The House plans later this week to vote on a bill that seeks to change how Massachusetts procures offshore wind energy and to boost support for the emerging industry here, legislation that has been among House Speaker Ron Mariano’s top priorities.
Representatives were given more information Monday afternoon about the House’s plan for a formal session scheduled for Thursday. Aside from the offshore wind bill, which may be changed further by the time it is released from the House Ways and Means Committee, an email from Mariano’s office said the House could also consider bills on its calendar or arriving from the Senate.
The Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee released the bill favorably about six weeks ago and Chairman Jeff Roy said the House wanted to tackle the proposal “sooner rather than later.”
The version that emerged from the TUE Committee would soften the state’s project price cap without scrapping it in every circumstance, would impose more than $45 million a year in new charges on electric and gas customers to generate revenue for an offshore wind investment fund, would give legislative leaders a chance to appoint two of five seats on a new project selection committee charged specifically with maximizing economic development, would establish a slate of tax credits and incentives for offshore wind companies, and would launch a pilot program to connect high schools with offshore wind industry training opportunities.
Some opposition has already emerged from the commercial fishing industry.
Mariano and Roy announced that the House would tackle offshore wind policy during a boat tour of the Block Island Wind Farm off Rhode Island in September, just after the state’s third offshore wind procurement garnered bids from just two developers.
“We had a tremendous advantage, and it is beginning to slip,” Mariano said in September. He added, “We’re hoping to create an industry and we just had two companies bid … That’s why we’re doing this, we want that universe to get bigger.”
Senate President Karen Spilka said in late January that her branch also has designs to address offshore wind this session, but suggested the Senate is preparing to approach the issue with a larger, more comprehensive climate policy bill that features offshore wind as one of multiple components.
“We had planned on doing a climate bill; in resilience and clearly wind has been a big priority for the Senate as well,” Spilka said. “So we will be doing a bill in the near future on that.”
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