In the void of national climate legislation, locals lead the way Boston Globe

Barrett attended the 2017 climate summit in Bonn, shortly after President Donald Trump had pulled the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement.  

Four years later, the politics and the stance on climate change at the White House have undergone a sea change, but the challenges of passing binding legislation through Congress remain. 

“Our current situation is different, and yet in some respects it’s the same,” said Barrett. “What we’re doing in Massachusetts becomes all the more important as the odds go longer around significant national action.” 

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In Glasgow, hope and hot air mix at conference to address climate change Boston Globe

In the coming days of the two-week conference, there will be additional visitors from Massachusetts, including Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Kathleen Theoharides; one of the primary authors of the state’s new climate law, Senator Michael Barrett, a Democrat from Lexington; and Boston’s environment chief, the Rev. Mariama White-Hammond.


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‘Triage and transition’: Safety bills mix with calls for move away from natural gas Wicked Local

“Reaching that goal is going to require us to move buildings onto electric heat and off of gas, which will raise questions about the infrastructure that we have in place to deliver gas,” Sen. Michael Barrett, the Senate co-chair of the TUE Committee, said. “And at the same time, of course, we’re concerned about leaks from that infrastructure and somehow have to balance our weariness about continued investment with the necessity of maintaining public safety. Each year, at least so far, about 14,000 new leaks are detected in this infrastructure. And we’ve been running hard to stay in place, plugging leaks but finding new ones.”

Proposed Massachusetts public records bill would aid pursuit of ‘truth telling’ MassLive

“A bill that would unseal all public records after 90 years would unlock the stories of generations of Massachusetts residents who lived in state institutions with mental and physical disabilities, according to academics and legislators trying to strike balance between privacy and the public interest. 

“Rep. Sean Garballey and Sen. Michael Barrett have filed legislation that would no longer shield from public inspection, due to health privacy laws, records kept on individuals with disabilities who lived in places like the Fernald School. 

“‘There needs to be privacy protections, but there also needs to be research and truth telling,’ Barrett said.” 

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Massachusetts vastly underestimates emissions from natural gas, study finds Boston Globe

“Some state lawmakers said the time for cutting emissions is now, noting that Massachusetts’ new climate law requires the state to cut its greenhouse gases by 50 percent by the end of the decade. 

“‘Keeping up the infrastructure is beginning to look like a hopeless job,’ said Senator Mike Barrett, one of the climate bill’s lead negotiators.  ‘There’s been little progress since 2014, and not for lack of trying.  We may be better off walking away from the assets as soon as we can.’” 

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As state law requires steep emissions cuts, utilities face an urgent quandary: to build or not to build new gas pipelines? Boston Globe

State Senator Michael Barrett, a Lexington Democrat who helped lead the effort to pass the state’s new climate law, urged regulators to view Eversource’s proposal with “suspicion” and worried that similar efforts would be made to scare the state into allowing utilities to continue building gas infrastructure.

“Every time we try to put into place a carefully managed strategy of retreat from gas, we’re going to see utilities invoke redundancy, resiliency, or modernization to preserve their customer base and continue to build,” he said, noting that existing state incentives have made new construction an important part of their revenue. “These arguments are glib and self-serving, and we need to oppose them.”

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Beacon Hill eyeing tradeoffs on offshore wind Commonwealth Magazine

Sen. Michael Barrett of Lexington, the Senate chair of the Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy Committee, remains skeptical. He says the state already has some of the highest electricity prices in the country, so it shouldn’t accede to higher prices on 20-year power supply contracts with offshore wind developers to lure a manufacturing facility to the state. Higher electricity prices, he says, might hinder attainment of the real prize – decarbonizing the state’s economy by convincing consumers to shift to carbon-free electricity to power their cars, buildings, and everything else.

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The state asked for a blueprint of a gas-free future. Why are the utilities writing the first draft? Boston Globe

Senator Mike Barrett, an architect of the state’s landmark climate legislation, said the arrangement at least raises the specter of bias, and at this moment in the climate crisis, when acting quickly is paramount, that can be a problem. “None of this guarantees a set of biased results, but all of it raises questions,” he said. “All of it is a bit disquieting.” 

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Baker shifts thinking on offshore wind CommonWealth Magazine

Sen. Michael Barrett of Lexington, the Senate chair of the committee, was much more circumspect in his remarks. He said Baker’s proposal for more investment in offshore wind appeared promising, but drew the line there.

“Let’s not miss the elephant in the room,” he said in a statement. “The big idea here is the complete abolition of legal checks on the cost of electricity generated by offshore wind.  Legislators are being asked to terminate protection for the people who pay their electric bills every month, which is most of us.  For the administration, this is a major policy change.”

“In terms of the cost of electricity per kilowatt hour, we pay some of the highest rates in the country,” Barrett continued. “Because of the climate crisis, we need to go all-electric with respect to both our cars and our heating systems, which means we need to boost our overall consumption of electricity in the teeth of our high per-unit costs. It’s a dicey time to bring up abolishing price constraints.”

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Buildings emerging as central focus of carbon fight Lexington Wicked Local

“Barrett began the virtual hearing Wednesday morning by reminding the committee and those listening that the climate law requires the secretary of energy and environmental affairs to set emissions sublimits for the electric power, commercial and industrial heating and cooling, residential heating and cooling, and natural gas distribution and service sectors. 

“’The climate act provides the general context in which all these bills need to be thought about. As you all know, the House and the Senate, in the new climate act which became effective on June 25, indicated that Massachusetts has to curb emissions from buildings and that very soon, within the next nine months, the secretary must set emissions limits,” Barrett said.” 

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Senate Passes Landmark Voting Reform Bill

“The State Senate has passed a major voting reform bill to expand voting access, making permanent COVID era initiatives like mail-in ballots and expanded early voting. 

“’At a time when states like Texas and Georgia are making it tougher to vote, Massachusetts is going the other way and expanding access,” said local Senator Mike Barrett.  “This is deeply satisfying news.  I’m proud of the Massachusetts State Senate.’” 

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Senate Passes Landmark Voting Reform Bill For Immediate Release

The State Senate has passed a major voting reform bill to expand voting access, making permanent COVID era initiatives like mail-in ballots and expanded early voting.

“At a time when states like Texas and Georgia are making it tougher to vote, Massachusetts is going the other way and expanding access,” said local Senator Mike Barrett.  “This is deeply satisfying news.  I’m proud of the Massachusetts State Senate.”

When it comes to early voting, the bill requires two weeks (including two weekends) of in-person early voting for biennial state elections and municipal elections held on the same day.  It would allow municipalities to opt in to early voting in person for any municipal election not held concurrently with another election.

For vote-by-mail, the bill requires the Secretary of the Commonwealth to send out mail-in ballot applications to all registered voters in July of every even-numbered year.

Barrett says he’s pleased that the Senate included a same-day registration provision, which allows individuals to register to vote during early voting periods or on the day of a primary or general election.  Twenty other states, Barrett says, already use same-day registration.

Importantly, given the range of new measures, the bill instructs the Secretary of State to conduct a comprehensive public awareness campaign to highlight the new voting and registration options.

The bill expands access to voting in other ways as well.

Currently, people held in correctional facilities on misdemeanor convictions or as they await trial are eligible to vote.  The Senate bill ensures that individuals who are incarcerated, who are currently eligible to vote, are provided with voting information and can exercise their right to vote in state primaries and general elections.  An amendment adopted during debate ensures that people who are incarcerated are notified of their right to vote upon release and given the opportunity to fill out a voter registration form.

The Senate unanimously approved a provision to streamline ballot access for U.S. service members overseas by allowing them to cast their vote electronically.

For local officials, the bill provides flexibility to accommodate the increased election logistics of each town in the state.  For example, Barrett says, the bill allows election officials to pre-process mail-in and early voting ballots in advance of election day.

The VOTES Act now advances on to the Massachusetts House of Representatives for further consideration.


Legislators Say Mass Save is ‘Dragging Feet’ on Clean Energy Goals RTO Insider

Sen. Michael Barrett says that “from a legislative view, there is no one focused on responsibility” for the role Mass Save plays in electrification.


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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.’” 


Hearing shows desire to spend ARPA $$$ on infrastructure

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.