Wind energy siting bill will resurface on Beacon Hill

Wind energy siting bill will resurface on Beacon Hill

As environmental advocates rolled out their legislative agenda at multiple events Tuesday, Rep. Frank Smizik (D) and Sen. Jamie Eldridge (D) promised a revival of the wind energy siting bill that died at the end of the last session, and to file new legislation to create a new Office of Clean Technology, to foster job growth in that sector.

Smizik and Eldridge are co-sponsoring a bill to create the new state office within the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development designed to encourage and foster growth in clean technology and help companies develop and manufacture products.

The legislation sets a goal of increasing clean tech jobs, businesses, and research by 25 percent over the next 10 years.

“It’s a bill for businesses to really create training and jobs and helping businesses develop products that can be sold around the world,” Smizik said.

Eldridge said he was cognizant that adding a new government entity as the state climbs out of the recession will be a consideration, but added: “With just the right amount of investment, the potential for jobs is immense.”

Both lawmakers also promised a return of the wind energy siting bill that died last session, despite majority support in both branches, because legislative leaders were unable to pass it before the end of formal sessions July 31.

Bill supporters say the legislation will streamline the wind energy approval process, boosting the so-called clean energy sector while protecting local decision-making powers. Critics say the initiative will erode local control and gives the industry unwarranted special consideration.

The House enacted the wind-siting bill in the waning hours of formal session July 31, but the Senate received the bill just after midnight. Senate President Therese Murray led a months-long effort to secure the bill’s final enactment, but Republican senators repeatedly stood in the bill’s path during sessions where objections from a single lawmaker can halt any bill.

“The House passed it and we think we can pass it again. We’re going to file it again with some very minor changes, and we’re going to fight for it,” Smizik said.

Eldridge said he believes the Senate also has the votes to pass the bill.

Among the other environmental initiatives on the table for the coming session there are many familiar issues and some new ones.

Rep. Lori Ehrlich plans to file two pieces of legislation that she said may get packaged into an omnibus bill that would phase out coal-burning in Massachusetts and place a moratorium on the construction of new coal-burning facilities and coal-gasification plants.

Sen. Cynthia Creem intends to file an updated bottle bill that would expand the deposit law to cover sports drinks, bottled water, and iced teas.

Creem and Rep. Kulik also plan to file a bill that would update the state’s Community Preservation Act, in an attempt to make it more attractive to cities.

The changes would allow cities to use the CPA to rehabilitate existing recreational fields and facilities rather than just build new ones, would allow communities to use other sources of revenue, in addition to a surcharge on the property tax, to fund open land preservation, and the bill would set a minimum state match at 75 percent, requiring an increase in Registry of Deeds surcharges currently used to fund the state share.