Opinion

Ehrlich looks to the future

State Rep. Lori Ehrlich’s approach to shaping government has focused on renewable and alternative energy advocacy. She began her civic career 21 years ago by joining the fight against the former coal-burning power plant in Salem.

Ehrlich and other advocates pointed out health threats linked to the plant’s emissions and she didn’t let the issue drop when she ran for and successfully won a seat in the Massachusetts House representing Swampscott, Marblehead and part of Lynn.

Her multi-year push to tighten the system for identifying natural gas and methane leaks led Ehrlich to file legislation calling for tighter oversight by energy firms. She sounded an alarm over utility oversight well in advance of the September 2018 natural gas catastrophe that left Lawrence, Andover and North Andover residents without gas and cost a young man his life.

With the 2019 legislative session well underway, Ehrlich has filed two bills aimed at helping Massachusetts reach greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals by 2050.

Her FUTURE Act proposal maps out a transition for utilities from current energy business models to business practices centered on renewable energy. Her push to have energy providers embrace more thermal energy sources is compatible with a similar plan mapped out in the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard.

Solar, wind, water-driven and geothermal energy sources are viable ideas that can become centerpieces for sustainable energy in Massachusetts, but elected leaders, in Ehrlich’s view, must step up to push the transition and make it a reality.

Ehrlich has also filed legislation focused on Massachusetts’ daunting transportation problems from the energy perspective. The MASS Transportation Act would appoint a board entrusted with money generated from Transportation and Climate Initiative and use the money for renewable energy research.

Formed last December by nine Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states, the Initiative is committed to crafting a regional low-carbon transportation policy. Ehrlich is intent on taking the market-based approach at the heart of the initiative one step further by not only reducing emissions but also spending money on renewable energy.

She has 120 co-sponsors for her legislative proposals, including state Sen. Brendan Crighton. The FUTURE and MASS acts are examples of Ehrlich thinking globally and acting locally.

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