Wind energy siting bill to be revived in Legislature

By Matt Murphy
State House News Service / January 19, 2011

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As environmental advocates rolled out their legislative agenda at multiple events yesterday, state Representative Frank Smizik and state Senator Jamie Eldridge promised a revival of the wind energy siting bill that died at the end of the last session and put forth new legislation to create an Office of Clean Technology.

Smizik and Eldridge are cosponsoring a bill to establish the new state office within the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, to foster growth in clean technology and help companies develop and manufacture products.

The legislation sets a goal of increasing clean tech jobs, businesses, and research by 25 percent over the next 10 years.

“It’s a bill for businesses to really create training and jobs and helping businesses develop products that can be sold around the world,’’ Smizik, a Brookline Democrat, said.

Eldridge, Democrat of Acton, said he was cognizant that adding a new government entity as the state climbs out of the recession will be a consideration, but added, “With just the right amount of investment, the potential for jobs is immense.’’

Both lawmakers also promised a return of the wind energy siting bill that died last session, despite majority support in both branches, because legislative leaders were unable to pass it before the end of formal sessions July 31.

Bill supporters say the legislation will streamline the wind energy approval process, boosting the so-called clean energy sector while protecting local decision-making powers. Critics say the initiative will erode local control and gives the industry unwarranted special consideration.

The House passed the wind-siting bill in the waning hours of formal session July 31, but the Senate received the bill just after midnight. Senate President Therese Murray led a monthslong effort to secure the bill’s final enactment, but Republican senators repeatedly stood in the bill’s path during sessions when objections from a single lawmaker can halt any bill.

“The House passed it, and we think we can pass it again,’’ Smizik said. “We’re going to file it again with some very minor changes and we’re going to fight for it.’’

Eldridge said he believes the Senate also has the votes to pass the bill.

Among the other environmental initiatives on the table will be many familiar issues and some new ones.

Representative Lori Ehrlich, Democrat of Marblehead, plans to file two pieces of legislation that she said may get packaged into an omnibus bill phasing out coal-burning and placing a moratorium on the construction of new coal-burning facilities and coal-gasification plants.

Senator Cynthia Creem, Democrat of Newton, intends to file an updated bottle bill that would expand the deposit law to cover sports drinks, bottled water, and iced teas.

Creem and Representative Stephen Kulik, Democrat of Worthington, also plan to file a bill that would update the state’s Community Preservation Act in an attempt to make it more attractive to cities. The changes would allow cities to use the act to rehabilitate existing recreational fields and facilities, rather than just build new ones.