Natural gas will become an ever more important fuel in our nation’s fuel mix to power our economy and for consumer use. The growing use of natural gas will help us reduce the amount of carbon we release into the atmosphere. But as is the case with many available fuels, it is dangerous.

The Utility Workers lost a member killed by a gas explosion just a year ago–Mark Keeley–in Philadelphia. Four other members were badly burned and injured. Local Union President Keith Holmes did a great job remembering and memorializing Mark and his injured brothers. Of course, the disaster in San Bruno, Calif during which eight of our brothers were killed cautions us to use this deadly fuel with great care.

Now we are learning that the procurement of gas by fracking can poison our ground water–a resource without which no nation nor society can survive.

So there are many reasons for us to move forward with caution.

The Utility Workers Union of America must position ourselves as the guardian of our members’ safety and the safety of the public and to be a force for protection of our most critical resource–water.

We know that our members and local unions are first responders. We turn off the electricity and-or the gas in an emergency. We save the lives of cops, firefighters and the public.

Some industries and some jobs are inherently dangerous.

But it is our job to do all we can to protect not only our members but the public and our consumers.

It has always been the role of unions and organized labor to speak up for all workers and our working class.

That is why it is so important for us to lead on safety, to fight for safe jobs and safe members and safe consumers.

Unfortunately, leading on safety and environmental protection is harder than ever. With the assault on the working class and our middle class and our labor movement, we have to fight for the future of our unions, our jobs, our labor movement and most importantly our kids and grandkids.