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Bill Would Require Massachusetts To Use 100% Renewable Energy

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Environmental activists launched a campaign Monday to win passage of a bill in Massachusetts that would commit the state to 100 percent renewable energy over the next few decades.

Three Massachusetts legislators have filed a bill that would require that all electricity used in the state be generated from renewable sources such as solar and wind by 2035, and fossil fuels be eliminated as power sources for heat, transportation, and anything else by 2050.

The bill, dubbed the 100 percent Renewable Energy Act, was filed by Democratic lawmakers Rep. Sean Garballey, Rep. Marjorie Decker and Sen. Jamie Eldridge.   During a conference call with reporters Monday, Ben Hellerstein, state director for Environment Massachusetts, announced there are now 53 co-sponsors.

"It is a huge show of support for an ambitious clean energy committment," Hellerstein said.

He said the bill sends a clear message that despite changes in energy policy on the federal level, Massachusetts will remain committed to fighting climate change.

"If passed, it would be the most ambitious clean energy commitment made by any state so far," Hellerstein said.

The bill establishes a long term framework for ramping up the use of renewable energy in Massachusetts to 100 percent throughout the entire economy, but the implementation details would be left to state regulatory agencies.

Hellerstein said there is no cost estimate attached to the legislation.

" There are costs associated with the transition, but we believe the benefits will be far greater," said Hellerstein.

Despite unanswered questions such as who would pay to convert the vast majority of homes in the state that are now heated with natural gas or oil, Hellerstein said he believed the bill’s goal is realistic.

"If we don't get to 100 percent renewables we have to get pretty darn close," Hellerstein said.

Steve Linsky, of western Massachusetts-based Climate Action Now, insisted that 100 percent renewable energy is not only possible, but long overdue.

" Each and every day our elected officials fail to act we fall further behind in reclaiming the leadership we once had over other advancing renewable energy-based economies," said Linsky

Jim Boyle, the chairman and CEO of Sustainability Roundtable, a consulting firm, said there are tremendous business opportunities in clean energy technology.

" California and New York see this opportunity as well, to name two, and are moving toward it aggressively, he said.

Massachusetts has in recent years advanced several pieces of energy legislation that have led to a growth in the use of renewable energy – particularly solar.   Last year, the legislature passed a bill sought by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker that requires a larger share of the state’s energy portfolio come by hydropower.

The Massachusetts Global Warming Solutions Act requires the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent of 1990 levels by 2050.   The activists say there is no way to meet that goal without transitioning completely to renewable energy sources.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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