I hope everyone had a relaxing, fun, and adventurous summer. There have been some great accomplishments and events in the district the past two months, while Beacon Hill has been quiet, as the Legislature met for the last full formal session, of the year, on July 31st.
Around The District
Over the last several months, the proposed pipeline has been a hot-button topic among my colleagues on Beacon Hill, and in the district. The pipeline has become a state-wide and regional issue. In the beginning of August, I hosted a public forum with Representative DiNatale, Senator Flanagan, Representative Harrington, and Representative Zlotnik, at Lunenburg High School, to discuss Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company, L.L.C’s, a subsidiary of Kinder Morgan, Northeast Energy Direct (‘NED’) pipeline project in Massachusetts. Although Kinder Morgan was presenting their project to the potentially impacted towns across the region, many residents and local officials were still lacking information. The intent of the forum was to invite Kinder Morgan to present their proposal, and allow residents, local and state officials, and business owners the opportunity to receive information and ask questions. The public forum successfully brought together many different communities. This discussion was just the beginning of forums in the region that have allowed residents to unite, and work together on the issue.
Additionally on September 16, Spectra Energy and Northeast Utilities (NU) proposed their solution, the “Access Northeast” project to meet New England’s growing natural gas demands. The “Access Northeast” project would use the companies’ pre-existing Algonquin and Maritime pipeline systems to expand access to natural gas in the Northeast. (You can access Spectra Energy and NU’s press releases here: http://www.spectraenergy.com/Newsroom/News-Archive/Spectra-Energy-and-Northeast-Utilities-Announce-New-England-Energy-Reliability-Solution/). This announcement certainly changes the conversations communities are having, and presents an alternative solution, if expanded access to natural gas is necessary.
In the last week of September, I attended a homeowners meeting in Pepperell. The high turnout at the homeowners’ meeting showed just how engaged members of the community are with the possibility of new natural gas pipeline infrastructure in their region. As both projects, NED and Access Northeast, move forward, I will continue to work with colleagues on the state and local level, and residents to discuss the best option, and solution for the Commonwealth.
Representative Benson, Representative DiNatale, and Senator Flanagan join Mayor of Fitchburg Lisa Wong, David McKeehan of NCMDC, and representatives from Fitchburg businesses Alpha Row, Rocheleau Tool and Die Co., Boutwell Owens, Steel Fab, Cado Company, and Select Engineering
While we are continuing to address the possibility of a shortage of natural gas in New England, as a state, we must continue to invest in and develop renewable energy infrastructure. I am proud that communities in the 37th Middlesex District are quickly becoming models for other towns and cities looking to invest in solar projects across the Commonwealth. On September 3rd, Representative DiNatale, Senator Flanagan, Mayor Wong, and I joined the North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation (NCMDC) to celebrate the final connection of the solar project on Pleasant Street in Lunenburg.
Another successful accomplishment in the district this month was the solution reached between the Town of Ayer, MART, and the property owner regarding access issues at the Ayer Commuter Rail Station. The plan will resolve the access issues to the commuter rail station and will also allow for the Ayer Rail Trail Commuter Surface Parking Lot project to proceed. The design provides for ADA compliant pedestrian access and a proposed driveway with a vehicular drop-off and turnaround area. The solution has been approved by the town, MART, MBTA, and FTA. Both the pedestrian walkway and vehicular driveway will include appropriate lighting, landscaping, and other safety features maintained by the Town. This agreement is a result of tremendous teamwork between residents and officials on the local, state, and federal levels. A permanent solution that will allow commuters to feel safe while accessing the train will not only benefit the Town, but the region, as this station has the second highest ridership on the Fitchburg Commuter Rail line to Boston.
Also in September, I joined the Douglas School students and staff on their Peace Walk on the last official day of summer. It was a beautiful day for a great cause. Later in the month, I attended the Montachusett Home Care Corporation (MHCC) meeting, visited Senscio Systems with Senator Eldridge (D-Action), and joined Boy Scout Troop 7 of Shirley in celebrating one of their members achieving the rank of Eagle Scout.
On the Hill
Events and briefings are starting to pick back up at the State House. August was exceptionally quiet, but in September my staff attended Unitil’s Annual Emergency Response Briefing. The fall is the perfect time to start preparing for winter disasters. Each year Unitil holds this informational briefing to discuss their internal and external procedures should residents throughout our districts be impacted by a storm. As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office should a disaster hit and you need assistance.
There are no major legislative updates, as the House will only meet for informal sessions in August and September. However in August, I filed a Home Rule Petition, An Act providing for appointment of the town collector in the town of Shirley (HB4433), on behalf of the Town of Shirley. The purpose of this bill is to allow the Town of Shirley to change the manner of selection for the office of Town Collector from elected to appointed. In September the bill received a favorable report from the committee on Municipalities and Regional Government and was referred to the committee on House Steering, Policy and Scheduling. The status of the bill can be tracked by accessing https://malegislature.gov/Bills/188/House/H4433.
Health Care Financing
Representative Benson listens to CHIA and HPC briefing on cost trends and performance of MA Health Care System
On September 2, the Center for Health Information and Analysis (CHIA), with the Health Policy Commission (HPC), released their Annual Report on the Performance of the Massachusetts Health Care System. CHIA and HPC hold a variety of public briefings to discuss their report. At the end of the month, I hosted a briefing with CHIA and HPC, at the State House, to discuss cost trends and performance of the Massachusetts Health Care System.
As always, I encourage each of you to keep in touch by contacting my office at 617.722.2430 or sending me an email at Jennifer.Benson@mahouse.gov.