House officials are creating an “omnibus” energy bill, which may lead to one of the more interesting debates on Beacon Hill in years. House Speaker Robert DeLeo (pictured below) has been discussing this for some time, his approach being that when there are many debated yet related issues, the best thing is consolidate them into one bill and begin negotiating. The advantage is that it may be better to address the state’s energy issues in a way that’s not fragmented up into multiple bills.
From CommonWealth Magazine contributor, Bruce Mohl (January 14, 2016) —
A conference committee consisting of members from the House and Senate was appointed to resolve the different net metering approaches of the two branches, but there has been little progress. Many think net metering and the whole issue of solar incentives may be tossed into the omnibus pot.
One source said it will be interesting to see if the House pushes for special incentives for offshore wind at a time when it is trying to cut incentives for solar. Both renewable energy technologies hold the promise of developing new industries of the future, but both require, at least for now, heavy ratepayer incentives to work financially.
Speaker of the Massachusetts House, Robert A. DeLeo (D Winthrop)
(from his official webpage)
Thank you SAFE member, Nancy Gilberg, for pointing out this story. It’s disturbing that so many elected officials don’t understand basic science.
From Sean Cockerham, McClatchy Washington Bureau:
The Senate rejected the scientific consensus that humans are causing climate change, days after NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declared 2014 the hottest year ever recorded on Earth.
The Republican-controlled Senate defeated a measure Wednesday stating that climate change is real and that human activity significantly contributes to it. Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, offered the measure as the Senate debated the Keystone XL pipeline, which would tap the carbon-intensive oil sands in the Canadian province of Alberta.
The Senate voted 50-49 on the measure, which required 60 votes in order to pass.
“Only in the halls of Congress is this a controversial piece of legislation,” Schatz said.
JONATHAN ERNST | REUTERS
U.S. Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) (C) is greeted by a reporter as he arrives for the weekly Senate Republican caucus luncheon at the U.S. Capitol in Washington January 13, 2015.
Two bits of good news in the West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency case (where the EPA is being charged with breaking the law when it sought to lower greenhouse gas emissions from coal plants). There is still no guarantee that the EPA will win, but the environmental community was happy to hear that two of the three judges who will hear the case are Democratic appointees. The parties that members of a judicial panel belong to has been shown in other cases to make a great deal of difference, especially for judges on the DC Circuit. EPA opponents also sought a delay, but were not granted it (a delay would have meant the emissions could have gone on for years).
CREDIT: AP PHOTO/PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS
“At the very least, the fact that Democrats enjoy a majority on the West Virginia panel suggests that the EPA rules will not receive the same questionable treatment that Obamacare received in the Halbig case. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the EPA will prevail in the DC Circuit — or that the Supreme Court will not get involved if it does. But the environmental community undoubtedly breathed a sigh of relief when they saw the identity of the judges assigned to this case.”
The survival of many species has been challenged by climate change. It’s really good news to hear that the National Wildlife Foundation is not only advocating for all the species gone (and all those that still may yet be lost), but also for renewable energy power sources as a possible solution for global warming/species extinction. A replacement by renewable energy sources of fossil fuels could completely change the mix that is destroying our planet.
From National Wildlife Foundation contributor, Amber Hewitt:
On Thursday, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker will give his State of the Commonwealth address. He’ll reflect on the successes and challenges of 2015 and lay out his vision for the year ahead. Given the highly anticipated energy debate unfolding on Beacon Hill, we’ll be listening extra closely to his words on the Commonwealth’s energy challenges. There is no shortage of debate surrounding which energy sources should power our economy into the future. Gov. Baker’s words will underscore where his Administration stands in the critical energy conversation underway.
This blog post is from 2014, but explains in detail why there is currently so much controversy over raising the upper limits on how much the utilities have to pay back to consumers who have solar installations on their homes/companies (“net metering”). Energy from solar power is becoming increasingly popular in the U.S. The utilities claim that this causes them to lose revenue, and to pay for their general expenses, they’ll have to pass higher rates on to consumers who don’t have solar panels. The Koch brothers, Edison Electric, and other groups that represent the industry side of the utility business have gone so far as to say solar homeowners should be taxed for the utilities’ lost revenue. However, this article makes the case for raising the caps on net metering, and thereby incentivize the solar industry to expand even more.
From contributor Evan Leonard in The Artisan Blog (for Artisan Electric), June 23, 2014:
Argument #1: Rooftop solar causes utilities to lose revenue and pass those costs to non-solar ratepayers.
Several studies have come out over the last few years proving this claim to be false. Studies in California, New York, Vermont and Texas all show that utilities actually make money in the long run when their ratepayers install solar, and do not shift costs to non-solar ratepayers even in the short term.
Argument #2: Too much solar creates an unstable grid.
Again, the opposite turns out to be true. In fact, net metering policies create a smoother demand curve for electricity and allow utilities to better manage their peak electricity loads. By encouraging generation near the point of consumption, net metering also reduces the strain on distribution systems and prevents losses in long-distance electricity transmission and distribution.
Read the original blog post.
There has been scientific debate for more than ten years if the changes humans have been making to the planet actually comprise a new name-worthy geologic time period. A new study indicates that is indeed so.
From ThinkProgress.org contributor Alejandro Davila Fragoso on 1/7/16:
Waters and other authors of the study — which gathered data from multiple other studies — said the amount of data available identifies various so-called signatures that can be found worldwide in a similar time and scale. This makes the case for the Anthropocene and its proposed starting date compelling, some authors said.
“It’s the things like the novel materials we’ve seen in the last 60 years,” said Waters, a principal geologist at the British Geological Survey. “It’s the way that the atmospheric geochemistry, the CO2 and the methane (have) changed dramatically in the last 60 years. It’s the general contamination from nitrates and phosphates, heavy metals, all the things that we looked at seem to show a very dramatic change in the mid 20th century.”
Graph based on data from the U.S. Geological Survey. CREDIT: DYLAN PETROHILOS
This story by Christian M. Wade, Statehouse Reporter, was printed in the 12/26/15 edition of the Salem News. Representative Lori Ehrlich filed a bill to prevent utilities from passing the bulk of costs of gas leaks on to ratepayers. A Harvard University study revealed that the cost of these leaks is $90,000,000 a year. Also, the effect of natural gas escaping into the atmosphere contributes to climate change, since methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
BOSTON — Utilities are under growing pressure from lawmakers and environmental groups to plug tens of thousands of leaks in aging underground gas pipelines, some of which are decades old.
An interactive map of leaks [NOTE: as reported by the various local utilities on 2/26/2015] throughout the state posted by a Cambridge nonprofit group, the Home Energy Efficiency Team, pinpoints tends of thousands of leaks, some of them major. The map uses data provided by National Grid, Eversource, Columbia Gas and other providers.
A law passed last year requires the utilities to track and grade all gas leaks on a scale of 1 to 3, with 1 being most serious, and immediately repair the most hazardous. The law also requires utilities to share the information with the public.
The map of leaks in Salem, as reported by the local utility on 2/26/2015. Go to HEET’s website (Home Energy Efficiency Team) for a more detailed look at Salem’s map, and those of other communities.