NEW BEDFORD – With the 2016 state budget through the Legislature and Gov. Charlie Baker filing a hydropower-focused bill last week, Beacon Hill seems poised to talk about energy legislation, but wind energy proposals that could boost business at New Bedford’s Marine Commerce Terminal still might not be heard until after Labor Day, a Taunton senator said Monday.
Last week’s first-ever use of the $113 million, state-funded terminal on New Bedford’s southern shore was much heralded by city and state politicians, but also raised questions about prospects for long-term use of the facility, which was designed to serve as a staging area for the offshore wind industry.
Democratic state representatives Patricia Haddad of Somerset and Antonio F.D. Cabral of New Bedford each have proposed bills this year that are designed to boost offshore wind, which is still in its infancy in the U.S. Both bills would require state utilities to purchase orders for offshore wind power in coming years, potentially galvanizing the industry and helping offshore wind developers secure financing for turbine projects in leased federal waters south of Martha’s Vineyard.
Both bills – Haddad’s “Act to Promote Energy Diversity” and Cabral’s smaller “Act to Promote Offshore Wind Energy” – are awaiting hearings before the state’s Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy.
State Sen. Marc R. Pacheco, D-Taunton, is the Senate vice-chair of that committee. He said that while the committee soon could be conducting hearings on “20 to 30 different types” of energy-related legislation, on a broad range of topics, bills including Haddad’s and Cabral’s might not come up until after the Legislature returns from its August recess.
“At the very earliest it could be in the next couple of weeks, but I would guess most of the real work that would take place (on those bills) …would probably happen sometime after Labor Day,” Pacheco said Monday.
Cabral said Gov. Baker’s energy bill is “heavy on the hydro side,” as opposed to offshore wind, indicating potential competition among the state’s renewable energy sectors.
“It’s (a question of) how you actually put out a balanced proposal that ends up heading us in the direction of a clean energy economy, while at the same time allowing for all the various sectors of that economy to move forward,” Pacheco said.
Cabral said committee hearings for his bill and Haddad’s could be vital in that process.
“What we’ve been hoping is that once the committee has public hearings…we hope that we can bring a number of issues forward,”
Cabral said. “It’s very important for us in Massachusetts to really begin to incentivize (the offshore wind) industry, because we think it’s going to become a major industry in the United States, and I think Massachusetts ought to lead.”
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