Barrett to Baker: Please Support Price Caps in Offshore Wind Deals

Senator Mike Barrett, Senate Co-Chair of the Legislature’s Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, is asking Governor Charlie Baker to drop his Administration’s push to lift price caps on offshore wind deals.

“The cap protects everyone in Massachusetts who pays a monthly electric bill,” Barrett writes. A Baker bill that abolishes the cap, among other things, is set to be heard tomorrow by the Committee.

“I strongly support clean energy in general and offshore wind in particular,” Barrett writes. “I take exception, however, to your proposal to abolish the cap. … I think you were right the first time, in 2016, when you supported legislative language imposing just such a cap, and the
second time, in 2019, when you suggested lifting the cap for just a single round and reimposing it for later rounds.”

Barrett, a legislative leader on climate issues, is concerned that “ratepayers could be confronted with unnecessarily steep electricity bills, associate them with climate policy, and rebel against
both.”

“To respond to global warming,” he says, “we need to go all-electric with respect to both our cars and our heating systems. Which means we need to boost our overall consumption of electricity, in the teeth of the region’s high per-unit costs. It’s a sensitive time to be asking legislators to drop a legal safeguard for their constituents.”

“Thanks to last month’s announcement on third-round contracting,” Barrett adds, “we now know the cap has prevented neither the developers nor our coastal cities from coming out of contract negotiations as winners. Importantly, the cap ensures that families throughout the state win,
too.”

As for the job implications, he writes, “Though it’s extremely early in the industry’s build-out in Massachusetts — preparations for the first project, Vineyard Wind I, have only just begun — it’s possible to take a preliminary tally of associated economic development activity,” Barrett writes.
“Judging from the positive reactions from all around Massachusetts, including your office, it’s hard to argue that the price cap has stifled job creation.”

Barrett’s letter also lists the wholesale electricity prices set in the Massachusetts deals shaped by the cap and compares them to the prices set in comparable deals struck in New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey, none of which featured price caps.

“The numbers make the Massachusetts approach look very good,” Barrett concludes.

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Massachusetts’ biggest climate wins and losses of 2021 Boston Globe

In 2022, the most important thing to watch is the ground game.  The heart of the matter is the shift from high-level goal-setting to ground-level execution.  Time to electrify our cars, trucks, and buses; electrify our homes and businesses; and green the grid. 

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Local leaders returning from UN climate summit say MA needs local action for clean, green Wicked Local

Barrett, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Energy, was a key sponsor of the Massachusetts Net Zero climate action legislation, signed into law earlier this year. 

Reigning in climate change and keeping the anticipated temperature increase at the targeted, agreed upon 1.5 degrees centigrade, depends on local advocacy.  Barrett said the greening of the electrical grid, weaning from fossil fuels in the production of electricity, greening of new construction, both residential and commercial and industrial and the transportation sector, is the state’s challenge. 

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Our view: Records should be made public Gloucester Daily Times

Lawmakers are considering a bill that would unseal all public records after 90 years that were kept on individuals with mental or physical disabilities and who lived in places like the Fernald School and other state institutions. Currently those records are sealed under health privacy laws, or heavily redacted if they are released.

Sen. Michael Barrett, who filed the Senate version of the bill, said there is a need to retain some privacy for individuals, “but there also needs to be research and truth telling,” he told the news service.

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Safety bills mix with calls for natural gas transition WBUR

“Advocates and lawmakers repeatedly pointed Tuesday to the climate law that Gov. Charlie Baker signed in March, which commits Massachusetts to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and requires interim emissions reduction goals between now and the middle of the century.  

“The state’s new climate law also calls for a municipal opt-in net-zero stretch energy code that addresses the use of gas in new buildings, and by next summer the administration is required to set 2025 emissions sublimits for various sectors, including commercial and residential heating and cooling, and natural gas distribution and service.” 

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Barrett details plans for UN climate change conference in Scotland Lexington Wicked Local

Sen. Mike Barrett has made it a priority over the years to focus on the effect of climate change on Massachusetts.  Now, he is taking to the international stage in an effort to galvanize Bay State residents and outside parties into taking immediate action on climate change and its impacts. 

“This is the rubber-hits-the-road moment for international climate change negotiations,” Barrett said.  “This nitty gritty, close-up question of execution is a tough one.  What we need to do in Glasgow is to come up with some international standards for state and city actions.” 

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In the void of national climate legislation, locals lead the way Boston Globe

Barrett attended the 2017 climate summit in Bonn, shortly after President Donald Trump had pulled the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement.  

Four years later, the politics and the stance on climate change at the White House have undergone a sea change, but the challenges of passing binding legislation through Congress remain. 

“Our current situation is different, and yet in some respects it’s the same,” said Barrett. “What we’re doing in Massachusetts becomes all the more important as the odds go longer around significant national action.” 

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In Glasgow, hope and hot air mix at conference to address climate change Boston Globe

In the coming days of the two-week conference, there will be additional visitors from Massachusetts, including Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Kathleen Theoharides; one of the primary authors of the state’s new climate law, Senator Michael Barrett, a Democrat from Lexington; and Boston’s environment chief, the Rev. Mariama White-Hammond.

 

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‘Triage and transition’: Safety bills mix with calls for move away from natural gas Wicked Local

“Reaching that goal is going to require us to move buildings onto electric heat and off of gas, which will raise questions about the infrastructure that we have in place to deliver gas,” Sen. Michael Barrett, the Senate co-chair of the TUE Committee, said. “And at the same time, of course, we’re concerned about leaks from that infrastructure and somehow have to balance our weariness about continued investment with the necessity of maintaining public safety. Each year, at least so far, about 14,000 new leaks are detected in this infrastructure. And we’ve been running hard to stay in place, plugging leaks but finding new ones.”

Proposed Massachusetts public records bill would aid pursuit of ‘truth telling’ MassLive

“A bill that would unseal all public records after 90 years would unlock the stories of generations of Massachusetts residents who lived in state institutions with mental and physical disabilities, according to academics and legislators trying to strike balance between privacy and the public interest. 

“Rep. Sean Garballey and Sen. Michael Barrett have filed legislation that would no longer shield from public inspection, due to health privacy laws, records kept on individuals with disabilities who lived in places like the Fernald School. 

“‘There needs to be privacy protections, but there also needs to be research and truth telling,’ Barrett said.” 

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Massachusetts vastly underestimates emissions from natural gas, study finds Boston Globe

“Some state lawmakers said the time for cutting emissions is now, noting that Massachusetts’ new climate law requires the state to cut its greenhouse gases by 50 percent by the end of the decade. 

“‘Keeping up the infrastructure is beginning to look like a hopeless job,’ said Senator Mike Barrett, one of the climate bill’s lead negotiators.  ‘There’s been little progress since 2014, and not for lack of trying.  We may be better off walking away from the assets as soon as we can.’” 

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As state law requires steep emissions cuts, utilities face an urgent quandary: to build or not to build new gas pipelines? Boston Globe

State Senator Michael Barrett, a Lexington Democrat who helped lead the effort to pass the state’s new climate law, urged regulators to view Eversource’s proposal with “suspicion” and worried that similar efforts would be made to scare the state into allowing utilities to continue building gas infrastructure.

“Every time we try to put into place a carefully managed strategy of retreat from gas, we’re going to see utilities invoke redundancy, resiliency, or modernization to preserve their customer base and continue to build,” he said, noting that existing state incentives have made new construction an important part of their revenue. “These arguments are glib and self-serving, and we need to oppose them.”

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Beacon Hill eyeing tradeoffs on offshore wind Commonwealth Magazine

Sen. Michael Barrett of Lexington, the Senate chair of the Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy Committee, remains skeptical. He says the state already has some of the highest electricity prices in the country, so it shouldn’t accede to higher prices on 20-year power supply contracts with offshore wind developers to lure a manufacturing facility to the state. Higher electricity prices, he says, might hinder attainment of the real prize – decarbonizing the state’s economy by convincing consumers to shift to carbon-free electricity to power their cars, buildings, and everything else.

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The state asked for a blueprint of a gas-free future. Why are the utilities writing the first draft? Boston Globe

Senator Mike Barrett, an architect of the state’s landmark climate legislation, said the arrangement at least raises the specter of bias, and at this moment in the climate crisis, when acting quickly is paramount, that can be a problem. “None of this guarantees a set of biased results, but all of it raises questions,” he said. “All of it is a bit disquieting.” 

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Baker shifts thinking on offshore wind CommonWealth Magazine

Sen. Michael Barrett of Lexington, the Senate chair of the committee, was much more circumspect in his remarks. He said Baker’s proposal for more investment in offshore wind appeared promising, but drew the line there.

“Let’s not miss the elephant in the room,” he said in a statement. “The big idea here is the complete abolition of legal checks on the cost of electricity generated by offshore wind.  Legislators are being asked to terminate protection for the people who pay their electric bills every month, which is most of us.  For the administration, this is a major policy change.”

“In terms of the cost of electricity per kilowatt hour, we pay some of the highest rates in the country,” Barrett continued. “Because of the climate crisis, we need to go all-electric with respect to both our cars and our heating systems, which means we need to boost our overall consumption of electricity in the teeth of our high per-unit costs. It’s a dicey time to bring up abolishing price constraints.”

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Buildings emerging as central focus of carbon fight Lexington Wicked Local

“Barrett began the virtual hearing Wednesday morning by reminding the committee and those listening that the climate law requires the secretary of energy and environmental affairs to set emissions sublimits for the electric power, commercial and industrial heating and cooling, residential heating and cooling, and natural gas distribution and service sectors. 

“’The climate act provides the general context in which all these bills need to be thought about. As you all know, the House and the Senate, in the new climate act which became effective on June 25, indicated that Massachusetts has to curb emissions from buildings and that very soon, within the next nine months, the secretary must set emissions limits,” Barrett said.” 

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Senate Passes Landmark Voting Reform Bill

“The State Senate has passed a major voting reform bill to expand voting access, making permanent COVID era initiatives like mail-in ballots and expanded early voting. 

“’At a time when states like Texas and Georgia are making it tougher to vote, Massachusetts is going the other way and expanding access,” said local Senator Mike Barrett.  “This is deeply satisfying news.  I’m proud of the Massachusetts State Senate.’” 

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