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.”
THE SENATE IS PREPARING to vote on sweeping legislation to address climate change, putting in place a series of mandates and regulatory measures as well as phased-in carbon pricing on automobile and building fuels to make sure the state meets the goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
Sen. Michael Barrett of Lexington, who is taking the lead on the climate change legislation, said he and his staff shared with the Baker administration in November their legislative plans, including the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. “We shared that with them because the idea here is not to cop a headline or spring a surprise. We really want consensus,” Barrett said, adding that he was thrilled the governor signed on earlier this week and House Speaker Robert DeLeo also said he was on board. “That tells me it’s possible to align objectives here,” he said. “We’re coming together.”
“We’re tightening up at every turn here,” Barrett said. “We’re getting very serious about holding ourselves accountable and then figuring out how well we’ve done, so that if we fall short in meeting one limit we’re going to double down to meet it the next time around. There’s not going to be any more slacking off and no more talk of three-year delays before you complain on how well Massachusetts is doing.”
Barrett voiced frustration that the administration would not be committing itself to a plan before the 2020 elections to allow candidates for the state legislature to have a debate about the state’s climate policy.
Holding up a copy of the 2018 Comprehensive Energy Plan published by the Department of Energy Resources, Barrett described it as 165-pages with “not a single discernable plan.” He said he wanted to know, for example, what the administration’s plan was to convert 2.4 million privately-owned, gas-powered vehicles to electric.
“Your leadership on TCI is crucial and it’s also gutsy, and I appreciate that. Still, this endless infatuation with planning and scenario building is frustrating,” Barrett said.
“At some point, scenarios become a dodge,” Barrett said.
“Climate change is relentless, and ‘putting a price on carbon’ is the single most effective thing a state government can do to fight it,” said state Sen. Mike Barrett, a longtime champion of carbon pricing. “We need to put Massachusetts state government at the forefront — right where our constituents want it to be.”
With other speakers on the bleachers with him, State Senator Mike Barrett talks to the hundreds gathered on the Lexington High School football field for the Lexington Climate Strike Friday, Sept. 20, 2019
Senator Michael Barrett, cochairman of the Legislature’s energy committee, says he has watched this backlash against solar power with dismay. Rooftop solar is great — he has panels on his house in Lexington. But Barrett says the state can’t wean itself off natural gas- and oil-fired power plants without larger, industrial-scale solar projects getting built. He worries that the anti-solar attitudes are driven by NIMBY attitudes among neighbors who simply don’t want to see panels near them.
BOSTON — Supporters of a bill that would make driver’s licenses available to undocumented immigrants packed the State House’s largest hearing room on Sept. 4 to renew the push for a policy that has come up short in previous sessions and would need to be passed with enough support to survive a likely veto by Gov. Charlie Baker.
The legislation — House Bill 3012 and Senate Bill 2061 — filed by Reps. Tricia Farley-Bouvier of Pittsfield and Christine Barber of Somerville, and Sen. Brendan Crighton of Lynn, would permit all qualified residents, regardless of immigration status, to apply for and receive a standard state license under the state’s now two-tiered system.
Sen. Michael Barrett (D-Lexington) also supports the legislation.
“I’m in favor … and my constituents are, too,” he said. “I’ve gotten about two dozen supportive emails at this point. I know realistically, that the district won’t be unanimous about the idea, but there is no system here for making sure everybody on the road is licensed and has demonstrated some degree of competence. I don’t want anyone driving unless they are licensed. So, I want to open a channel for them.”
With legal challenges pending over a new California law requiring presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns to appear on the ballot, the sponsor of a similar bill in Massachusetts said the Bay State should follow suit before waiting for the court cases to play out.
Sen. Michael Barrett, D-Lexington, who filed a presidential tax returns bill in January for the second consecutive session, said the Legislature often passes laws that could be subject to a challenge in court, and in those cases they act on the bill and then “let litigants sue.”
THOUGH LAWMAKER LEFT a handful of proposed taxes on the cutting room floor when they compromised on a budget, the fiscal year 2020 spending plan being reviewed by Gov. Charlie Baker includes a 50 percent increase in the annual assessment imposed upon gas and electric utility companies.
The assessment of a percentage of each utility company’s Massachusetts revenue is meant to be a reimbursement of the cost of overseeing and regulating the gas and electric industries. The budget awaiting Baker’s action would raise the maximum rate of that assessment from 0.2 percent of revenue to 0.3 percent of revenue.
Sen. Michael Barrett, who filed the assessment increase as a budget amendment, said the idea stemmed from September’s natural gas explosions and fires in the Merrimack Valley, and the subsequent closer look at the Department of Public Utilities.