By Matt Murphy
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
---- — BOSTON — Attorney General Martha Coakley yesterday announced plans to host an energy summit in the spring, bringing together public and private stakeholders to tackle the issue of energy costs and the negative impact they have on the state’s economy.
“If we’re successful what it means for Massachusetts is that you, businesses in Massachusetts, will have more money to invest and create jobs. It means you will have a better chance to compete with businesses across the country and it means that our state economy will grow for everybody,” Coakley said during a speech to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce.
Coakley painted energy cost control, which lawmakers tried to address in a law approved last session, as the next frontier for state policymakers to confront after focusing the past several years on how to control the growth of health care costs. In a roughly 15-minute speech, Coakley did not touch upon politics, but after reiterated to reporters that even with Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray out of the race she has no plans to run for governor in 2014.
“I’m saying I’m running for re-election in 2014,” Coakley said, when asked if she was closing the door on a gubernatorial campaign.
Coakley also said no decision has been made on how to proceed with the state’s case against former Treasurer Tim Cahill, and said Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua would have to pay the $5,000 fine he owes for late-filing his 2011 campaign finance report before she considers dropping the lawsuit against him.
Coakley said prosecutors and Cahill’s attorneys continue to discuss potential resolutions short of retrial. And after her lawsuit against Lantigua prompted the filing of a 2011 campaign finance report more than a year overdue, Coakley said it must first be reviewed for completeness and he must pay the fine to the state.
“Those are at least preliminaries to our dismissing the suit so we’re going to continue and make sure he’s in full compliance and to pay that fine,” Coakley said.
On health care, Coakley’s office has paid particular attention to the issue of market clout as a driver of costs, and the attorney general said her office would be releasing its third and final report on health care in the next few weeks with a focus on the new insurance products entering the market and growth in competition.
Coakley said the Massachusetts industrial sector pays the highest energy costs in the country, more than even California, and the state as a whole has the fifth highest energy rates nationwide.
The cost of energy takes millions of dollars a year out small and large business, making it harder to reinvest or add jobs, Coakley said. For every penny increase in electricity costs, it costs the Raytheon Company, one of the state’s largest employers, $1 million a year, she said.
Coakley called for more competition in the energy market, central procurement for all renewables and increased transparency for consumers about what they are paying for in their electric bills. She also called for better outreach to businesses to make them aware of the resources available in the Green Communities Act to promote energy efficiency, for the cost of transmission to be addressed, and for the state to “support reliable, clean, cost-effective energy solution.”
Coakley compared the state’s energy cost issues to those facing New York City in the late 1800s when horses were the primary mode of transportation. As the city’s population grew, so did the number of horses and disposal of manure became a major issue.
City leaders in New York held a weeklong urban planning conference to try to find a solution, but came away empty. However, by 1917 the automobile had been invented, replacing horses and solving the manure problem.
“Sometimes it takes a little innovation and some fresh ideas to get the job done,” Coakley said.
Asked about her call for public support of clean energy and how the state can invest in technology without picking winners and losers like the investment in Evergreen Solar that backfired, Coakley said the focus should be on creating a business environment welcoming of new research and development.
“The state is not and probably won’t be in the best position to pick those winners and losers because we don’t know what’s going to be successful in the market,” Coakley said, adding that some incentives to industries should continue if they are “fact-based.”