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Mass. governor introduces bill requiring more clean power during peak demand

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Mass. governor introduces bill requiring more clean power during peak demand

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Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, favors expanding renewables, importing hydropower and cutting emissions.

Source: The Associated Press

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker introduced legislation aimed at supporting strategic investments in local energy and environmental programs as part of an integrated statewide plan to mitigate the impacts of, prepare for and adapt to climate change.

Introduced March 15, the unnumbered bill would direct the state Department of Energy Resources to craft a new clean peak standard for electricity suppliers with the explicit aim of increasing the use of cleaner energy during periods of high demand. State officials hope that prioritizing the procurement of cleaner energy resources over more carbon-intensive and expensive resources during peak demand will help lower greenhouse gas emissions and ratepayer costs.

The proposed measure also would promote the investment of more than $1.4 billion in protecting environmental resources and safeguarding residents, municipalities and businesses from rising sea levels and other climate change impacts.

Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton said the state's administration remains committed to a "holistic and collaborative approach" to climate change, environmental stewardship and community investments. "Through the targeted allocation of resources, the Commonwealth will continue its nation-leading climate change efforts while addressing deferred maintenance and recreational opportunities to better safeguard Massachusetts' critical infrastructure and environmental assets," Beaton said in a news release.

The Republican governor's legislative efforts build on his Executive Order 569 issued in September 2016 that established a statewide climate change strategy and the Energy Diversity Act signed into law in August 2016 that requires investor-owned utilities to procure 2,800 MW of renewables and large hydropower by August 2027.

Of the $1.4 billion in proposed new investment, the Baker administration wants to spend roughly $580 million on performing maintenance that had been deferred and on improving recreational resources, including spending $25 million to expand and connect public trails.

The new funding also includes providing $300 million to coastal and inland communities to respond to and prepare for extreme weather, sea level rises and inland flooding. Of that total, $170 million will go toward improving and repairing dams and seawalls while implementing "coastal resiliency strategies," and $110 million will be used for a "municipal vulnerability preparedness program" and a statewide "hazard mitigation and adaptation plan."

Baker said recent bouts of extreme winter weather have reminded his state of how important critical seawalls and dams are in safeguarding communities. Massachusetts "must make strategic investments in climate resiliency and environmental protection across the state and shorelines" if it is to build a "sustainable and resilient commonwealth."

In addition, the measure would provide $297 million to support communities and the environmental stewardship work they do, such as tree planting and forest protection programs and street programs. Another $270 million will be spent on the environmental programs of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and other agencies, ranging from air and water quality monitoring to hazardous waste cleanup and restoring rivers, wetlands, streams and lakes.

Finally, and to protect ratepayers, the measure would allow state regulators to review proposed rate changes within the context of other anticipated changes to ratepayers' bills.