Beacon Hill Roll Call: April 18 to April 22, 2022

  • COMERFORD

  • The state Senate, 5 to 34, rejected a new amendment that would require the solicitation and procurement of a statewide offshore wind capacity total of 10,600 megawatts by 2030. AP FILE

Published: 4/28/2022 2:22:50 PM
Modified: 4/28/2022 2:21:21 PM

Beacon Hill Roll Call records local senators’ votes on roll calls from a recent session. The three Senate roll calls are on proposed amendments to an energy bill that would expand the clean energy industry and reduce emissions from the transportation and building sectors, with the goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050.

Republican alternative to energy bill (S 2819)

The Senate, 3 to 36, rejected a Republican version of the energy bill that would replace the Democratic version. The GOP version would create a central Decarbonization and Energy Independence Fund that would be funded by $250 million from state funding and another $250 million from the state’s portion of federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

Supporters of the GOP bill said the Independence Fund would be used to modernize the state’s electric grid; provide more rebates for the purchase of electric vehicles and charging stations; provide grants to transit authorities and local school districts for the purchase of zero-emission busses and other vehicles; and facilitate tax credits for the transition of commercial vehicles and equipment to lower-emission substitutes.

“We take the challenges of reducing carbon emissions and supplying the state’s energy needs seriously,” said Senate Republican Leader Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester. “And we are putting a plan on the table to effectively use state and federal funding to meet the most pressing needs involved in addressing those challenges, while working to ensure that consumers have access to the energy that they need without undue risk of the rate shock that can accompany ambitious goals without the energy supplies and infrastructure to meet them.”

Opponents of the GOP bill said it is a truncated version of the Democrat’s progressive bill and leaves out many good parts of the Democratic version, including a provision that would remove biomass from the definition of clean energy sources. They said large wood-burning electric power plants should not be counted as clean energy like wind and solar because biomass burned at that level creates particles that get into people’s lungs.

A “No” vote is against the Republican version.

Sen. Joanne Comerford — No

Sen. Anne Gobi — No

Sen. Adam Hinds — No

Offshore wind (S 2819)

The Senate, 5 to 34, rejected a new amendment that would require the solicitation and procurement of a statewide offshore wind capacity total of 10,600 megawatts by 2030. Another provision would establish ocean ecosystem protection practices designed to avoid, minimize and mitigate impact to wildlife, natural resources, ecosystems and existing water-dependent uses.

Sen. Marc Pacheco, D-Taunton, said he sponsored the new amendment because offshore wind is a critical component of the state’s clean energy future that must be incorporated as quickly as possible to ensure compliance with the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act requirements. He noted the new amendment would require the procurement of 10,600 megawatts by 2030 instead of 10,000 megawatts by 2035 that was in an earlier amendment.

“While the Senate acted favorably on (the earlier) amendment, which I also supported as a co-sponsor, (this new) amendment that would have required the procurement of an additional 600 megawatts by 2030 instead of by 2035 — that is, five years sooner,” Pacheco said. “Although I am pleased that the Senate took favorable action to include additional offshore wind capacity, ultimately we must act with more urgency to seize the economic benefits of a robust statewide offshore wind workforce and achieve compliance with our updated emission reduction laws.”

“I am a fierce proponent of offshore wind, and I’m proud that the Senate adopted (the original) amendment, which I filed to bolster offshore wind procurement,” said Sen. Julian Cyr, D-Truro, who voted against the new amendment. “The (original) amendment increases the commonwealth’s target to at least 10,000 megawatts of offshore wind generation capacity by 2035 — which will account for a third of the nation’s offshore wind goal. The (new) amendment was redundant, considering the Senate already took action to advance the (original) amendment — hence why I voted ‘no.’”

A “No” vote is against the new amendment.

Sen. Joanne Comerford — No

Sen. Anne Gobi — No

Sen. Adam Hinds — No

Commercial fishing (S 2819)

The Senate, 39 to 0, approved an amendment that would provide a preference for offshore wind proposals that can demonstrate meaningful collaboration with commercial fishing to foster the long-term coexistence and sustainability of the two industries.

“As the offshore wind industry continues to develop, we must take steps to protect our existing commercial fishing fleet that produces an enormous impact on our ports and the Massachusetts economy,” said sponsor Sen. Mark Montigny, D-New Bedford. “By emphasizing the importance of commercial fishing during the development and consideration of offshore wind proposals, we can help ensure that a robust fishing fleet can coexist with a new renewable energy industry that can increase energy independence and reduce carbon emissions.”

A “Yes” vote is for the amendment.

Sen. Joanne Comerford — Yes

Sen. Anne Gobi — Yes

Sen. Adam Hinds — Yes

Also up on Beacon HillExcavation safety (H 3297)

The House gave near-final approval to and sent to the Senate a proposal that would require a land surveyor working on a preliminary design for a new facility or renovation where excavation is necessary to pre-mark the proposed excavation. The bill is sponsored by former Rep. Carolyn Dykema, D-Holliston, who recently resigned to take a job as Northeast policy director for Boston-based Nexamp, a solar energy company.

“The bill ensures that underground utilities are marked during the planning process for projects rather than only at the time of construction,” Dykema said when the bill was given initial approval by the House in January. “This will help ensure that projects are designed from the outset to minimize potential disruption to utilities during construction. I filed the bill in partnership with the Massachusetts Council of Engineering Companies. Given the significant extent of natural gas infrastructure in my district, I filed the bill to help protect the public from emergencies that result from construction crews mistakenly damaging underground utilities.”

Official state dinosaur(H 3190/S 2028)

The Senate approved a bill that would make the Podokesaurus holyokensis the state’s official dinosaur. The House approved the bill in October and only final approval in the House and Senate are needed prior to the measure going to Gov. Charlie Baker.

Rep. Jack Lewis, D-Framingham, the House sponsor of the proposal, said that while the initial idea grew out of his work with his son’s Cub Scout troop, more than 35,000 Massachusetts residents took part in a poll to help determine which of two dinosaurs discovered in Massachusetts should earn the designation of the official state dinosaur. The runner up was the Anchisaurus polyzelus.

“Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined the passion that our Massachusetts State Dinosaur Project would generate,” Lewis said. “I will always be grateful to the thousands of students and their parents and teachers who took the time to learn about prehistoric Massachusetts and all of the paleontologists and fellow dinosaur enthusiasts who made this project such a fun success. But none of this would have been possible without the remarkable Massachusetts Professor Mignon Talbot of Mount Holyoke College, who in 1910 became the first modern woman to discover, name and describe a dinosaur.”

Senate sponsor Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, said that at the time Talbot discovered the species, some critics said women were unfit for working with fossils.

“Talbot’s discovery showed that women were fully qualified for all roles in science,” Comerford said. “As both a tribute to a dinosaur whose fossils have only been discovered in Massachusetts, and as a reflection of the commonwealth’s commitment to equality and the advancement of women, this legislation has already inspired excitement and engagement from researchers, academics and students.”

Ban disposal of radioactive waste (S 2791)

The Judiciary Committee held a virtual hearing on legislation, filed by Sen. Susan Moran, D-Falmouth, that would ban disposal of radioactive material directly or indirectly into coastal or inland waters, tide water or land owned by another entity. The measure imposes fines ranging from up to $10,000 for a first offense and up to $25,000 for any second and subsequent offenses. It also holds the offender liable for all damages or losses suffered by the state, a business or an individual as a result of the disposal.

According to Moran’s office, she filed the bill as a response to a proposal by Holtec International — the company responsible for decommissioning the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth — to dump radioactive discharge into Cape Cod Bay made last November after agreeing to a two-year moratorium. Moran said that the disposal of such discharge into the bay would pose significant public health risks and impact the viability of the local shellfish industry, particularly in the Southeast and Cape Cod, as well as potentially deteriorate the region’s coastal ecosystems and compound the already present impacts of climate change.

“Holtec’s plan would introduce dangerous pollutants into the commonwealth’s coasts,” Moran said. “We must be sure that the national business of nuclear plant closures does not overshadow the foundation of our local economies, coastal resilience and the health of current and future generations in southeastern Mass. and the cape. Coastal resources are too precious to waste on dumping radioactive material in favor of the corporate bottom-line.”

Fund school resource officers (S 373)

The Judiciary Committee has recommended that a measure that would establish a grant program to provide money to cities and towns for school resource officers (SROs) go to a study committee where bills are rarely actually studied and are essentially defeated. It is a way to kill a proposal without holding a vote on the bill itself.

A school resource officer is a law enforcement officer responsible for safety and crime prevention in schools.

“In my conversations with South Shore school officials over the years, one aspect of school security has stood out to me: the importance of SROs,” said Sen. Pat O’Connor, R-Weymouth. “These officers not only protect school campuses, but also foster a healthy social environment and help students build positive relationships with law enforcement. I think it’s important that districts across the commonwealth receive the opportunity to have an SRO if they would like to.”

Require retailers that sell tobacco to also sell cessation products (S 1392)

Another bill on its way to a study committee would require any retailer that sells tobacco products to also sell at least one type of nicotine replacement therapy drug or device that has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for helping people quit tobacco. Violators would be fined $100 for the first offense, $200 for a second offense and $300 for a third or subsequent offense.

“We know the obvious dangers that come from tobacco use, but far too many people are still addicted to these products,” said sponsor Sen. Brendan Crighton, D-Lynn, who plans to file the bill again next year. “We must ensure that people know tobacco cessation treatments are readily available and this bill would certainly help achieve this.”


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