Massachusetts Senate Approves ‘Net-Zero’ Environmental Bills

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.


Massachsetts Senate to Consider Climate Change Amendments on Electric Car Rebates, Solar Projects MassLive

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


The Mass. Senate is Slated to Vote on the State’s “Next Generation Climate Policy”: Here’s What to Know

“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.”


Waltham’s Senator Barrett Helps Lead Charge Against Climate Change Wicked Local Waltham

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.


StateHouse Roundup: Climate Tops Baker’s 2020 Goals WickedLocal Duxbury

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.


State senators to debate ambitious environmental plan WWLP

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.

Watch the News Clip here –>

Senator Barrett’s Thoughts on Senate Bills ClimateXChange

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.“

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Senate’s Climate Policy Calls for Carbon Pricing Boston Herald

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.


Carbon Pricing a Cornerstone of State Senate’s Climate Bills Boston Business Journal

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.


State Senate Climate Proposal Includes Carbon Pricing, Target for Net-Zero Greenhouse Gas Emissions WCVB

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.”


Mass. Senate Introduces Major Climate Change Policy Bill CBS Boston

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.


Senate Bills Would Dramatically Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions Associated Press

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.


Carbon Pricing a Cornerstone of Senate Climate Package State House News Service

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.”


Mass. Senate Introduces Climate Change Bills Calling for Net-Neutral Emissions MassLive

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


Senate Climate Bills Would Push State to Adopt Carbon Pricing Boston Globe

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.”


Senate to Vote on Sweeping Climate Change Bill Common Wealth Magazine

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.”


Massachusetts State Senate Unveils Next Generation Climate Policy FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Massachusetts State Senate Unveils Next Generation Climate Policy

(Boston – 01/23/2020) Amid increasing reports of environmental devastation worldwide, the Massachusetts State Senate has taken major new steps in advancing the state’s approach to combating global warming.  The Senate’s next generation climate policy package, including An Act Setting Next Generation Climate Policy, An Act to Accelerate the Transition of Cars, Trucks and Buses to Carbon-Free Power, and An Act Relative to Energy Savings Efficiency, were released by the Senate Ways and Means Committee today, and are scheduled to be debated by the full Senate next week.


“The young people of Massachusetts have told us in no uncertain terms that they are looking to state leaders to take bold action on climate change,” says Senate President Karen Spilka.  “The Massachusetts State Senate has listened.  I’m proud of Senator Barrett for his diligence in crafting a thorough legislative package that takes concrete steps to reduce emissions and provides a plan to create a greener, healthier and more sustainable future. I would like to thank Senator Barrett and Senator Michael Rodrigues for their contributions to this next generation of climate leadership.”

“As a result of a collaborative stakeholder process, the package of bills polled out by the Committee today proposes a comprehensive plan to reduce our carbon footprint and boldly confront the impacts of climate change,” said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues, Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “I applaud Senate President Spilka for her leadership and Senator Barrett for his thoughtful collaboration and partnership, which helped shape our efforts to put forward a series of bills to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and transform our energy delivery system to benefit our climate and future generations. I look forward to a robust and energetic debate next week on the Senate floor.”

“Getting to net zero is absolutely necessary but it’s also a big lift,” said State Senator Mike Barrett, lead author and Senate Chair of the Utilities & Energy committee.  “This bill is all about the how of it, as in ‘Here’s how we are going to get there.’”

Key provisions of the climate policy package include:

  • Setting a statewide greenhouse gas limit for the year 2050 of “net zero” emissions. To achieve this, An Act Setting Next-Generation Climate Policy requires the state to hit near-term limits in 2025, 2030, and every five years thereafter; set sub-limits for transportation, buildings, solid waste, natural gas distribution, and other major sectors; and make implementation plans that are “clear, comprehensive, and specific.”
  • Establishing the Massachusetts Climate Policy Commission. The commission would be a new, independent public watchdog to oversee government’s handling of the unfolding crisis of climate change.  Commissioners will be charged with offering a nonpartisan, science-based view of the problem as it plays out in Massachusetts with its attendant natural, economic, and demographic impacts and risks.

“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,” stated Senator Barrett.  “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.  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.”

  • Reflecting the price of carbon. Under the bill, the Administration would be free to choose among various market based forms of pricing carbon—including a revenue-neutral fee or a regional “cap and trade” system similar to the Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI)—but he or she would have to do so by Jan. 1, 2022, for transportation; Jan. 1, 2025, for commercial, industrial and institutional buildings; and Jan. 1, 2030, for residential buildings.  Any mechanism would be implemented so as to minimize the impact on low-income households, disadvantaged communities, and vulnerable manufacturing sectors.
  • Providing legislative direction to the Department of Public Utilities (DPU), the state’s primary energy oversight agency, for the first time. Compensating for a decades-long omission, the bill assigns the DPU a mission statement.  It requires the agency to balance five priorities: reliability of supply, affordability, public safety, physical and cyber security, and, significantly, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.


  • Jumpstarting efforts to supply low-cost solar electricity to low-income communities. To reverse the failure of state programs to incentivize solar energy projects in low-income neighborhoods, as well as spur job creation, the bill requires the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) to set aside future solar allocations for such neighborhoods.


  • Letting cities and towns adopt a “net zero” stretch energy code. The bill allows the state to support communities that choose on their own to move away from fossil fuels as the source of heating for new buildings.  The state’s contribution is to promulgate a “net zero” energy code, so that localities have the option available if they want to use it.  The bill shifts responsibility for the code’s development from the Board of Building Regulations and Standards to the DOER.

“When it comes to bringing down emissions, buildings are the toughest nut to crack,” Barrett says.  “We need to move on multiple fronts.”

  • Nudging natural gas utilities to adapt. The bill authorizes utilities to test technology and pipelines that generate and transport “renewable thermal energy,” an emissions-free way to heat buildings that draws on the relative warmth of temperatures below ground.
  • Strengthening executive branch oversight of MassSave. The bill directs the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) to set emissions reduction goals, in advance, for each three-year plan the utilities formulate for MassSave.  It requires the DPU, at the conclusion of each three-year plan, to certify how much the plan actually contributed to meeting the Commonwealth’s greenhouse gas emission limits.


  • Tightening the alignment between MassSave and emissions limits. The bill requires electric utilities to include an explicit value for emissions reductions whenever they calculate the cost-effectiveness of a MassSave offering.


  • Setting a deadline for converting MTBA buses to all-electric power. An Act to Accelerate the Transition of Cars, Trucks, and Buses to Carbon Free Power directs the MBTA to limit bus purchases and leases to zero-emissions vehicles beginning in 2030, and to aim for an all-zero-emissions fleet by 2040, to reduce transportation-related emissions in city neighborhoods.
  • Offsetting the Trump Administration’s efforts to slow progress on efficient appliances. An Act Relative to Energy Savings Efficiency updates Massachusetts appliance standards to improve energy and water efficiency standards for common household and commercial appliances, helping to conserve energy and save consumers and businesses money.

Other provisions include:

  • Assembling the state’s first-ever database of energy use in large buildings.


  • Adding two building efficiency experts and an expert in advanced building technology to the membership of the Board of Building Regulations and Standards, which will retain responsibility for the base energy building code.
  • Authorizing the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) to fund energy innovation pilots, and to take actions addressing health effects associated with the distribution and consumption of fossil fuels such as natural gas.
  • Directing the DPU to consider the impact on emissions when it reviews electric and natural gas rates, prices, charges, and contracts.


  • Directing state government to limit purchases and leases of vehicles to zero emissions vehicles only, beginning in 2024, if affordable replacements are available.
  • Conducting a study of the opportunities to electrify vehicles owned or leased by municipalities, regional school districts, and regional transit authorities, taking into account costs and possible sources of financial help from state and federal government.
  • Providing permanent statutory authorization for the “MOR-EV” program, the Commonwealth’s system of financial incentives for purchasers of zero emission vehicles.

“In Boston, we set a goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050,” stated Boston Mayor Marty Walsh.  “Buildings along with transportation make up nearly 99 percent of Boston’s carbon emissions and I’m proud to join my colleagues at the Legislature in support of this proposal, which puts critical strategies in place to cut emissions across the Commonwealth. Together, we’ll work towards a more sustainable Boston for our residents, and generations to come.”

“We applaud the Senate’s leadership and are pleased to see President Spilka making good on her promise to move forward critical climate legislation,” stated Jacob Stern, Deputy Director of the Massachusetts Sierra Club. “Given that climate science tells us we only have until 2030 to substantially reduce our emissions, we hope that this legislation will serve as a catalyst for immediate action. We look forward to reviewing the bill in detail and working with our movement allies to pass these much-needed policies into law.”

“NECEC commends Senate President Spilka and the Massachusetts Senate for proposing a net zero emissions standard, in alignment with scientific consensus,” said Northeast Clean Energy Council (NECEC) President Peter Rothstein. “Swift passage of this legislation will accelerate the clean energy transition in the energy, buildings and transportation sectors, and will cement Massachusetts’ position as a premier place to build a robust clean energy economy.”

“We thank the Senate for releasing an energy bill that sets us on a course to more boldly address climate change—the most critical issue of our time,” stated Elizabeth Henry, President of the Environmental League of Massachusetts.   “By setting interim GHG reduction targets and echoing the Governor’s call for net zero emissions by 2050, the Senate acknowledges how much work is left to do.  In particular, we applaud the Senate for directing DOER to develop a net zero stretch code to address the built environment, and for including provisions that would accelerate electric vehicle use and ability of low income communities to access solar energy.”

“With the bill released today, President Spilka and Senate leadership are setting the Commonwealth on a meaningful pathway to a net-zero carbon economy by 2050”, said Deborah Donovan, Acadia Center’s Massachusetts Director. “The strong interim target of a 50% reduction by 2030 ensures that Massachusetts will make the next decade count. The ambitious provisions of this bill will boost our economy and protect the health of our most vulnerable residents and our planet.”

“Communities want and need a Net Zero stretch code in order to meet their local climate goals,” said Rebecca Winterich-Knox of the Mass Climate Action Network. “Committing to the goal of Net Zero by 2050 is a big step in the right direction, and will let cities and towns take leadership on better buildings.”

“The Senate Committee’s climate bill will make a real difference for people’s health and our climate,” said Alyssa Rayman-Read, Vice President and Director of CLF Massachusetts. “Getting to zero emissions by 2050 is an absolute necessity, and pushing the T to exclusively use electric vehicles will go a long way towards hitting that goal.”

“This legislation will continue to fuel our transition away from a carbon intensive economy, while promoting new job growth and economic opportunities for the Commonwealth,” stated Michael Green, Executive Director of Climate Xchange.  “A carbon free economy will benefit all of the Massachusetts businesses and residents. This legislation will unlock much needed market signals, providing the opportunity for sustainable business growth, innovation and continue to make Massachusetts one of the most vibrant economies in the nation.”

The entire Senate is expected to vote on the legislation by the end of January.


Mass. Legislature Passes Distracted Driving Bill FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Nov. 21, 2019 – (BOSTON) – State Senator Mike Barrett, along with his colleagues in the House and Senate, voted to enact legislation to ban motorists from using hand-held electronic devices in vehicles unless drivers use the device in hands-free mode.

Hands-free mode is defined as voice communication with a mobile electronic device without touching, holding, or otherwise manually manipulating a device.  Law enforcement officials will issue warnings to drivers for first offenses during a three month grace period, which will last until March 31, 2020.

“Many many of us have occasionally held a mobile device while driving,” said Senator Barrett.  “Now comes a law that makes doing so illegal, and with heavy penalties attached. This is one statue that will necessitate a significant amount of behavior change.”

“The safety of our residents is paramount,” said Senator Friedman. “This long overdue bill will protect our drivers and pedestrians as well as reduce the rate of tragic accidents caused by distracted driving on our roads. I’m proud the Legislature passed this commonsense bill, and am grateful that our busy roads and highways in the 4th Middlesex will become safer for everyone as a result.”

“As a bicycle and pedestrian advocate, I have long been a strong supporter of banning the use of hand-held electronic devices while driving,” said Representative Ciccolo. “Operating a vehicle is a full time activity, and drivers who take their eyes off the road endanger not only themselves, but everyone around them. To that end, this bill will save lives while taking critical steps to ensure the law is not used as a way to unduly target drivers because of their race.”

There is a civil rights dimension. The legislation also improves transparency in public safety by granting expanded access to traffic stop data.  It has been 15 years since the last public report on traffic stop data; under this bill the state will be required to publish and analyze the data annually.  Expanding access to this information improves transparency and improves public safety outcomes.

The bill will also:

  • Allow for drivers to use mapping or navigation devices if they are affixed to the windshield, dashboard or central console or integrated into the vehicle and only involve a tap or a swipe;
  • Exempt use of electronics in the case of an emergency and for first responders if they are using the devices as part of their duties;
  • Penalize drivers with $100 fine for the first offence, $250 fine and safety course for the second offence and $500 fine and surcharge for third and subsequent offences;
  • Expand data collection of identifying characteristics including age, race and gender and location when police issue a uniform citation;
  • Hold law enforcement agencies accountable, if data suggests those jurisdictions may be engaging in racial profiling, by requiring them to collect data on all traffic stops for a one-year period and provide implicit bias training;
  • Require the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPPS) to publish data online annually
  • Mandate EOPSS to contract with a research institution to conduct an annual analysis of the data collected.
  • Direct the EOPSS Secretary to hold three public hearings across the Commonwealth annually to present the findings of the annual report and analysis and field public testimony; and
  • Create a public awareness campaign informing and educating drivers on the dangers of using technological devices while driving

The bill now goes to the governor.