During the month of June, you may have noticed many calls to contact your legislators to support Mass. House Bill 4357. This legislation would widen the remit of the Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) from considering just construction cost to including impact on environment, public health, and overall wellbeing of abutters (i.e. property values) and to consider construction cost only after these things had been taken into account.
The bill had been stuck in committee, but thanks to Bill Schineller’s tireless work to keep connected with our legislators, he was alerted that the Omnibus Energy Bill (S.2372, An Act to promote energy diversity) was being debated in the State Senate and would include amendments with the very same language as the House Bill we had been supporting. Protect Sudbury quickly mustered a delegation to travel to the Statehouse so we could connect with instrumental Senators, aides, and staffers to bring attention to the flawed energy facility siting process and show support for legislation that changes the criterion the EFSB uses to consider utility siting proposals.
It was a busy day as we grappled with the idea of 107 amendments to the energy bill. We had a short visit with Senator Barrett, who represents parts of Sudbury, and although he continues to be generally unresponsive to voicing support for Protect Sudbury’s particular case, we did have the chance to hammer home to one of his staffers how much the Eversource Sudbury to Hudson project will affect his Sudbury constituents. We were welcomed into Senator Eldridge’s office by his aides and had the chance to deliver our testimony and review options for adding an Emergency Preamble to give the bill immediate effect.
Ultimately, the day resulted in a mixed outcome. The Omnibus Energy Bill passed 39-0, which has been largely lauded for promoting energy diversity in Massachusetts. Sadly for our particular cause on that particular day, both amendments we supported were withdrawn. Initially, this seemed like a defeat, but never one to stand on the sidelines, the team pushed on to visit House Speaker DeLeo’s office, Representative Michael Day (Stoneham – sponsor of H.4357), and Representative Carmine Gentile to make sure that, although the amendments to the Senate Bill were withdrawn, the House Bill doesn’t die in committee. In doing so, we confirmed that H.4357 is still alive with the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy, with a deadline of end of July to pass. Rep. Day’s office took copies of our briefing to deliver to the Committee Chairs, Sen. Downing and Rep. Golden. And in the meantime, we have been invited to meet with the Attorney General’s office, to review the pending legislation H.4357 and the siting process.