental Policy Act for both interstate natural gas pipelines and other vital energy infrastructure. We hope this further informs the conversation around permitting reform as we head into the next year.” Power News Continued from page 27
PCCA Journal|4th Quarter 2022 29 hensive transmission and distribution technology solutions that will mitigate multiple hazards across a region or within a community, including wildfires, floods, hurricanes, extreme heat, extreme cold, storms, and any other event that can cause a disruption to the power system. Eligible applicants include electric grid operators, storage operators, generators, transmission owners or operators, distribution providers, and fuel suppliers. • Smart Grid Grants ($3 billion) increase the flexibility, efficiency, reliability, and resilience of the electric power system, with particular focus on increasing capacity of the transmission system, preventing faults that may lead to wildfires or other system disturbances, integrating renewable energy at the transmission and distribution levels, and facilitating the integration of increasing numbers of electric vehicles, buildings using electricity to heat and hot water, and other grid-edge devices. The program is open to domestic entities including institutions of higher education, for-profit entities, non-profit entities, state and local government entities, and tribal nations. • Grid Innovation Program ($5 billion) provides financial assistance to one or multiple states, tribes, local governments, and public utility commissions to collaborate with electric grid owners and operators to deploy projects that use innovative approaches to transmission, storage, and distribution infrastructure to enhance grid resilience and reliability. Transmission Facilitation Program The Transmission Facilitation Program establishes an innovative revolving fund to help overcome the financial hurdles facing large-scale new transmission lines, upgrades of existing transmission lines, and, in select states and territories, the establishment of microgrids. The federal infrastructure law authorizes DOE, through the program, to borrow up to $2.5 billion to assist in the construction of high-capacity transmission lines with an innovative approach that can spur valuable new lines that otherwise would not get built or increase the capacity of already planned lines. Under this first solicitation, DOE will use capacity contracts to commit to purchasing up to 50 percent of the maximum capacity of the transmission line. By initially offering capacity contracts to late-stage projects, DOE will increase the confidence of additional investors and customers and reduce the risk of project developers under-building or undersizing needed transmission capacity projects. © 2022 The Charles Machine Works, Inc. Learn more from your Ditch Witch® dealer. The Marksman Plus HDD Guidance System provides superior performance in high-interference environments with the industry’s widest range of frequencies in a single beacon.
PCCA Journal|4th Quarter 2022 30 BROADBAND NEWS NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association has released its “2022 Broadband/Internet Availability Survey Report,” highlighting the ongoing efforts of rural broadband providers to deliver better broadband services to rural Americans. “At a time when there’s so much focus on how to reach millions of rural Americans still awaiting quality broadband access, this survey highlights how NTCA members have led the charge to date in delivering on this promise for so many and the tremendous work they continue to do to close remaining gaps,” NTCA Chief Executive Officer Shirley Bloomfield said. “I’m proud to share that our small, community-based providers have risen to meet this broadband moment again in 2022, delivering affordable, high-speed connectivity to some of the hardest to reach areas. Our members are poised and ready to keep up this momentum in 2023, and we think they provide a remarkable blueprint for how best to tackle outstanding challenges in rural broadband.” Survey highlights include: • NTCA members continue to deploy fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) networks that enable increasingly higher speeds in rural communities. Nearly 82 percent of respondents’ customers on average can receive downstream speeds greater than/equal to 100 Mbps, compared to just over 75 percent in 2021, and nearly 61 percent of customers on average have access to Gigabit downstream speed, up from just over 55 percent in 2021. Additionally, more than three quarters (79.3 percent) of respondents’ customers on average are served by FTTH connections, up from 75 percent in 2021. • More customers are subscribing to higher speeds as they become available. Nearly 49 percent of respondents’ customers subscribe to 100 Mbps broadband or better, up from just over 37 percent in the 2021 survey, and for the first time, the 2022 survey found that subscriptions for 100 Mbps and higher speed services are now more popular than services between 25 and 100 Mbps. The percentage of customers subscribing to service between 100 Mbps and 1 Gig is almost 37 percent, surpassing the 25–100 Mbps tier at just over 31 percent. • NTCA members continue to provide critically important broadband service to schools, libraries, and other anchor institutions in their communities. Respondents offer robust levels of fixed broadband service to community centers, public libraries, schools and institutions for higher education, emergency call centers, hospitals, and many more critical facilities in their communities. There’s still more work to do, and the sustainability of networks remains important. The last 20 percent of customers are historically the hardest and most expensive to reach, and respondents estimate that the average initial construction cost to bring all customers up to the 100 Mbps (downstream) level of service is $30 million. The sustainability of networks and services also remains important, as can be seen in the significant efforts to offer increasing speeds on existing fiber networks. The 2022 Broadband/Internet Availability Survey was conducted in August 2022, and 38.3 percent of NTCA’s members responded. The average service area of respondents is approximately 2,080 square miles. More information is at www.ntca.org/sites/default/files/ documents/2022-12/2022 percent20Broadband percent20Survey percent20Report percent20 percent28FINAL percent2011-28-22 percent29.pdf. NTCA Report: Rural Broadband Providers Increasing Speeds on Fiber Networks FCC Requires Broadband Providers to Display Point-of-Sale Labels to Empower Consumers On November 17, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) unveiled new rules that will for the first time require broadband providers to display easy-to-understand labels to allow consumers to comparison shop for broadband services. The Report and Order approved by the FCC creates rules that require broadband providers to display, at the point of sale, labels that show key information consumers want− prices, speeds, fees, data allowances,www.pccaweb.org