Disaster Response and Mutual Aid

Groups seek testing, PPE prioritization for mission-essential workers

The American Public Power Association and several other energy industry trade associations and unions on April 3 sent a letter to organizations representing state and local governments asking them to give mission-essential workers a higher priority when it comes to testing and personal protective equipment (PPE) as the country grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Given the indispensable nature of the energy our members and federal electric utilities produce and deliver, it is vital that they be able to continue their work to ensure electric and natural gas service remains safe and reliable throughout this unprecedented health emergency,” the letter said.

“To accomplish this, we are asking for your help and that of your members in recognizing that there is a limited number of highly skilled, mission-essential workers who serve on our frontlines and who need priority access to personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing.”

The letter was sent to the Council of State Governments, International City/Council Management Association, National Association of Counties, National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, National Council of State Legislatures, National Governors Association, National League of Cities, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

APPA and the power sector acknowledge that healthcare workers should have first access to personal protective equipment.

APPA and the other energy groups and unions “acknowledge and appreciate that many state, local, territorial, and tribal leaders already have adopted the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS’s) guidance on Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers, which was designed to help leaders appropriately prioritize critical infrastructure operators to ensure ‘continuity of functions critical to the public health and safety, as well as economic and national security,’” the letter went on to say.

The DHS guidance “was a good first step, and has allowed critical construction, maintenance, and power restoration projects to continue in many jurisdictions.”

APPA and the other energy groups and unions are now asking for additional assistance that is consistent with a memo that the National Governors Association sent to its members on March 25 on the challenges the energy industry is facing.

“Specifically, we need your support in helping mission-essential employees -- those who operate power generation facilities, staff the control rooms that serve as the ‘nerve centers’ for transmission and distribution networks, and maintain the system and do emergency repairs as necessary -- to be treated as a higher priority,” the letter said.

“This is particularly important in emergency situations when workers must enter customers’ residences or businesses and as some of our members are going to the extraordinary measure of sequestering this workforce or decentralizing their operations to limit the impact a positive case would have on this category of workers.” 

Along with APPA, the following energy groups and unions signed on to the letter:

  • Edison Electric Institute
  • Electric Power Supply Association
  • National Rural Electric Cooperative Association
  • Nuclear Energy Institute 
  • American Gas Association
  • American Public Gas Association
  • International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
  • North America’s Building Trades Unions
  • United Brotherhood of Carpenters
  • Joiners Utility Workers Union of America