Toughening standards for approval of utility mergers is the latest indication of Massachusetts’s environmental leadership, according to law student Douglas Balko, author of the commentary “Using utilities regulation to make a greener Commonwealth.”

“When NSTAR Electric and Northeast Utilities petitioned to merge in late 2010, the state took the opportunity to use its utilities regulatory power to further its environmental goals,” writes Balko in a Rappaport Briefing article.

He points out that the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities has raised its standards for utility mergers, which previously required that such consolidations cause “no net harm” to the public.

“In light of the new requirements of the Global Warming Solution Act and other factors, DPU decided to reconsider its standard. As a result, utilities … must demonstrate ‘net benefits’ to the public, including furtherance of the state’s environmental goals. This is a much higher standard for the utilities to meet,” Balko writes.

The Rappaport Briefing offers a collection of student commentaries on issues confronting state and local government in Massachusetts, from the new “Bottle Bill’ to English-language learning and DNA access.

The briefing blog, created by the Rappaport Center for Law and Public Service at Suffolk University Law School, also presents news about Rappaport Center activities.

Balko is interested in environmental law, litigation, regulation, and land use. He is working with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Environmental Protection Division this summer.