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News Briefs: Legislature fails to lift solar caps; interactive disaster weather map

We should not put a limit on clean energy. Instead, we should move as quickly as possible to power our society with 100 percent clean, renewable energy." -- Ben Hellerstein, State Director for Environment Massachusetts

Legislature fails to lift solar caps despite public support

Boston — The State Legislature did not lift caps on solar net metering before beginning its holiday recess this week and, as a result, solar projects that have been stalled for more than seven months will likely remain in limbo until January unless the Legislature passes a bill unanimously during informal sessions.

Ben Hellerstein, State Director for Environment Massachusetts, issued the following statement:

“The Legislature’s failure to lift the solar caps is a clear sign of the tremendous power that special interests like the utility companies wield in the State House. The vast majority of Massachusetts residents want to bring more solar power to the Commonwealth, and more than 1,000 civic and business leaders have voiced their support for a goal of 20 percent solar by 2025. But even with all that support, the utilities and their lobbyists were able to block progress.

“We were heartened by the efforts of Senator Downing, Senate President Rosenberg, and other Senate leaders to lift the net metering caps in the waning hours of the day. Additionally, we’re grateful for the support of champions in the House who have consistently fought for more solar power.

“While the bill passed by the Senate is significantly better than the House version, it is still not adequate to ensure the continued growth of solar energy. We must lift the net metering caps by more than proposed in the Senate bill, and we must not make arbitrary cuts to the credit for solar power provided to the grid, when study after study has shown that the benefits of solar far exceed the costs. These cuts would make it harder for many families to switch to solar energy.

“Here’s the bottom line: We should not put a limit on clean energy. Instead, we should move as quickly as possible to power our society with 100 percent clean, renewable energy — and solar will have a critical role to play. When officials return to the State House in January, they should make the expansion of solar power one of their first priorities.”

–E.E.

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Interactive weather map shows impact of natural disasters

Boston — Every Massachusetts resident lives in a county affected recently by weather-related disasters, including two of the six heaviest snowstorms ever recorded in the city of Boston, according to a new interactive map using data from the federal government.

Environment Massachusetts researchers who created the online map found that, in the last five years, seven extreme weather events have impacted residents across the state. Scientists predict unchecked global warming will increase the frequency, severity and the catastrophic impacts of storms.

“It’s the surprise [of more erratic weather] that is going to be the real cost of climate change for ordinary people,” said Dr. Adil Najam, Dean of the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies and co-author for the Third and Fourth Assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “In every society, certainly in Massachusetts, it is going to be the poorest, the most vulnerable and the least prepared who are going to pay the cost of the rest of us not having done enough.”

The map reveals that, nationwide, more than 40 million Americans live in counties that were affected by more than five weather disasters over the last five years, while counties housing 96 percent of the population experienced declared disasters at least once.

The analysis comes as Massachusetts and eight other Northeastern states are preparing to discuss improvements to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a successful program that has helped to cut global warming pollution from power plants in the state and across the region over the last five years.

–E.E.

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