March 12 Roundup: With Offshore Wind, Must We Pick Between Low Price or Local Investment?


– MA Facing Major Hurdles in Offshore Wind Dominance: Massachusetts may have been a first mover on offshore wind when it announced its goal of producing 1,600 MW of offshore wind power, but other states are catching up. This plan is modest when compared to New York’s target of 9,000 MW and New Jersey’s 3,500 MW.

But there is more at stake than the state’s reputation as a climate leader or it achieving its long-term emissions goals. Massachusetts risks losing out on the opportunity to become the hub for domestic wind manufacturing on the eastern seaboard, and the economic and jobs benefits that come with that. Estimates place the manufacturing and associated supply chain for offshore wind turbines as a potentially multi-billion dollar industry over the coming decades. Industry analysts expect only 1-2 cities along the Atlantic to develop into these hubs, but it’s not currently clear which states or cities will emerge as leaders.

Inter-state competition is not the only challenge facing Massachusetts wind dominance, counterintuitively low prices are also threatening local manufacturing. In Massachusetts, New Bedford is a clear frontrunner for the race to be a supply chain hub. But like other cities along the east coast, it will require additional private and public investment in order to become build up its manufacturing infrastructure. Unfortunately, the extremely low bid price the state accepted from Vineyard Wind to develop the first 800 MW of Massachusetts’ offshore wind lease may be too low to encourage such local investments. Analysts contend that the low price is mostly explained by Vineyard Wind relying primarily on imported parts and equipment from manufacturers in Europe.

As reported by Jon Chesto of the Boston Globe, a deeper issue is that current state law requires future bid prices from offshore wind developers to be competitive with previous bids. This means that future developments would need to match Vineyard Wind’s very low prices. This curtails the potential for future local investment, as the current way to achieve such low prices is by importing wind parts. With the next round of bidding coming in Spring 2020, lawmakers led by Representative Pat Haddad are trying to pass a bill before the end of 2019 to modify the bidding process and encourage developers to invest in local manufacturing.

Policymakers are facing a tradeoff of sorts: encourage extremely low electric prices but cede offshore manufacturing leadership to other states (who will invest in their own domestic industries), OR accept slightly higher prices (but still lower than existing fossil fuel generation) and invest in manufacturing in places like New Bedford.

According to the Boston Globe, “bills generally aren’t passed this early in the two-year session, but [Energy Committee Chair Tom] Golden said it can be done. One option: attaching a provision to the state budget.” The House version of the budget is expected in early May 2019.


– A New Approach to Divestment on Beacon Hill: In past sessions, advocates attempted to divest the $71 billion managed by the Massachusetts state pension fund (known as ‘PRIM’) from fossil fuels. This session advocates are shifting their efforts towards creating a pathway to divest the nearly $86 billion in combined assets in the over 104 independent public retirement systems across the state. Unlike PRIM, which primarily manages pensions for state employees and Massachusetts teachers, these independent systems primarily service county and local municipal retirement funds and are regulated by a state entity called ‘PERAC.

The impetus for this shift towards divesting PERAC regulated funds came in 2018 after a legislative committee passed on approving a home-rule petition to allow Somerville’s independent pension fund to divest from fossil fuels. Independent public pension systems are prevented from divesting without a change to PERAC’s current governing rules. The committee said it would be better to pass one bill to establish an across the board change of PERAC’s rules on divestment, rather than pass individual bills for each of the 104 pensions funds.

Building on this, MassDivest, with support from Fossil Free Somerville, filed a bill (S.636/HD.2817) to allow all 104 systems to have the option to divest from fossil fuels. Beyond the bill’s climate action appeal, it’s considered more politically palatable because it emphasizes local control and doesn’t require legislators to take a direct stance on divestment. This policy approach currently has 60 House and 12 Senate cosponsors, between both bills.

The bills are both expected to have a public hearing before the Joint Committee on Financial Services sometime this summer.

-“Care About Climate Change? Keep an Eye On the State Budget” (Tim Cronin, Climate XChange): “Organizations, businesses, and activists working to push Massachusetts to address climate change tend to spend most of our time focusing on legislation. This makes sense, since the bold policies that are necessary to decarbonize our economy will come from bills, passed into law through the legislative process. But after a bill is law comes the even more important task of implementing the policy behind it, and this is where the budget plays a crucial role. This session, a controversial new proposal from Governor Baker to change climate funding is drawing attention to the outsized impact state spending (through the annual budget) has on the ability for Massachusetts to fight climate change.”


– “Deep Dive Recap: A Conversation on Green New Deal with Evan Weber and David Roberts” (Noa Dalzell, Climate XChange): “This month, the SCPN led a conversation on the Green New Deal with Evan Weber, the political director and co-founder of the Sunrise Movement, and David Roberts, the renowned Vox climate writer well-known for his unprecedented ability to break down complicated environmental policy. The conversation was moderated by Climate XChange’s Executive Director, Michael Green.” For the full recap and a link to the audio recording click here.

– “The bogus number at the center of the GOP’s Green New Deal attacks”(Zack Colman, POLITICO): “Republicans claim the “Green New Deal” would cost $93 trillion — a number that would dwarf the combined economic output of every nation on Earth. The figure is bogus. But that isn’t stopping the eye-popping total from turning up on the Senate floor, the Conservative Political Action Conference and even “Saturday Night Live” as progressive Democrats’ sweeping-yet-vague vision statement amps up the political conversation around climate change.”

– “Republicans who believe in climate change seek alternative to Green New Deal” (Allan Smith, NBC News): “Republicans have trashed the Green New Deal — Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions and create a renewable energy economy — as unrealistic, unaffordable and ill-conceived. But ever since the New York Democrat began promoting the idea late last year, a growing number of House GOP lawmakers have been increasingly willing to say those four little words: “Climate change is real.” And they’re warning the rest of their party that Republicans must push for alternative solutions before it’s too late.”


– “How one small city sowed the seeds for its own Green New Deal” (Rachel Layne, CBS News): “As those fighting climate change look toward grand government schemes such as the Green New Deal, little Holyoke, Massachusetts, is showing how to make the kinds of on-the-ground transformations needed to win the war. How this city of just 40,000 went from having the last coal-powered plant in Massachusetts to laying claim to its largest solar farm might prove a valuable blueprint as more cities and states set goals for 100 percent renewable energy.”

– “Squirrel Cuts Power To 3,000 Weymouth Homes” (Jimmy Bentley, Weymouth Patch): “A squirrel interfering with a power line cut off power to thousands of homes on Friday. About 3,400 homes lost power between 11:25 p.m. and 12:08 p.m., after the little critter cut power at a line on Georgia Road, National Grid spokeswoman Christine Milligan told Patch. The outages were mostly in Weymouth, but Milligan said a few homes in Braintree also lost power. As expected, the squirrel did not survive.”


– “Maine’s First Carbon Pricing Bill Helps Get the Conversation Moving” (Noa Dalzell, Climate XChange): “On February 28th, Maine’s first-ever carbon pricing bill (LD 434) faced opposition in a public hearing in front of the Joint Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology. The bill, which was introduced by Rep. Deane Rykerson (D-Kittery) in January, imposes a $5 per ton fee on carbon pollution that increases annually by $5 until it reaches $40 per ton by 2027…. Several of the protesters that I spoke stated that they did not believe undeniable evidence that the planet was warming. Many wore “People Over Politics” stickers, representing an organization that is known for promoting 9/11 conspiracy theories and pushing forward an anti-vaccine agenda….”

– “How New Mexico is Keeping Carbon Pricing in the Climate Conversation” (Jonah Kurman Faber, Climate XChange): “… With New Mexico’s legislative session ending in just 10 days, the bill is not expected to pass this session. However, between the governor’s developing plans and the relentless efforts of Santa Fe youth, carbon pricing is set to remain a focus in New Mexico in the coming year. It is, therefore, worth reviewing the bill, its importance in the context of state politics, and a way to move forward with carbon pricing in the third-largest oil producing state in the contiguous US.”

– “ISO-NE forecasts transition to distributed, renewable generation” (Iulia Gheorghiu, Utility Dive): “The Independent System Operator for New England (ISO-NE) highlighted the shift in its evolving resource mix toward distributed systems, renewables and natural gas in its 2019 Regional Electricity Outlook, released on Wednesday…. The grid operator forecast a decreasing net load as behind-the-meter resources increase. The region has nearly 3 GW of energy efficiency measures to reduce demand on the grid and about 2.9 GW of behind-the-meter solar photovoltaic resources.”

– “Minnesota 100% carbon-free bill joins flurry of state level clean energy action” (Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive): “As political leaders examine how to most efficiently curb power plant emissions across the country, state and federal leaders are grappling with nuclear’s role in the clean energy transition… In Minnesota, Gov. Walz’s proposal is a revision of a previous bill, proposed earlier this year, which called for 100% renewable energy by 2050 and.. “does not rule out nuclear” and allows for landfill burning as an eligible energy source as well.”


– “The climate election” (Alexi McCammond, Axios): “There wasn’t a single question about global warming in the 2016 presidential debates. In 2020, it might be the dominant one. The big picture: Climate change is on everyone’s minds in a way that it wasn’t in 2016. The worst thing to be as a Democratic presidential candidate, according to some youth environmental activists, is a “climate delayer” — someone who doesn’t recognize the urgency in addressing climate change.”


– “It’s 2050 And This Is How We Stopped Climate Change” (Dan Charles, WBUR): In this thought experiment, WBUR talks with a variety of experts and ask them to “unleashing our imagination and exploring a dream, a possible future in which we’re bringing global warming to a halt. It’s a world in which greenhouse emissions have ended.” Read or listen to the full story here.


– “Toxic chemicals threaten water supply in seven municipalities” (David Abel, the Boston Globe): “But PFAS, called “forever chemicals” because they never fully degrade, have been found far beyond military bases… In Massachusetts, the chemicals have been found in the drinking water of seven municipalities. In four — Ayer, Barnstable, Mashpee, and Westfield — they have been found in concentrations that exceed what the EPA considers safe. The chemicals were also found in Danvers, Harvard, and Hudson.”

– “U.S. And Canadian Lobstermen At Odds Over Lucrative Waters In Gulf Of Maine” (Callum Borchers & Zoë Mitchell, WBUR): “Over the past decade, lobstermen from both Maine and Canada have been fighting in a “Lobster War.” The dispute is over who owns 277-miles of lucrative fishing water offshore a small island in the Gulf Of Maine, the Machias Seal Island. Both countries have claimed the island as their own since the end of the Revolutionary War. As the lobster population has exploded due to warming waters, lobstermen from each county have more aggressively asserted their sovereignty.”

– “Cities Don’t Always Tell You When There’s Sewage In The River. A New Bill Would Change That” (Miriam Wasser, WBUR): “Statewide, about 200 active outfall pipes located in 18 cities discharge billions of gallons of sewage annually. And climate change is going to make the problem worse. Scientists predict that in the future, the Northeast will receive more precipitation in shorter, more intense bursts. It’s a recipe for sewage overflows… getting rid of them will cost billions and take years, so water advocates are pushing for a more modest, short-term goal: just letting the public know when there’s sewage in the water.”


– Jewish Climate Change Conference: The Time Is Short, The Task Is Great(March 24, 2019, 12:30 – 7:30 PM): Hosted by the Jewish Climate Action Network of Massachusetts (JCAN-MA), the Second National Jewish Climate Change Conference features more than 30 presenters on over 20 topics will provide actionable responses and technical actions for homes, synagogues, and other organizations, as well as spiritual responses, organizing techniques, and basic messaging around climate issues. See the schedule and register for this event here.


-“Recycling can’t fix what really ails us” by Yvonne Abraham, via the Boston Globe.

-“Don’t ignore military advice on climate change, Mr. President” by Ray Mabus, via Military Times.

-“Kasich: Forget the Green New Deal. We need climate solutions from free-market moderates” by John R. Kasich, via USA Today.

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