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Clean energy bill architect hungry for next bill

BOSTON – Fresh off the filing of compromise clean energy legislation, one of its architects is looking ahead to the next bill and calling for more to be done.

The bill (H 4857), expected to pass Tuesday in the last formal legislative sessions of 2018, authorizes an additional procurement of offshore wind power, increases the renewable portfolio standard that governs the amount of clean energy utilities must purchase, establishes an energy storage target, and requires gas companies to collect and report data on leaks, among other measures.

It comes two years after the passage of a clean energy law that sparked the state to forge ahead with major wind and hydropower procurements.

“The day after the session ends, my office will be beginning again to pull together clean energy legislation for the next session, because we need to do it if we want to save ourselves from the worst effects of global climate change, and we need to do it if we are going to have a better future for our environment, for our public health and for the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink,” Sen. Marc Pacheco, who served on the six-member conference committee that wrote the final bill, told the News Service Monday night.

Pacheco, a Taunton Democrat, chairs the Senate Committee on Global Warming and Climate change, which authored a sweeping bill including a carbon pricing system after holding a listening tour throughout the state.

The House countered the Senate legislation with four different energy bills, and the conference committee formed July 17 to reconcile the two approaches.

Pacheco said there was a “significant difference” between the two branches’ legislation and he was “pleased that we’re able to get a bill.”

“I’m very pleased with doubling the amount of authorization for wind, bringing it up to 3,200 megawatts of offshore wind here in the state and doubling the renewable portfolio standard,” he said. “It’s not exactly where we in the Senate wanted to go – we wanted to do much more in both areas – but it’s still a significant improvement when you can go up 100 percent in anything. It’s a very good beginning for where we need to be ultimately in the future.”

Environment Massachusetts called the conference committee’s bill “a base hit, not a home run.” Ben Hellerstein, the group’s state director, said the bill “sets the stage for further action” on renewable energy and said it “unfortunately” does not address caps on solar power.

“The bottom line is there’s more work to do,” Hellerstein said. “If Massachusetts is to remain at the forefront of the transition to renewable energy, we need to set bigger goals and follow through with concrete action. When legislators return in January, clean energy should be at the top of their agenda.”

Elizabeth Henry, president of the Environmental League of Massachusetts, also said she hoped lawmakers would return to the issue next session.

“The limited bill does not match the urgency needed to address climate change mitigation and renewable energy deployment,” she said. “In order to make meaningful progress toward an equitable clean energy future, solar power must be accessible to all. While this bill represents steps in the right direction, we also lost some important opportunities to grow our clean energy economy and improve quality of life.”

The chair of the House Global Warming and Climate Change Committee echoed the complaints of environmental groups Tuesday morning, saying he planned to vote against the final bill. Rep. Frank Smizik, a Brookline Democrat not seeking reelection, called the bill “terrible” and said utilities were too often able to influence its details.

Pacheco said work on the next bill, including talks with advocates, will begin “immediately.”

“We’re going to reach out much earlier this time with members of the House of Representatives, and be talking to them and reaching out to see if we can get increased sponsorship of some of the bold ideas that I really think we need to accomplish if we’re going to meet our requirements under the Global Warming Solutions Act,” he said.