The Massachusetts State Senate recently advanced three bills that boldly tackle the contributing factors of climate change, chart one of the most aggressive courses of action against global warming in the country, and pave the way for a clean energy future for all of its residents.
The MassInc Polling Group’s survey of 2,318 Massachusetts residents was conducted between Oct. 10 and Nov. 8, 2019 and released Monday, four days after the state Senate passed climate legislation that included deadlines for the state to impose carbon-pricing mechanisms in the transportation sector, homes and commercial buildings.
All of the bills passed by a majority vote.
“Together the three really do constitute an historic new moment in the fight against climate change,” Sen. Michael Barrett (D- Lexington), who chairs the Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee, said on the Senate floor Tuesday.
Western Massachusetts lawmakers are hopeful that a set of climate change bills that passed the Senate Thursday night could bring new, innovative jobs in the energy sector to the region, if the legislation become law.
The cornerstone of Barrett’s package was the carbon pricing bill that would update the state’s 2050 target from reducing emissions by 80% of the 1990s levels to reducing emissions by 100%.
The package of the bill envisions transition cars, trucks, and busses to carbon-free electric power, jump-starting efforts to supply low-cost solar electricity to low-income communities, and requiring appliances meet energy efficiency standards.
Lawmakers plan to debate three bills that were introduced Jan. 23 by Senate President Karen Spilka and Senator Michael Barrett.
Hallmark of the proposals is a goal of reducing carbon emissions by 100% below 1990 by 2050, with five-year sub-limits along the wat, rather than the state’s current target of cutting emissions of 80% by then.
“I really commend Senator Barrett” – Senator Eldridge
“Getting to net zero is absolutely necessary, but it’s also a big lift,” state Sen. Mike Barrett, lead author and the chair of the Senate Utilities & Energy Committee, said in a statement. “This bill is all about the how of it, as in ‘Here’s how we are going to get there.’”
“We want this commission to be an independent guardian of the future, notably the future of younger generations, insulated from political pressure and consisting of the most authoritative and credible Massachusetts voices we can find,” Barrett said. “Job one for the commission is to tell us if we’re on track in bringing down emissions. Job two is to advise us on what to do next.
“The commission will give us objective information about the performance of both government and the private sector and will pay special attention to the impact on low-income and other disadvantaged communities,” he added. “If the commission works as intended, it will be a new voice, standing apart from politics as usual and committed to shedding light on a very hard problem.”
“We want this commission to be an independent guardian of the future, notably the future of younger generations, insulated from political pressure and consisting of the most authoritative and credible Massachusetts voices we can find,” Barrett said. “Job one for the commission is to tell us if we’re on track in bringing down emissions. Job two is to advise us on what to do next.”
Sen. Michael Barrett, who represents Waltham, told reporters Thursday that he “wanted to put a price on carbon by any path we could lay our hands on.” Barrett joined Sen. Michael Rodrigues and President Karen Spilka to detail the Senate’s climate bill which has been teed up for debate next week.
Senate President Karen Spilka built upon the net-zero pledge on Jan. 23 when she joined Sen. Michael Barrett and Sen. Michael Rodrigues to outline a package of three bills to codify the 2050 emission goal, accelerate the electrification of state’s cars and trucks and task the administration with pricing carbon through the economy, including the transportation and building sectors.
The Next Generation Climate Policy Plan is one of the most aggressive environmental plans in the country and if it goes into effect it could change how you live and how you commute.
The plan features a series of long and short term environmental goals, including net zero emissions by 2050.
In an attempt to do so, all public transportation as well as personal vehicles will have to be electric. The way you heat your home is also subject to change.
“Every house virtually and certainly every business won’t be able to use by 2050 heating oil or natural gas,” Senator Michael Barrett (D-Lexington) said.
The bill would authorize carbon-pricing which in turn could increase the gas tax, but supporters of the plan say the status quo needs to change.
Monday was the last day lawmakers had to file amendments to the bill. They are expected to have a full debate on the proposal on Thursday.
“There’s been a marked change in the last 12 months with respect to public attitudes toward climate change. I’m certainly sensing that in my district. I think we’re moving from awareness to alarm, and from alarm to anxiety. We are scarcely staying ahead of public opinion when we put this ambitious bill forward.”
“The protection of low-income people is a central theme of this bill. We’ve done a number of major innovations here to make sure that low-income people are protected.” [Senator Barrett then pointed to the mandate of the new climate commission to consider underserved communities, requiring a public hearing in low-income communities, and new low-income solar for the state.]
“The House may feel uneasy accepting the Senate’s very specific formulation in regard to carbon pricing, but the House should feel relaxed about knowing that a Governor would have a choice and that the House in voting to give the Governor a choice wouldn’t be signifying its commitment to one form of carbon pricing over another. These are not ideas that the House has rejected in the past. This is fresh thinking, these are fresh approaches, and my hope is that the House feels very good about reaching them with an open mind.“
Sen. Michael Barrett said the legislation “quite frankly” requires Baker to come up with a back-up plan should TCI be unsuccessful, with Barrett said he supports. He suggested Massachusetts collaborate with California as a potential Plan B, but critics argue that the public will not tolerate these types of costly and ineffective initiatives.
Sen. Michael Barrett told reporters Thursday that he “wanted to put a price on carbon by any path we could lay our hands on.” Barrett joined Sen. Michael Rodrigues and President Karen Spilka to detail the Senate’s climate bill which has been teed up for debate next week.
Senator Mike Barrett: “In Massachusetts and throughout the country, we all need to be in electric vehicles by 2050. That’s 30 years to take all our emissions and get them down to a point that we’re not contributing to the problem.”
“Right now, we use natural gas or heating oil. Most of that in the next 30 years has to go away.”
Building, along with transportation, make up nearly 99% of Boston’s carbon emissions. The legislative package includes multiple efforts to reduce emissions, including a play to get the state to have net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Also included in the bill is a plan to jump-start efforts to supply low-cost solar electricity to low-income communities, setting a deadline for converting MBTA buses to all-electricity power and a goal of getting an entirely zero-emissions fleet by 2040.
Existing state law- the 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act – set the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by the year 2050. The package of bills unveiled Thursday would effectively set a goal of 100% below the 1990 levels.
Barrett, a Lexington Democrat, has been filing bills since 2013 that propose a revenue-neutral carbon fee, with the money generated returned to Massachusetts citizens.”
Barrett said the 2030 time frame for residential carbon pricing is to allow time for cleaner home heating alternatives to evolve and for more energy-efficient homes to be built, in hopes of keeping costs down for homeowners.
“For several years the bill struggled,” Barrett said. “We did not find traction in the House in particular. I want to be respectful of the legislative branches and respectful of the governor. It seemed to me after two or three years that we weren’t moving quickly enough. I decided I wanted to put a price on carbon by any path we could lay our hands on, so I backed away from my preferred method.” Giving latitude to the governor rather than spelling out a specific mechanism helped get more senators on board with the idea of carbon pricing last session, Barrett said.
Sen. Michael Barrett told reporters Thursday that he “wanted to put a price on carbon by any path we could lay our hands on.”
Supporters of the legislative package say it would counter efforts by the Republican administration of President Donald Trump to slow the progress of energy-efficient appliances by updating the state’s own appliance standards to improve energy and water standards for household and commercial appliances.
The Massachusetts Senate unveiled a three-bill package that sets a goal to reduce carbon emissions by 100 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, instead of the state’s current target of cutting emissions by 80 percent by the deadline.
The package would not only update the state’s 2050 emissions target, but would also create limits for emissions every five years, starting in 2025 and create a commission to review whether the state is on pace to meet its obligations.
Sen. Michael Barrett, a Lexington Democrat, said lawmakers have been working on the climate change package since July and let the Baker administration know of their plans in November.
“The idea here isn’t to cop a headline or spring a surprise. We really want consensus … I was very impressed and very grateful to the governor for having embraced net-zero earlier this week,” Barrett said
Spilka and Senator Michael J. Barrett, who has been crafting the climate legislation since June, said they both support Baker’s pursuit of the Transportation and Climate Initiative, or TCI, an ambitious but controversial pact among eastern states that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions and could raise gas prices by as much as 17 cents a gallon.
Barrett, who’s unsuccessfully pushed legislation to create taxes or fees on carbon, suggested it’s more politically feasible to pursue a pricing method if the legislation includes options.
“I decided to shift focus from trying to being prescriptive to setting deadlines. If you can move from the tool to the timeline, you can actually get a lot more support,” Barrett said.
“It’s not a spending bill,” the Lexington Democrat added of the Senate’s proposal. “It really is a bill to mobilize state government and have us focused in one direction.”