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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Legislators Say Mass Save is ‘Dragging Feet’ on Clean Energy Goals RTO Insider

Sen. Michael Barrett says that “from a legislative view, there is no one focused on responsibility” for the role Mass Save plays in electrification.


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Bill Aims To Stomp Out Biomass Power Subsidies WBUR

“Under the environmental justice policy in the new biomass regulations, which are set to take effect this week, future biomass facilities could be located and be eligible for incentives in just 10 to 11 percent of the state — a stretch of communities west of the Connecticut River and along the Connecticut border, a strip of coastline that runs through Cohasset, Scituate and Marshfield, and small shreds of various other towns. 

“Sen. Mike Barrett, the co-chair of the TUE Committee, said the bills Livingstone and the Springfield lawmakers supported seemed like it ‘simply makes formal what the Baker people already conceded informally, which is that there is not to be any additional biomass built in Massachusetts.’ 

“’If we’re going to create a map by administration regulation that bars biomass for 89 percent of the state, I think this is a de facto admission that biomass should no longer be part of a clean energy portfolio for Massachusetts,’ Barrett said. He added, ‘All we’re being asked to do is to formalize something that has already become an informal rule. And in so formalizing this new policy against biomass, we would be protecting a handful of remaining towns that don’t qualify for environmental justice protection.’” 


Hearing shows desire to spend ARPA $$$ on infrastructure

Sen. Michael Barrett questioned why the administration had chosen not to fund certain climate projects, such as a modernization of the electric grid that will be necessary as the state transitions to more electric heating of homes and businesses. 

“I don’t sense a consistent theme of trying to get a two for one hit, or trying to make sure mitigation, averting future climate problems, is always part of an adaptation policy,” Barrett said. 

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These lawmakers wrote the climate bill. They’re worried the state won’t achieve it Boston Globe

“You can’t have utilities in charge of an all-out push to electrify,” said Senator Mike Barrett, a Lexington Democrat who was the lead author of the state’s 2050 climate law. “Mass Save is probably not going to be the quarterback to bring us to the emissions reductions Super Bowl as it’s currently constituted.” 


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Biomass power rules leave 35 towns in industry ‘crosshairs’ Berkshire Eagle

Sen. Michael Barrett, who co-chairs the committee, told Woodcock that it sounded to him like DOER was taking a position that “is somewhat supportive of current biomass, but distinctly unenthusiastic and bearish about additional biomass.”

“Why don’t we formalize what seems to be the informal and unofficial thrust of these proposed new regulations? Why leave 35 out of 351 municipalities in the crosshairs?” Barrett asked, referring to a request O’Connor included in his letter that Woodcock support legislation that would make all new in-state biomass ineligible for state incentives.


State proposal could deter biomass plants from almost all Mass. communities Boston Business Journal

Lawmakers called on the Baker administration to restrict woody plants altogether, saying those 35 towns could be “targeted” for incentivized biomass production.


Help on the horizon for electricity consumers Lowell Sun

Electric customers in Massachusetts who switched to a competitive electric supplier paid $426 million more than they would have had they stayed with their utility company from July 2015 to June 2020, Attorney General Maura Healey’s office said in a recent report. 

Sen. Mike Barrett, the committee co-chair, said that the findings presented by the attorney general and executive branch “really raise serious questions for those who would argue that we continue with current practice.” 

“As time has gone on, both sides have had an opportunity to be heard and it’s probably time — just expressing a personal opinion — that we act on this question,” Barrett said.  


Healey, Baker Say It’s Time To Stop Harm To Electric Consumers WBUR

Sen. Michael Barrett, the committee co-chair, said that the findings presented by the attorney general and executive branch “really raise serious questions for those who would argue that we continue with current practice.”

“This is not the first session in which she’s raised these issues. As time has gone on, both sides have had an opportunity to be heard and it’s probably time — just expressing a personal opinion — that we act on this question since all sides have been given an opportunity in the past sessions to make their points and to offer their perspectives,” Barrett said.


Baker Administration Pushes Legislature For Climate Resiliency Funds WBUR

Sen. Michael Barrett brought up the recent dispute between the administration and Legislature over who should have final say over how ARPA funding gets spent, a back-and-forth that was ultimately settled in the Legislature’s favor.

Theoharides said she had no issue with the Legislature wanting to play a role in how the funding gets spent or objection to lawmakers exercising their authority to appropriate the stimulus funding.


Open Water Swimming Ban Lifted after Barrett, Gordon, and Colleagues Request DCR Reconsideration Bedford Citizen

The Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) announced Wednesday evening that open water swimming will be permitted once again at Walden Pond following a letter sent by Senator Mike Barrett (D – Lexington), Representative Ken Gordon (D – Bedford), and 48 of their colleagues asking that DCR reconsider its decision to ban the practice.

The new guidance from DCR requires that swimmers follow the updated Open Water Swim Rules & Best Practices for Walden Pond to ensure that experienced swimmers may navigate the open water while still prioritizing safety for all swimmers, lifeguards, and beachgoers. The new rules allow open water swimming only before and after lifeguard shifts between Memorial Day and Labor Day and during all park operating hours after Labor Day. This restriction enables lifeguards to focus without distraction on the safety of those in the designated swimming area, many of whom are inexperienced swimmers.


Legislators Push To Reopen Walden Pond To Open Water Swimmers WGBH

State Sen. Jason Lewis — who is also an open water swimmer — said he and State. Sen. Michael Barrett are gathering legislators’ signatures on a letter to the DCR, which asks that the swimming ban be lifted and other safety measures be issued instead, such as a requirement that swimmers wear colorful buoys that make them easier to see.

Walden Pond “has been one of the most cherished open water locations for Massachusetts swimmers for decades,” Lewis said. He suspects dozens of House and Senate lawmakers will sign the letter, and he hopes to send it to state officials by the end of the day Tuesday.


Walden Pond ban on open-water swimming: Massachusetts legislators want rule repealed Boston Herald

Massachusetts legislators are calling on Bay State officials to repeal the sudden ban on open-water swimming at Walden Pond, while pitching safety measures to help prevent drownings.

“We shouldn’t be taking away safe recreational opportunities,” state Sen. Jason Lewis told the Herald on Tuesday, as he worked with state Sen. Michael Barrett on a letter addressing the Walden Pond ban.

“We shouldn’t be pursuing swimming bans and draconian fines,” Lewis said, adding that the state Department of Conservation and Recreation should instead be “expanding water safety measures.”

Hundreds of passionate Walden Pond swimmers have been contacting State House lawmakers after DCR announced last week that open-water swimming is no longer allowed at the Concord pond.