BOSTON – A sweeping alternative energy bill passed the House last night, but tax breaks for hybrid vehicles and tougher energy standards will not begin as soon as some would like.
The bill now moves to the Senate, but with the legislative session for the year ending Tuesday night, it appears unlikely that the bill will make it to Gov. Deval L. Patrick’s desk this year.
“It’s going to be very difficult logistically to get it done,” said Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Steven C. Panagiotakos, D-Lowell. “I just don’t think we’ll be able to get through the paperwork.”
House members worked late into the night to pass House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi’s redrafted bill, which would grant tax benefits for hybrid cars and require diesel and home heating oil to contain some renewable fuel. Members had to trudge through 79 amendments before they passed the bill.
Although House members hoped to have the bill passed this year, most realized by late afternoon yesterday that the chances were slim.
“I think the timetable to get this passed by the Senate next week isn’t realistic,” said Rep. Christopher N. Speranzo, D-Pittsfield.
The delay will mean that 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 nonprofit environmental group Environment Northeast.
“The longer we wait, the longer we’ll wait for the savings for customers,” he said.
Under the bill, new buildings would be encouraged to meet tougher energy-efficient standards for lighting, heating and cooling systems. Anyone buying a hybrid or alternative-fuel car would get a $2,000 tax deduction. The bill also would allow cities and towns to apply for state loans and grants to pay for clean energy-efficient improvements.
Speranzo included an amendment that would give Tamarack Energy, a biomass facility looking to settle in Pittsfield, a much-needed boost. The amendment would establish a five-year pilot program requiring energy-distribution companies to enter into long-term agreements that they will use renewable energy.
“That’s big. It will help bring a great biomass facility to our area,” Speranzo said.
The bill will include a measure moving the oversight of a renewable energy trust to 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 businesses.
Massachusetts would have to derive 20 percent of the electricity it uses from renewable sources such as wind power by 2020, which would cut emissions of greenhouse gas by 20 percent.
By Hillary Chabot, Eagle Boston Bureau
16 November 2007
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