By Susan Milligan, Globe Staff
WASHINGTON -- Massachusetts is poised to receive about $200 million in federal money for energy research and efficiency programs under a sweeping climate change bill to be unveiled Friday, according to one of the measure's chief negotiators.
About half of the money would be directed at local energy savings programs now subsidized by the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a 10-state program the Bay State helped form. The new federal cash would effectively replace the $100 million Massachusetts expects to lose when the regional plan is eventually supplanted by a nationwide carbon emissions control system.
In addition, Massachusetts is very well positioned to become one of eight "clean energy innovation centers" where energy technology research would be conducted. That program would bring another estimated $100 million into the state, said Representative Edward Markey, a Malden Democrat who secured the funding in the legislation.
"This is what we do best. If you looked up the word 'innovation' in the dictionary, there's be a picture of Massachusetts,'' Markey said today. "This will create an incredible opportunity for MIT, Harvard, Tufts, Brandeis, and BC to begin to reinvent the way in which the United States and the world generates energy.''
Markey is chairman of both the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming and the Energy and Commerce Committee's subcommittee on Energy and the Environment, making him a key player on the climate change package.
Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Representative Henry Waxman, a California Democrat, today announced a general deal on the climate change legislation, which would create an historic new set of standards to reduce global warming by 17 percent by the year 2020. The panel is scheduled to begin drafting its final version of the bill next week, and leaders expect the measure to be approved and sent to the House floor. Concessions -- such as lowering the goal for emissions reductions from 20 percent to 17 percent -- helped bring reluctant lawmakers on board.
Under the bill, industries would be subject to a "cap-and-trade'' system regulating how much they can pollute, and requiring them to obtain allowances' to emit pollutants. Some of the allowances will be auctioned, bringing in money to the federal government to spend on energy efficiency and related programs. Those allowances could be sold or traded to other companies.
The cap-and-trade system is similar to the regional program begun by 10 northeastern states in response to the Bush administration's refusal to set emissions reduction rules to address global warming. Under the program, power plants must buy allowances to pollute; states then use that money for local energy-saving programs.
The climate change bill would make RGGI obsolete. While state officials and environmentalists are eager to have a national standard, they worried that the energy efficiency programs begun this year would suffer, since Massachusetts would no longer get the estimated $100 million in allowances under RGGI. The language Markey inserted into the bill ensures that the commonwealth would get that money from the federal government, allowing the state to keep those programs going.
"The RGGI was and is extremely innovative, and we should be proud of it, but a strong national program is required,'' said Nick D’arbeloff, president of the New England Clean Energy Council. Still, he said, "we absolutely need to ensure that energy efficiency dollars continue to flow in this region.''
Massachusetts is also very likely to be selected for one of the eight innovation centers slated for funding in the bill, said Kelly Sims Gallagher, director of energy technology innovation policy at the Belfer Center at Harvard's Kennedy School.
Since the Boston area has major research universities such as Harvard and MIT -- plus a strong tech industry nearby -- the region is well positioned to host one of the centers, which aim to connect academic research with the commercial energy technology sector.
"It's terrific,'' said Ian Bowles, Massachusetts secretary of the Executive office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. "We are going to be the disproportionate beneficiary of the transition to a clean energy economy.''
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.