By Heather Goldstone | Sunday, February 26, 2012
By Sarah Birnbaum | Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Feb. 15, 2012
BOSTON — Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick has agreed to sign off on a merger between NSTAR and Northeast Utilities, removing a major roadblock from the $17.5 billion deal. The state had been holding off while the utilities negotiated a side deal to buy renewable power from the controversial Cape Wind project.
Patrick, who's a big supporter of Cape Wind, applauded the deal at the State House on Wednesday.
"What we have today is a landmark agreement for customers. It will protect ratepayers from rate increases now into the future and it passes on the savings from the merger directly back to the customer," he said.
Until now, NSTAR had refused to buy Cape Wind power, saying it was too expensive. And it was widely speculated in op-eds and newspapers that the Patrick administration was holding up the merger in order to compel NSTAR to buy Cape Wind Energy.
But state energy secretary Richard Sullivan downplayed Cape Wind's significance:
"When you stack out what the time was spent on over the past year, a very small percent was spent on Cape Wind," he said. "I think this agreement shows that while Cape Wind has been a priority, it has not been Cape Wind at any cost.”
Under the new agreement, the new utility would freeze its rates for the next four years, and would provide customers with a one-time rebate of about $12 to $15 for the average ratepayer. And it would sign a long-term contract for 27.5 percent of Cape Wind's electricity. Another utility, National Grid, last year, signed a deal for half the project's output at above-market prices. Long-term contracts are seen as essential for Cape Wind's viability.
The merger must still be approved by Massachusetts and Connecticut utility regulators.
By Sarah Birnbaum & Wires | Monday, February 13, 2012
Feb. 13, 2012
BOSTON — On Monday, Massachusetts lawmakers will be holding an oversight hearing on prescription drug shortages. The public health committee plans to hear from doctors, patients, hospital and pharmaceutical industry representatives at the hearing. Lawmakers say the shortages of prescription drugs have been increasing in recent years and are having a direct impact on patient safety.
On Feb. 14, the legislature’s MBTA caucus plans to discuss the T’s funding crisis. The MBTA faces a $161 million budget gap in 2013. T officials are warning of severe cuts in service or rate hikes or both. In the past, lawmakers have considered a gas tax, or placing a toll near the New Hampshire border on I-93 to help shore up the T’s finances and fund other transportation projects around the state. Lawmakers on the caucus say they’re looking to find any solution and everything’s on the table.
And state and federal environmental officials are continuing to hold public meetings on plans to invite offshore wind developers to build wind farms in a vast stretch of federal waters south of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. Federal regulators originally proposed a bigger area but protests from some groups, including fishermen who would be affected by fields of turbines, forced them to cut the area by more than half. The meetings will be held in Martha’s Vineyard, New Bedford and Boston.
Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.