Environmental advocates for years have been eagerly awaiting a clean energy procurement from Massachusetts, but now that it’s actually happened they’re not jumping for joy.
State officials announced on Thursday that they had selected a project called Northern Pass to import a massive amount of hydro-electricity from Canada, enough to supply between 15 and 20 percent of the state’s electricity needs. Northern Pass, a partnership between Hydro-Quebec and Eversource Energy, immediately came under fire from environmental groups concerned about the route of its transmission line through New Hampshire and the way in which the project was selected.
On the Codcast, we talked to Greg Cunningham, director of the Conservation Law Foundation’s clean energy and climate change program, and Mark LeBel, a staff attorney at the Acadia Center. Both had concerns about Northern Pass and both said the state’s selection of the controversial project is likely to be challenged in court, which could lead to delays.
The selection team for the clean energy procurement consisted of representatives from the Department of Energy Resources and the state’s three utilities – Unitil, National Grid, and Eversource Energy. That means Eversource helped shape the bid process and helped select the winner, which turned out to be another arm of Eversource.
“We think it had its thumb on the scale,” said Cunningham, referring to Eversource. “Unfortunately, this is an example of a bit of self-dealing.”
LeBel was concerned about self-dealing – “the potential for self-dealing here is really high,” he said – but he stopped short of saying it actually happened. He noted a completed contract won’t be released until this spring, when an independent evaluator hired to watchdog the selection process will release a report on its fairness. Attorney General Maura Healey is also likely to review the choice of Eversource.
Dozens of companies submitted bids for the clean energy procurement, pushing projects that offered power from solar, hydro-electricity, onshore wind, and even offshore wind. Both Cunningham and LeBel said there were signs that the fix was in for Canadian hydro-electricity.
In the runup to last week’s selection, competitors mounted unusual public campaigns extolling the virtues of their projects. These campaigns didn’t mention Northern Pass by name, but it was clear to insiders who they were comparing themselves to. Central Maine Power, for example, said its project to import Hydro-Quebec power was the cheapest. TDI-New England, which also sought to import Hydro-Quebec power, said its project had all its permits and was embraced by its host state, Vermont.
The Conservation Law Foundation even jumped into the fray, with a full-page ad in the Boston Globe on January 21 urging Gov. Charlie Baker and his administration to disqualify Northern Pass from consideration. The ad quickly set off a point–counterpoint debate in CommonWealth between the Conservation Law Foundation and Northern Pass’s defenders, which culminated with the Baker administration’s decision to select Northern Pass on Thursday.
Concerned that state officials often overlook the suburbs in policy discussions, a commission representing 35 communities in the MetroWest region has drafted a policy guideline that lays out the needs and priorities in areas such as transportation, water, and housing. (MetroWest Daily News)
Rep. Marjorie Decker makes the case for recess — and more of it. (CommonWealth)
The Berkshire Eagle profiled Sarah Beckwith, the young woman whom Gov. Charlie Baker mentioned in his State of the State speech. She did her homework in the car parked near the public library in Mount Washington because it was the only place she could get internet access; now her family has internet access at home thanks to a state program to expand broadband access in western Massachusetts.
New Boston City Council President Andrea Campbell says her top focus in the job will be on housing, something she says that runs through every other issue. (Keller@Large)
Truro officials, who last year enacted a zoning law to restrict house sizes in the National Seashore district, are eyeing expanding the limits to new construction townwide. (Cape Cod Times)
Matt Viser writes that Republican senators are “relying on tiny shreds of evidence with little context to draw far-reaching conclusions” about FBI misconduct as part of a growing GOP effort to discredit the agency. (Boston Globe)
Charles and David Koch won big with the Republican tax cut, but the billionaire brothers are not resting on their victory and are looking to spend big on GOP candidates in the coming midterm elections to protect the gains. (Boston Globe)
Nestor Ramos tells Joe Kennedy not to screw up his big chance when the young congressman delivers the official Democratic response to President Trump’s State of the Union address tomorrow night. (Boston Globe)
The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, founded in 1945 by scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project to warn of global disasters, has set the Doomsday Clock to two minutes before midnight, the closest it’s been to apocalyptic midnight since 1953 mainly because of the threats by President Trump, they say. (U.S. News & World Report)
Renee Loth says Iceland is a paragon of gender parity worth looking to. (Boston Globe)
Construction in downtown Quincy has left the city with less than half the parking spaces it had just a few years ago and businesses are worried that customers may be lost before the new lots and garages open in the redevelopment project. (Patriot Ledger)
The three candidates for state education commissioner were each interviewed for two hours on Friday. One interesting takeaway was how far apart Jeff Riley, the lone in-state candidate and superintendent from Lawrence, was from state Education Secretary James Peyser on the subject of high-stakes testing. (CommonWealth) Aixa Beauchamp says it’s time for a Latino education commissioner. (CommonWealth) Shirley Leung says how about selecting the state’s first female education commissioner (two of the three finalists are women)? (Boston Globe)
Melanie Delgado of the Children’s Advocacy Institute says states are falling short on regulating for-profit schools. (CommonWealth)
The new director of Metco wants to significant build up the program that sends minority urban students in Boston and Springfield to largely white suburban school districts. (Boston Globe)
A Lowell Sun editorial calls for a ban on cell phones in Massachusetts public schools.
MBTA own-source revenues from advertising, real estate, and parking are growing and on track to reach the target of $100m by 2020. (CommonWealth)
Ari Ofsevit of TransitMatters makes the case for Silver Line buses using a ramp that would take them into the Ted William Tunnels faster than the current round-about route they take. (CommonWealth)
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is eyeing “value capture,” the idea that the Manhattan subway increases value of businesses and properties nearby, as a way to salvage the system by allowing the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to designate “transit improvement subdistricts” and levy taxes. (New York Times) It’s an idea some have been pushing gthe MBTA to adopt to help fund the Green Line extension.
The Fall River Herald News says promises of South Coast Rail in Gov. Charlie Baker’s State of the State address and from Democrats can mean only one thing — it’s an election year.
A Globe editorial says the Baker administration should release all material related to the analysis that resulted in the selection of Eversource for a big clean energy contract.
Yarmouth selectmen have sent a letter to state officials raising concerns over a high-voltage transmission line planned for Lewis Bay that will carry electricity from the planned wind farm off Martha’s Vineyard to a substation in Barnstable. (Cape Cod Times)
The Globe drops in on “raw water” pioneers in Maine. (Boston Globe)
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission launches a “regulatory review” of Steve Wynn of Wynn Enterprises following a Wall Street Journal report on several instances of sexual misconduct by the Las Vegas casino mogul. Wynn, who is building a $2.4 billion casino in Everett, has denied the charges. (CommonWealth) Wynn stepped down as chairman of the Republican National Committee. (NPR)
Dan Kennedy says the allegations of sexual harassment against Steve Wynn are as good a reason as any to end the state’s “casino gambling disaster.” (Media Nation)
The mother of Odin Lloyd, whom former Patriots player Aaron Hernandez was convicted of murdering, is expected to testify tomorrow before in favor a bill that would end the automatic vacating of a conviction that is under appeal if the person convicted commits suicide, as happened in this case. (Boston Herald)
The lawyer for a State Police trooper is fighting efforts to have a supervisor dismissed from the trooper’s lawsuit alleging higher ups in the department ordered changes to an arrest report to protect the daughter of a Worcester County judge. (Boston Herald)
The Los Angeles Times shuffles editors amid tension in the newsroom. (New York Times)