Feb 26th Roundup: Speaker DeLeo Announces $1b “Green Works” Investments

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-House Speaker Announces $1B “GreenWorks” Communities Investment Initiative
: In a surprise announcement last Friday, House Speaker Robert Deleo and House energy committee Chair Tom Golden outlined a new bill that aims to help municipalities invest in green infrastructure. The bill plans to spend $1 billion over 10 years, with money raised from state bond sales. Cities and towns would be able to apply for money through competitive grants.

There is currently no specific bill for this proposal, although the Speaker is expected to file a bill in the coming weeks. At the announcement event held at Greentown Labs, Speaker Deleo called on the legislature to pass the measure this year, in 2019.

If implemented, the initiative would make it easier for municipalities to mitigate against the impacts of climate change by building out microgrids and other clean energy infrastructure. As explained by MassPoliticsProfs contributor and Bentley Professor Rob Deleo, the proposal helps cities and towns devise policies that resonate at the district-level, a struggle for local climate mitigation in the past.

Critics meanwhile worry that not enough of the money will be used to encourage mitigation (stopping the causes of climate change), but instead be direct towards adaptation (addresses the impacts of climate change). Others also call on Speaker Deleo to take further steps to decarbonize the state’s electric sector and the entire economy, particularly the transportation sector which account for 43% of Massachusetts emissions.

Because the bill is publicly backed by the Speaker, expect it to receive strong support among House members and additional media attention once the bill is officially filed. It’s not yet clear what Senate President Spilka or other Senate leaders think of the proposal, which would need their approval before being sent to the Governor’s desk.

-$2.8 million state grant to biomass sparks controversy: Last week, the state’s Department of Energy Resources (DOER) awarded nearly $3 million to 5 companies to develop new biomass heating sources using wood chips. The awards were made possible due to a change to the state’s Alternative Portfolio Standard (APS) made by the legislature last year that allowed residents and businesses to earn incentives for using “renewable thermal technologies.”

Critics note that the DOER awarded the entire amount to combustion-based technologies, as opposed to solar hot water heating or air/round heat pumps that are also authorized to earn incentives. There are also concerns about the health and air quality impacts of burning biomass, along with the potential to accelerate climate change and overuse state forests for fuel.

-“Environmental activists to press US Rep. Richard Neal to support ‘Green New Deal’” 
(Shannon Young, MassLive): “Dozens of environmental activists from across Massachusetts will gather in Springfield Tuesday to urge U.S. Rep. Richard Neal to join fellow delegation members in supporting Democrats’ “Green New Deal” agenda. The Boston chapter of Sunrise Movement, a youth-led effort that seeks to force political action on climate change-related issues, announced Monday that it will hold a late afternoon rally with local high school students, college students and other environmental activists outside the Springfield Democrat’s State Street office.”

-“Markey Defends Green New Deal, Warns Against Invading Venezuela In Wide-Ranging Interview” (Craig LeMoult, Phillip Martin, Adam Reilly, & Isaiah Thompson, WGBH): “In a wide-ranging interview with WGBH News on Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Ed Markey addressed several national and local issues that have been grabbing headlines in the past few weeks. He defended his proposed Green New Deal, brushing off recent criticisms; gave an update on changes coming to pipeline safety law after the September explosions in the Merrimack Valley; and commented on what he believes the United States’ role should be in the changing government in Venezuela.”

-“Maine settlement could pave way for Canadian hydro in New England” 
(Robert Walton, Utility Dive): “Central Maine Power (CMP) and the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), along with the Maine Governor’s Office of Energy and several other parties, have filed a settlement agreement with state regulators that could help the 145-mile New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC) transmission project ultimately receive approval….The NECEC project is designed to connect more than 1 GW of emissions free generation owned by Hydro-Québec in Canada, with consumers in Massachusetts. The Maine agreement calls for CMP to make grid improvements and investments in a range of programs focused on moderate and low income families… The endorsement of Democratic Maine Gov. Janet Mills is a boon for NECEC’s chances, but there is still a long road ahead for the project, say experts. A contested hearing is possible at the Maine Public Utilities Commission, and other state agencies must still approve the route.”

-“Massachusetts officials seek hearing on Pilgrim plant sale and shutdown” 
(Colin A. Young, SHNS via Boston Business Journal): “Citing concerns about public health, public safety and financial risks, Attorney General Maura Healey and Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton have asked federal nuclear regulators to allow the state to intervene in the federal review of the proposed sale and license transfer of Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth… Healey and Beaton are asking that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission schedule an adjudicatory hearing on the sale of the plant, which is slated to close for good by June 1, and the state’s concerns.”

-“R.I. fishermen, Vineyard Wind reach deal on compensation”
 (Alex Kuffner, Providence Journal): “A Rhode Island fishing board on Saturday voted in favor of a revised compensation offer from offshore wind developer Vineyard Wind in a decision that boosts the New Bedford company’s chances of securing a key approval from state coastal regulators later this week. In a unanimous vote at the special meeting, the Fishermen’s Advisory Board accepted the new offer that includes $4.2 million in payments over 30 years for direct impacts to commercial fishermen from Vineyard Wind’s 84-turbine wind farm proposed in Rhode Island Sound, as well as the creation of a $12.5-million trust set up over five years that could be used to cover additional costs to fishermen resulting from the project.”

-“South Carolina House unanimously advances bill to remove net metering caps”
 (Iulia Gheorghiu, Utility Dive): “The South Carolina House unanimously advanced a bill on Thursday to lift restrictions that would stifle distributed solar deployment…. H.B. 3659 would lift the net metering generation cap and extend the program for two years, which could help lower energy bills for customers with solar installations.”

-“Grid operator laments lack of action on carbon pricing” 
(Bruce Mohl, Commonwealth Magazine): “The CEO of the region’s power grid operator indicated on Wednesday that he was surprised at the reluctance of New England states to embrace a price on carbon. Many of the states are pursuing aggressive greenhouse gas reduction goals, but so far they have shied away from putting a price on the carbon content of fuels used to generate electricity.”

-“UMN researchers incorporate solar panels in low-income housing” 
(Farrah Mina, Minnesota Daily): “University of Minnesota researchers recently released a report that focuses on making solar energy more accessible to low-income households — a solution that could help homeowners meet mortgage payments. A proposal by Humphrey School of Public Affairs researchers could reduce the overall operating costs for homeowners by providing solar financing options geared toward Habitat for Humanity and its nonprofit affiliates that lower energy bills.”

-“Report: Transportation funding shortfall $8.4b” 
(Bruce Mohl, Commonwealth Magazine): “A report developed by the business group A Better City estimates Massachusetts is facing an $8.4 billion shortfall over the next 10 years in bringing state transportation assets into a state of good repair. The state highway system needs $6.5 billion more than its budgeted revenue over the next 10 years to maintain roads, bridges, and tunnels, according to the report. The MBTA is set for the next five years, but after that it will face a $1.9 billion shortfall, brought on largely by diminishing federal funding and less state borrowing capacity, the report says.”

-“With traffic so bad, is it really the time to raise T fares?” (Adam Vaccaro, the Boston Globe): “Boston has the worst rush-hour traffic in the country, according to a new ranking. Subway and bus ridership is declining. And the Baker administration has an explicit goal of moving more drivers to public transit. And yet the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is on track to increase fares 6.3 percent systemwide in July. The proposed fare increase is causing concern among some transit specialists, who say it could lead to a drop in the number of people who take the bus, train, and subway. Fewer people using mass transit, in turn, would make it that much harder for the state to cut back on congestion and to tackle climate change — another major goal.”

-“Toll from natural gas disaster in Merrimack Valley passes $1 billion”
 (Milton J. Valencia, the Boston Globe): “The Sept. 13 natural gas disaster that ripped through the Merrimack Valley has now cost Columbia Gas of Massachusetts more than $1 billion, and the utility also reported Wednesday that it is seeking to settle the numerous lawsuits filed against it. The latest estimate is nearly double the initial projection made by Columbia Gas parent company NiSource, which conceded it had underestimated the “required scope of the restoration work inside the affected homes and the extended period of time over which the restoration work would take place.””

-[Interactive] “How to Cut U.S. Emissions Faster? Do What These Countries Are Doing” (Brad Plumer & Blacki Migliozzi, New York Times):
“The United States is reducing its greenhouse gas emissions far too slowly to help avert the worst effects of global warming. But what would happen if the country adopted seven of the most ambitious climate policies already in place around the world?

-“Amazon, Facing Pressure, Agrees to New Environmental Disclosures”(Bloomberg News, via Supply Chain Brain): “Amazon.com Inc. announced it will disclose its carbon footprint later this year, giving consumers and investors new insight into the environmental cost of its popular two-day shipping. The company also pledged in a blog post Monday that half of its shipments would be “net zero” carbon — also known as carbon-neutral — by 2030. The world’s biggest e-commerce company has for years resisted pressure from investors and other stakeholders to disclose more information about its environmental impact.”

-“America’s strongest climate governor might be a Republican”
 by Benjamin Storrow, via E&E News.

-“Dianne Feinstein Doesn’t Need a Do-Over” by Caitlin Flanagan, via the Atlantic.

-“Forget The Green New Deal, The Future Is Batteries” by Ellen R. Wald, via Forbes.

-“Renewable energy is not the political wedge it once was” by Mark Pischea, via the Hill.


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