Mass Power Forward Statements on House Bill

On June 8, the House of Representatives debated and voted on a long-awaited energy bill focusing on offshore wind and hydropower.

Mass Power Forward, a statewide coalition of more than 150 environmental, social justice and community groups, businesses, and faith organizations responded by calling on lawmakers to take bolder steps to encourage wind and solar, and stop the construction of new gas pipelines.

As written, the bill requires the state to procure 1200 megawatts of offshore wind energy by 2027. While this is an historic commitment -- the largest offshore wind bill ever in the U.S. -- it falls well short of the 2,000 megawatts identified in a University of Delaware cost study as needed to capture the full economic benefits of the new offshore wind industry and drive down costs by more than half over the next decade. Coalition members called on the legislature to make a bigger commitment to offshore wind, and to double advances in the renewable portfolio standard to accommodate the simultaneous growth of land-based wind.

Coalition members cheered the fact that the bill does not include any explicit support for the “pipeline tax,” which would force ratepayers to subsidize new gas pipelines. But coalition members pressed lawmakers to go further by including an outright ban on electric ratepayer funding of new gas infrastructure as well as stronger policies to repair gas leaks. Coalition members applauded a gas leak amendment, one of the only amendments included in the final bill.

Finally, Mass Power Forward members urged legislators to use the bill as an opportunity to support low-income and community solar. The solar bill that passed in March cut the reimbursement rates for low-income and community solar projects, which are needed to ensure equitable access to solar for all Massachusetts residents.

Bold, visionary leadership by the legislature is needed to achieve the goals outlined in the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2008.

“Each new version of the bill seems to be an improvement,” said Massachusetts PipeLine Awareness Network Director Katy Eiseman, noting an energy efficiency provision included in the bill approved by the House. “I would like to see a clear prohibition of electric ratepayer financing of gas infrastructure in the final legislation, and other clarifications of the Department of Public Utilities’ mandate, so that the agency focuses more on serving the interests of the public, rather than of the utilities.”

“On to the Senate! I want it all, a ban on gas pipeline taxes, the full 2,000 megawatts for offshore wind, and accessible uncapped solar “ said Claire Miller of Toxics Action Center, “onwards, always onwards.”

“Today’s legislation moves us forward with bipartisan support to repair aging gas infrastructure and advance clean energy,” said Joel Wool, Energy Advocate with Clean Water Action. “The fact that both Republicans and Democrats also sought to push back against ratepayer funding of gas pipelines shows how vulnerable fossil fuel infrastructure is to the overwhelming will of the public to shift our power.”

"We congratulate our lawmakers on their efforts to develop energy legislation that will protect our planet and fulfill our moral obligation to future generations,” said Amy Benjamin, co-chair of the Mass Interfaith Coalition for Climate Action. “This House bill is a start but we need bolder action from the legislature in order to seize this historic opportunity to change the narrative on energy -- and to let it begin with Massachusetts!”

Said Craig Altemose, Senior Advisor of 350 Mass for a Better Future:  “We must go even farther. We must double down on offshore wind and send a clear signal that we do not want more fracked gas infrastructure by banning the pipeline tax. Our state and its people deserve no less."

“Massachusetts’ House leadership had an opportunity to demonstrate responsible leadership today by choosing the path of clean, renewable energy for the people in our Commonwealth.  Steps were taken to address the gas leaks, address offshore wind and the inclusion of a PACE provision is a positive step.  If we want to make a meaningful commitment to preparing for the future, there is much more work we need to do,” said Laura Wagner from Unitarian Universalist MA Action Network.  “We can no longer move at our current pace of change.  It’s time for bold action.”

“This Energy Omnibus bill is a good first step”, said Carol Oldham, Director of the Massachusetts Climate Action Network.“There are many things to like here, including offshore wind and not encouraging gas pipelines with a tariff. But to keep clean energy as the economic engine it has been for MA cities and towns, we hope the senate will go a step further and go bigger on offshore wind and restore community and low income solar incentives.”