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Barrett Questions Gas Safety Consultant's Ties To Industry


During Tuesday's hearing on the safety of natural gas infrastructure in Massachusetts, a key lawmaker questioned whether the consulting firm the Baker administration brought on to evaluate the state's gas system is truly independent of the gas industry and whether its report will be free of bias.
Massachusetts lawmakers grill natural gas executives on public safety


"We have an infrastructure problem that has gone un-scrutinized," said Sen. Michael Barrett, D-Lexington, chairman of the Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy. Barrett said the lack of oversight has "led to some grievous errors," and he criticized the companies for creating a culture that is "information poor," in which little is known about how they operate.
6 more weeks of winter, Massachusetts' official groundhog says

Boston Globe

Mass Audubon's Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary in Lincoln welcomed state Senator Michael Barrett, Mass Audubon president Gary Clayton, and Drumlin Farm Sanctuary Director Renata Pomponi to attend the event and discuss the urgency of taking action to fight climate change.
The Senate


Education reform. Climate change. Transportation. Housing. Mental health care.
Worth reading

New York Times

Here's a smart and cautious update on Trump and the mini-Trumps.

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Dear Friend,
Last week I visited Greentown Labs.  A cavernous space in Somerville once given over to automobile service and repair, Greentown is home to 70 or so clean energy businesses, start-ups that keep a lid on their costs by sharing everything from prototyping equipment to office rooms to marketing and display space.

Stroll through Greentown and you begin to get a practical sense of what "research and development" means at ground level.  You see a legion of youthful Boston-area people tooling away at the complicated transition from oil, coal and natural gas.   On the shop floors of Greentown, climate change emerges as both a worldwide existential threat and a local opportunity, since New England's deep bench of scientists, technologists and engineers matches up well against the climate challenges we face.
What could slow down the companies of Greentown?  The misleadingly low expense associated with fossil fuels.  Pollution from oil, coal and natural gas is killing the planet, but you wouldn't know it from the prices of the products.  How can something so dangerous -- so truly expensive -- cost so little, causing all of us to use too much?  And what's to be done about the multiple acts of over-consumption baked into the very places in which we live and into the ways by which we get around?

I may be biased, but, for beginners and experts alike, the best discussion I've seen is  Paying for Pollution: Why a Carbon Tax is Good for America, by Gilbert Metcalf.  Gib Metcalf teaches economics at Tufts, served Barack Obama as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Environment and Energy, and lives in Concord, three choices that reflect well on him. 

Paying for Pollution puts Metcalf in the middle of a national debate -- a lively one, if you're an energy nerd -- about the best way to price carbon -- via carbon fees ("revenue-neutral," meaning any money collected is sent back as rebates), carbon taxes ("revenue positive," meaning government puts the money into education, environmental protection, or something else), or cap and trade (either revenue-neutral or revenue-positive, depending on design). 
At this point I should mention An  Act to Combat Climate Change,  my latest carbon pricing proposal, now  pending before the 2019-2020 session of the Legislature.  For six years I've advocated for a revenue-neutral carbon fee, but my colleagues, especially in the House, have hesitated. 
I get it -- hard decisions are, well, hard.  But the climate crisis is getting scarier and time's a wastin'.   So I've moved on to Plan B. If we legislators can't agree to price carbon, we should at least agree to tell the governor to do the job for us.
Under my bill, a chief executive would select any of three main courses -- carbon fees, carbon taxes, or cap and trade -- but he or she could no longer sit around without acting.  The Legislature would say, in effect, "Governor, get on with it."  
Here's what I think: Once fossil fuel prices are revamped to reflect the real costs they impose on us -- once other forms of energy compete on a level playing field -- the brains of Greentown Labs will do the rest.
Let me know what you think.
-- Senator Mike Barrett
Lawyering for the poor 

Met to discuss representation of low-income people on matters like evictions, heating shutoffs and hospital bills.  From left to right: Michael Avitzur, Gov. Relations Director for the Boston Bar Association; Jonathan Albano of Weston, President of the BBA; Abbigail Shirk, Staff Attorney at MetroWest Legal Services; Elizabeth Soule of Waltham, Exec. Director of MWLS; me; and Joseph Sherman of MWLS. 
Honoring the brilliant legislative career of Rep. Jay Kaufman

Last month, at Temple Isaiah in Lexington, we honored the great Jay Kaufman on the occasion of his retirement from the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Organizer of this excellent escapade: his wife, Cathy Cogen. 
Packed house talks carbon pricing
Concerned citizens from across the region came together recently to discuss carbon pricing. I was pleased to speak alongside State Rep.  Jen Benson and Climate XChange's Michael Green. Tip of the hat to Sustainable Middlesex and the Global Warming Action Coalition for hosting.