Fault lines in New England’s climate plan

Electricity in many ways is the key to the region’s climate change plans – bulk up and decarbonize the New England power grid and then use the green electricity to move cars, trucks, and heating systems off of fossil fuels.

It sounds like a solid plan, but this winter Massachusetts and the rest of New England are moving in the opposite direction. Instead of producing more and more carbon-free electricity, the region is suddenly relying on higher carbon-emitting fuels to generate its power.

In January, oil accounted for 12 percent of the region’s fuel mix for producing electricity, an astounding percentage given that oil had never risen above 1 percent for more than a year. Even coal showed up in January, producing 1.7 percent of the region’s electricity.

Gordon van Welie, the president and CEO of ISO-New England, the region’s power grid operator, sent a letter to industry officials and state energy leaders on Monday raising alarms about the adequacy of electricity supplies in New England and warning that the transition to clean energy isn’t happening fast enough.

“The clean energy transition is a long journey and we cannot escape the reality that the region will be reliant on much of the existing fleet, and the fuels they utilize, for many years to come,” he wrote. 

His statement landed like a thud in the middle of a simmering policy debate between those who insist the region can and must quickly shed its reliance on fossil fuels, particularly natural gas, and those who believe natural gas is a bridge fuel to a renewable future. 

The tension between the conflicting views – and the resulting policy stalemates – has left the region in a vulnerable position. New England doesn’t yet have enough carbon-free options –  nuclear power plants, offshore wind, and hydroelectricity – to power the grid without natural gas. And it doesn’t have enough pipeline capacity to provide enough natural gas to power the grid during extended cold periods in the winter. 

Van Welie said in his letter the region narrowly avoided rolling brownouts last month because the weather cooperated. He worries that the region may not be so lucky in the future.




Blue law controversy: Massachusetts blue laws are a thing of the past, right? Well, maybe not. Gov. Charlie Baker is pushing legislation that would do away with one of the last vestiges of the blue laws and allow bow hunting for deer on Sundays. But it has morphed into a fight between hunters and conservationists.

– Hunters say bow hunting is safe and quiet and doing away with it on Sundays makes sense. “We live in a new world where people are busy and oftentimes people don’t have Saturdays to do all those things,” said Ken Brown of the Massachusetts Bowhunters Association.

Not so, says the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. “The public highly values the one day of the week during hunting season when they can enjoy our natural resources without having to worry about conflicts with hunting activities.” 

Burning oil: Electricity costs skyrocket – along with oil usage – as New England deals with sky-high natural gas prices and winter weather. In January, power plants running on oil generated 12 percent of the region’s electricity; previously, oil’s share of the fuel mix hadn’t exceeded 1 percent in more than a year. Read more.

Trump connections: Ex-Trump aide Corey Lewandowski takes a senior advisor role on the Geoff Diehl campaign for governor, prompting Democratic gubernatorial candidate Maura Healey to say the appointment signals her Republican rival’s embrace of hate and division. Read more.


End the bottleneck: Michael Giaimo of the American Petroleum Institute says New England needs additional natural gas pipeline infrastructure to keep the lights on in New England. Read more.





Snow-clogged sidewalks in Boston revive a debate about shoveling policy in Boston. (GBH)


Gov. Charlie Baker’s budget plan would expand Medicare coverage for low-income seniors. (Salem News) Baker’s budget proposal would also boost federal funding for hospitals by shifting how the state collects fees from them. (Boston Globe


Former Republican state senator Dean Tran launches his campaign for Congress, laying out his policy platforms and alleging racism was a factor in the Senate Ethics Committee report that charged him with using Senate staff and resources for his campaign. (Telegram & Gazette)

State Rep. Jake Oliveira, a Ludlow Democrat, will run for the state Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Eric Lesser, who is running for lieutenant governor. (MassLive)

Gubernatorial candidate Danielle Allen wants to decriminalize all drug possession charges, reclassifying personal drug-use crimes as civil offenses. (MassLive)


The Pittsfield Board of Health orders Verizon to enter into negotiations over shutting down a cell phone tower that neighbors say is causing headaches, hives, and possibly cancer. (Berkshire Eagle)

Restaurants struggling to find staff are trying to attract workers with new benefits, like bonuses and 401Ks. (MassLive)

Attorney General Maura Healey fines Family Dollar $1.5 million for not letting employees take meal breaks. (Berkshire Eagle)


Boston parents are crying foul over a point system being used to boost the scores of children at higher-poverty schools in the exam schools admission process. (Boston Globe

Emerson College lands on a group’s list of the “10 Worst Colleges for Free Speech” based on the school’s sanctioning of a student group that was distributing stickers critical of China. (Boston Herald


The Centrum/DCU Center in Worcester used to be a major hub for concerts, but its offerings have steadily declined over the years, even before COVID hit. (Telegram & Gazette)


Gov. Charlie Baker said he’s optimistic after meeting with federal officials in Washington that work to replace the two bridges crossing the Cape Cod Canal will get started this year. (Boston Herald


The Supreme Judicial Court will hear a case next month challenging the state’s law against physician-assisted suicide. (Salem News)

The family of a man shot and killed by the Fall River police sues the Bristol County DA for refusing to give them a copy of the investigation into the man’s death. (The Herald News)

Kayvon Lovejoy is part of the first class to graduate from Restart, a program of the Springfield federal court that aims to help struggling probationers stay on track and avoid going back to prison. (MassLive)

A Boston police officer’s girlfriend pleads not guilty to manslaughter charges in connection with his death last weekend in Canton. (Boston Herald)  

A man sentenced to prison on human trafficking and drug charges is seeking a new trial after learning that his now-deceased public defender released racist comments on social media. (WBUR)


A former executive at New England Sports Network is arrested and charged with scamming NESN out of more than half a million dollars. (MassLive)

CNN President Jeff Zucker resigns abruptly after failing to disclose a romantic relationship with a fellow top executive at the network. He said he disclosed the relationship during questioning as part of the network’s investigation into former star host Chris Cuomo. (NPR)