New coalition tackles state energy crisis

December 2, 2008

The Energy Empowerment Coalition met on November 25 at Boston's historic Faneuil Hall to rouse community support for more programs to address the Commonwealth’s energy needs this winter and in the future. Speakers included Senator John Kerry, Reverend Hurmon Hamilton of the Black Ministerial Alliance and Marina Spitkovskaya of ACE

11-08 Faneuil Hall Energy Rally. Photo courtesy Rob Garrity


Formed by a growing number of individuals, public officials and organizations dissatisfied with the Commonwealth’s Winter Energy Cost Task Force report released last month, the new coalition wants the state to take a more aggressive and collaborative approach to the looming fuel crisis outlined in the report.

The Winter Energy Cost Task Force was launched in July 2008 by Governor Deval Patrick, Senate President Therese Murray and House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi to address a potential winter heating oil crisis. At that time, oil prices had just hit an all-time high, and though they have come down since, the price spike was a wake-up call, demonstrating the extreme instability of oil prices and showing just how high they can go.

The report calls for assistance to an additional 50,000 homes over last year’s fuel assistance numbers, but potentially hundreds of thousands are at risk this year. "While we applaud the Task Force’s recommendations, the scale of the problem is much greater – and the options for action much richer – than the report acknowledges," said Cindy Luppi of Clean Water Action.

While fuel assistance is necessary for many people in the short-term, long-term solutions need to be strongly addressed. The Energy Empowerment Coalition stresses the need for a stronger investment in energy system upgrades for homeowners at risk of foreclosure and other vulnerable households.

"Action is urgently needed to help more people lower their heating bills permanently by making their homes more snug and by offering access to new technologies that will save money for families in tight times," said Kalila Barnett, senior organizer for Community Labor United. "Efficiency investments could create a new explosion of jobs, which could not be more needed in this period of economic downturn."

At this time the coalition includes Action for Regional Equity, Boston Climate Action Network, Clean Water Action, Community Labor United, Environment Massachusetts and Massachusetts Climate Action Network, all of which are partnering with ACE on various campaigns and events.