| G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD – Nearly 100 people filled the Moot Court Room at Western New England University School of Law on June 12 to offer suggestions and testimony on how Massachusetts could strengthen its commitment to clean energy production.
The Senate Committee on Global Warming has been conducting a series of hearings across the state and state Sen. James Welch hosted Senate President Pro Tempore Marc R. Pacheco, chair of the committee, in Springfield. The hearing in Springfield was presented by the Institute for Legislative and Government Affairs of the Law School.
In a statement released prior to the hearing, Pacheco said, “This tour is an answer to thousands of constituent conversations, calls and emails concerning the health and future of our local communities, our state, our country and our world as a whole. Our residents want a strong economy. They want clean air. They want clean water. They want decent surroundings. And most of all, they want a future for their kids. We need to craft legislation that reflects that. This tour will give us a perfect opportunity to hear from our communities who demand a clean energy future.”
More than 40 of the audience members came from Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin counties to testify.
Pacheco prefaced the hearing with a status report on the clean energy movement in the Commonwealth and its economic impact. He said there are now more jobs in clean renewable energy than in fossil fuel industries and “the markets have started to shift.”
The Trump Administration may have pulled out of the Paris Accords on climate change, but Pacheco said there are 37 states with climate change polices in place.
Despite efforts of the Trump Administration that have endorsed the oil and coal industries, Pacheco said, “Regardless, Trump will see states lead at the national level.”
Clean energy was an $11.8 billion industry in Massachusetts in 2015 with 185,212 jobs, he noted. Since 2008 there have been 6,714 small businesses created in the industry.
Over the last six years, Massachusetts has taken first place in the nation in the energy efficiency.
He displayed a graph showing in Massachusetts the number of jobs increasing with the decrease of green house gases.
Massachusetts passed legislation that would reduce the 1990 levels of greenhouse gases by 25 percent in 2020 and by 80 percent by 2050. He said because of the mild winters, the Commonwealth should meet the 2020 goal.
“It’s a very fragile on track,” he explained.
Some of the people who testified spoke about the need of putting more of the state’s stock investment portfolio into clean energy creation. One person spoke about the need of changing regulations on small hydroelectric plans, allowing them to sell the power they create. Some people spoke about the need to view how hospitals use energy as a public health issue, while another complained on current laws that stifle further development of solar energy.
Pacheco said there are many bills relating to climate change and clean energy currently in the House and they must be considered with “political reality.”