Mass. governor may weaken power-plant rules as winter approaches

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) is the latest lawmaker looking to sacrifice environmental protections in the face of sky-high energy prices and what looks to be a frigid winter. He’s considering weakening some air-emissions restrictions on oil-burning power plants in his state, saying it may allow them to produce more energy this winter. Massachusetts and the rest of New England get almost half of their electricity from plants burning natural gas, but with natural-gas prices hitting new highs, some worry that utilities will find it more profitable to just cease operating on the coldest days of the upcoming winter and sell off their gas supplies. This would leave the state vulnerable to blackouts and more dependent on oil-fueled facilities. The Conservation Law Foundation’s Seth Kaplan says the state could make its cheapest, fastest, and most immediate energy gains by encouraging more energy efficiency in heating, lighting, and appliances. But in a crisis situation, lawmakers may go for the easy fix.