What to know about the Mass. Senate’s new climate bill April 8th, 2022 --- WBUR

Several Massachusetts Democrats in the Senate unveiled a sweeping $250 million climate bill this week. The so-called Act Driving Climate Policy Forward builds off last year’s landmark Climate Act with new policies about green transportation and buildings, clean energy, the future of natural gas in the state and much more.

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Senate Democrats unveil climate change plan April 8th, 2022 --- The Eagle Tribune

“We’re intent on making sure that working class and poor people have the same opportunities to breathe clean air and transportation as people in the suburbs do,” said state Sen. Mike Barrett, D-Lexington, a co-chair of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy. “We’re being pretty tough about that.”

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Senate plan pours $250 million into decarbonization movement with focus on transportation, energy April 7th, 2022 --- Wicked Local

Where the 2021 law “was and is about laying benchmarks,” the new bill “is about doing what needs to be done to hit those benchmarks,” said Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee Co-chair Sen. Michael Barrett.

The bill would use $100 million to create a Clean Energy Investment Fund, allocate $100 million to incentivize adoption of electric vehicles, and deploy $50 million to build out electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

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‘The most important issue of our time’: Mass. Senate unveils climate change legislation for electric vehicles, all-electric buildings April 7th, 2022 --- MassLive

“We know climate change is relentless, so Massachusetts needs to be relentless, too,” Barrett said. “No one’s going to give us an ‘A’ for effort — what matters are results. An Act Driving Climate Policy Forward pushes back against global warming on multiple fronts, with an emphasis on innovation and smart experimentation.”

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State Senate to debate broad climate bill next week April 7th, 2022 --- WWLP

The bill would use $100 million to create a Clean Energy Investment Fund, allocate $100 million to incentivize adoption of electric vehicles, and deploy $50 million to build out the state’s electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Senators hope the bill will empower the steep reductions in carbon emissions required for Massachusetts to become net-zero by 2050 as outlined in a major climate law Gov. Charlie Baker signed last year. The proposal could put the Senate at odds with the House, which last month approved a narrower bill aimed at turbocharging the offshore wind industry without tackling transportation or building issues.

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How Mass. climate goals align with the latest UN reports April 4th, 2022 -- WBUR

As part of the 2021 Climate Act, Massachusetts committed to getting greenhouse gas emissions 50% lower than they were in 1990 by 2030, and to reach net zero by 2050. The law also sets legally binding emissions limits for certain sectors like buildings, transportation and the electrical grid, and it requires utilities to buy increasing amounts of renewable energy.

“Passage last year of the Climate Act gave grounds for hope in the fight against emissions. But in the 15 months that have since passed, we’ve lost focus,” said state Sen. Mike Barrett, who helped draft the law. The state has “no plan yet to reduce transportation emissions, and no reassuring hints of bold steps in the offing. [The Baker administration is also] backsliding on what municipalities will be able to do under the upcoming net zero stretch energy code.”

Echoing the language in Mondays’ IPCC report, Barrett says the “strategies are available to us, but we need to seize the moment.”

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Massport has a $1 billion plan to cut climate pollution. Critics say it’s nowhere near enough. March 17th, 2022 --- Boston Globe

Some state officials and environmental advocates said they were skeptical of Massport’s plan, noting that the quasi-public agency is already obligated under the state’s new climate law to effectively eliminate its emissions by 2050.

“The effort lacks imagination,” said Senator Mike Barrett, a Lexington Democrat and one of the authors of the climate law that took effect last year. “So far, there’s no indication [Massport is] hungry to move into the vanguard, become a role model.”

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Mass. is drafting a new climate-friendly building code. Here’s what you need to know March 17th, 2022 --- WBUR

The goal was to create a legal way for cities and towns to experiment with greener construction, said state Sen. Michael Barrett, one of the bill’s authors. In an email, a spokeswoman for the AG’s office confirmed that a new stretchier code allowing cities to require all-electric construction would be legal.

The entire state, including the building sector, needs to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, Barrett said, “so we need to make sure that new construction over-delivers.”

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Senate eyes deadlines for green transportation at T March 14th, 2022 --- WHDH

Sen. Michael Barrett, who co-chairs the Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee, told leaders of the Baker administration’s transportation secretariat on Friday that he expects a forthcoming Senate bill will make another pass at requiring the T to transition its bus network to full electrification by a specific date.

“I don’t think the Legislature is going to wait 15 to 18 years to green the T fleet because we can’t get to our emissions goals, we can’t get 50 percent below 1990 levels in total statewide emissions, if we operate on those kinds of timeframes. It just doesn’t compute,” Barrett replied. “I can appreciate the complexity here, but that is not going to work.”

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State staffing up in emissions fight March 13th, 2022 --- WWLP

Energy and environment workforce issues were top of mind Friday for Sen. Michael Barrett, who chaired the hearing for the Senate and encouraged his colleagues to probe Baker administration officials for more information on their plans to address them.

“How are we going to staff adequately everything from the regional transportation authorities’ bus drivers rosters to important jobs involved in the climate transition at a time when every entity public and private seems to be lacking for adequate person power?” Barrett asked rhetorically.

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Massachusetts Playbook Newsletter March 3rd, 2022 --- Politico

Senate President Karen Spilka plans to take up a broader climate resiliency bill this session that would pair offshore wind with solar and electric public transit. Michael Barrett, the Senate chair of the Joint Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy Committee, told Playbook he hopes the Senate will “go broad” and spread the love more evenly across the full range of emissions-reducing technologies.

“I’m all for offshore wind. I think everybody in the Senate likes it for the electric power and likes it for the jobs,” Barrett said. “But you do have solar, and you do have energy efficiency, and you do have clean transportation.”

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In race for offshore wind jobs, Mass. is falling behind. So now what? March 3rd, 2022 --- Boston Globe

Barrett is a vocal advocate for shifting Massachusetts from fossil fuels to renewables. But he worries that voters will push back if energy prices go too high. He argues that the auctions have worked fine with the rate cap — Mayflower Wind stayed under the cap, even though it didn’t need to in 2019 — and that it should remain in place. He said he fears a “ratepayer rebellion” could break out, not just against higher electric rates, but also broader climate policies, if offshore wind costs start driving up electric bills in a noticeable way.

Barrett also worries that the House bill puts too much emphasis on offshore wind at the expense of other forms of clean energy. And he expects the Senate will also include language to reduce carbon emissions in the transportation and building sectors as well. As a result, it’s hard to know when the Senate will put forward its version. If the Legislature stays true to form on controversial bills, we may not see a compromise until July, at the end of the year’s formal legislative sessions.

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2 senators say proposed building code comes up short March 2nd, 2022 --- CommonWealth Magazine

Sens. Michael Barrett and Cynthia Creem, the chairs of the Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee and Senate Committee on Global Warming, told Woodcock in a letter released Tuesday that the suite of state code changes the administration hopes will encourage builders to shift from fossil fuel heating in favor of electrification “comes up short” and took issue with the way DOER scheduled the five statutorily required public hearings.

“The straw proposal bars a city or town from mandating all-electric new construction, even after local officials allow for vigorous analysis and debate. For municipalities in Massachusetts and other progressive states, all-electric construction is the favored strategy for decarbonizing new buildings. Barring communities from employing it would be a significant setback,” the senators said. They added, “Bottom line: Despite its unequivocal support of ‘net zero emissions’ by 2050, despite the special challenges of reducing emissions in buildings, and despite having been given a full 18 months by the Legislature to do its work, the Baker administration has proposed a municipal opt-in specialized stretch energy code that comes up short.”

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As hearings begin, senators see big flaws in Baker’s new “net zero” code for buildings  For Immediate Release

In a letter released today, two leaders on climate policy in the Massachusetts State Senate took sharp exception to particulars of a draft of a new net zero stretch energy code proposed by the Baker Administration.  The Legislature ordered the Administration to write the new code to drive down greenhouse gas pollution in the building sector, second only to transportation as a generator of emissions in Massachusetts.

The Legislature’s Climate Act directs the Executive branch to promulgate a “municipal opt-in specialized stretch energy code” for newly constructed buildings that includes “net-zero building performance standards and a definition of net-zero building.”

In their letter to Pat Woodcock, head of the state Department of Energy Resources, Senators Mike Barrett and Cindy Creem wrote, “If implemented well, the new specialized stretch code will be a game changer — a leap forward for climate policy in Massachusetts. That’s why we’re so disappointed that the Baker Administration’s straw proposal comes up short.”

The Legislature ordered DOER to hold five hearings around the state in order to give exposure to the concept of net zero construction, the defining feature of the Act’s new stretch code provision.  “By crowding all five hearings into a single seven-day period, beginning tomorrow and including this Friday evening,” Barrett and Creem wrote, “the Baker Administration is depriving the public of a full opportunity to participate.”

Barrett and Creem are also unhappy that the straw proposal would bar a city or town from mandating all-electric new construction, even after local officials allowed for vigorous analysis and debate.  “For municipalities in Massachusetts and other progressive states, all-electric construction is the favored strategy for decarbonizing new buildings.  Barring communities from employing it would be a significant setback.”

The senators wrote Woodcock, “We ask you to put into writing, early enough in the process to allow for public review, the legislatively mandated meaning of ‘net-zero building’ and key features of the legislatively mandated ‘net-zero building performance standards.'”

According to Barrett and Creem, the Baker draft would result in new buildings adding to the state’s problem with greenhouse gas emissions, “a dismaying prospect, and all the more so in light of the Administration’s emphasis on the difficulty of reducing emissions in the building sector.”

“We agree with the letter sent to you recently by Massachusetts municipal officials,” the two senators wrote.  “Both the statute and the urgent need to combat climate change call for a true net-zero stretch code.  This means the new code must, at the very least, provide interested municipalities with clear authority to prohibit on-site combustion in new construction and in major rehabilitation.”

“What the Legislature is mandating will be optional for cities and towns.  No community will have to move forward.  The municipalities that opt in will have chosen, after hearing from their citizens, to serve as climate laboratories for the Commonwealth.  Please let them serve — ideally, with your agency supplying a framework.”

Barrett and Creem concluded, “We look forward to seeing substantial revisions to the net-zero stretch energy code promulgated by your agency.”

The schedule of the five hearings is as follows:

 

Western Region March 2, 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Metro Boston and Northeastern Region March 3, 9:00 am – 11:00 am
Environmental Justice Communities March 4, 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Central Region March 7, 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Southeastern Region March 8, 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm

At the Thursday morning (March 3) hearing for Metro Boston and the northeastern suburbs, Barrett will testify, along with representatives of five towns that are seeking legislative authority to go further than the DOER draft would otherwise allow.  

New offshore wind bill drops electric bill charges March 1st, 2022 --- CommonWealth Magazine

Sen. Michael Barrett of Lexington, the Senate chair of the Legislature’s Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy Committee, was perhaps the most vocal critic of increasing the cost of electricity with new bill surcharges at a time when the state is trying green its electric grid and use the power to supplant fossil fuels for transportation and heating.

In an email, Barrett said he was pleased to see the electric bill surcharges eliminated but still concerned about the overall direction of the legislation. “I worry about an inadvertent false equivalence, in which one slice of the clean energy pie is treated and funded the way we treat and fund the entire life sciences sector. For climate policy after this, where do solar, geothermal, and energy efficiency fit in? The bill gets the proportions wrong,” he said.

“The bottom line is the impact on the ratepayer’s bottom line. How much will all the subsidies and tax breaks cost? Where’s the cost-benefit analysis? A lot of money is moving around here,” he said.

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Lawmakers detail state’s climate change goals, future plans Feb. 20th, 2022 --- Daily Hampshire Gazette

“The pandemic really dampened economic and physical activities. It helped reduce emissions,” said Sen. Michael Barrett, D-Lexington. “We reached the required limit because of that. We didn’t get there by the virtue of our climate action.”

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Clark Visits Lexington to Highlight American Rescue Plan Funding Feb. 18th, 2022 -- Lexington Patch

On Thursday, Assistant Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Katherine Clark (MA-5) celebrated the historic American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding being used to replace Lexington Public School buses with an electric fleet. The 2021 law made available $7 million to replace old diesel school buses with new electric school buses. Assistant Speaker Clark was joined by State Senator Michael Barrett, State Representative Michelle Ciccolo, and local officials. Lexington is receiving $350,000 to purchase new electric buses and fulfill the promise of safe, efficient transportation options for every student in the district.

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Senators warn Mass. lacks the workers it needs for clean-energy transition Feb. 11th, 2022 -- Boston Globe

“I see a real threat here,” said state Senator Michael Barrett, co-chairman of the Legislature’s telecom and energy committee. “For Massachusetts, the new generation of essential workers will be the young person who wants to do hands-on work in clean energy, not in the front office but on the front lines. Massachusetts has not had a focus on being a welcoming place for young blue-collar workers. … We have shortages as far as the eye can see and no plan to do much about it.”

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In a significant step to cut emissions, Mass. officials propose new building codes to promote energy efficiency Feb. 8th, 2022 -- Boston Globe

State lawmakers and environmental advocates welcomed the proposal, which was required by the state’s landmark climate law that took effect last year and mandates that the state cut its emissions by 50 percent below 1990 levels by the end of the decade and effectively eliminate them by 2050. But they hoped regulators would make changes to the proposal before the law requires it to be enacted by the end of the year.

“There’s real progress here, and yet I’m disappointed,” said state Senator Michael Barrett, a Lexington Democrat and one of the climate bill’s lead negotiators. “What is missing is significant. This proposal gives permission to put new natural gas infrastructure into the ground, when we know those assets will have to be abandoned to meet our climate goals.”

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Massachusetts gas ban movement gathers support from state lawmakers Feb 3rd, 2022 -- S&P Global

The administration’s delay, and reports that developers are seeking to weaken the code, prompted the Massachusetts legislature’s Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy to hold the Jan. 19 hearing to consider a suite of building electrification bills that could backstop the state’s executive branch.

“To reach our climate goals, we need to begin constructing buildings that do not rely on fossil fuels for heating,” committee co-chairs Sen. Mike Barrett and Rep. Jeff Roy said in a Jan. 18 statement. “On the off chance that the stretch energy code either does not emerge soon or emerges but departs from legislative intent, we’re looking at contingency steps the Legislature may want to take.”

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