Massachusetts has among the best wind power potential of any area in the nation. Clean Water Action is a leading partner in a coalition dedicated to building out offshore wind power to meet our growing clean energy needs. Campaign values include ensuring a careful process to protect aquatic life, building a new workforce that creates pathways out of poverty for local residents, and avoiding more polluting energy sources that often get located in low income neighborhoods and communities of color. Importantly, offshore wind can reduce the health burden on Massachusetts residents from fossil fuel-based electricity generation.
In 2022, Clean Water Action and our coalition partners successfully lobbied for the passage of H.5060: An Act driving clean energy and offshore wind. It creates a Massachusetts Offshore Wind Industry Investment Trust Fund, gives preference to offshore wind bids from companies that invest in local manufacturing, and provides employment opportunities for underrepresented populations. The bill also includes provisions that require reporting of building emissions and supports whole building retrofits for low and moderate income households, which will reduce emissions while also reducing energy and water bills for working families.
The transition away from fossil fuels will require updates and modernization of the electric grid connecting to these new resources. Estimates predict a doubling to tripling of the transmission system. The upcoming buildout of offshore wind and renewable energy infrastructure in the Northeast must move forward with equity at the center so that frontline and fence-line communities are neither left behind nor over-burdened.
Clean Water Fund, Slingshot Action, and a growing network of groups are launching a project to gather community input around safeguards and best approaches to inform a just transmission system transformation. If we are successful, our efforts will result in an equitable and innovative process for discussing, planning, and siting electric transmission infrastructure, a bigger and more diverse base of grassroots activists working for a clean energy future, a more unified and equitable environmental movement, and concrete policy changes that ensure New England continues to lead the way on clean energy and energy efficiency.
To maximize our chances of success, our region needs to learn lessons from our past failures. A traditional 20th century process featuring a top-down approach that attempts to force these transmission system changes has strong potential to create unnecessary log-jams, community frustration, and disenfranchisement similar to that experienced in Maine over the Central Maine Power corridor voted down by state residents. In addition, it would perpetuate the harmful and exploitative status quo that has gotten us to this point in our energy system: opaque decision-making, moneyed interests, and no accountability leaving us hooked on fossil fuels. Instead, we must embrace a new process that allows communities a meaningful chance to say “yes” to a clean energy future with concrete local benefits and an updated transmission grid while explicitly protecting environmental justice communities over-burdened by fossil fuel infrastructure.