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A Tale of Two Green Bank Bills

Guess which part of the United States is so motivated to put a green bank in place that two legislative bills are competing to do the honors? It’s Massachusetts, which is considering two proposed green banks that would be very different from one another.

“I’m hopeful,” said State Rep. Paul Mark (D-Peru), sponsor of House Bill 3532. “If it doesn’t pass, we’ll file it again next session.”

Mark spoke to a packed room at Western Mass Green Consortium’s Holiday Season Green Night Party on Dec. 9 in Northampton. He said he has sent a letter of support for the second bill, House Bill 706 – and that the bill’s sponsor, State Rep. Robert Koczera (D-New Bedford), has reciprocated.

Although the sponsors of the two bills support both pieces of legislation, the proposed solutions have many points on which they differ.

Option 1: A Fund within an Existing Center, Focusing on Workforce Expansion

Koczera’s bill would put the Massachusetts Green Banks Fund within the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center rather than creating a separate organization.

The notable feature of this bill is its focus on workforce development and education. As well as providing loans to help expand the reach of the clean energy industry, the fund would also support higher education and research. It would fund student internships, new academic programs, and workforce training grants.

The fund would also support site and infrastructure preparation. When developers look at siting clean energy on or near older buildings or brownfields, they sometimes express concern about covering these expenses. This financial shortfall can hold back clean energy development in low-to-moderate-income communities, where substantial retrofits are often needed.

Koczera did not respond to a request for comments.

Option 2: An Independent Organization Emphasizing Performance Measurement

In contrast, Mark’s bill outlines the creation of an independent governmental organization, the Massachusetts Green Energy Development Bank, which would be housed within the executive office of the governor.

In addition to providing and coordinating financing through loans, loan guarantees, securitization, insurance and risk management, the bank would also work to ensure the performance of these projects. The bank would improve clean-energy-project performance measurement and verification protocols, underwriting standards, and standard contractual terms.

What stands out about this bill is its flexibility. Mark said the state would work to hammer out the details of the implementation after the bill passed. He said it was necessary to keep the bill’s language vague at this time.

Momentum Has Grown in the Northeast

Mark said green banking is “a pretty radical concept.” After being inspired by the successes of green banking in Connecticut, he drew upon those results. He has also been in close communication with a national organization that promotes the growth and expansion of green banks.

“We’ve had meetings with local banks here in Massachusetts and they’ve been interested,” Mark said.

The two bills are being considered by two separate committees at this time.

“What I’m hoping will happen in the interim session is that the committee will act and record it in favor,” Mark said. “The feedback I’ve been getting has been positive from those committee members.”

“The magic number in the House of Representatives is 81,” Mark said, referring to the number of votes a bill needs to pass. To override a veto, 108 votes are necessary.

Over 5,000 bills are filed per legislative session, Mark said.  

Mark said an omnibus energy bill is also in progress. It will package a large set of energy decisions together within one piece of legislation.

Community Values Are Motivating Legislation

When asked why he supports environmental legislation, Mark waxed enthusiastic. “I love the environment. I like clean air. I want my kids and grandkids to have that.”

Religion also played a role in Mark’s decision. “I’m Catholic. The pope has spoken about this,” he said. “It’s a moral issue. It’s an ethical issue.”

Mark lives on two wooded acres in a community where his constituents encourage him to keep environmental issues at the forefront of his work.  

“I want to hear from people in my district,” Mark said. “The input of the public is always important – and always needs to be heard.”

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