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Baker reaches to Washington for energy aid lifeline, says governors 'very worried' about energy prices, availability

BOSTON — Massachusetts is waiting to hear back from the Biden administration about what the federal government can do “to enhance our ability to get through the winter, both in terms of having the power available to heat their homes but also hoping to deal with some of the price issues,” Gov. Charlie Baker said Thursday.

A top energy official in the Baker administration this week put residents on notice that the cost of heating their homes and keeping the lights on is likely to skyrocket here this winter as the price of natural gas soars. Judy Chang, undersecretary of energy and climate solutions in the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, said that the Baker administration has “been working with our federal partners in developing a plan for New England’s winter.”

After visiting the Big E in West Springfield on Thursday, the governor gave more detail on his team’s work with the federal government and other states to prepare for an expensive winter.

“Ever since the war in the Ukraine broke out, this has been a high concern for every cold weather place in the world, basically. The governors in New England got together and started talking about this in the summer. We actually wrote a letter to the federal government, we wrote to the Biden administration and said we are very worried about both price and availability of thermal, which is basically heat, whatever the source of it is this winter,” Baker said.

Baker said the governors asked the White House to do a number of things as winter nears and have been “involved in some pretty active discussions” about what the federal government might be able to do to help.

“We’re still waiting for their response on that,” the governor said. “But this is something that literally all of the New England governors have been both talking about and pushing the feds on since July.”

Pressure is mounting for state lawmakers to do something about the situation as well. MASSCAP, the Massachusetts Association for Community Action, sent a letter Wednesday to legislative leaders, members of the conference committee working on the stalled-out economic development bill and the House Ways and Means Committee, which is reviewing a supplemental budget bill, to ask that lawmakers include at least $20 million to supplement federal fuel assistance in whichever bill advances.

Secretary of State William Galvin also weighed in on energy prices this week, proposing that the Legislature create a home heating oil reserve of up to $50 million to help middle and low-income residents and said the fact that Baker is leaving the corner office in early January underscores the importance of acting before the heating season even begins.

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