Sen. Michael Barrett of Lexington, the Senate chair of the Legislature’s Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy Committee, said he is concerned that sharply higher prices for offshore wind power could stall the state’s decarbonization effort, which is reliant on using clean electricity to displace fossil fuels in the transportation and heating sectors.
“Competition means more than the number of developers bidding,” he said in a phone interview. “It means objective reliable evidence that developers are still bent on economizing and on giving New England consumers affordable rates. I want to see us move to high, high proportions of clean energy, but the long game here requires electricity prices that the public will accept. You don’t want to ignite a backlash against the entire climate policy project.”
To me, progressive climate policy in the MA Legislature turns on the Senate and the House remaining equal in power. For my take on today’s tensions, watch this.
“I want to thank you for bearing with us during these rather extraordinary times, this choice to have two proceedings rather than one. Presumably it won’t be forever, presumably collective decision-making will return to [the Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy Committee] and with that, joint hearings. We can’t have one without the other,” Barrett said. “But my hope is that we’ll start to abide by our traditional rules and we will once again give equal weight to Senate decision-making — not excessive weight, but equal weight — and in so doing, be able to bring the two halves of the hearing process back together as well. But probably that resolution will not be coming this year. And so we have to resign ourselves to the dual hearing process instead and to make it as bearable for all of us as possible.”
What does the SouthCoast Wind project’s recent move to pull out of its contract mean for Massachusetts’ climate goals? State Sen. Michael Barrett told WBUR’s Dave Faneuf the offshore wind farm developer’s effort to renegotiate for more money will slow down the state’s massive shift to cleaner electricity — but not significantly so. “The delay in generating offshore wind is going to put the 2025 and 2030 emissions limits for electric power in some jeopardy, but only for a year or two,” Barrett said, adding that he hopes to see the state “hit those limits and more” soon after.
“If the [hangar] project goes forward as the developers envision, we fear Massport’s sustainability efforts elsewhere will net out to very little in the way of reduced emissions, and possibly to nothing at all,” wrote Barrett, whose letter was co-signed by more than 30 other local residents and officials. “Pollution attributable to traffic at the new Hanscom hangars threatens to cancel out all the gains.”
Barrett urged Massport officials to reimagine the proposal and require all new hangers to house fossil fuel-free aircraft, such as the 75 electric airplanes that Cape Air ordered last year from a Washington company called Eviation.
“We urge you, in the strongest possible terms, to ensure that Massachusetts does not enable super-emitters,” he wrote.
Sen. Michael Barrett of Lexington, the Senate chair of the committee, said the senators won’t return to meeting with their House counterparts until the House members agree to rules recognizing parity between the two branches.
That means the House and Senate chairs have to agree jointly on which bills will be heard at hearings and which bills will get acted on in executive sessions. Without parity, Barrett said, the Senate will lose leverage and House members will prevail most of the time because House members on the committee outnumber Senate members by almost a 2-1 margin.
State Sen. Michael Barrett on Monday accused his House co-chair on the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy of scheduling a hearing on energy bills for later this week without his consent. “There’s a small chance this is merely a serious error,” Barrett said in a statement. “Otherwise, I regret to say, the use of my name appears to be fraudulent.”
But Barrett isn’t just peeved about one listening session. He said state Rep. Jeffrey Roy’s “unilateral act” not only violates the rule that joint committee chairs agree on hearing schedules, but also breaks with broader governing practices designed to give the Senate an equal say on panels where their members are outnumbered. And he claimed other Senate chairs “are being pressed along similar lines.”
Barrett is giving voice to what some senators have been privately griping about for months. They say House chairs pushed boilerplate rules this session that would let them leverage their chamber’s numerical advantage on joint committees by using majority votes to call hearings and move bills without senators’ consent.
Barrett, who is senate chair of the state’s Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy, spoke on the topic of “Decarbonizing Massachusetts” at MIT’s Wong Auditorium as part of the Institute’s celebration of Earth Week. The event was accompanied by a poster session highlighting some of the work of MIT students and faculty aimed at tackling aspects of the climate issue.
State Sen. Michael Barrett, sponsor of a bill that would remove transportation safety from the DPU, said his proposal would create a state agency that can solely focus on transportation.
“It’s not a matter of the people not doing their job, it’s a structural problem,” Sen. Barrett said. “Structurally, the DPU will always be distracted.”
Moving safety oversight of the MBTA out of the Department of Public Utilities should be an immediate priority, says one Massachusetts lawmaker, who is pushing to create an independent commission that would take over this watchdog role.
A bill establishing this new agency, filed by state Sen. Michael Barrett, will be considered at a Monday Joint Committee on Transportation hearing, the first step in what he hopes will be a successful legislative push.
“I don’t think the federal government will permit us to rest with the status quo,” Barrett said. “We’ve got to do something. The T is not getting any safer. I think it’s high time we acted.”