Dept. of Public Utilities rejects giving up oversight of MBTA safety October 6th, 2022 --- GBH News

That prompted Sen. Michael Barrett, chair of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, to ask about creating a separate agency that would allow better hiring incentives.

“If the Transportation Oversight Division were an independent commission,” he wondered, “let’s say it might well be able to pay hiring bonuses like the MBTA.”

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State officials defend T oversight amid push to strip powers October 6th, 2022 --- WBUR

State Sen. Michael Barrett, co-chair of the Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, put DPU chair Matt Nelson on the spot after Nelson defended his department’s efforts on T safety.

“So we should be quiet and just let the status quo continue?” Barrett asked.

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Mass. lawmakers mull moving T safety oversight from the Department of Public Utilities October 6th, 2022 --- Boston Globe

Co-chair of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy, Senator Mike Barrett, said a separate transportation commission may be better suited to oversee T safety.

“I am very concerned that the safety division historically has been an afterthought at the agency,” he said. The primary focus of the DPU needs to be climate change policy, Barrett said, and the T safety crisis is a “fire drill situation” distracting from that effort.

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Lawmakers Weigh New Approach to MBTA Safety Oversight October 6th, 2022 --- WHDH

After he and his colleagues spent several hours grilling current and former DPU officials about their work to ensure the MBTA is safe, Sen. Mike Barrett said the Baker administration agency has not done enough in recent years to demonstrate that it can handle those responsibilities, even if it “means to do well.”

“I’m thinking the sand in the hourglass has probably run out,” Barrett, who co-chairs the Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee, told reporters after the panel’s oversight hearing. “Bottom line is, people have used the system at their risk. The current oversight supplied by the Department of Public Utilities is a part of that mass failure, and I think it’s time, probably, to try a different institutional arrangement.”

 

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Boston, Somerville could take over a newly vacated spot in fossil fuel ban pilot October 4th, 2022 --- Boston Business Journal

Sen. Michael Barrett, who co-chairs the Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee, said lawmakers wanted to allow any municipality “to use that language to go all-electric in new construction.” Baker’s Department of Energy Resources ultimately took a more limited approach in the final code, which did not give cities and towns the ability to mandate all-electric heating in new buildings, as his team raised concerns that banning fossil fuel infrastructure could drive up costs amid a potent housing crunch.

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DPU not the right ‘watchdog’ for MBTA, state lawmaker says October 4th, 2022 --- Boston Herald

“A state senator is calling for a new safety oversight authority of the MBTA days before he chairs a legislative hearing looking into whether the Department of Public Utilities should continue in that role. ‘I like the model of the semi-autonomous state commission,’ said Mike Barrett, Senate chair of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities & Energy. ‘I think of the Office of Campaign & Political Finance or the inspector general’s office or the Ethics Commission.’”

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Massachusetts Legislature to reconsider DPU oversight of MBTA September 3rd, 2022 --- Boston Herald

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.”

Legislators set oversight hearing on state oversight of T safety For Immediate Release

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.”

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Lawmakers plan hearing on DPU oversight of MBTA September 2nd, 2022 --- CommonWealth Magazine

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.

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‘Disturbed and disappointed’ lawmakers want answers after federal officials slam state agency over T oversight failures September 2nd, 2022 --- Boston Globe

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.”

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State lawmakers to hold second hearing on state T oversight September 2nd, 2022 --- 7News Boston

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.”

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Legislators question state oversight of MBTA after scathing federal report September 2nd, 2022 --- Boston Globe

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.” 

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Baker signs major climate bill into law August 12th, 2022 --- Boston Globe

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.

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Big MA Climate, Clean Energy Bill Signed By Gov. Baker: What’s In It August 11th, 2022 -- Patch.com

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.

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Baker Punctuates Formal Session’s End By Signing Clean Energy Bill August 11th, 2022 -- State House News Service

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?”

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Massachusetts just passed a massive climate and clean energy bill August 11th, 2022 --- Washington Post

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.

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Legislature amends climate bill, leaving its fate in Governor Baker’s hands August 1st, 2022 --- Boston Globe

“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.”

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Mass. Senate adopts expansion of dangerousness law August 1st, 2022 --- Lowell Sun

“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.”

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Climate Bill Sent Back to Baker with Gas Ban Pilot Largely Intact August 1st, 2022 --- Banker and Tradesman

“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.”

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