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State Touts Benefits of Energy-efficiency Projects
BOSTON — State Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Rick Sullivan recently announced that energy-efficiency improvements by homeowners, businesses, and government agencies across the Commonwealth from 2010 through 2012 resulted in significant electric and natural-gas savings, as well as reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions. In total, the Commonwealth’s three-year statewide energy-efficiency plans delivered 2,390 gigawatt hours, 49 million therms, and nearly 1.4 million metric tons of energy savings and greenhouse-gas reductions. These reductions are equivalent to the annual electricity consumption of more than 314,000 homes, the natural-gas usage of 52,000 homes, and, in terms of greenhouse-gas reduction, the equivalent of taking nearly 290,000 cars off the road. The plans were authorized by the Green Communities Act of 2008 (GCA) and approved by the Department of Public Utilities in January 2010. “This year’s report shows that more than 14,000 small businesses and 6,000 large businesses engaged in energy-efficiency efforts in 2012, proving once again that efficiency is a win-win with economic and environmental benefits alike,” said Sullivan. “By implementing these three-year plans, the Patrick administration is reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, cutting energy use, and creating jobs.”  Under the three-year plan, Massachusetts committed to one of the most ambitious energy-efficiency efforts in the nation, investing more in energy efficiency per capita than any other state. The 2013-15 plans, underway now, are equally ambitious, projected to deliver nearly $9 billion in benefits from an investment of $2.2 billion. The electric savings are projected to reduce retail sales of electricity by 2.6% in 2015. These results are significant enough to be included in long-term load forecasting by the Independent System Operator New England (ISO-NE), the organization responsible for determining New England’s grid reliability. “Massachusetts’ energy-efficiency programs are delivering nation-leading economic and environmental benefits to residents and businesses throughout the Commonwealth,” said Department of Energy Resources Commissioner Mark Sylvia. “I thank the EEAC members, the utilities, and energy-efficiency service providers that deliver the Mass Save programs for continuing to push the envelope in making energy efficiency our first fuel.” The Global Warming Solutions Act, signed by Gov. Deval Patrick in 2008, made the Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2020 a requirement. The plan mandates a gradual greenhouse-gas emissions reduction and a scheduling of emissions goals that is designed to spur innovation and promote research and development in the clean-energy industry. The Commonwealth has set a 2020 reduction target of 25% below 1990 levels, and has released a plan outlining a portfolio of policies and programs to meet the goal. This year, Patrick set a new solar goal after reaching the previous goal of 250 megawatts four years early. The Commonwealth now aims to install 1,600 megawatts of solar capacity by 2020. The clean-energy revolution is yielding economic benefits as well, with 11.8% job growth in the last year and 24% growth in the last two years; nearly 80,000 people are employed in the clean tech industry in Massachusetts.

Construction Spending Increases as Private-sector Demand Grows
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Total construction spending increased between October and November, and for the year, amid growing private-sector demand, according to an analysis of new Census Bureau data by Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials noted, however, that the spending levels were held back by declining public-sector investments for both the month and the year. “The non-residential construction spending figures are even more positive than they appear, with most categories now positive year over year,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “The outlook appears favorable for many types of private non-residential and multi-family construction, but remains flat or negative for public spending.” Construction put in place totaled $934 billion in November, rising 1.0% since October and 5.9% since November 2012. Private residential construction spending increased by 1.9% in November and jumped 17% from a year earlier. Private non-residential spending climbed 2.7% for the month and 1.0% year over year. Public construction spending dropped 1.8% for the month and 0.2% over 12 months. Over the past 12 months, the biggest jump in construction spending has occurred in new multi-family construction, which rose 0.9% for the month and 36% year over year. The lodging sector recorded the second-highest annual gain, with spending rising 32.7% for the year and 0.3% for the month. Spending on communications facilities experienced the largest monthly increase, jumping 11.2% in November, although it is still down 10.5% for the year. The largest private non-residential category, power construction — which includes oil and gas field and pipeline projects as well as power plants, renewable power, and transmission lines — increased by 3.3% in November but is actually down 24.2% for the year. Simonson noted, however, that there was a surge in power construction during the last quarter of 2012 as contractors rushed to finish wind projects before the expected expiration of the wind-production tax credit at the end of 2012. Those credits were extended for projects that broke ground by the end of 2013, explaining the more recent surge. “Both the electricity and oil and gas components of power construction should do well in 2014,” he added.

MMS, AMA Oppose E-cigarettes for Youth
WALTHAM — A resolution on electronic cigarettes led the list of the policies adopted by physicians of the Mass. Medical Society (MMS) at its interim meeting held last month. The interim meeting brings together hundreds of Massachusetts physicians from across the state to consider specific resolutions on public-health policy, healthcare delivery, and organizational administration by the society’s House of Delegates, its policy-making body. Resolutions adopted by the delegates become policies of the organization. Delegates voted for a resolution stating that the MMS opposes the marketing, sales, and use of e-cigarettes and other nicotine-delivery products among youth, particularly for people under the age of 18, and urging the MMS top keep working with state lawmakers and officials to develop strategies to prevent the marketing, sale, and use of those products for individuals within that age group. In voting for the policy, MMS noted that the use of electronic cigarettes by U.S. middle- and  high-school students (grades 6-12) more than doubled from 3.3% in 2011 to 6.8% in 2012, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The society also expressed concern that the nicotine-containing vapor generated from the battery-powered e-cigarettes is often flavored, which can make them more appealing to young people, and that the use of e-cigarettes has the potential negative impact of nicotine on adolescent brain development and may encourage young non-smokers to become users of conventional cigarettes or other tobacco products. The statement coincides with the American Medical Society’s similar concern over e-cigarettes. At the recent interim meeting of its own House of Delegates, the AMA adopted policy advocating for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to extend its tobacco regulations to include all non-pharmaceutical tobacco and nicotine products, including e-cigarettes, pipes, cigars, and hookahs. The AMA said FDA oversight of these products is necessary in order to ensure safety and proper labeling, and to deter adulteration and the sale of tobacco products to minors. The AMA’s existing policy on e-cigarettes from 2010 recommends that they be classified as drug-delivery devices, subject to the same FDA regulations as all other drug-delivery devices, and supports prohibiting the sale of e-cigarettes that are not FDA-approved. “This policy recommendation for FDA could help ensure that e-cigarettes and other tobacco products have proper oversight and regulation to limit the detrimental health consequences that come from these products,” said AMA board member Dr. Albert Osbahr III. “Very little data exists on the safety of these tobacco and nicotine products, and the FDA has warned that they are potentially addicting and contain harmful toxins.”

Massachusetts Adds 6,500 Jobs in November
BOSTON — The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported that the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) preliminary estimates show that Massachusetts added 6,500 jobs in November, and the total unemployment rate was 7.15%. Over the year, the unemployment rate was up 0.4% from the November 2012 rate of 6.7%.  The private sector added 4,900 jobs in November, particularly in professional, scientific, and business services; manufacturing; financial activities; education and health services; information; and construction.  Since December 2012, Massachusetts has gained 46,600 jobs. Over the year, from November 2012 to November 2013, Massachusetts added 55,300 jobs in total, 53,800 of which were in the private sector. Revised BLS estimates show that 9,400 jobs were added in October. The unemployment rate is based on a monthly sample of households. Job estimates are derived from a monthly sample survey of employers.

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