Jun 29
State Representative John W. Scibak joined his colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives today in passing three pieces of legislation that expand on the state’s Green Communities Act, improves emergency storm response protocol, and puts in place a new standard on how to handle gas leaks across the Commonwealth. “I commend Chairman Keenan and the members of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy for their tireless work on these three critical bills,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo. “In addition to cutting the costs of renewable energy and improving public safety, these bills work to create and maintain jobs in the Commonwealth, a priority to which we have remained committed throughout this entire legislative session.” “I would like to thank Speaker DeLeo for bringing these three bills to the floor that support our thriving green industry, improve utility communications with ratepayers during storms, and ensure we have safe and dependable gas infrastructure” said Chairman John Keenan of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy. “The energy bill aims to create more jobs here in the Commonwealth, while also looking at how electric rates are calculated and affect our communities. Because of the Green Communities Act, Massachusetts is ranked #1 in the country for energy efficiency programs. This bill builds upon on the great work we started with the Green Communities Act years ago.” H. 4198 Energy Bill This legislation expands on the Green Communities Act of 2008 by establishing a new requirement for distribution companies to engage in two procurement periods to jointly solicit proposals for long term renewable energy contracts through a competitive bidding process. Contracts must be for projects that work to create jobs and stimulate the state’s economy while being cost effective. These contracts shall last 10-20 years and satisfy an additional 4% of peak load. The bill raises the net metering cap on public generation facilities from 2%-3% of a distribution company’s peak load and from 1%-3% on private generation facilities. Additionally, the bill amends the current property tax exemption for solar or wind powered systems, directs the DPU to establish a cost-based rate design for distribution companies recovering costs and requires that they also design all base rates using a specific cost allocation method based on the equalized rates of return for each customer class, and establishes a requirement for distribution companies to enter into long-term contracts to procure energy from generating facilities that are located on the site of a retiring coal or oil-fired generating facility under certain circumstances. H. 4196 Storm Response Bill This legislation mandates that emergency response plans must identify management staff responsible for company operations, including a public information officer responsible for coordinating with the state and municipal officials, and an estimate of service workers available to respond to an emergency within 24 hours. Plans must also include a communication system with customers during an emergency that includes continuous access to staff assistance and twice-daily updates on estimated return of service via telephone, a website and 1 other media outreach effort. Utility must set up a sufficiently staffed call center during an event, as well. Any violation of service standards or emergency response plans during a storm will result in a penalty collected by the DPU that will be credited to ratepayers. H. 4199 Gas Leaks Bill This legislation puts in place an industry standard on how to handle gas leaks by first creating a classification system that measures how threatening each leak may be to public safety. The system works to prioritize leak repairs by helping to create a schedule wherein the most dangerous leaks are repaired immediately. The bill puts in place new reporting requirements for gas companies, authorizes DPU to establish a minimum winter patrol standard for cast iron pipelines susceptible to leaks, and addresses aging natural gas pipeline infrastructure by allowing gas companies to file replacement plans with the DPU for review.