In the letter, Barrett and Roy invited Nelson to testify at the hearing, which the committee will conduct to “inquire into the Department of Public Utilities’ discharge of its responsibility to monitor the safety of MBTA operations.”
The state legislative committee in charge of the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities will conduct a hearing into the DPU’s discharge of its responsibility to oversee the safety of operations at the MBTA.
Sen. Mike Barrett and Rep. Jeff Roy, Senate and House Chairs of the Joint Legislative Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, sent a letter of invitation this morning to DPU Chair Matt Nelson, inviting him to testify at the proceeding, set for early October.
Barrett and Roy wrote, “We’ve been disturbed and disappointed to read the contents of the Safety Management Inspection of the Federal Transit Administration.” The legislators questioned whether “the DPU is motivated enough, independent enough, big enough, focused enough, and expert enough.”
On the question of independence, Barrett and Roy pointed out that the federal report directs the DPU to “examine and ensure its organizational and legal independence from the MBTA” and identifies “shared agency reporting relationships to the Governor” as a potential problem. “We don’t worry about explicit interference,” the legislators wrote Nelson. “We worry instead about a ‘don’t make matters worse’ mentality. ‘After all, we’re all on the same team here.’ Maybe the safety operation, wherever it’s situated, should not be on the same team the T is on.”
As for the size of the safety operation, the legislators said that, as of early September, the DPU’s Transportation Oversight Division has 11 authorized positions. “Our information,” Barrett and Roy said, “is that only nine are filled at present.” The two chairs point out that the DPU’s safety jurisdiction is very broad. “It strains credulity,” they said, “to contend that 11 people – or 13 people, or 15 – can range across the entire state to patrol the safety practices of trucks, railways, buses, household moving companies, towing companies, and hazardous waste companies, as well as the T.”
On the issue of focus, the legislators said the DPU is best known for regulating the monthly rates Eversource, NationalGrid, and other electric and natural gas utilities charge consumers. “Recently, as an outgrowth of these core assignments, the agency has assumed critically important responsibilities for shaping Massachusetts’ response to climate change,” Barrett and Roy wrote. “We wonder whether the state agency that must tackle the increasingly urgent questions of natural gas and electric power in a time of climate crisis should also handle inspections of household moving companies and towing companies. The damage from stretching the DPU too thin could cut in both directions. Either the safety mission could suffer due to the ever-growing concern about climate problems, or the climate mission could suffer due to the fire-drill nature of safety problems.”
A second legislative committee plans to hold oversight hearings related to the MBTA – this time concerning the role the Department of Public Utilities plays in overseeing safety issues at the transit authority. The House and Senate chairs of the Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy — Sen. Michael Barrett of Lexington and Rep. Jeffrey Roy of Franklin — invited the chair of the DPU to testify at a hearing planned next month.
Relying on a safety report released Wednesday by the Federal Transit Administration that criticized the DPUs failure to carry out many of its duties, the two chairs said they questioned whether the agency is “motivated enough, independent enough, big enough, focused enough, and expert enough” to do its job.
Days after the Federal Transit Administration criticized the state Department of Public Utilities for failing to provide proper oversight of the MBTA, lawmakers said Friday that they plan to hold a hearing in October to determine whether the agency should continue its role as the MBTA’s safety regulator.
“Is the DPU motivated enough to fill the safety role for the T?” state Senator Michael J. Barrett and state Representative Jeffrey N. Roy, cochairs of the Joint Legislative Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy, asked in a letter sent Friday to DPU Chairman Matthew H. Nelson. “The authors of the federal report imply that it isn’t.”
BOSTON (WHDH) – State lawmakers have scheduled a second hearing on state MBTA oversight days after the Federal Transit Administration released a scathing report on the T’s operations, calling into question its prioritization of long-term projects over day-to-day safety and maintenance.
“We’ve been disturbed and disappointed to read the contents of the Safety Management Inspection of the Federal Transit Administration,” said state Sen. Mike Barrett and Rep. Jeff Roy, Senate and House Chairs of the Joint Legislative Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy. The legislators questioned whether “the DPU is motivated enough, independent enough, big enough, focused enough, and expert enough.”
Sen. Barrett and Rep. Roy, Senate and House Chairs of the Joint Legislative Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, sent a letter of invitation this morning to DPU Chair Matt Nelson, inviting him to testify at the proceeding, set for early October.
“We’ve been disturbed and disappointed to read the contents of the Safety Management Inspection of the Federal Transit Administration.” The legislators questioned whether “the DPU is motivated enough, independent enough, big enough, focused enough, and expert enough.”
As the state recovers from two record-breaking heat waves, Senator Michael Barrett, a Democrat from Lexington and one of the bill’s architects, noted that the passage of the state legislation — along with the expected passage of the federal Inflation Reduction Act, with its $369 billion in energy and climate financing — should give people hope. “There’s plenty more to do, but nothing motivates like success,” he said.
The law, An Act Driving Clean Energy and Offshore Wind, emerged from conference committee on July 20 and was passed on July 31 after Baker submitted several of his own amendments. One of those amendments was the elimination of the 10-community fossil fuel development ban, but lawmakers left the provision in.
According to bill coauthor state Sen. Mike Barrett, the law contains dozens of items aimed at reducing carbon emissions, and numerous items aimed at economic development.
Sen. Michael Barrett, who has co-chaired the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy for most of Baker’s time in office, said Thursday that it “has been a nail-biter” waiting to see what the governor would do with a bill that included sections he had already indicated he was no fan of.
“I believe the governor is really committed to the housing issue in the suburbs and wanted to figure out if there was a way to join climate and housing together. I am grateful to him that he isn’t holding one hostage to the other,” Barrett said. “The good news is that the state does have a working bipartisan consensus in favor of efforts to push back on climate change. How many other places can say that?”
Described as a “landmark bill,” the Massachusetts climate legislation notably includes a provision — the first of its kind for the state — that would allow 10 municipalities to legally ban fossil fuel infrastructure in new and major construction projects. With this policy, certain cities and towns in Massachusetts could soon join others across the country that have taken similar steps to change local building codes to block the use of fossil fuels, such as natural gas — meaning many people who want gas stoves or furnaces are probably out of luck in these places.
“It’s a great day for Massachusetts,” tweeted state Rep. Jeffrey N. Roy (D), who, along with state Sen. Mike Barrett (D) and others, helped move the bill through the legislature.
“The Legislature’s original bill would have allowed 10 communities — Cambridge, Newton, Brookline, Lexington, Arlington, Concord, Lincoln, Acton, Aquinnah, and West Tisbury — to adopt bans. To implement the bans, communities would first have to ensure at least 10 percent of their housing is considered affordable under state law. All life sciences labs and health care facilities would also be exempt from the bans — a response to concerns from NAIOP Massachusetts, a lobby for developers and building owners, said Senator Mike Barrett.”
“Barrett, who was first elected to the Legislature in 1979, argued his colleagues were focusing too closely on a handful of harrowing anecdotes that would lead them to “overlegislate just as we did during the Bill Clinton years.”
“When the climate issue came up in the Senate, Sen. Michael Barrett played the good cop to Roy’s bad cop and instead focused on the ways that Baker and his amendments “influenced our thinking and our approach” in the latest edition of the climate bill.”
“Barrett, who drafted much of the pilot program’s language, said it was important for the state to help multifamily developers show their products weren’t climate-killers.”
“Lawmakers “agreed to a common disposition of several amendments proposed by Gov. Baker to a groundbreaking new climate bill for Massachusetts,” Sen. Mike Barrett, D, said in a statement. “Important ideas of his are included, the most notable of which is abolition of the so-called ‘price cap’ on what developers of offshore wind farms can charge for the electric power they produce.”
“Sen. Michael Barrett, who co-chairs the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy with Rep. Jeff Roy, said just before noon that he and Roy had agreed on a way to respond to the governor’s concerns. He said the House would take the matter up first.”
“Sen. Michael Barrett of Lexington, his branch’s energy expert, was the lead champion of continuing the price cap, a provision that requires that each successive procurement come in at a lower price than the previous one.
Barrett had argued that a price cap was needed to protect utility customers, but on Sunday he accepted Baker’s proposal to do away with the cap entirely. “We’re willing to take the chance that even more jobs can come if we do away with price controls,” he said.”
“This looks to be a major rewrite. Hard to know what the two legislative branches will manage to agree on, in the time we have left,” state Senator Michael Barrett, a lead climate change negotiator, said in a text message to State House News Service. “This has already been a tough negotiation.”
His Senate counterpart, Sen. Mike Barrett, was a little less optimistic.
“This looks to be a major rewrite,” Barrett texted a News Service reporter. “Hard to know what the two legislative branches will manage to agree on, in the time we have left.”
“This has already been a tough negotiation,” Barrett added.
“Mandatory liability insurance for gun owners, requiring them to absorb the full costs associated with their gun ownership, would be a giant step forward in the Commonwealth to combat gun violence. “An Act to Require Liability Insurance for Gun Ownership,” sponsored by Representative David Linsky and Senator Michael Barrett, is currently up for debate in the next legislative session.”