Eight Southeastern Massachusetts lawmakers have requested a meeting with House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, saying they are concerned about the way in which an amendment was slipped into an energy bill to open most state coastal waters to renewable energy development.
In response, Rep. DiMasi is arranging a meeting with all coastal lawmakers, from the North Shore to Cape Cod, to discuss the amendment and a separate ocean management bill that passed the Senate, said his spokesman, David Guarino.
The amendment to the speaker’s energy bill would remove a major hurdle before a proposal by Boston developer Jay Cashman to build up to 120 wind turbines in Buzzards Bay. The wind farm is currently under state review.
Mr. Cashman is a close friend of Rep. DiMasi’s, though the speaker’s office has denied the amendment was a favor to the developer.
The amendment was not filed by a House deadline, and it was not posted on the House Web site with dozens of other amendments before the debate began Nov. 15. It was slipped into a consolidated amendment by Rep. Robert DeLeo, D-Winthrop, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, the night the energy bill was approved.
Some legislators voted for the energy bill unaware of the amendment’s existence. The change in the Ocean Sanctuaries Act is supported by Gov. Deval Patrick’s administration, but it was opposed by several environmental groups, including the Conservation Law Foundation.
The request to meet with Rep. DiMasi was made by Reps. Stephen R. Canessa, D-New Bedford, Steven J. D’Amico, D-Seekonk, Susan Williams Gifford, R-Wareham, Robert M. Koczera, D-New Bedford, Matthew C. Patrick, D-Falmouth, Jeffrey D. Perry, R-Sandwich, John F. Quinn, D-Dartmouth, and David B. Sullivan, D-Fall River.
The eight state representatives sent a letter to Rep. DiMasi yesterday, commending him for his “leadership on this groundbreaking legislation.”
“However, we are extremely concerned over the circumstances surrounding the amendment which dramatically altered the Ocean Sanctuaries Act,” they wrote. “As legislators that represent coastal districts, we are troubled by the way the language was included in the consolidated amendment and media reports surrounding the adoption of the amendment.”
“The language was not part of the original amendments filed that were made available to the House members before the deadline. Transparency has been the hallmark of your speakership and this seems inconsistent with the high standards under which you operate the House of Representatives.”
Supporters of the change have insisted it clarified conflicts in existing law. They said state and local agencies would still have full review over wind turbines, hydroelectric projects and other renewable proposals.
“The amendment is merely clarifying the statute to allow renewable energy facilities in locations that currently allow electric generating facilities,” Mr. Guarino said. “It continues to be confusing.”
In a response to criticism over the amendment, Patriot Renewables, Mr. Cashman’s wind turbine company, said last month that it “was one of dozens of amendments that were introduced on the House floor, and we look forward to a full and open debate in the Senate.
“Some would use the (Ocean Sanctuaries Act) to close the door on wind, tidal and other renewable energy technologies making more than 90 percent of the commonwealth’s coastal waters off limits to renewable energy,” Patriot Renewables said. “We don’t believe this was the intent of the Legislature when they passed the Ocean Sanctuaries Act, and we don’t believe it represents sound public policy at a time when the need for renewable energy has never been greater.”
By David Kibbe
Standard-Times staff writer
7 December 2007
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