MA Legislature says no to initiative petition

By Lisa Gibson
Posted May 10, 2010, at 5:225 p.m. CST

Proponents behind the initiative that would limit clean energy development in Massachusetts have no option now but to push for its inclusion on the November ballot, after the State Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy decided May 7 not to make the initiative's language law.

"The initiative petition, HR 4458, places severe emission restrictions on a broad range of renewable energy plants, including biomass and waste-to-energy plants, limiting our energy choices, harming our state's economy, and preventing the state from meeting our renewable energy goals," says the committee's majority report on the initiative.

It's a small success for the Committee For A Clean Economy, which has formed a coalition to educate voters of the negative impacts the initiative would impose. The initiative calls for a mandate that excludes plants emitting more than 250 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour (MWh) from qualification for the state's renewable portfolio standard (RPS). Without that qualification, plants will not receive tax credits crucial for affordable operation. "This overly broad initiative petition would prevent the development of many forms of renewable energy by cutting off their access to essential incentives," the report reads. Although the initiative is well-intentioned and limits on the emissions from biomass plants are crucial in protecting the environment, it adds, the committee believes the language is too broad and would prevent development of innovative technologies such as anaerobic digestion. The report also notes that the Department of Energy Resources is currently analyzing the life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions of biomass power plants and the state Legislature will review that report when it's available, making changes if the report indicates that it's necessary.

Proponents of the initiative need more than 11,000 signatures to get it on the ballot and it looks like they'll push to do it, according to Marissa Goldstein, spokesperson for the Committee For A Clean Economy. But members of the coalition are confident they can convince citizens that the initiative is unnecessary and ensure its failure, she added.