Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette on Jan. 15 urged the governors of 55 states and territories to prioritize critical infrastructure mission-essential workers during the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the letter, Brouillette noted that the critical infrastructure workforce should be prioritized for receipt of the COVID-19 vaccine, in both the public and private sector, including: investor-owned utilities, municipal-owned utilities, cooperatives, the Department of Energy’s Power Marketing Administrations (PMAs) and National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) sites, as well as members of the oil and natural gas subsector.
The electric power industry, including the nation’s investor-owned utilities, municipal-owned utilities, cooperatives, and the PMAs, “provide 24-7/365 electricity, necessary for the health and safety of all Americans,” he wrote in the letter.
“These critical electric infrastructure utility workers support and preserve the infrastructure and operations centers critical to maintaining the backbone of the electric grid. By prioritizing their health and safety for vaccine distribution alongside other frontline workers, we assure electricity distribution to the nation’s rural and urban communities,” he said.
Brouillette noted that essential critical infrastructure workers at the PMAs and NNSA sites conduct highly specialized tasks and cannot work from home or in isolation from others on the job site. “The PMAs operate electric systems and sell the electrical output of federally-owned and -operated hydroelectric dams in 34 states; their employees operate facilities that are needed to maintain the reliability and security of the nation’s energy grid.”
Similarly, NNSA’s essential workers “handle a range of issues including nuclear weapon systems, global and potential domestic nuclear security threats, the management and disposal of hazardous nuclear materials, and the safe and secure transport of nuclear materials. These individuals continue to work every day, putting both themselves and their families’ safety at risk in service of our nation,” wrote Brouillette.
He said that prioritizing vaccination access for mission-essential workers is consistent with guidance contained in the October 2, 2020, Framework for Equitable Allocation of COVID-19 vaccine, by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, and the October 29, 2020, COVID-19 Vaccination Program Interim Operational Guidance for Jurisdictions Playbook, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These reports recommend critical infrastructure workers be considered for prioritization based upon job function and exposure to risk.
“The PMAs’ and NNSA’s mission-essential workers must receive the vaccine through the states and territories, and therefore I respectfully ask that states and territories also include federal energy workers along with private energy sector workers as a high priority for voluntary access to initial inoculation. Such work is critical to public health and safety, as well as our economic and national security,” Brouillette said.