Crunch time for the Omnibus

All this year, the state legislature has been postponing important climate decisions till it writes an Omnibus Energy Bill. That moment has arrived, and here’s how you can influence it.

Reps. Ehrlich and Farley-Bouvier are asking other House members to sign a letter to Rep. Thomas Golden, the House chair of the Telecom/Utilities/Energy Committee, who is drafting the omnibus bill. Please call your state rep and ask ‘em to sign the letter.  

Here is the text of the letter. And thank you for making that crucial call!

May XX, 2016

Thomas A. Golden
Chair, Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy
State House, Room 473B
Boston, MA 02133

Robert A. Deleo, Speaker of the House
Brian S. Dempsey, Chair, House Committee on Ways and Means
Re: Omnibus Energy Legislation Priorities

Dear Chairman Golden:

We thank you for your hard work to develop comprehensive energy legislation that keeps ratepayer energy bills reasonable and predictable while placing the Commonwealth on track to meet its greenhouse gas emissions reductions requirements. This is a complex piece of public policy with many long term consequences for the economic and environmental health of the Commonwealth about which our constituents care deeply. Your efforts and that of your team are very much appreciated.

As you craft the House energy bill, we ask you to prioritize the following:

1. No Publicly Funded Gas Pipeline Projects
As Representative Kulik and Minority Leader Jones’ recent letter made clear, a majority of the House opposes authorization of utility financing arrangements that require electric ratepayers to subsidize long-term gas pipeline expansion capacity contracts. Publicly funded gas pipeline expansion projects will greatly hinder the Commonwealth’s ability to meet its greenhouse gas reduction requirements, expose ratepayers to billions of dollars of risk, and are not needed to meet our energy demand and keep ratepayer energy bills reasonable and predictable.

2. Meaningful Offshore Wind Energy Development
The House bill should require our electric utilities to enter into long-term contracts to purchase at least 8.5 TWh (2000 MW) of offshore wind energy by 2030. Doing so will facilitate the creation of large-scale offshore wind energy development and bring thousands of clean energy jobs to Massachusetts. In Europe, there are 75,000 jobs related to the offshore wind industry.

3. Fix Our Leaking Gas Distribution System
Massachusetts’ utilities have allowed tens of thousands of gas leaks in our state’s gas distribution system, with some leaks decades old. This inaction is a result of a combination of powerful disincentives and lax requirements that hinder repair. Not only is this irresponsible but it’s wasteful, dangerous, and expensive. Natural gas, or methane, is highly explosive, contributes significantly to our greenhouse gas emissions, and a Harvard University study estimates that the annual cost of lost gas in Greater Boston alone is $90 million each year. That cost is borne by gas customers and is enough to provide heat to 200,000 homes annually. Disincentives should be reversed and requirements should be strengthened, especially at a time when utilities are seeking a vast expansion of their pipeline infrastructure.

4. Consumer and Environmental Protections in Large-Scale Hydropower Procurement
The Governor has proposed to import a significant amount of hydropower, equal to one-third of our state’s electricity consumption. To protect ratepayers and the environment, any such large-scale energy procurement should:
 Ensure that a minimum percentage of procured energy comes from RPS eligible renewable energy resources (i.e. onshore wind from Maine and New York);
 Require environmental best practices for transmission projects to avoid and minimize the impact on our region’s environmental and cultural resources; and,
 Prohibit utility self-dealing in the selection of transmission projects.

Thank you for being willing to take our priorities and those of our constituents into consideration as you prepare this bill to be released from committee.