Utilities, environmentalists duke it out on energy policy

While lawmakers on Beacon Hill are debating energy legislation in private, the state’s environmental advocacy groups and utilities are making their respective arguments in public.

The Acadia Center today wraps up a three-part series in CommonWealth that calls for no new natural gas pipelines into the region, continued price supports for solar power, and an omnibus energy bill that features offshore wind along with hydroelectricity imports from Canada in conjunction with onshore wind.

The series is a bit wonky in places, but it does a good job of laying out the environmental community’s energy priorities. It also targets the state’s utilities as the chief impediment to those priorities, particularly solar power, using a clever analogy. “Utilities now see solar akin to how taxi companies see Uber: as competition for market share and a threat to the bottom line,” the second installment of the series says.

That analogy prompted a response from National Grid, which said it wasn’t afraid of solar. “The simple truth is that Massachusetts customers pay twice as much for solar as customers in other states where we operate,” wrote Ed White, vice president for new energy solutions at Grid. He said Massachusetts customers pay 45 cents per kilowatt hour for solar power compared to 17 to 18 cents a kilowatt hour in New York.

It’s hard to know how these two opposing viewpoints are playing out as House leaders assemble an omnibus energy bill and a six-member legislative conference committee tries to bridge the gulf between House and Senate versions of solar incentive legislation.

It’s clear, however, the situation is fluid.The House adopted the utility point of view on solar in November, approving a bill that would slash the rate of compensation paid for the electricity that solar power generators deliver to the grid.Then earlier this month, 100 House members, all but two of whom voted for the House bill, did an about-face, writing a letter to the conference committee urging the members to tread carefully in reducing compensation for solar power.

The tug-of-war over energy policy between the state’s utilities and environmentalists is going back and forth. Who will prevail is unclear.




Steve Koczela of the MassINC Polling Group says state and municipal officials may be on the wrong side of public opinion in the debate over legalizing marijuana. (WBUR) A report says marijuana could be a $1.1 billion industry in the state by 2020, if legalized. (Boston Globe)

The Baker administration is pushing for an expansion of the MassWorks program, citing the projects it has supported that have spurred further development. (Salem News)

More than 100 state employees have received buyouts of more than $50,000 each for their unused sick time upon retirement, with nearly 25 percent getting $70,000 or more. (WCVB)


A 3-year-old girl falls into Mill Pond in West Newbury and drowns. (Eagle-Tribune)


The state Gaming Commission will hold its final public hearing in Brockton this afternoon before deciding on whether to approve the application for a casino in Shoe City. (The Enterprise)


At least 69 people were killed and 300 wounded when a suicide bomber set off an explosion next to a children’s swing set in a crowded park in the eastern Pakistan city of Lahore. (New York Times)

The New York Times does a deep dive on the path Judge Merrick Garland took to his nomination for the Supreme Court.

Peter Gelzinis takes stock of the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising that led to Irish independence. (Boston Herald)


Bernie Sanders keeps rolling, racking up a clean sweep of the weekend’s caucuses by eye-popping margins. (New York Times)

City leaders in Boston seem poised to place a Community Preservation Act question on the November ballot that would levy a 1 percent surcharge on property tax bills to fund affordable housing, historic preservation, and open space projects. (Boston Globe) In a Globe op-ed,

Renee Loth says Boston voters would be wise to approve the surcharge if it gets to the ballot.

Republican Patrick O’Connor of Weymouth said at a debate of the four candidates running for the open Senate seat on the South Shore that he’d support life sentences for drug traffickers and increase the penalties for dealers and repeat drug offenders by decades. The other three candidates said drug addiction and abuse were a priority but did not go as far on punishment. (Patriot Ledger)

Holly Robichaud ponders what might be the Democrats’ plan B if Hillary Clinton is charged in connection with the email controversy from her time as secretary of state. (Spoiler alert: All the plans lead to a wipeout for Dems in November.) (Boston Herald)

State GOP executive director Kirsten Hughes says, despite divisions, the Massachusetts party is united about maintaining a two-party state and indicates she’ll support Donald Trump if he is the nominee. (Keller@Large)


A documentary about the 2014 walkout of employees at Market Basket grocery stores is set for release next month. (Associated Press)


The charter school debate is taking on a racial dimension, as pro- and anti-charter forces try to make their case on civil rights grounds. (Boston Globe)

A Lowell Sun editorial says no more dollars should go into the $4.2 billion money pit of K-12 education.

Less than half the country’s public schools employ full-time nurses, with poorer urban systems having among the lowest ratios of nurses to students. (U.S. News & World Report)


Hospital-related opioid visits in the state practically doubled from 2007 to 2014, newly released data show. (Boston Globe)

Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello says fentanyl is becoming a major catalyst for heroin addiction, with heroin being used to cut the synthetic drug instead of the other way around. (Gloucester Times)

Adrian Walker pens a poignant and very personal column about alcohol, which he gave up a little more than a year ago. “Sobriety doesn’t cure every ill, but it’s given me the return of my true self,” he writes. (Boston Globe)

More and more women with breast cancer are having the healthy breast removed, too. (WBUR)


A new online digital dashboard will let riders in on the performance details of why they’re cursing the MBTA. (Boston Globe)


No longer Taxachusetts, now we’re Trashachusetts, writes Neil Rhein, executive director of Keep Massachusetts Beautiful. (CommonWealth)

A Berkshire Eagle editorial comes to the defense of the state’s bottle deposit law, condemning legislation that would replace it with a new, temporary assessment on all containers to fund an expansion of recycling programs.

State officials want to take over the job of monitoring waterway pollution from the federal EPA, a move that has environmentalists concerned about a potential slacking off of standards. (Boston Globe)


An off-duty state trooper accused of drunken driving in Salem seeks to have the charges thrown out because of police error. (Eagle-Tribune)

Police shoot a man who was allegedly wielding a knife in Lowell. (The Sun)

The Department of Children and Families took custody of a three-week-old baby — and police will charge the the child’s mother with operating under the influence — after the mother rolled her car on a Dorchester street and was found with an open bottle of beer. (Boston Herald)


Dan Kennedy takes a look at GateHouse’s new magazine Lens, primarily an advertising vehicle, and finds the fine print on the “free” supplement comes with strings. Kennedy, by the way, has reversed his policy of requiring real names for commenting on his blog, saying the experiment has resulted in many good commenters being excluded. (Media Nation)