Pacheco raises concerns on offshore wind pricing

Sen. Marc Pacheco of Taunton raised an interesting policy issue on Monday when he spoke out against a provision in the Legislature’s budget that would tweak the way the state procures offshore wind power.

Under legislation passed in 2016, each successive contract for offshore wind must come in at a price below the last one. The clause was inserted to protect ratepayers, but the winning bid of Vineyard Wind was so low that many are wondering whether companies will be able to come in below that price on the next procurement, particularly with a lucrative federal tax credit for renewable energy projects diminishing in value.

Rep. Patricia Haddad, the speaker pro tempore, pushed for language in the House budget that would retain the declining price cap but allow for a number of pricing adjustments, including for the availability of federal tax credits, inflation, incentives, and “mitigation efforts that, where feasible, create and foster employment and economic development in the Commonwealth.”

Haddad, who represents Somerset, is most concerned that if offshore wind prices keep dropping offshore wind developers won’t invest in onshore supply chains that could mean jobs and tax revenues for her district. She’s not alone. Associated Industries of Massachusetts has also called for similar adjustments to the declining price cap.

The Senate, which did not address offshore wind pricing in its budget, accepted the House language crafted by Haddad, although budget negotiators did insert language restricting its reach to only the current procurement for more offshore wind.

It’s not hard to see why the Senate went along with the House language. Sen. Michael Rodrigues, the chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee and the branch’s lead budget negotiator, represents Somerset (Haddad’s district) and surrounding towns looking to cash in on the emerging offshore wind industry.

Pacheco, however, thinks the Legislature’s approach goes too far. He said he recognizes the price of future offshore wind procurements could go up as federal tax credits diminish. But he thinks the language included in the final budget is poorly defined (what are “incentives?” he asks), guarantees prices will rise substantially, and requires electricity ratepayers across the state to subsidize offshore wind development on the South Coast.

“The language goes way above what we should be doing,” he said on the Senate floor.

Pacheco is now calling on Gov. Charlie Baker to send the budget back with an amendment doing away with the declining price cap entirely.

What Baker will do is unclear. His administration is a big fan of keeping offshore wind prices as low as possible.  The governor may try to keep the declining price cap in place, adjust the cap to reflect the disappearing federal tax credits (as a Boston Globe editorial suggested), or tinker with the legislative language in some other way to minimize price hikes.

–BRUCE MOHL

 

 

BEACON HILL

State lawmakers, frustrated by a lack of cooperation from the Baker administration and lacking subpoena power, suspend an oversight hearing on the problems at the Registry of Motor Vehicles. (CommonWealth)

Lawmakers largely followed Gov. Charlie Baker’s lead in crafting a compromise in the state budget on the issue of Medicaid drug costs. (Boston Globe)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Downtown Framingham Inc. says a survey of its business members indicates 87 percent of them think customers are afraid to walk the downtown and enter their stores. A business support detail has been hired to ease concerns. (MetroWest Daily News)

Peter Velis, a retired judge, was retained by the Sprinfield Catholic Diocese to review allegations of sexual abuse against former bishop Christopher Weldon, who died in 1982. (Berkshire Eagle)

Methuen residents collectively doubled their usual water usage on Sunday, taking 9 million gallons from city taps, which led to a pipe collapse that cut off water to some homes and spilled out 450,000 gallons. (Eagle-Tribune)

Springfield tries again to sell an abandoned tax-foreclosed home, upping a grant of support from $40,000 to $70,000. (MassLive)

Lawrence boutique owner Maria Lopez, whose business hit the skids after last September’s natural gas disaster, wants to know when she will start receiving some of the $2 million Columbia Gas gave to the city to help local businesses. (Gloucester Daily Times)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Massachusetts Puerto Ricans are joining the growing chorus of people calling on Gov. Ricardo Rosello to resign in the wake of leaked chats that disparaged all sorts of people and groups. Rosello has said he will not stand for reelection, but has refused to step down. (CommonWealth) Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Reporting, the island’s equivalent of ProPublica, broke the story. (CNN)

The Globe says Ayanna Pressley is cutting a dual profile as both an insider and outsider. CommonWealth wrote about her split personality last week.

Politico dubs President Trump “Deficit Don” after he agrees to a budget deal with Democrats without any of the spending restraints Republicans have previously pushed for.

ELECTIONS

Joan Vennochi says Congressman Richard Neal is the just the latest member of the political old guard getting a wake-up call that times have changed as Holyoke’s 30-year-old mayor, Alex Morse, announces he’ll challenge the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee in next year’s Democratic primary. (Boston Globe)

US Sen. Edward Markey has another primary challenger — Steve Pemberton, a 52-year-old Democrat from New Bedford who grew up in foster care and now works in HR and lives in Framingham. Labor lawyer Shannon Liss-Riordan is Markey’s other announced challenger. (MassLive)

Globe columnist Larry Edelman pans Elizabeth Warren’s warning of looming economic crash, saying her usually keen eye on things related to the economy gave way to election-related hyperbole.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Radian Jeans, a Boston startup company, is trying something novel in the fashion world, selling women’s jeans with functional pockets. (WBUR)

EDUCATION

Education advocates are hailing the state budget agreement, which boosts state funding to schools by $268 million, as a good down payment on the longer-term goal lawmakers are currently negotiating to rewrite the state’s education aid formula. (Boston Globe) The budget includes an additional $14.5 million in state aid to New Bedford schools. (Standard-Times) 

The Globe describes the mess at Roxbury Community College’s nursing program that prompted a state oversight board last month to strip it of its accreditation.

Stephen Cass, the former athletic director at Wayland High School, was awarded $250,000 by a jury that found he was terminated improperly under the state’s Whistleblower Act. (MetroWest Daily News)

ARTS/CULTURE

New Horizon, a silvery reflective balloon designed as an art project to showcase the natural beauty of the scenery around it, instead landed on a highway junction in Andover. (WBUR)

TRANSPORTATION 

T notes: The transit authority is planning to expand its workforce by more than 10 percent over the coming year, which is a big lift given that fiscal 2019 was the first year in the last five that new hires outpaced attrition losses. Also, commuter rail takes a hit from the Red Line derailment, the Blue Line shutdown explained, and future options for commuter rail service explored. (CommonWealth)

In a major victory for transit advocates led by former transportation secretary Jim Aloisi, state transportation officials scrapped plans to sell the easement rights to a stretch of land in East Boston and will instead conduct a study to see if the property can be used to ease congestion in the area. (CommonWealth)

The state budget approved by lawmakers on Monday contains a provision calling for a study of extending the Blue Line to Lynn. (Daily Item)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The state Department of Environmental Protection has entered into an administrative consent order with Algonquin Gas Transmission, a subsidiary of Spectra Energy-Enbridge, to submit by January 2020, more environmental sampling and analysis related to hazardous waste cleanup of a proposed natural-gas compressor station in Weymouth. Algonquin missed the first deadline of July 19. (Patriot Ledger) 

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Opening arguments are set to begin today in the trial of Ken Brissette and Timothy Sullivan – two Boston City Hall aides accused of inappropriately pressuring Boston Calling to hire union labor. Neither has been accused of reaping any untoward rewards from the alleged crime. (WGBH) Mayor Marty Walsh could be called to testify in the case, which would make him the first Boston mayor in nearly 100 years to give testimony in a criminal trial. (Boston Globe)

A mother whose 28-year-old son died just over a week ago in a Boston police holding cell shows up at the Suffolk County district attorney’s office looking for answers. (Boston Globe)

The defense and prosecution in the murder trial of Keven Seme want the Barnstable trial to move to October to allow an essential witness the opportunity to testify in court. Seme is one of two people charged with fatally shooting 19-year-old David Anthony Colon in the head on Washington Avenue Extension in Hyannis in June 2015. (Cape Cod Times) 

Former Dedham cop Michael Schoener remains in custody for now as a judge mulls his recent probation violation. Schoener was convicted by a jury in April of being an accessory before the fact of the kidnapping of 37-year-old James Robertson. (Brockton Enterprise) 

David Cronin, a 49-year-old Tewksbury man, was suspected of taking photos and video of children at Market Basket and later allegedly found in possession of child pornography. (Lowell Sun)

Brian Weed, a 61-year-old Dracut man, was arrested and accused of sexually assaulting a child and showing pornography to a child. (Lowell Sun)

Marblehead Police have surveillance video of the person who put Holocaust-denial posters up at Temple Emanu-El on July 14, and now they want the public’s help to make an identification of the perpetrator. (Salem News)

Defense lawyers for Anthony Comello say the 24-year-old killed Francesco Cali, the leader of the Gambino crime family, in Staten Island last year because Comello is an adherent of the bizarre QAnon cult, which is premised on the belief that there is a vast, criminal Deep State conspiracy in control. (Vice)

MEDIA

Eric Zorn, a Chicago Tribune columnist, traces the decline of the Ann Arbor News from a print publication to a website called AnnArbor.com with a twice-weekly printed digest. He says the experiment, orchestrated by Advanced Publications, the owner of MassLive here in Massachusetts, didn’t do well.

The United Kingdom establishes a fund with 2 million pounds to support public interest journalism. (PressGazette)