Despite protests by union workers, environmentalists, and competitors, the Palm Beach County Commission yesterday handed one of its largest public works contracts to a company owned by controversial war contractor KBR.
Acting as the Solid Waste Authority, the commissioners approved a bid by Babcock & Wilcox Power Generation Group and KBR subsidiary BE&K Inc. to build a massive, $600 million incinerator that will turn trash into ash and energy.
Why is this troubling? For starters, BE&K came under fire last year for not hiring enough local workers on another $200 million Solid Waste Authority project in western Palm Beach County.
For this new proposal, the corporate team said just two out of every ten skilled workers would be local hires, while seven out of ten unskilled laborers would be local, according to the Palm Beach Post.
As any honest builder will tell you, refusing to hire local union labor saves cash in the short term. That may help explain why the Babcock and BE&K building team came in as the lowest bidder for the incinerator deal.
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What's less clear is why Palm Beach County wants to throw any more money at a KBR company. As the Juice has reported, KBR has a horrific track record in Iraq and Afghanistan. It's been accused of overpricing fuel, endangering soldiers due to electrical problems in its military facilities, and turning a blind eye to the sexual assault of its female employees.
Now, a KBR subsidiary will help build a complex, $600 million trash-burning facility in our backyard. Comforting thought, no?