Archive for July, 2008

Heroes Among Us

July 23, 2008

Today ( July 23, 2008 ) Matt Cohen of Medford received a “Heroes Among us Award” and a citation from Representative Garballey.

Rep Garballey, Matt, Rebecca (Our Intern)

Rep Garballey, Matt, Rebecca (Our Intern)

Matt Cohen’s nomination for a “Heroes Among Us Award” says:

Through his tireless efforts and impressive devotion to social change and youth empowerment, Matt Cohen of Medford founded a unique after-school program for immigrant youth in Somerville. The “Academic Program at Centro Presente” provides much needed support with English tutoring, homework assistance, SAT preparation, and perhaps most importantly, offers mentors for each student.

As a Tufts student himself, Matt has recruited over 20 other members of the Tufts community to volunteer in his program. In large part due to the commendable work of Matt’s tutors, all ten of the high school seniors involved in the program will be attending college next year.

Matt, thanks from all of us.

posted by Mike McCabe, Legislative Aide to Sean Garballey

Energy Reform Bill

July 22, 2008

HOUSE UNANIMOUSLY PASSES NATION-LEADING ENERGY REFORM PACKAGE

 

Bold reform will reduce dependence on foreign oil, increase use and production of clean energy

 

State Representatives Paul J. Donato (D-Medford) Carl M. Sciortino, Jr. (D-Medford) and Sean Garballey (D-Arlington, West Medford) announced that the Massachusetts House of Representatives has unanimously approved a comprehensive, best in the nation energy reform bill that will reduce the Commonwealth’s use of foreign oil, increase use and production of cleaner, more renewable energy and help save costs at a critical time for consumers.

 

“As a member of his leadership team, I am pleased to support Speaker DiMasi in this courageous energy reform legislation,” said Representative Donato.  “This comprehensive legislation puts the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the forefront on the most important issue.”

 

“I have long made energy conservation a priority,” said Representative Sciortino.  “This bill takes important steps towards easing the cost of energy for all of us while promoting environmentally responsible alternatives.”

 

“The energy crisis impacts every home, every business, and every person in the Commonwealth. We have taken a major step toward energy reform in Massachusetts” said Representative Sean Garballey of Arlington. “I am delighted to be part of this collaboration.”

 

The bill’s lead author, House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi said, “Bold energy reform was my top priority this session and we have produced a nation-leading law that will reduce our reliance on foreign oil and encourage the production and use of more sustainable, renewable energy that can save us all money in the years to come. I am very pleased to have worked with such a broad coalition of stakeholders to make my original bill far stronger and I thank them, particularly the members of the House, Senate President Murray, Governor Patrick and his energy Secretary Ian Bowles, for their hard work.”

 

“With the cost of energy skyrocketing, this legislation comes at a critical time and puts Massachusetts at the forefront of clean energy policies and the development of alternative fuel sources,” said Senate President Therese Murray. “With this landmark legislation, the Commonwealth will tip the scales away from fossil fuels in favor of more efficient and affordable energy alternatives. Emerging technologies and conservation are major parts of this effort, and Massachusetts will lead the way.”

 

Ian Bowles, Governor Patrick’s Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs added, “I congratulate the Legislature for bringing this landmark piece of legislation to fruition. I commend particularly Speaker DiMasi for his early leadership, and Senate President Murray for working with him, Governor Patrick, and myself to move Massachusetts toward a clean energy future. This bill makes sweeping changes to the electricity marketplace. It will provide a huge boost to renewable power generation, give consumers major new tools to reduce their energy costs, cut our greenhouse gas emissions and launch a new wave of clean energy technologies. We look forward to implementing it.”

 

The bill originally unveiled by Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi in December 2006 was redrafted over several months with Senate President Murray, Governor Patrick, the energy industry, environmentalists and other key stakeholders.

 

The Green Communities Act will place a renewed focus on cost-saving energy efficiency and renewable energy throughout the Commonwealth. The bill retains many important provisions in the final legislation passed in the House in November and Senate in January after months of work by legislators, the administration and coalitions of environmental, business and energy industry leaders.

 

The bill places a focus on “Efficiency First Energy Procurement,” and requires distribution companies to consider all available energy resources when purchasing power. It also mandates that the state’s electric companies purchase the most cost-effective and stable resources, with the goal of procuring all cost-effective energy efficiency and conservation, prior to the acquisition of more expensive supply from traditional sources.

 

On a local level, the bill charges the new Division of Green Communities, under the newly-elevated Department of Energy Resources, to establish a green communities program to give cities and towns the opportunity to take advantage of loans and grants provided by the state to finance the cost of energy efficiency improvements and renewable and alternative energy projects.

 

“This effort represents the collaboration of a broad coalition of support for clean energy technologies and energy efficiency that will benefit ratepayers and allow us to continue to meet our energy demands,” said Representative Brian S. Dempsey (D-Haverhill), House Chairman of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy. “Initiatives such as the Green Communities Program will be key to advancing the clean energy goals of the Commonwealth.”

 

The bill also revamps the existing Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust Fund, housed within the Massachusetts Technology Park Collaborative. The Fund, still under the direction of the Collaborative, will now be directly overseen and administered by a Governing Board, chaired by the Commissioner of the Department of Energy Resources. The new Board will be charged with ensuring that funds will be used to generate the maximum economic and environmental benefits from renewable energy to the ratepayers of the Commonwealth through initiatives which utilizes the advantages of renewable energy in a more competitive energy marketplace.

 

Also established in the bill is the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative Auction Trust Fund, consisting of funds recovered through carbon dioxide allowance auctions. Massachusetts joined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cooperative effort by Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states to reduce carbon dioxide emission, in January 2007. Funds from these auctions, deposited into the trust, will be used for projects like the green communities program and the promotion of energy efficiency, conservation and demand response.

 

The proposal also amends the current renewable energy portfolio standard and creates a second tier to assist our regions existing renewable resources while we continue to promote new renewable energy to come online. Class I eligible technologies will include new and incremental renewable generation while the second tier, Class II, is created to include existing renewable generation.

 

Other portions of the bill include provisions that:

 

            • Direct the state to replace state-owned and operated vehicles with more fuel-efficient vehicles.

 

            • Direct the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs to establish a program whereby homeowners or tenants can purchase renewable energy products for the home with no up-front payment, and pay them off monthly on their utility bill.

             

            • Establish a 5-year pilot program, requiring distribution companies to enter into cost-effective renewable energy contracts, over 10 to 15 years, to help eliminate a barrier in the financing of renewable energy generation in the Commonwealth.

 

            • Codify the Office of the Ratepayer Advocate under the Attorney General to intervene in proceedings on behalf of Massachusetts ratepayers.

 

            • Encourage net metering to promote on-site generation through financial incentives.

 

            • Establish a commission to examine the environmental and economic impact of instituting a green building plan for the Commonwealth.

             

 

The Green Communities Act, also unanimously approved by the Senate, was signed into law by Governor Deval Patrick and is now Chapter 169 of the Acts of 2008.

 

Provided by Representative Paul J. Donato’s Office

Biofuels Bill

July 22, 2008

House Unanimously Passes Bold Biofuels Bill
Legislation introduces first-in-the-nation gas tax exemption for cellulosic biofuel, calls for biodiesel blending of home heating oil sold in Massachusetts

BOSTON— Representatives Paul J. Donato (D-Medford), Carl M. Sciortino, Jr. (D-Medford) and Sean Garballey (D- Arlington, West Medford) and their colleagues in the House of Representatives unanimously passed legislation to encourage the development of advanced biofuels in the Commonwealth. The legislation, unveiled by House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi, Governor Deval Patrick and Senate President Therese Murray last November, aims to promote the use of advanced biofuels through a first-in-the-nation state gas tax exemption on cellulosic biofuel, based on the percentage of renewable fuel used, and mandated blending of advanced biofuels with traditional diesel and heating fuel.

“The evidence is clear that the burning of fossil fuels continues to take a dramatic toll on our environment, and pain at the pump will only worsen as the price of gasoline exceeds fours dollars a gallon. These environmental and consumer costs demand solutions and the House voted to make Massachusetts a part of the clean energy solution,” said Representative Donato.

“We need to be exploring every way to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and provide relief to working families,” said Representative Sciortino. “This legislation works to accomplish both of those goals.”

“We sincerely hope that this bill will help consumers, help the environment and help stimulate interest in the development and use of alternative forms of energy,” said Representative Garballey.

“As the price of crude oil approaches $200 dollars a barrel and the environment continues to be a casualty of our fossil fuel consumption, it is imperative that we change the way we produce, consume, and deliver energy in the Commonwealth. Today the House has taken another meaningful step toward comprehensive energy reform that will preserve our environment, ultimately drive down consumer energy costs and bolster Massachusetts growing clean energy sector,” said Speaker DiMasi (D-Boston).

“It addresses climate change by encouraging the use of less carbon intensive fuels as substitutes for gasoline, home heating oil and diesel fuel. Emissions from the transportation sector make up more than 30 percent of our total greenhouse gas emissions, so this is an important step,” said Representative Frank Smizik (D-Brookline), House Chair of the Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture and member of the Advanced Biofuels Task Force.

“This bill will allow for the Commonwealth to develop the framework to advance the biofuels sector while seizing the economic, energy and environmental benefits of this emerging technology,” said Representative Brian S. Dempsey (D-Haverhill), House Chair of the Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy. “Biofuels will reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions while offering significant opportunities for economic development and job creation.”

“Oil dependence exacts a huge toll on the Massachusetts economy. Consumers spend more on petroleum every year than natural gas and electricity combined, and 80 cents of every dollar spent on gasoline exits the local economy,” said Brooke Coleman, Executive Director of the New Fuels Alliance. “This bill puts Massachusetts on the map as a national leader in the effort to commercialize advanced biofuels, and is good news for those interested in seeing something other than oil at the pump.”

The bill calls for a reduction in the state’s gasoline sales tax, currently 21 cents per gallon, in proportion to the amount of biofuel in each gallon of gasoline. According to the Advanced Biofuels Task Force Report, issued in April, this incentive will encourage fuel purchasers to buy advanced biofuels once they are on the market and reduce the risk associated with investing in biofuels production.

In addition to the tax incentive, the bill sets a mandate, which escalates by a full percentage point every year, on the amount of biofuel content that must be present in all home heating oil and diesel used in Massachusetts – achieving 5 percent utilization by 2013. Advocates of advanced biofuels say that this type of mandate will help to develop the infrastructure needed to break the state’s dependence on fossil fuels and encourage the development of a biofuels industry.

Under the legislation, all qualifying fuels must achieve at least a 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to fossil fuels.

The environment and economy will benefit from this legislation, advocates said. According to the Advanced Biofuels Task Force Report, Massachusetts could stand to gain 1,000 to 4,000 permanent “green collar” jobs by encouraging the development of a biofuels industry in Massachusetts. In addition, the industry could contribute up to $1 billion in revenue to the state’s economy.

Provided by Representative Paul J. Donato’s Office

Update: Governor Patrick will sign the the biofuels bill today, Monday, July 28 at 12:30.

Elder Affairs Highlights FY 09 Conference Committee

July 16, 2008

Elder Affairs highlights from the FY 09 Conference Committee budget:

 

9110-1455 Prescription Advantage

Continuous open enrollment:  Prescription Advantage is a program that provides eligible Massachusetts residents an option for affordable insurance to help pay for prescription medications.  The plan provides coverage, on a sliding scale payment basis, to Massachusetts elders aged 65 or older and to younger people with qualified disabilities. 

 

4000-0600 Personal Needs Allowance

$5M-  This funding provides residents of nursing homes and rest homes who are on MassHealth with a personal needs allowance of approximately $72.80 per month for their personal use for clothing and other basic necessities.

 

4000-0650 Community First

$20M- This funding will help to implement the Equal Choice Law which was passed by the legislature last session. 

 

9110-1636 Protective Services      

$16.24M- This line item pays for the investigation of elder abuse and self-neglect, casework and crisis intervention. The goal of protective services is to remedy or alleviate the abusive situation and to prevent the reoccurrence of abuse.

 

9110-9002 Council’s on Aging

$8.61M- This raises the formula grant from $6.50 per elder per year to $7 per elder per year.  There are 348 Councils on Aging (COAs) in Massachusetts that provide more than 440,000 elders and their families and caregivers with direct services annually. Councils offer information and referral, transportation, outreach, health screening, and fitness recreation programs. 

 

Provided by the office of Representative Kathi-Anne Reinstein, Chair Joint Committee on Elder Affairs

July 10 2008          

 

 

 

 

Representatives Continue to Work on Green Line Extension

July 10, 2008

Representatives Sean Garballey, Paul Donato, Carl Sciortino and Senator Patricia Jehlen sent a letter to Secretary Cohen at the Executive Office of Transportation thanking the EOT for including community input in their plans, requesting information and sharing their concerns.

They requested… a comparative evaluation of:

1.      A single track alternative for the stretch leading up to Route 16

2.      The two track version that was included at prior meetings

3.      The three track version as recently presented

4.      Tunneling in the final stretch of the extension, an option that has often be asked about

 

Specifically, we would like to see a comparison of the four variations in the following areas:

·        Impact on the North Street and Winthrop Street bridges

·        Specifics of any possible taking or impacts on both residential and commercial properties, including information about where such impacts are the results of encroachment onto the MBTA’s right of way versus the extensions encroaching on private property

·        The estimated cost differences

·        The operations benefits or drawbacks

 

This information may provide insight as to whether Winthrop Street or College Avenue would be the next stop. As such, we would also like an update on ridership estimates, including a comparison of what the ridership would be at all three locations, and how that changes if any of these stops were not to be included in the final recommendation.

 

As we have made clear from the beginning we are looking to see this project bring the most benefit to our community, and have the fewest negative impacts.  We believe a thorough explanation of the above matter will be helpful in our being able to support any final plans drawn up by your office. 

see related story at: http://www.wickedlocal.com/arlington/homepage/x117445106/Elected-officials-letter-about-the-Green-Line