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Committee receives an earful on decarbonization bills

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(The Center Square) – More than 100 people weighed in Wednesday on more than two dozen decarbonization-related bills on the Massachusetts Legislature’s current docket.

The Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy took testimony at a six-hour meeting that began early in the afternoon and stretched late into the evening hours. Residents, advocacy organizations, and lawmakers spoke to the legislative panel.

Senate Bill 2093 and companion legislation House Bill 3227, which proposes expanding access to the state’s fossil fuel-free demonstration project across the state, drew several impassioned speakers who called on the Legislature to act swiftly as climate change concerns continue.

“Time is probably the most important variable when we talk about climate change,” Lacey Tan, manager of the Rocky Mountain Institute’s carbon-free buildings program, said in her testimony to the committee in support of the bills. “If you build it, they will come.”

Several speakers also shared their experiences with clean heat and other technical processes around electrification and decarbonization.

“Geothermal networks will provide clean energy and help meet the strictest environmental standards and goals today – all without another interim step to a transitional fuel source,” Joe Savage, director of Boston-based Franklin Place Associates LLC, said as he provided a perspective of creating a geothermal network.

Chuck Lidz, vice-chair of the Ashland Sustainability Committee, also implored legislators to enact policy encouraging clean heat standards throughout the state.

“We need to face this head-on,” Lidz said of climate change and its impacts.

Lidz was one of several speakers who pointed to recent weather events – including wildfires in Canada and California and intense flooding in Vermont – as reasons to act swiftly on climate-related legislation this session.

Jim Mulloy, co-chair of Salem Alliance for the Environment, spoke favorably of House Bill 3846, legislation specific to his community that would authorize the City of Salem to adopt and enforce local regulations restricting new fossil fuel infrastructure in construction projects.

But Mulloy said he supported broader legislation demonstrating Massachusetts’ commitment to clean energy standards.

“We’re doing great stuff, but it’s not enough,” Mulloy said of what has transpired to date within the state. “This is catastrophic. I think members of this committee recognize this.”

Sen. Michael Barrett, D-Lexington, co-chair of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy, said the wealth of testimony is valuable as he and panelists consider which bills to vote out.

“We prefer to view these hearings as work sessions,” Barrett said. “We want to hear from you. We’re going to be transparent and ask some tough questions occasionally. It’s just intended to try and get these details right.”

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