Category: Gas Leaks

Legislative Update: Supplemental Budget

Legislative Update

H.3505 – An Act making appropriations for the fiscal year 2019 to provide for supplementing certain existing appropriations and for certain other activities and projects

On Wednesday, February 28th 2019, the Massachusetts State House of Representatives passed H.3505, a $135 Million supplemental budget. I joined my colleagues in voting affirmatively to pass the measure. The supplemental budget addresses multiple areas including heating assistance, enhanced support for victims of sexual assault, and programs to help those experiencing homelessness. Below are some highlights of what the bill included.


Increased funding for Low Income Heating Energy Assistance (LIHEAP)

Amount: $30 million (+$19 million from Governor’s proposal)

Details: This program ensures that all families in the Commonwealth can afford to keep their heating on through the winter. The additional funding makes up for the Federal funding shortfall.


Increased funding for Emergency Shelter Assistance for people and families experiencing homelessness

Amount: $10,046,612 (level with the Governor’s proposal)

Details: This program helps individuals and families that are experiencing homelessness by increasing the amount of shelter beds to help accommodate the needs of the State.


Increased funding for sexual assault evidence testing kits

Amount: $8,000,000

Details: This program will aid in addressing the backlog of sexual assault kits in the State and ensure that we are on the right path towards bringing justice for victims of sexual violence.


Increased funding for the costs associated with an independent statewide examination of the safety of gas distribution infrastructure

Amount: $1,482,694

Details: These funds will go toward addressing the safety hazard of poorly maintained pipelines. After the disaster that took place in the Merrimack Valley in September, the State is incentivized to take a good look at what can be done to prevent another emergency.


Authorization of Collective Bargaining Agreements

Amount: n/a

Details: The Supplemental Budget included authorization for collective bargaining agreements previously made between employers and trade unions for the following organizations/departments:

  • Massachusetts Department of Transportation and DOT Unit A – National Association of Government Employees, Clerical and Administrative Workers
  • University of Massachusetts and the New England Police Benevolent Protection Organization, Amherst Campus, Unit A07
  • University of Massachusetts and the Maintenance and Trades Unit/MTA/NEA, Lowell Campus, Unit L93
  • University of Massachusetts and Classified and Technical Union, Lowell Campus, Unit L92
  • Sheriff of Bristol County and the National Association of Government Employees, Maintenance Workers, Unit C
  • Sheriff of Worcester county and the New England Police Benevolent Association, Local 550, Unit SW6
  • Sheriff of Hampden County and the National Correctional Employees Union Mental Health Staff Unit, Local 131, Unit SH1

190th Session Wrap Up: Energy

190th Session Wrap Up: Energy Conference Report

As we wrap up yet another legislative session, my office has worked to provide recaps on the vast array of subject areas that I have worked on and voted on in the Chamber. Below is an overview of the energy legislation conference report which worked out the differences between the house’s energy legislation and the senate’s energy legislation

H.4857 – An Act to advance clean energy

  • Establishes the requirement of utilities and municipal aggregates to jointly prepare an “energy efficiency investment plan.” [similar to House legislation]
  • Creates an annual increase of 2% for the Renewable Portfolio Standard by January 2020.
  • Establishes a Clean Peak Standard to incentivize electricity generation at times when the grid is at its highest demand and therefore most vulnerable to reliability issues. It is designed to incentivize installation of renewable resources in conjunction with storage systems to ensure that the Commonwealth will not only be increasing its overall usage of renewable sources of electricity through the RPS program, but that those resources can be utilized to provide energy at periods of high-demand to resuce reliance on natural gas and other non-renewable resources that typically get deployed during high-demand periods.
  • Requires DPU to develop regulations requiring gas companies to annually report how much gas is lost and where those leaks are.
  • Establishes an energy storage target of 1000 Megawatt hours by December 31, 2025; includes a feasibility study for a mobile emergency battery storage system for emergency response to extreme weather events or outages.
  • Creates a study of necessity, cost, and benefits of requiring electricity distribution companies to procure 1,600 MW of additional offshore wind capacity, beyond the 2016 requirements, by 2035.

RPS – I worked with my colleagues in the Progressive Caucus to organize behind Representative Kay Khan’s amendment #29 to increase the RPS increases to 3% year. I was disappointed that the amendment was not adopted.

Gas Pipelines – I was proud to co-sponsor a number of amendments filed by my colleagues to address the issue of pervasive and environmentally destructive pipelines in Massachusetts. Representative Kulik filed Amendments 11, 12, & 13 to address these issues by prohibiting a pipeline tax on electric ratepayers, establishing standards for approval of gas capacity contracts, and guaranteeing public intervention rights at the Department of Public Utilities. I was disappointed that these were not included in the final version.

Environmental Justice I was pleased that Representative Vincent filed the environmental justice amendment, Amendment 24, similar to a piece of legislation that I co-sponsored. This would establish an Environmental Justice advisory council to provide recommendations to the Baker administration. Again, I wish that the measure was included in the final bill.

Gas Leaks – I was happy to co-sponsor Amendment 15 by Representative Barber. This amendment instructs DPU to establish uniform standards for gas companies to identify and measure lost and unaccounted for gas by location, quality, and source. It also allows DPU to grant regulatory waivers to allow gas companies to develop innovative projects to reduce lost and unaccounted for gas. I am pleased to report that the amendment was adopted as written.

 

To read the full text of the conference report, click here.

190th Session Wrap Up: Energy Legislation

190th Session Wrap Up: Energy Legislation

As we wrap up yet another legislative session, my office has worked to provide recaps on the vast array of subject areas that I have worked on and voted on in the Chamber. Below is an overview of the energy legislation that the House voted on July 12, 2018. We voted on a total of four pieces of legislation and passed all four. 

The bills did not contain everything that I wanted, but it moved the ball forward.  Now there is a House and Senate Conference Committee formed to resolve differences (and hopefully improve the final product).  The end of the session is quickly approaching.  I hope that these bills (with potential improvements through the conference committee) will help Massachusetts reach its clean energy goals.

UPDATE (7/31/18): To read a summary of the Conference Committee Report (Final Version), click here. 

H.4738 – An Act to increase renewable energy and reduce high-cost peak hours

Topic: Renewable Portfolio Standard
Summary: This bill increases the renewable energy standard annual rate increase from 1% to 2% by July 31, 2019 and reduces the high-cost peak hours, which could result in substantial savings.  Increasing the state’s renewable portfolio standard has been a top priority of mine.  The renewable portfolio standard is the percentage of renewable energy from new sources that energy companies are required to buy or produce.  It is currently at 13% and that percentage increases 1% per year.  It is key to Massachusetts achieving substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
Notes:

RPS – I worked with my colleagues in the Progressive Caucus to organize behind Representative Kay Khan’s amendment #29 to increase the RPS increases to 3% year. I was disappointed that the amendment was not adopted.  Because of our efforts, though, the increase from 1% to 2% was shifted from December 31, 2020 to July 31, 2019.

Gas Pipelines – I was proud to co-sponsor a number of amendments filed by my colleagues to address the issue of pervasive and environmentally destructive pipelines in Massachusetts. Representative Kulik filed Amendments 11, 12, & 13 to address these issues by prohibiting a pipeline tax on electric ratepayers, establishing standards for approval of gas capacity contracts, and guaranteeing public intervention rights at the Department of Public Utilities. I was disappointed that these were not included in the final version.

Environmental Justice I was pleased that Representative Vincent filed the environmental justice amendment, Amendment 24, similar to a piece of legislation that I co-sponsored. This would establish an Environmental Justice advisory council to provide recommendations to the Baker administration. Again, I wish that the measure was included in the final bill. There is still pending legislation that accomplishes the same purpose as this Amendment that I will continue to support.

 To read the full text of the bill, click here.

H.4737 – An Act relative to expanding resource efficiency in the commonwealth

Topic: Energy Efficiency
Summary: This bill creates energy and water efficiency standards for 10 new products in the Massachusetts General Laws under the Massachusetts Appliance Efficiency Act. The standards were derived from EPA Energy Star and WaterSense standards as well as California’s efficiency standards. The bill states that none of the included products may be sold in the state after January 1, 2020 unless they meet these new standards. Massachusetts is a nation and international leader regarding energy efficiency and this bill provides the opportunity to continue to hold that position.

To read the full text of the bill, click here.

H. 4739 – An Act to improve grid resiliency through energy storage

Topic: Energy Efficiency
Summary: This bill established the Energy Storage Innovation Research Institute within the MA Clean Energy Center as well as an energy storage testing facility that will serve as a resource for companies developing energy storage systems.  It instructs the Department of Energy Resources to study the use of mobile storage technology for emergency response to extreme weather events or power outages. Finally, the legislation mandates that distribution companies must file an annual System Resiliency Report with the DPU.  Improving energy storage is key to fully taking advantage of renewable sources, such as solar.  I hope this bill encourage further development of this technology.
Notes:

Gas Leaks – I was happy to co-sponsor Amendment 15 by Representative Barber. This amendment instructs DPU to establish uniform standards for gas companies to identify and measure lost and unaccounted for gas by location, quality, and source. It also allows DPU to grant regulatory waivers to allow gas companies to develop innovative projects to reduce lost and unaccounted for gas. I am pleased to report that the amendment was adopted as written.

To read the full text of the bill, click here.

H.4749 – An Act relative to energy efficiency

Topic: Energy Efficiency
Summary: This bill expands the types of efficiency programs that can be included in the “electric efficiency investment plan” and the “natural gas efficiency investment plan” under current regulations. It also changes the formula by which the cost-effectiveness of the programs is calculated.

To read the full text of the bill, click here.

State House News: Kinder Morgan Suspends Work, Spending On Pipeline Project

By Michael Norton
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

Citing inadequate commitments from prospective customers, Kinder Morgan on Wednesday suspended further work and spending on its Northeast Energy Direct natural gas pipeline project, which held the possibility of helping Massachusetts and the New England to meet its energy and electricity cost goals.

Less than a year ago, in July 2015, the company’s board authorized Tennessee Gas Pipeline (TGP) Company to move forward with a $3.3 billion investment in pipeline capacity from Wright, New York to Dracut, Massachusetts. On Wednesday, Kinder Morgan said that approval was based on contractual commitments at the time and expected commitments from additional gas distribution companies, electric distribution companies and other “market participants” in New England.

“Unfortunately, despite working for more than two years and expending substantial shareholder resources, TGP did not receive the additional commitments it expected,” Kinder Morgan said in a statement on Wednesday. “As a result, there are currently neither sufficient volumes, nor a reasonable expectation of securing them, to proceed with the project as it is currently configured.”

Environmentalists, rival energy sectors and some public officials have questioned both the costs of the pipeline project and the wisdom of increasing the region’s already heavy reliance on natural gas. Kinder Morgan had hoped the project would address natural gas transportation problems affecting the Northeast and alleviate “uniquely high” gas and electricity costs.

Kinder Morgan attributed the lack of contracted capacity to the lack of regulatory procedures in the New England states to facilitate binding commitments and the “open-ended” nature for establishing those procedures in each state.

“In addition, innovations in production have resulted in a low-price environment that, while good for consumers, has made it difficult for producers to make new long term commitments. Further, current market conditions and counter-party financial instability have called into question TGP’s ability to secure incremental supply for the project. Given these market conditions, continuing to develop the project is not an acceptable use of shareholder funds,” Kinder Morgan said.

TGP plans to “continue to work with customers to explore alternative solutions to address their needs, particularly local distribution companies that are unable to fully serve consumers and businesses in their areas because of the lack of access to abundant, low-cost domestic natural gas,” Kinder Morgan said.

Asked earlier in the day whether Kinder Morgan and other pipelines developers should be able to pass along the cost of construction to consumers, Gov. Charlie Baker said:
“I’m not paying too much attention to the Kinder Morgan project, primarily because most of that is driven by federal policy and not by state policy. What I’ve said all along is the best way for Massachusetts and New England to ensure that people here in the Commonwealth get the best price they possible can on their electricity and their thermal piece is to have a proactive approach to this and my hope and my anticipation is that that pro-active approach will look like a bill that comes out of the House at some point during this session and gets debated and enacted and includes what I’ve talked about before, which is a combo platter of the two I’m particularly interested in which is hydro and wind,” Baker said.

Energy industry stakeholders – from natural gas to offshore wind and solar and hydro producers – are jockeying for a piece of the region’s supply mix as lawmakers contemplate major energy policy legislation and the looming 2019 shutdown of Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth, a major source of carbon-free power.

“Kinder Morgan is stopping the pipeline simply because it is both expensive to ratepayers and simply not needed,” Environmental League of Massachusetts President George Bachrach said. “Massachusetts has the capacity to develop its own energy in solar, wind and hydro and create new industries and jobs here, rather than importing energy and exporting our dollars and jobs.”

[Matt Murphy contributed reporting]
END
04/20/2016
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Changing the World…Leak by Leak

Beacon Hill Times — Report on Boston City Council hearing regarding gas leaks and pending legislation to address the issue. Rep. Jay Livingstone testified with his colleagues from the State House, including Senator Eldridge and state representatives Ed Coppinger, Liz Malia and Lori Ehrlich asking the Boston City Council to support the pending state legislation. Read the story in the Beacon Hill Times.