November 16, 2007

Amendments kill state energy bill

A sweeping alternative energy bill won’t be passed this year despite broad support after it was bogged down by amendments Thursday.

House members worked late into the night on Speaker Savatore DiMasi’s redrafted bill, which would grant tax benefits for hybrid cars and require that diesel and home heating oil contain some renewable fuel. Members had to trudge through 79 amendments before they passed the bill.

“It’s going to be very difficult logistically to get it done,” said Senate Ways and Means Chairman Steve Panagiotakos, D-Lowell. “I just don’t think we’ll be able to get through the paperwork by Monday or Tuesday.”

Although House members hoped to have the bill passed this year, most realized by late afternoon yesterday the chances were slim.

“I think the timetable to get this passed by the Senate next week isn’t realistic,” said state Rep. Chris Speranzo, D-Pittsfield.

The delay will mean home heating customers will have to wait longer to see savings from the alternative-fuel-use provisions in the bill, said Sam Krasnow, advocate for the non-profit environmental group Environment Northeast.

“The longer we wait, the longer we’ll wait for the savings for customers,” Krasnow said.

Under the bill, owners of new buildings would be encouraged to meet green building codes, including energy-efficient lighting, heating and cooling systems. Anyone buying a hybrid or alternative fuel car would get a $2,000 tax deduction. The bill would also allow cities and towns to apply for state loans and grants to pay for energy-efficient improvements.

The bill will include a measure moving the oversight of a renewable energy trust to Gov. Deval Patrick’s Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. The trust is funded through fees collected on all state residential and commercial utility bills and brings in $24 million annually to fund projects such as loans to help homeowners install solar panels or help renewable-energy companies grow their business.

Under the bill, Massachusetts would have to derive 20 percent of the electricity it uses from renewable sources such as wind power by 2020 while cutting emissions of greenhouse gasses by 20 percent.

The bill has support from Gov. Deval Patrick and Senate President Therese Murray, but the late passage of the bill means it won’t land on Patrick’s desk until next year.

By Hillary Chabot, Transcript Statehouse Bureau

North Adams Transcript

16 November 2007

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