Mass. Senate hopes to pass climate resiliency, offshore wind legislation by Earth Day

The Massachusetts Statehouse. (Photo by Ana Goni-Lessan/BU News Service)

By Alex LaSalvia
Boston University Statehouse Program

BOSTON — The Massachusetts Senate hopes to move forward with a climate resiliency bill — which will affect the burgeoning offshore wind industry south of Martha’s Vineyard — around Earth Day, Senate President Karen Spilka said Wednesday in an online forum.

“We’re working fast and furiously on a climate bill,” Spilka said. “We don’t have as much sun as maybe California or Florida has, but we have offshore wind and we need to capitalize on that.”

The House passed a bill to invest in offshore wind on March 3. It includes money for investment in innovation, a credentialing program to train wind farm workers, and funds for energy infrastructure to support a changing electrical grid, said Rep. Dylan Fernandes, D-Falmouth, who filed the bill.“We have a real opportunity here in offshore wind to bring a sustainable, clean industry to diversify our workforce (on the Cape and Islands),” Fernandes said. “That’s a big deal for our neck of the woods, which has been, I think, historically overlooked.”

The Vineyard Wind project will bring about 40 “good-paying, year-round” jobs to its Martha’s Vineyard facility, he said. His bill’s “school to prosperity pipeline” would create an offshore wind credentialing program in Massachusetts high schools, run by a new Offshore Wind Industry Investment Trust Fund that would also promote innovation and infrastructure improvements.

The trust fund would be paid for by diverting money from the existing Renewable Energy Trust Fund, which raises money through a charge on electricity customers, according to a press release from Fernandes’ office.Fernandes said his motivation to advance offshore wind comes from the “urgency of climate action.” He hopes the Senate will prioritize every part of his bill in their climate legislation this session.

“Sea level rise, increased flooding, increased power of storms, is also going to have a huge impact on my district, which has more coastline than any other district in the state,” Fernandes said. “There’s no greater issue that’s going to impact my generation and my children’s generation than that of the impact of global warming.” Sen. Julian Cyr, D-Truro, said the Senate is “committed to taking action” on offshore wind and climate change in its Earth Day legislation, which will have to be reconciled with the House climate bill in a conference committee before being sent to the governor’s desk.

“What we’re aiming to do here is make sure that Massachusetts is as competitive and as aggressive as possible in tapping into the potential that is offshore wind,” Cyr said. “From a geographic perspective, we are in one of the strongest positions of any state in the country.”

Spilka said the Senate legislation will also include efforts to electrify public transportation and invest in electric cars in order to get “gas guzzlers” off the roads.

Mayflower Wind, another firm pursuing a wind energy project in the waters south of Martha’s Vineyard, hopes offshore wind legislation will create a smoother permitting process, said Daniel Hubbard, the director of external affairs at Mayflower Wind. Regulations for offshore wind at the federal level and in many states are still in their infancy.

“Regulatory uncertainty can make investment complex,” Hubbard said. “Each time you suffer a delay there are costs associated with that.”

Hubbard said he applauds the Massachusetts state government for being a leader in investing in the offshore wind industry and emphasized the need for more solicitation of wind projects by the state and upgrades in grid capacity to further develop the industry. Mayflower Wind is looking at 2027-28 to have its wind farm up and running.

The offshore wind industry is shaping up to be a major job creator in Massachusetts, said Jennifer Menard, vice president of economic and business development at Bristol Community College, who oversees the college’s National Offshore Wind Institute.

“I’m so excited that the Legislature has focused on this emerging industry,” Menard said, “because we have a natural resource and the jobs will be here because of that natural resource, and the Legislature is really aware of it and talking to stakeholders like me.”

Bristol Community College has a power technician credentialing program that helps people compete in the emerging offshore wind job market, Menard said.

This article originally appeared in the Cape Cod Times.

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