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Dec 092009

By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

Propelled to action by student protesters who’d been sleeping out in Boston Common for several weeks, Massachusetts state officials introduced a bill this week to study making the state run entirely on green energy.

Students in Boston win fight for clean energy bill (Photo: Ian Maclellan.)

Students in Boston win fight for clean energy bill (Photo: Ian Maclellan.)

It wasn’t exactly what the protesters had demanded — a bill promising to put the state on 100 percent clean energy by 2020 — but it was a good compromise, student leaders said.

“We’re happy…This is a step in the right direction and it seems very practical and rational to get this task force going first,” said Dan Abrams, who handled communications for the campaign. “This task force is charged with proposing ways to get 100% clean electricity by 2020. We’ve given them the goal and asked them to figure out how to get us there. We know it can happen and we know it needs to happen. We have our own policy recommendations that we’ve come up with from our own research and experts and we would like to see what experts on this task force will propose.”

Mass. Rep. William Brownsberger and Sen. Marc Pacheco filed an “Act to Create and Repower Massachusetts Emergency Task Force” on Monday on behalf of The Leadership Campaign, the alliance of student groups that had pushed for the measure.

It asks the Commonwealth to assemble a task force to research what will be needed to get Massachusetts to 100 percent clean electricity by 2020. It asks that the taskforce be chaired by the SEcretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs and include various elected leaders, state officials and members from these eight “communities”: environmental justice, renewable energy companies, student climate advocates, religious organizations, environmental groups, utilities, business, and academics.

The Leadership Campaign, a project of Students for a Just and Stable Future, is asking for results from the task force in six months, in keeping with the urgency of the issue, as they see it.

Student leaders hope to be working with members of the task force for a long time, Abrams said.

“The group’s findings will prove invaluable to our lobbying efforts in the future.  When we focus our efforts on passing the legislation to  bring Massachusetts to 100% clean electricity in 2020, we can use the findings,” Abrams said.  “We can approach a legislator and say, ‘Look.  It’s possible to have 100% of our electricity come from renewable sources.  Your own colleagues have come up with ways we can.  What are you waiting for? What holds you back?’ “

Students for a Just and Stable Future is a network of students across Massachusetts fighting for a strong response to climate change. The group held its final sleepout at a snowy, freezing Boston Common this past Sunday with about 80 people sleeping in tents across from the Statehouse.

Reverend Yearwood, President and CEO of The Hip Hop Caucus and one of many leaders who supported the students in their weeks-long effort (including NASA climate scientist James Hansen and noted environmentalist Bill McKibben) spoke at a rally that afternoon.

“There will be young people who look back 49 years from now to what you’re doing in Massachusetts and say thank you,” he said.

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