Gov.-elect Deval Patrick’s working group on Energy and the Environment heard an eclectic mix of concerns at Northeastern University last night, from support for Cape Wind to calls for more money for state environmental programs.
The ideas on energy policy ranged from the profound – vastly curbing greenhouse gases – to the offbeat: a Cambridge bicyclist proudly displayed the solar-powered lamp he designed for his backpack.
Patrick’s working groups are scheduled to deliver reports on major state issues by Dec. 15. The incoming administration named 15 separate groups, and they are holding more than 30 meetings around the state in the next two weeks.
Patrick does not attend many of the meetings himself, and he was not at Northeastern University last night. He has called it a chance for the citizens of Massachusetts to be heard.
Jim Gordon, the president of Cape Wind, seemed to capture the enthusiasm of more than 100 people who attended last night’s community hearing, many of them wearing Deval Patrick campaign buttons and stickers.
Patrick was the first gubernatorial candidate to endorse Cape Wind’s proposal to place 130 wind turbines in Nantucket Sound. He has called it the critical element of a plan to make renewable energy Massachusetts’ new growth industry.
Most speakers got applause after they spoke. Gordon, whose project is under federal review, got a smattering of applause when he was introduced nearly two hours into the meeting.
”We are greatly appreciative,” Gordon said. ”Gov. Patrick, one of the centerpieces of his economic platform, is the creation of a robust and viable renewable energy industry in this region. I think if we can unlock the renewable energy portfolio in Massachusetts, we will definitely be able to ensure our energy security, our health, our environment, and create good paying jobs for the communities that want them.”
Tom Wineman, an Osterville resident who works with the Cape and Islands Renewable Energy Collaborative, called on the Patrick administration to do a top-to-bottom review of the state’s energy policies.
Wineman wore a pro-Cape Wind button on his sweater. He said the state should work to encourage renewable energy policies that boost the economy and create jobs.
The state’s major environmental groups all said that state parks and environmental initiatives were badly underfunded. Megan Amundson of the Environmental League of Massachusetts said state environmental programs were still $43 million short of what they received in 2001, before deep budget cuts.
Other ideas that generated support included joining a regional initiative to reduce greenhouse gases, toughening the environmental regulations set by the Romney administration, and passing an ocean management plan that has made slow progress at the Statehouse.
Cape Wind got little mention, but given Patrick’s support, and the makeup of the attendees at the meeting, backing for it seemed to be a given. There was no sign of the division the issue has caused on the Cape and Islands.
”We should be making sure that Cape Wind is fast-tracked,” Rep. James Marzilli, D-Arlington, told the panel.
Earlier in the day, Patrick’s transition co-chairmen held a conference call with reporters to underscore the importance of the working groups.
John Walsh, who is managing the transition, said the working groups would not set policy themselves, but would gather information that would be used by the incoming Patrick administration.
He said the meetings have been drawing 100 or more people around the state.
”It’s evident that people are hungry for a government that will listen to them and incorporate what they are saying,” Walsh said.
Gloria Larson, a Yarmouthport lawyer who is one of the four leaders of Patrick’s transition team, said they intentionally named people with different viewpoints to the working groups. That was the case with the Energy and Environment working group, which has members with differing views on the Cape Wind project.
They include Susan Nickerson, of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, and working group co-chairwoman Sue Tierney, who strongly supports the wind farm.
Greg Watson, a Falmouth resident who has championed wind power with the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, is on the working group but could not attend last night’s meeting.
”There is a diversity of opinion, and it has led to the kind of healthy discussion that is exactly what you want to see,” Larson said.
Walsh said Patrick’s call to make Massachusetts a national leader in renewable energy was creating a buzz.
”That is gaining tremendous energy and tremendous legs throughout the commonwealth,” he said. ”People care tremendously about some of those assets we have. How do you promote conservation?”
By David Kibbe
Times Boston Bureau
David Kibbe can be reached at email@example.com.
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