Massachusetts House of Reps Passes Wind Power Siting Reform Act

Modeled after the bill passed by the Senate in February, the Act will streamline the siting process for wind energy projects, making it easier for developers and local authorities alike to incorporate well-designed wind power initiatives into the plan to meet the state’s energy demand.

The new legislation is a major step towards building a clean energy economy for Massachusetts and reducing dependence on fossil fuels. The bill will now head to a House-Senate conference committee for further discussion.

Here’s what Sue Reid, director of CLF’s Massachusetts Clean Energy and Climate Change Program, had to say on the issue: “Massachusetts needs to tap into its abundant wind energy resources in order to meet its clean energy goals. We are delighted that the Massachusetts House of Representatives has joined the Senate in passing this wind farm siting reform bill that is crucial to meeting the state’s energy demand while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preserving our natural resources. This new legislation will make it easier to develop well-designed wind energy projects. Today’s vote represents a key victory in the state’s ongoing efforts to reduce our dependence on dirty fossil-fuel fired power in Massachusetts.”

Renewable Energy in New England

To confront the climate crisis and reduce our dangerous dependence on fossil fuels, New England must embrace a diverse portfolio of renewable energy generation, tapping into resources that are naturally replenished and permanently sustainable unlike the fossil fuels on which we currently depend. Fortunately, our region has bountiful renewable energy resources, including wind power, solar energy and biomass.

CLF is working in each of the New England states to support policies providing critical incentives for renewable energy generation, including through Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS) programs and requirements for utilities to enter long-term contracts with renewable energy projects. CLF also advocates for critical transmission upgrades to promote interconnection of new renewable energy projects with the regional electric power grid – allowing clean power to be brought to homes and businesses throughout New England.

Renewable Energy in Massachusetts:

CLF has a long history of advocacy to promote clean renewable energy in Massachusetts. In addition to our work with respect to the Cape Wind offshore wind energy project and implementation of the Green Communities Act programs regarding the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS) and long-term renewable energy contracts, CLF also is involved in the following renewable energy initiatives in Massachusetts:

Wind Energy Siting Reform Legislation: Power plant permitting systems in Massachusetts long have favored large fossil fuel fired power plants rather than small-scale renewable energy projects, including wind generation. In the face of the threat of climate change, this system should be turned on its head. CLF therefore supports wind energy siting reform legislation that would at least level the playing field by streamlining permitting for wind energy projects without jettisoning important siting standards and environmental safeguards.

Wind on Public Lands: Massachusetts’ public lands are precious resources that possess a multitude of ecological and recreational values that must be protected. All of these lands and the diverse habitats that they provide are at risk due to the impacts of climate change. While public lands should not be a path of least resistance for any kind of development, including renewable energy projects, CLF believes that at least some public lands in Massachusetts are likely to be compatible with wind energy facility siting. Read more about CLF’s position on wind energy facilities on public lands in Massachusetts here.

Sustainable Biomass: Biomass energy is a renewable energy resource that can supply an important source of baseload power (i.e., power that is available even when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining). Responsible siting, design and fuel-sourcing for biomass generating facilities are very important for protecting forests and other sources of biomass fuel, limiting emissions of pollutants, conserving cooling water resources, and ensuring efficient production of electricity. CLF’s biomass advocacy in Massachusetts currently is focused on promoting strong standards for biomass fuel sustainability, taking into account lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions and protection of forest ecosystems.

Renewable Energy in Rhode Island:

In Rhode Island in 2004, CLF lobbied successfully to have the state adopt one of the earliest “renewable energy standards” (RES) in the country. Rhode Island’s RES obligates all electric utilities in the state to purchase increasing amounts of renewable energy each year – up to 16% by 2019.

Since 2004, CLF has been the state’s major watchdog enforcing the RES. In 2006, 2007, and 2008, CLF litigated in the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to make sure the PUC actually enforced the RES.

In early 2009, CLF was the lead organization in persuading the Rhode Island General Assembly to enact a major expansion of the RES. The new law adds long-term contracts (important for renewable-energy developers) to the RES requirement and, if fully implemented, would result in fully 24% of the state’s electricity coming from renewable energy. CLF participated in the PUC rule-making required to implement the law, securing an important victory.

CLF is the only environmental organization in the state that has been involved in this full range of activities necessary to secure renewable energy to combat climate change – including getting new laws passed and litigating to get existing laws enforced.

Renewable Energy in Vermont

Wind Power: CLF has supported important wind power projects in Vermont and has provided expert testimony that the power from specific wind projects will avoid pollution and greenhouse has emissions from fossil fuel burning plants in the region.

Cow Power: CLF serves on the executive committee for Cow Power – a program created with excess funds from the sale of Vermont Yankee. Vermont has become a leader in how farm waste can be turned into energy, helping farmers and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Feed in Tariffs: CLF is helping Vermont develop the first in the nation, statewide “feed-in-tariffs” for renewable energy. Legislation passed in 2009 provided special rates for small renewable energy projects in Vermont. Interest in the program has been very strong. In September 2009 the VT Public Service Board approved initial rates for small renewable projects.