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PRESS RELEASE - Downing Votes for Energy Reform: Senate’s GREEN Act Promotes Renewable Resources and Energy Efficiency
January 09, 2008

Boston - This evening State Senator Benjamin B. Downing (D – Pittsfield) voted for sweeping changes in the use and implementation of energy resources as the Senate unanimously passed its version of energy reform legislation.


“This package contains many progressive initiatives to advance the renewable energy resources we believe will reduce rising energy costs and promote efficiency and conservation in Massachusetts,” said Downing. 


An Act to Generate Renewable Energy and Efficiency Now – the GREEN Act – helps ease energy costs in cities and towns by allowing municipalities to construct, own and operate small renewable energy generation sources.


“Day after day, we hear about the skyrocketing prices of gas and home heating oil and more news about the changes in our climate,” Senate President Therese Murray (D-Plymouth) said. “We cannot continue on this course if we expect to revitalize our economy and preserve our future. We need to reform our energy policies, and I believe the Senate’s bill moves us in the right direction.”


The bill promotes renewable energies by including initiatives such as updating the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard to reach the goal of 20 percent renewable power resources by 2020. It also requires distribution companies to enter into long-term contracts for renewable energy to help renewable energy suppliers secure their place in the supply network. 


“The passage of this bill will make the Commonwealth a leader in energy conservation and efficiency, particularly in the production of renewables,” said Senator Steven C. Panagiotakos (D-Lowell), chairman of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “The bill does not get us to our ultimate goal of fully-efficient energy, but it does allow us to make substantial gains down the field. Looking forward there is still a lot of work and a lot of collaboration to be done.”


The GREEN Act establishes new energy efficiency standards by requiring distribution companies to obtain energy supplies using the method that costs the least. Known as “least-cost procurement,” this change makes energy efficiency, which is two-thirds cheaper than building new power, compete favorably with new power generation. It will also help limit and reduce energy consumption.


For consumers, this reform seeks to level the playing field between utilities and ratepayers by strengthening the Attorney General’s power to act on behalf of ratepayers.


The legislation also mandates improved quality of service from power companies operating in the Commonwealth, and increased customer awareness of competitive energy suppliers in their area. Additionally, it focuses on promoting the utilization of energy efficiency, renewable energy and other strategies for communities by establishing a “Green Communities” program. 


This session, both the Senate and House of Representatives have passed comprehensive energy legislation.  While the two Chambers agree on most aspects of energy reform, there are differences between the two bills:


  • The Senate bill acknowledges fiscal restrictions in the Commonwealth’s ability to afford tax breaks for hybrid car buyers and therefore does not include the House provision.


  • The Senate bill protects the state’s Ocean Sanctuaries Act by eliminating the House initiative to remove environmental protections preventing the construction of a 120-turbine wind farm in Buzzards Bay, and instead inserting the Senate’s comprehensive Ocean Management bill which passed unanimously in September.


  • The Senate bill restores the viability of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MTC) by keeping the Renewable Energy Trust Fund under MTC control.


  • The Senate bill also includes language authorizing the eligibility of coal gasification as an alternative energy source with two critical safeguards absent from the House bill. The two safeguards are the permanent sequestration of carbon dioxide emissions and a requirement that net emissions are no greater than those from the cleanest gas facilities.


The GREEN Act reform package also dovetails with other Senate energy initiatives, including the development of cellulosic ethanol produced with woodchips, cranberries and algae. Senator Marc Pacheco (D-Taunton) has also proposed comprehensive climate change legislation, which the Senate is currently working on and hopes to bring to the floor later this spring.   Downing, a Senate appointee to the Massachusetts Advanced Biofuels Task Force, hosts the working group at its first public hearing next Monday, January 14, at Lenox Memorial Middle & High School’s Duffin Theater from 4-6:30 PM.  The Task Force has been charged with making recommendations to promote the development of an advanced biofuels industry in the Commonwealth in a report due March 31st.





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