Barrett scores major win in fight against climate change For Immediate Release

A landmark climate bill has been signed into law, placing Massachusetts among the world leaders in the fight against global warming.  The new law, representing the contributions of many legislators but assembled, edited, and defended principally by local senator Mike Barrett, overhauls the state’s climate statute, advances the clean energy industry, protects low- and middle-income families, and provides tools to get to net-zero emissions by 2050.

“This bill is about getting down to brass tacks.  It’s about getting the job done, one step at a time, starting now,” said Barrett, the Senate’s leader on climate and energy.  “The pace of climate change is picking up — so the pace of climate policy must pick up. The Next Generation Climate Roadmap law reflects the concerns of people of every age, from every part of the state. The grassroots climate movement of Massachusetts is a force to be reckoned with.”

The bill’s route to ultimate success was not always assured.  Despite bi-partisan support in the Senate and House, the bill was vetoed at the end of the last legislative session by Governor Charlie Baker, who cited concerns of special business interests.

In response, Senate President Karen Spilka and House Speaker Ron Mariano moved swiftly to pass the bill again.  And when the governor offered an amendment to strip the bill of major provisions, the Legislature stood firm, accepting a number of technical changes but rejecting any effort to slow the rate of climate progress.

The final legislation:

  • Sets a statewide net-zero limit on greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, mandates emissions limits every five years, and sets sub-limits for transportation, buildings, and other sectors of the economy. “Tightening the limits and sublimits — keeping the timelines close — is a first-in-the-nation step,” says Barrett.
  • Establishes a municipal opt-in specialized stretch energy code which includes a definition of “net-zero building” and net-zero building performance standards.
  • Requires an additional 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind, increasing the total authorization to 5,600 megawatts in the Commonwealth.
  • Directs the Department of Public Utilities (DPU), the regulator of the state’s electric and natural gas utilities, to balance priorities going forward: system safety, system security, reliability, affordability, equity, and, significantly, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Codifies environmental justice provisions into Massachusetts law, defining environmental justice populations and providing new tools and protections for affected neighborhoods.
  • Sets appliance energy efficiency standards for a variety of common appliances including plumbing, faucets, computers, and commercial appliances.
  • Requires utilities to include an explicit value for greenhouse gas reductions when they calculate the cost-effectiveness of an offering of MassSave.
  • Increases the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) by 3 per cent each year from 2025–2029, resulting in 40 per cent renewable energy by 2030.
  • Factors the “carbon sequestration” capacity of Massachusetts’ natural and working lands directly into our emissions reduction plans.
  • Adopts several measures aimed at improving gas pipeline safety, including increased fines for safety violations, provisions related to training and certifying utility contractors, and setting interim targets for companies to reduce leak rates.
  • Prioritizes equitable access to the state’s solar programs by low-income communities.
  • Sets benchmarks for the adoption of clean energy technologies including electric vehicles, charging stations, solar technology, energy storage, heat pumps and anaerobic digestors.
  • Establishes $12 million in annual funding for the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center to create a pathway to the clean energy industry for environmental justice populations, minority-owned and women-owned businesses, and fossil fuel workers.
  • Provides solar incentives for businesses by exempting them from the net metering cap to allow them to install solar systems on their premises to help them offset their electricity use and save money.
  • Creates a first-time greenhouse gas emissions standard for municipal lighting plants that requires them to purchase 50 percent non-emitting electricity by 2030, 75 percent by 2040 and “net zero” by 2050.

“The new law is a game-changer for Massachusetts that other states are sure to follow,” said Barrett.  “It steps up the pace of our collective effort to slow climate change.”

Early deadlines under the new law:

  • Beginning around July 1, 2021, the Department of Public Utilities, regulator of natural gas and electric power companies, must give equal weight to emissions reductions alongside the agency’s more traditional emphasis on reliability and prices.
  • Also by July 1, Baker will have three new vacancies to fill — green building experts, all — on a reconstituted Board of Building Regulation and Standards, a high-impact-low-profile entity with enormous sway over energy use in new construction.
  • By July 15, Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Theoharides must set a first-ever greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal for programs sponsored by MassSave, the popular home energy efficiency program.
  • By New Year’s Day, 2022, the DPU must have transferred $12 million in new funds to the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, for a workforce training program focused on clean energy.
  • By July 1, 2022, the EEA Secretary must have adopted emissions limits and sub-limits for the fast-approaching year 2025.
  • By Christmas, 2022, the Department of Energy Resources must have developed and promulgated a new “specialized stretch energy code” that will be effective for any given town or city only upon adoption by the municipality itself.

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Bill Aims To Stomp Out Biomass Power Subsidies WBUR

“Under the environmental justice policy in the new biomass regulations, which are set to take effect this week, future biomass facilities could be located and be eligible for incentives in just 10 to 11 percent of the state — a stretch of communities west of the Connecticut River and along the Connecticut border, a strip of coastline that runs through Cohasset, Scituate and Marshfield, and small shreds of various other towns. 

“Sen. Mike Barrett, the co-chair of the TUE Committee, said the bills Livingstone and the Springfield lawmakers supported seemed like it ‘simply makes formal what the Baker people already conceded informally, which is that there is not to be any additional biomass built in Massachusetts.’ 

“’If we’re going to create a map by administration regulation that bars biomass for 89 percent of the state, I think this is a de facto admission that biomass should no longer be part of a clean energy portfolio for Massachusetts,’ Barrett said. He added, ‘All we’re being asked to do is to formalize something that has already become an informal rule. And in so formalizing this new policy against biomass, we would be protecting a handful of remaining towns that don’t qualify for environmental justice protection.’” 

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Hearing shows desire to spend ARPA $$$ on infrastructure wwlp.com

Sen. Michael Barrett questioned why the administration had chosen not to fund certain climate projects, such as a modernization of the electric grid that will be necessary as the state transitions to more electric heating of homes and businesses. 

“I don’t sense a consistent theme of trying to get a two for one hit, or trying to make sure mitigation, averting future climate problems, is always part of an adaptation policy,” Barrett said. 

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These lawmakers wrote the climate bill. They’re worried the state won’t achieve it Boston Globe

“You can’t have utilities in charge of an all-out push to electrify,” said Senator Mike Barrett, a Lexington Democrat who was the lead author of the state’s 2050 climate law. “Mass Save is probably not going to be the quarterback to bring us to the emissions reductions Super Bowl as it’s currently constituted.” 

 

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Just sent off to Dept. of Conservation and Recreation calling for the ban on open swimming at Walden Pond to be rescinded. From Senator Jason Lewis, me, and a bipartisan group of 48 additional legislators.
Learning how to swim should be a critical life skill available to everyone. Rather than pursuing swimming bans or draconian fines, we urge DCR and the Baker Administration to immediately expand efforts statewide that will improve water safety and help prevent future tragic drownings.

Biomass power rules leave 35 towns in industry ‘crosshairs’ Berkshire Eagle

Sen. Michael Barrett, who co-chairs the committee, told Woodcock that it sounded to him like DOER was taking a position that “is somewhat supportive of current biomass, but distinctly unenthusiastic and bearish about additional biomass.”

“Why don’t we formalize what seems to be the informal and unofficial thrust of these proposed new regulations? Why leave 35 out of 351 municipalities in the crosshairs?” Barrett asked, referring to a request O’Connor included in his letter that Woodcock support legislation that would make all new in-state biomass ineligible for state incentives.

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State proposal could deter biomass plants from almost all Mass. communities Boston Business Journal

Lawmakers called on the Baker administration to restrict woody plants altogether, saying those 35 towns could be “targeted” for incentivized biomass production.

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Help on the horizon for electricity consumers Lowell Sun

Electric customers in Massachusetts who switched to a competitive electric supplier paid $426 million more than they would have had they stayed with their utility company from July 2015 to June 2020, Attorney General Maura Healey’s office said in a recent report. 

Sen. Mike Barrett, the committee co-chair, said that the findings presented by the attorney general and executive branch “really raise serious questions for those who would argue that we continue with current practice.” 

“As time has gone on, both sides have had an opportunity to be heard and it’s probably time — just expressing a personal opinion — that we act on this question,” Barrett said.  

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Healey, Baker Say It’s Time To Stop Harm To Electric Consumers WBUR

Sen. Michael Barrett, the committee co-chair, said that the findings presented by the attorney general and executive branch “really raise serious questions for those who would argue that we continue with current practice.”

“This is not the first session in which she’s raised these issues. As time has gone on, both sides have had an opportunity to be heard and it’s probably time — just expressing a personal opinion — that we act on this question since all sides have been given an opportunity in the past sessions to make their points and to offer their perspectives,” Barrett said.

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Baker Administration Pushes Legislature For Climate Resiliency Funds WBUR

Sen. Michael Barrett brought up the recent dispute between the administration and Legislature over who should have final say over how ARPA funding gets spent, a back-and-forth that was ultimately settled in the Legislature’s favor.

Theoharides said she had no issue with the Legislature wanting to play a role in how the funding gets spent or objection to lawmakers exercising their authority to appropriate the stimulus funding.

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Open Water Swimming Ban Lifted after Barrett, Gordon, and Colleagues Request DCR Reconsideration Bedford Citizen

The Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) announced Wednesday evening that open water swimming will be permitted once again at Walden Pond following a letter sent by Senator Mike Barrett (D – Lexington), Representative Ken Gordon (D – Bedford), and 48 of their colleagues asking that DCR reconsider its decision to ban the practice.

The new guidance from DCR requires that swimmers follow the updated Open Water Swim Rules & Best Practices for Walden Pond to ensure that experienced swimmers may navigate the open water while still prioritizing safety for all swimmers, lifeguards, and beachgoers. The new rules allow open water swimming only before and after lifeguard shifts between Memorial Day and Labor Day and during all park operating hours after Labor Day. This restriction enables lifeguards to focus without distraction on the safety of those in the designated swimming area, many of whom are inexperienced swimmers.

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Just sent off to Dept. of Conservation and Recreation calling for the ban on open swimming at Walden Pond to be rescinded. From Senator Jason Lewis, me, and a bipartisan group of 48 additional legislators.
Learning how to swim should be a critical life skill available to everyone. Rather than pursuing swimming bans or draconian fines, we urge DCR and the Baker Administration to immediately expand efforts statewide that will improve water safety and help prevent future tragic drownings.

Legislators Push To Reopen Walden Pond To Open Water Swimmers WGBH

State Sen. Jason Lewis — who is also an open water swimmer — said he and State. Sen. Michael Barrett are gathering legislators’ signatures on a letter to the DCR, which asks that the swimming ban be lifted and other safety measures be issued instead, such as a requirement that swimmers wear colorful buoys that make them easier to see.

Walden Pond “has been one of the most cherished open water locations for Massachusetts swimmers for decades,” Lewis said. He suspects dozens of House and Senate lawmakers will sign the letter, and he hopes to send it to state officials by the end of the day Tuesday.

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Walden Pond ban on open-water swimming: Massachusetts legislators want rule repealed Boston Herald

Massachusetts legislators are calling on Bay State officials to repeal the sudden ban on open-water swimming at Walden Pond, while pitching safety measures to help prevent drownings.

“We shouldn’t be taking away safe recreational opportunities,” state Sen. Jason Lewis told the Herald on Tuesday, as he worked with state Sen. Michael Barrett on a letter addressing the Walden Pond ban.

“We shouldn’t be pursuing swimming bans and draconian fines,” Lewis said, adding that the state Department of Conservation and Recreation should instead be “expanding water safety measures.”

Hundreds of passionate Walden Pond swimmers have been contacting State House lawmakers after DCR announced last week that open-water swimming is no longer allowed at the Concord pond.

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Massachusetts’ Ambitious Climate Law Facing First Tests WGBH

A sweeping law signed by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker with muted pandemic fanfare back in March officially took effect late last week, 90 days after the bill signing.

Supporters say it’s now time to get down to the nitty-gritty of making sure the state meets the lofty goals of the law — like creating a net-zero greenhouse gas emission limit by 2050.

The law triggers an initial series of changes throughout 2021 and 2022, according to Democratic Sen. Mike Barrett, co-chair of the Committee on Telecommunication, Utilities and Energy.

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Bill Could Uncover Buried Histories Of Institutions Like Fernald Waltham Patch

If passed, new legislation proposed by Sen. Michael Barrett and a Waltham resident, could establish a special commission to unearth the history of state institutions like the Fernald School for people with developmental and mental health issues.

Advocates who testified before legislators on June 21 said progress toward equity and inclusion in the commonwealth depends on a deeper understanding of those who lived through the time in the 19th and 20th centuries when state institutions served as sites for medical experiments involving residents that today are recognized as violations of human rights.

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Bill seeks to uncover the buried histories of state-run Institutions Waltham Tribune

“We live in a time of historic reckonings,” said state Sen. Mike Barrett, a longtime advocate for people with disabilities. “With respect to Massachusetts citizens with developmental and mental health challenges, and as regards our better understanding of human rights and humane treatment, the past can be a guide, but only if we truly know it. This commission will add impetus to the acknowledgement and restoration of these hidden Massachusetts lives, to the same degree and in the same ways that we’re able to know about the lives of everyone else.”

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As climate bill nears enactment, Sen. Barrett vows to be watching closely Bedford Minuteman

Seventy-five days ago Wednesday, senators, representatives and administration officials gathered in the State Library to watch Gov. Charlie Baker sign a wide-reaching climate policy law. That means there are just 15 days left before it takes effect, and the lead Senate architect of the law made clear Wednesday he will be watching its implementation closely.

Sen. Michael Barrett spoke as part of the Northeast Clean Energy Council and Alliance for Business Leadership’s annual Massachusetts Clean Energy Day, an event featuring his House counterpart Rep. Jeff Roy and Department of Energy Resources Commissioner Patrick Woodcock, and that illustrated the bifurcated state of climate policy right now: one eye on making the ambitious new law a reality and the other looking for a solution to the next challenge.

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Watchdogs on alert ahead of climate law implementation WWLP

“I want to emphasize the Senate’s interest in following through with implementation of the 2021 climate act. The Senate as a body has a lot invested here,” Barrett said, adding that even though the law was a result of legislative and executive branch collaboration, “small gaps” remain between how the Senate would like to see the law implemented and the Baker administration’s perspective.

The law Baker signed in March after months of stops and starts commits Massachusetts to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, establishes interim emissions goals between now and the middle of the century, adopts energy efficiency standards for appliances, authorizes another 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind power and addresses needs in environmental justice communities.

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Massachusetts’ breakthrough climate law takes legal effect soon, on June 25, 90 days after its signing by Gov. Charlie Baker. It means new roles and new responsibilities, say the State Senate’s two leads on climate policy, and a transformation of the fight against global warming.
Among the changes:
– Beginning on the 25th of this month, the Department of Public Utilities has to align its policymaking with the ambitious new mission given the agency. In the Climate Act, the Legislature directs the DPU to give equal weight to six factors as it decides electric power and natural gas rates, reviews contracts with electric and gas companies, and makes policy. System reliability and affordability, the DPU’s two longstanding priorities, will remain crucial, but as of the 25th they’re on a par with four new criteria — safety, system security (from both cyberattacks and physical sabotage), equity, and, importantly, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
– On or after the 25th, Gov. Baker has to appoint three new members of the Board of Building Regulations and Standards, an agency criticized for its reluctance to make emissions-related improvements to state building codes. One new member is to be an “expert in commercial building energy efficiency;” one, an “expert in residential building energy efficiency;” and one, an “expert in advanced building technology.” The Governor’s Commissioner of Energy Resources becomes a fourth new member.
– Beginning on the 25th, all the parties involved in running Mass Save, the state’s high-profile energy efficiency initiative, must factor a new element, the “social value of greenhouse gas emission reductions,” into the design, evaluation, and approval of the program and its features. The mandate applies to the activities already underway with respect to formulating Mass Save plans and programs for the three-year period 2022-2024. Agencies affected are the DPU, the Department of Energy Resources (DOER), the Energy Efficiency Advisory Council (EEAC), and, of course, the electric and natural gas companies regulated under state law as public utilities.
– On or before July 15, 2021, the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs has to set a goal for the contribution Mass Save’s 2022-2024 program will make to the state’s drive to meet its 2025 emissions limit and sublimits. This exercise in goalsetting is distinct from the actions the various participants must take to factor the “social value of greenhouse gas emissions reductions” into the design, evaluation, and operation of Mass Save plans and programs.