Month: June 2016

House Passes Multifaceted Transportation Bill

The Mass. House of Representatives passed transportation legislation focused on highways, small bridges and a municipal grant program. The bill authorizes $750 million for both federal-aid interstate and non-interstate highway projects, and $50 million for a new program to repair small bridges.

“The House has a long-standing history of supporting municipalities and I’m proud that this bill provides tools to help cities and town make improvements that are unique to their needs,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “Along with the bond authorization for highways, these updates will bolster to the Commonwealth’s entire infrastructure system.”

“I am pleased that we were able to address a number of important transportation issues with this legislation, and I am especially pleased by the adoption of the small bridge program,” said Representative Bill Straus, House chair of the Joint Committee on Transportation. “Cities and towns that have had difficulty identifying funds to repair or replace some of their smaller spans will greatly benefit from this additional $50 million in road and bridge money, and we have structured it in a way that ensures it will be distributed equitably across the state.” 

The Small Bridge Program will assist municipalities in repairing and replacing non-federal-aid bridges which are 20 feet or less in length. Funding in any one highway district is limited to 20% of the total appropriation.

The bill also transitions the Complete Streets initiative, currently a part of Chapter 90 funding, to a municipal grant program. This initiative aims to enhance safety and accessibility for multi-modal transportation which includes transportation geared towards pedestrians and cyclists. To qualify municipalities must:

  • Attend a training program;
  • Adopt a Complete Streets by-law that has been subject to a public hearing;
  • Create a Complete Streets prioritization plan.

The bill now goes to the Senate for its consideration.

House Passes Energy Legislation that Highlights Offshore Wind and Hydropower

(BOSTON) – Rep. Josh Cutler joined his colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives to pass energy legislation that seeks to protect the Commonwealth’s ratepayers and support clean energy. The bill requires distribution companies to conduct solicitations for 1,200 megawatts (MWs) of offshore wind and supports a total of 2,400 MWs of clean energy, the largest amount the Legislature has included in any single bill.

To spur the timely infusion of reliable clean energy projects in Massachusetts, the bill will also require distribution companies to conduct solicitations for up to 9,450,000 MWhs of energy from either hydropower, or hydropower and Class I renewable resources.

“I’m proud that the House has taken a bold and forward-thinking step in addressing the complex and critical energy challenges facing Massachusetts,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “Through this bill, the House tackles these challenges head on, adopting a viable, real-world strategy that will stabilize costs, protect ratepayers and promote clean energy.”

“With the passage of this legislation, the House has taken the first step to establish the foundation for a clean energy future,” said Thomas A. Golden, Jr., Chair of the Joint Committee on Telecommunication, Utilities and Energy (D-Lowell). “This bill calls for an aggressive procurement of large-scale renewables while remaining cognizant of cost to the ratepayer.”

Related provisions include:

  • All contract proposals must go through a competitive bidding process;
  • Contracts must be determined to be cost-effective for ratepayers to be approved;
  • Stipulates that eligible offshore wind developers must build projects in federally leased waters;
  • Solicitations may be coordinated with other states or state-designated entities, and may staggered over time;
  • The length of the contracts shall be for 15 – 20 years.

By creating a framework that includes both offshore wind and hydropower this legislation promotes a diverse energy portfolio that will replace some of the power the Commonwealth is losing from older, dirtier sources scheduled to shut down. With a similarly forward-looking perspective, the focus on offshore wind will cultivate a new industry and create jobs here in Massachusetts.

The legislation includes a series of ratepayer protections including a requirement that the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) and the Attorney General jointly-select an independent evaluator to assist the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) to determine whether the procurement process is open, fair, and transparent.

The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.