MA Supreme Court Rules State Must Step Up Efforts on Global Warming
On May 17, in a landmark unanimous decision, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the State had failed to meet the requirements of the 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA).
The court ruled that the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection failed to put regulations in place to establish legally enforceable emissions reductions on sources of pollution that would decline on an annual basis. E2 and other groups have pressed both the Patrick and the Baker Administration to put these regulations in place.
This case sends a clear message to the administration that we need major new action to meet the requirements of the law — reducing greenhouse gas emissions 25% below 1990 levels by 2020 and 80% by 2050. Recent independent analysis indicates that the state will fall short of that goal by 5-7% without substantial new policies.
Gas Pipelines – One Down; One to Go
On May 23, Kinder Morgan formally withdrew its federal application for Northeast EnergyDirect, the controversial 420-mile pipeline that would have carried fracked gas from Pennsylvania into New England. This ensures that the controversial project, as proposed, will not be built. The company cited insufficient firm capacity contracts for the proposed 2.2-billion cubic-foot line.
The jury is still out on the other proposed gas pipeline, Access Northeast, a joint project of the state’s two largest utilities and Spectra Energy. The Massachusetts’ Supreme Judicial Court is currently considering a case brought by CLF against the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) to determine if electric companies, for the first time in 86 years, may buy natural gas pipeline capacity and sell it to power plants and pass the cost of the 20-year contracts on to consumers in their electric bills.
E2 testified and submitted written testimony in opposition to any new pipeline.
MA Poised to Pass Critical Energy Bill
In the closing days of June, the Massachusetts senate unanimously passed an ambitious energy bill that calls for major procurement of clean energy, including 2000 megawatts of offshore wind, and a very large amount of additional clean power from hydropower and other clean-energy resources including onshore wind, solar, anaerobic digestion and energy storage. Also, the bill doubles the annual rate of increase in the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS), which requires utilities to obtain a minimum amount of their electricity from renewable sources like solar and wind. Furthermore, the bill would prohibit utilities from charging electric ratepayers to finance gas pipelines.
Earlier in the month, the House passed its own slimmed down version of the bill that simply called for procurement of additional clean energy resources, including hydropower and offshore wind. E2 strongly supports procurement of additional offshore wind, as embodied in the senate version of the bill. (See letter to the state legislature signed by over 50 business executives and owners urging a larger offshore wind procurement.)
The bill now goes to conference committee. With a July 30th deadline looming, this bill – especially the senate version — would be a critical milestone for the Commonwealth in meeting its mandate of reducing emissions 25% below 1990 levels by 2020.
Berl Hartman is an E2 New England Chapter Director.