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2023: DOER Commissioner Woodcock departs

W’e’re expecting the new DOER Commissioner Mahony to revamp the SMART solar program and protect our forests, biodiversity, waterways and communities from destructive, predatory solar corporations

The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) is the state agency charged with writing the rules for who gets subsidies.

The former commissioner Patrick Woodcock left behind a legacy of destruction and bad energy decisions. We expect more from the new Commissioner Mahony. We expect the SMART solar subsidies to be directed to rooftop solar and already built environments. Hands off our forests, DOER!

Woodcock is not a friend of the environment but a friend of industry. In Maine he used his state office to help make an illegal deal for a Spanish company, Avangrid, to lease state land to build a $1 billion transmission corridor through the Maine woods.

On August 11, 2021, a Maine court declared the lease Woodcock helped secure as illegal saying this was public land that could not be leased. A majority of Mainers oppose the corridor that would cut a swarth through 145 acres of Maine’s wilderness to import hydropower from Canadian megadams 1,000 miles away. The electricity is for Massachusetts – the very state where Woodcock is now head of the energy office. Woodcock has been using his position at DOER to promote the corridor for Avangrid in Massachusetts.

Here’s a 2014 email from Woodcock to the state agency in charge of the public land. He asks the agency to “accommodate” the request from the developer to lease state lands for the transmission corridor.

Here is a recording of a Massachusetts recent hearing with Woodcock being questioned about burning forests for electricity. He wants to weaken regulations but in place in 2012-science-based laws that protect the public from particulate emissions from burning trees for electricity and that protect our forests. Woodcock wants to call burning trees for electricity “renewable” and “green” energy — just like his regulations on solar call cutting down trees for solar “green.” And he wants Massachusetts ratepayers and taxpayers to subsidize this!

Notable quotes:

“Why move ahead on something that’s not even in effect and was reserved for MEPA, why on your own authority imported into the RPS program when we can’t find anything on section 11f of Chapter 25A that authorizes you to do that?”

“But on your own, you’ve hop-scotched over to an entirely new area of law enacted without any authorization in Chapter 25A?”

“But the decision to go with a 5 mile buffer when air travels across hundreds of miles and before the legislature authorized 5 mile buffers for the MEPA act itself seems to have been an extraordinary exercise of regulation making by your agency.”

“But this seems to be the case not of sharing burdens but of concentrating burdens on the remaining 11% of Massachusetts. How does concentrating the burden square with the intuitive feeling that burden-sharing is ok but disproportionate harm is to be avoided?”   

Here, Commissioner Woodcock is seen presenting at Vermont’s 2022 Comprehensive Energy Sector Workshop on the Electricity Sector. Woodcock discusses Massachusetts’ green-washed greenhouse gas reduction plans.

Next, Woodcock was asked about deforestation by caused by the Department of Energy Resources’ solar policy.  His answer was vague. The claim that DOER policies are protecting forests and ecosystems is contrary to what we see happening on the ground.  And the word is getting out.  As this video shows, Massachusetts now has a regional reputation for promoting forest destruction as part of its “green energy” plan.  Is that the kind of image Governor Baker wants?

This is not the leadership we want for Massachusetts energy policy. Woodcock should resign.