As lawmakers prepare to gather online Wednesday night to celebrate Earth Day and renewable energy, the bill (H 2836) they are cheering, like many others this session, remains on hold in the committee where it was originally referred 16 months ago.
The House-controlled Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy received Rep. Marjorie Decker's bill to move Massachusetts toward 100 percent renewable energy in January 2019. The panel held a public hearing last July and when its reporting deadline arrived in early February, the committee sought a new deadline, June 4. The House and Senate agreed with that plan, which was accomplished through an extension order.
During the nearly six-week COVID-19 state of emergency, legislators have approved several bills pertaining to the crisis and lawmakers have also okayed a flood of other extension orders, further postponing committee decisions until closer to the scheduled July 31 end of formal sessions. Lawmakers are not sure when they will hold another formal session, and with bills requiring unanimous consent to advance, they have limited themselves largely to COVID-19 bills.
Sen. Jo Comerford and Reps. Natalie Blais, Lindsay Sabadosa and Daniel Carey plan to join civic and environmental activists Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. on Zoom to discuss Decker's bill and hear about renewable energy progress in the Pioneer Valley. Environment Massachusetts, MASSPIRG Students, and Climate Action Now (CAN) are hosting the event.
Also Wednesday, Congressman Richard Neal, who participated in the first Earth Day celebration 50 years ago, will be in his district to visit the Springfield Materials Recycling Facility, which processes recyclable paper and cardboard separately from containers, or dual stream processing. The facility opened in 1990, when Neal, now chairman of the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, was serving as mayor of Springfield.
The Union of Concerned Scientists also has a busy Earth Day lined up, launching a three-day livestream of stories, panels and performances that campaign coordinator Alicia Race is calling the "largest online mass mobilization in history" and an "inspiring, intergenerational call to climate action."