BOSTON — The Massachusetts House of Representatives on Thursday approved a plan to expand offshore wind power to meet the state’s renewable energy needs, but the move faces pushback from Gov. Charlie Baker who says it will drive up consumer costs.
Commercial fisherman also are increasingly raising alarms about the rapid expansion of offshore wind power, warning it could make fertile grounds off-limits.
The legislation, approved by a 144-12 vote, calls for accelerating the development of offshore wind by changing how the state procures the energy, creating tax credits for offshore wind companies and setting environmental and fishing industry requirements for offshore wind projects, among other changes.
The bill’s primary sponsor, Rep. Jeffrey Roy, D-Franklin, said the changes if approved would help position Massachusetts as “the Saudi Arabia of wind.”
“Massachusetts is uniquely prepared to capitalize on the nation’s emerging offshore wind industry,” Roy said in remarks ahead the vote. “But the development necessary to establish an industry capable of taking advantage of this natural capacity doesn’t happen by accident, and it certainly doesn’t happen overnight.”
But the plan, which also requires Senate approval, is facing strong headwinds from the Baker administration, which argues it will drive up energy costs for consumers and complicate the bidding process for offshore wind projects.
In a statement, the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs said the proposal “hits millions of Massachusetts households with a utility bill increase at a time when energy costs are already rising rapidly, and could create a conflict of interest by involving legislators in offshore wind contract negotiations.”
Baker, a vocal proponent of offshore wind, filed his own bill last year that proposed to scrap a price cap on wind projects and invest $750 million from the American Rescue Plan Act into a clean energy investment fund. But lawmakers haven’t taken action on his bill, beyond holding a public hearing.
The statement urged lawmakers to take up Baker’s bill, which it said would “advance wind energy without raising costs for consumers and has proposed investing far more to support offshore wind, other renewables and clean energy innovation.”
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