This month, Governor Patrick signed legislation that will impact energy, environment, and development in the Commonwealth.  On August 8, 2012, the so-called Jobs Bill (Act Relative to Infrastructure Investment, Enhanced Competitiveness and Economic Growth in the Commonwealth) was signed into law. Highlights relating to environment and development include:

  • Extension of the 2010 Permit Extension Act.  In response to impacts of the economic climate on real estate development in 2010, Massachusetts enacted the Permit Extension Act, which provided for the automatic two-year extension of permits issued between August 15, 2008, and August 15, 2010.  The Jobs Bill adds two additional years to previously covered permits and four years to permits issued in the past two years (from August 2010 to August 2012).  Many types of permits are covered, including zoning and subdivision approvals, MEPA, Chapter 91, wetlands, and others.
  • Other Development Incentives.  The so-called I-Cubed Program (Infrastructure Investment Incentive) has been expanded, with an increase in the number of projects per community (from two to three) and an increase in program funding (from $250 million to $325 million).  The Jobs Bill also creates a new Local Infrastructure Development Program giving municipalities the ability to leverage private funding for the financing of certain infrastructure projects supporting local economic growth.  Said infrastructure projects will be financed through the issuance of municipal bonds administered by MassDevelopment.

Earlier in the month, on August 3, 2012, Governor Patrick signed Senate Bill 2395 (Act Relative to Competitively Priced Electricity in the Commonwealth).  The law generally expands the Commonwealth's support for renewable energy in Massachusetts through a variety of measures.  Some highlights of this new law include:

  • Provisions for a raise in the cap of the net metering program (from 3% to 6%) to increase the economic benefits of renewable energy use.
  • An increase in the amount/percentage of power supply that electric distribution companies must purchase from renewable generators (via enhanced long-term contracting requirements).  By 2016, an additional 4% (for a total of 7%) of historic peak-power loads must come from renewable sources through long-term (10-to-20-year) contracts.