Rep. Connolly introduces legislation to require public ownership of public utilities in Massachusetts

Representative Mike Connolly introduced legislation this week to put Massachusetts on a path toward publicly-owned, democratically-controlled public utilities by the year 2026. 

HD.1407, An Act Facilitating Public Ownership of Public Utilities, would establish a task force to make actionable recommendations for public ownership of natural gas and electricity generation and distribution, with a view toward ensuring a rapid transition to 100% renewables.

"With man-made climate change now looming over our future, we must re-orient each and every sector of our economy toward equity and sustainability, and this is why we need public ownership of public utilities here in Massachusetts," Rep. Connolly said.

"Corporate entities like National Grid and Eversource have no business extracting profits from our electric and gas utility customers," Rep. Connolly continued, "and with this legislation, we wish to start a conversation about how we can pursue new models of public ownership where consumers, utility workers, and our environment all stand to benefit."

Along with members of the legislature, the task force is to be comprised of industry experts, representatives of public interest and environmental advocacy groups, and several representatives of organized labor, including members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the United Steelworkers (who represent gas workers). 

In addition to empowering all of these stakeholders to reconsider the future of public utilities in our Commonwealth, this legislation also includes a number of procedural measures to require legislative action. Under the bill, task force recommendations are due by January 1, 2021, and the legislature would be required to act on the recommendations by April 2021.  

There are a number of existing models the task force could explore, including: state, municipal or cooperative ownership of (1) natural gas making, distribution, supply, purchase and sale and (2) electricity generation and distribution to commercial, industrial and residential customers. The task force will also look at Nebraska’s "Neighbor’s First" model of public ownership by municipal utilities, electric cooperatives, and public power districts.

The legislation does not prescribe one ownership model over another. Rather, the bill serves to advance the conversation on the future of our public utilities while seeking ways to increase public ownership, further empower utility workers, and prioritize a just transition to 100% renewable energy.