Month: June 2012

Green Energy Bill to be Debated by House

This morning, the House of Representatives gave initial approval to An Act Relative to Competitively Priced Electricity, a bill that aims to increase the amount of electricity that is produced through renewable means in Massachusetts.

One of the ways in which this piece of legislation would accomplish this goal is by encouraging more homeowners and businesses in the Commonwealth to generate their own electricity through solar, wind, or other renewable means. In order to create a greater incentive for home and business owners to start producing their own green electricity, this bill will raise the cap on the number of “net-metering” facilities that can be connected to the grid.

Net-metering is a system in which the owners of solar panels, wind turbines, or other intermittent generation facilities are connected to the grid and provide power to the grid when they use less electricity than they generate. With wind and solar, there are times when the customer will also draw from the grid to power their home or business. At the end of the month, the electricity produced and the electricity consumed are totaled and the net-consumption is what is billed by the utility. In cases where production exceeds consumption, the customer is considered a “net-exporter” of electricity and will be billed for 0 kW hours of electricity and receive a credit to their account.

Once the statewide cap on net-metering facilities is reached, net-metering credits will no longer be available and customers with their own electric production facilities will be required to pay for all of the energy that they use in the course of a month, regardless of how much they are able to put back into the grid. Once the cap is reached, the incentive for those considering purchasing renewable generators is severely diminished. Without net-metering, it will take someone who buys solar panels or a wind turbine for their home or business much longer to see a return on their investment.

And now, Massachusetts is dangerously close to the cap on net-metering. The cap is set for private customers at 1% of the electric grid’s historical peak output. That translates to about 51.3 megawatts. According to National Grid, the total capacity of all private net-metering facilities in Massachusetts is at 43.6 MW as of June 12.

While there is a cushion of more than seven megawatts of capacity before the cap is reached, the total capacity of all of the systems that are in the application process for connection to the grid under this cap is more than 300 MW. Competition for the last space under the cap makes renewable energy a risky investment for homeowners and businesses at a time when we should be encouraging it the most.

The bill that was released by the House Ways and Means Committee this morning takes a proactive step to correct this problem. It completely removes the net-metering cap on private customers that use their generators to offset the amount of load their property adds to the grid. This means that if a business or homeowner is considering adding solar or wind power equipment to their property, their risk is lowered and their opportunity for a return on their investment is substantially increased. This preserves net-metering as the financial incentive that it is meant to be.

This bill will also increase caps on net-metering for publicly-owned generation facilities and facilities that do not offset on-site load (solar and wind farms). The primary goal of these changes is to maximize the use of clean methods of producing electricity and minimize the use of oil and natural gas. The secondary goal is to create a sustainable industry that provides good jobs to workers in Massachusetts. Our state is uniquely positioned to become a global player in the fields of solar and wind power, and net-metering not only supports that industry financially, but generates interest and support for it among the general public.

I will be casting my vote in favor of this bill when it is considered by the full House of Representatives later this week. The impact of climate change will be one of the biggest challenges that we will face as Americans in this century. Updating our net-metering laws might be a small step forward for renewable energy, but it is a step in the right direction.

 

 

Obama Executive Order is a Step Forward for US Immigration Policy

I rarely use this blog as a platform to write about national policy issues, but I have always felt that immigration policy is one of the most direct ways the Federal Government influences life in our community.

Last week, President Obama announced a plan to grant temporary legal status to about 800,000 immigrants that are currently undocumented. Those affected will be immigrants who came to the United States before they turned 16. In most cases, these are undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States by their families. Many of these immigrants have not returned home since, and we can assume that some do not even speak the language of their country of origin. They are young people who call America their home, consider themselves American (even if they are not legal residents or citizens), and want to stay in this country, work, and build lives in America. These are people that simply want a chance to contribute in the same way that as their friends and neighbors who are citizens. President Obama has taken a strong step toward more sensible immigration policy by granting these young men and women temporary work status, and I applaud him for that.

For many years I have advocated for policies that assist the many immigrants that live in Cambridge, Somerville, and across Massachusetts. I have taken some unpopular positions in defense of undocumented immigrants and I have received my fair share of abuse for those positions, but this issue has never been about politics for me. It has always been about what is best for our community, and at the end of the day, doing what is right. There are thousands of young men and women in Massachusetts that could benefit from common-sense policies like in-state tuition rates for undocumented immigrants, but time after time they find themselves among the population of people that is attacked first when times are tough or it is politically convenient to do so. I serve in a legislature where a number of my colleagues have tried to make life miserable for a small population of people because of their immigrant status. They forget that these people are our neighbors. They forget that we have a duty to do right by our neighbors and to lend them a helping hand without checking their immigration status first.

With that said, it is my hope that President Obama’s announcement last week will open up a renewed discussion about how America can achieve sensible, humane immigration policies. This will require us to create a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who are already here (that is fair to those who emigrate legally), and make it easier for migrants to come to the United States legally in the first place. In my capacity as a state legislator, I will continue to advocate for the immigrants in our community, and to pursue state policies that treat them with fairness and dignity.

In discussing this issue, we must keep in mind that this country as we know it was built by immigrants. America is great because of the achievements of immigrants that came here over many generations, and there is no sensible reason why this generation of immigrants should not have the opportunity to prosper in America as well.

Kendall Square Farmers’ Market and Concert Series

Information from Kendall Square Corporation about this summer’s farmers’ market:

Farmers Market @ Kendall Square

Thursdays
June through September
11 AM to 2 PM

Since 2007, Kendall Square Corporation has hosted its annual summer Farmers’ Market in the heart of Kendall Square.  Through the dedication of our vendors and the support of the entire community, the Farmers’ Market @ Kendall Square is showing no signs of slowing down!

People worldwide are rediscovering the benefits of buying local food. The Farmers’ Market @ Kendall Square offers locally grown, healthy, and affordable fresh food. Shop for fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy, meats, fish and flowering plants from nearby farmers. Bring home some fresh baked bread or other bakery items for dinner. Sample specialty sauces, sweet treats, and other food items from local producers. New items arrive weekly!

Please visit the Farmers’ Market on Thursdays this summer in the South Plaza, right next to the Broad Canal.  From Third Street, turn onto Broad Canal Way and head past Za, Evoo, and KiKa Tapas.

For a complete list of farmers’ market  vendors, please visit the Kendall Square Corporation website.

And the Concert Series:

Concert Series @ Kendall Square

As the weather warms, join Kendall Square Corporation, for a series of FREE outdoor concerts at 300 Athenaeum Street, every Thursday from Noon to 1:30 PM, beginning in June lasting through September 6th. Thursday performances are co-sponsored by Berklee College of Music. Come listen to some of the areas most acclaimed musicians on our open air seated plaza.  Also join us Tuesday evenings in July from 4:30 – 6:00 pm for FREE concerts.

300 Athenaeum Street
617-225-2440

related information:

2012 Performance Schedule

June

July

August

September

Kendall Square Police Activity

This afternoon, there was an incident in Kendall Square where the Massachusetts State Police were involved in a vehicle stop that resulted in shots fired, but there were no injuries. The State Police attempted to stop a vehicle on the Tobin bridge, but the driver refused to stop and was pursued into Cambridge. The driver fled again across the Longfellow Bridge and abandoned the vehicle, and was subsequently arrested at the Kendall Square T Station. No one was injured in the incident. I will update when more information becomes available.

Pedestrian Safety Improvements Made to Somerville Intersections

Last Spring, I joined the Somerville legislative delegation, Alderman Maryann Heuston, representatives from Mayor Joe Curtatone’s office, and state transportation officials from MassDOT in touring two intersections in Somerville that desperately needed pedestrian safety improvements.

Intersection of Washington St. and Medford St.

The intersections where Medford St. crosses Washington St. and Somerville Ave. sit in the shadow of the McGrath Highway McCarthy Overpass. Despite the number of homes and shops that line Washington St. and Somerville Ave. and the high volume of traffic that traverses these intersections, pedestrian crosswalks were completely without signals, leaving pedestrians to time their crossings carefully with red lights in order to cross safely. These large, complex intersections made that task exceedingly risky, especially for children and the elderly.

MassDOT began planning improvements to these intersections during the Summer of 2011, and implemented the improvements over this past winter. These improvements have made these intersections much safer than they were, and it is my hope that these crossing signals will allow pedestrians to feel more comfortable and confidant in their personal safety when crossing these busy streets. An image of the intersection before the improvements can be found in this Boston Globe article.

Intersection of Medford St. and Somerville Ave

While these improvements to the intersections at Washington St. and Somerville Ave. are important temporary safety measures, the Grounding McGrath Project will ultimately bring corridor-wide safety improvements that will make McGrath and the streets surrounding and intersecting it much more friendly to pedestrians and cyclists. For now, however, I am thankful that MassDOT recognized the danger that these pedestrian crossings posed and took the appropriate steps to quickly mitigate that danger.

Distracted Driving Can Have Tragic Consequences

The recent conviction of a Haverhill teenager is a reminder that texting while driving can have tragic, irreversible consequences.

Donald Bowley was 55 when he was killed in a head on collision with a young man that veered over the center line into oncoming traffic. His girlfriend was seriously injured in the accident. The driver of the vehicle that crossed the center line was texting seconds before the collision. He will now spend a year of his young life in jail as punishment for the crimes of vehicular homicide and negligent operation while texting.

This case is a sad reminder of the danger that a motor vehicle can pose to other people on the road and pedestrians on the sidewalk. The collision that killed Donald Bowley occurred at relatively low speeds and was the result of a motorist that was not giving the task of driving his full attention. Had the other driver given his full attention to the road, this tragedy may have never occurred.

It is my hope that this case will serve as a poignant reminder to all of the dangers of distracted driving. Texting a friend or getting lost in thoughts of work or school–activities that are harmless elsewhere–can take a life when they are done behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. Drivers in Cambridge and Somerville should be especially cognizant of this danger. The roads in our community are flooded with not only cars, but buses, scooters, cyclists, and pedestrians; congested, sometimes narrow city streets demand the full attention of everyone on the road.

Please, please exercise care behind the wheel and take responsibility for your driving. Texting while driving is against the law and puts many people other than yourself at considerable risk. There are also steep penalties for anyone under the age of 18 who uses a cell phone while driving.

Good driving, though it takes no extra time and just a little more care and attention, could save a life.

 

 

Update on Willow Street Investigation from Cambridge Police Commissioner Robert C. Haas

Please see the following statement from Cambridge Police Commissioner Robert Haas:

“Our condolences go out to the families of the victims.  They have shown remarkable strength and courage and we are in close contact with them as we focus on bringing the perpetrators to justice.

At this point in the investigation, every indication is that this was not a random act.  However, it appears the victims happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In order to maintain the integrity of this investigation, any additional information will be released by the Middlesex County District Attorney’s Office as they are the lead agency investigating the incident.

With that said, we recognize that this is an extremely difficult and emotional time and many people have questions.  I want to assure residents that if we receive any indication that the safety of the neighborhood is in jeopardy, we will not hesitate to share that information with the community.

We’re also asking for the public’s help in solving this crime, and anyone with information is asked to call the Cambridge Police Department at 617-349-3300 or visit www.CambridgePolice.org/Tips to find out how to submit tips anonymously.”

Shooting on Willow Street

I am deeply saddened by the tragic event that occurred on Willow Street last night.

I know that many neighbors have questions about what happened yesterday and I am working to set up a public meeting once information becomes available.

There will be a vigil on Willow Street at 7 p.m. tonight.  The vigil will be held inside the Frisoli Youth Center (on Willow St.) in case of rain.

Correction: the vigil will be held outside 34-36 Wiillow St, rain or no rain. Grief counselors will be available at the King Open School cafeteria.

Please contact me if you have any questions during this difficult time. I will do my best to assist.

 

Foundry Works Building Meeting to be Held Monday

Many members of the East Cambridge community are familiar with Alexandria Real Estate’s construction of thousands of square feet of new lab and office space in Kendall Square. As mitigation for the effects of development and construction, the City of Cambridge has secured a number of commitments from Alexandria including a new park, a large donation to the East Cambridge Open Space fund, and the use of the Foundry Works building as a space for the community.

On Monday, the first public meeting will be held to discuss how space in the Foundry Works Building will be used. The mitigation package that Alexandria has committed to includes more than 50,000 square feet of indoor space will be available for community use, and there are already many ideas out there about how to best take advantage of this great opportunity for our neighborhood.

I encourage any residents and community groups that would like to have a say in how the Foundry Works Building is converted for public use to attend the meeting on Monday. In order for the Foundry Building to become the public space that our neighborhood deserves, a robust public discussion needs to occur throughout the entire public planning process.

The meeting is being held by the Neighborhood and Long Term Planning Committee at 1:00 p.m. on Monday, June 4th. The location will be the Sullivan Chamber of Cambridge City Hall.

Should you have any questions about this meeting or wish to discuss your views on the Foundry Building with me, please contact me as soon as possible.