Jeff Clark: We need energy permitting reform

A field of solar panels along West Bay Road in Amherst.

A field of solar panels along West Bay Road in Amherst. PHOTO BY DAN LITTLE

Published: 07-10-2024 6:00 PM

Modified: 07-10-2024 8:55 PM


The article “Energy bill doesn’t address siting fears” by Scott Merzbach in the Gazette’s July 6 edition does not accurately state the positive aspects of the governor and Legislature’s effort to reform the permitting process for renewable energy and grid modernization projects.

We currently have a complex, archaic process for granting permits for large infrastructure projects, which is unwieldy for both project investors and local community interests. It needs to be streamlined for us hit our state’s climate goals for 2030 and beyond. It often takes over seven years to get an approved permit for renewable energy projects. We don’t have that time.

Plus, the archaic permitting process is often gamed by wealthy interests who can “lawyer-up” to block projects. For example, the Koch brothers stopped early offshore wind projects, which could be giving us clean energy today.

Mr. Merzbach’s article correctly reflects the need to balance the trade-off between retaining natural lands that sequester carbon with the construction of renewable energy projects. However, the work of Sen. Mike Barrett, who authored the Senate climate bill, and Sen. Jo Comerford, who provided several important amendments, are trying to ensure that we prioritize the use of our built environment for renewable energy and grid modernization projects, and that local communities can participate effectively in the permitting process.

The House will soon be releasing its own revised climate bill that addresses permitting reform. I hope that the final legislation will help us advance our climate goals while not sacrificing local voices.

Jeff Clark

Amherst

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