Massachusetts Legislature votes to advance climate change bill, again WBUR

After more than six months of negotiations, the legislature sent a slightly different version of this bill to Gov. Baker in early January. Baker vetoed the bill a few days later, citing concerns about new municipal stretch codes and interim emissions reduction goals. The legislature then sent the bill back in the exact same form later that month, and this time, Baker returned it with amendments.

The final bill that Baker intends to sign maintains most of the original provisions but does include some of his proposed amendments — more flexibility around the sector-specific emission targets, for example. In this final version, if the state meets its overall emissions goals, it won’t be subject to legal liability for falling short in one or two sectors.

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Barrett scores major win in fight against climate change For Immediate Release

A landmark climate bill has been signed into law, placing Massachusetts among the world leaders in the fight against global warming.  The new law, representing the contributions of many legislators but assembled, edited, and defended principally by local senator Mike Barrett, overhauls the state’s climate statute, advances the clean energy industry, protects low- and middle-income families, and provides tools to get to net-zero emissions by 2050.

“This bill is about getting down to brass tacks.  It’s about getting the job done, one step at a time, starting now,” said Barrett, the Senate’s leader on climate and energy.  “The pace of climate change is picking up — so the pace of climate policy must pick up. The Next Generation Climate Roadmap law reflects the concerns of people of every age, from every part of the state. The grassroots climate movement of Massachusetts is a force to be reckoned with.”

The bill’s route to ultimate success was not always assured.  Despite bi-partisan support in the Senate and House, the bill was vetoed at the end of the last legislative session by Governor Charlie Baker, who cited concerns of special business interests.

In response, Senate President Karen Spilka and House Speaker Ron Mariano moved swiftly to pass the bill again.  And when the governor offered an amendment to strip the bill of major provisions, the Legislature stood firm, accepting a number of technical changes but rejecting any effort to slow the rate of climate progress.

The final legislation:

  • Sets a statewide net-zero limit on greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, mandates emissions limits every five years, and sets sub-limits for transportation, buildings, and other sectors of the economy. “Tightening the limits and sublimits — keeping the timelines close — is a first-in-the-nation step,” says Barrett.
  • Establishes a municipal opt-in specialized stretch energy code which includes a definition of “net-zero building” and net-zero building performance standards.
  • Requires an additional 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind, increasing the total authorization to 5,600 megawatts in the Commonwealth.
  • Directs the Department of Public Utilities (DPU), the regulator of the state’s electric and natural gas utilities, to balance priorities going forward: system safety, system security, reliability, affordability, equity, and, significantly, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Codifies environmental justice provisions into Massachusetts law, defining environmental justice populations and providing new tools and protections for affected neighborhoods.
  • Sets appliance energy efficiency standards for a variety of common appliances including plumbing, faucets, computers, and commercial appliances.
  • Requires utilities to include an explicit value for greenhouse gas reductions when they calculate the cost-effectiveness of an offering of MassSave.
  • Increases the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) by 3 per cent each year from 2025–2029, resulting in 40 per cent renewable energy by 2030.
  • Factors the “carbon sequestration” capacity of Massachusetts’ natural and working lands directly into our emissions reduction plans.
  • Adopts several measures aimed at improving gas pipeline safety, including increased fines for safety violations, provisions related to training and certifying utility contractors, and setting interim targets for companies to reduce leak rates.
  • Prioritizes equitable access to the state’s solar programs by low-income communities.
  • Sets benchmarks for the adoption of clean energy technologies including electric vehicles, charging stations, solar technology, energy storage, heat pumps and anaerobic digestors.
  • Establishes $12 million in annual funding for the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center to create a pathway to the clean energy industry for environmental justice populations, minority-owned and women-owned businesses, and fossil fuel workers.
  • Provides solar incentives for businesses by exempting them from the net metering cap to allow them to install solar systems on their premises to help them offset their electricity use and save money.
  • Creates a first-time greenhouse gas emissions standard for municipal lighting plants that requires them to purchase 50 percent non-emitting electricity by 2030, 75 percent by 2040 and “net zero” by 2050.

“The new law is a game-changer for Massachusetts that other states are sure to follow,” said Barrett.  “It steps up the pace of our collective effort to slow climate change.”

Early deadlines under the new law:

  • Beginning around July 1, 2021, the Department of Public Utilities, regulator of natural gas and electric power companies, must give equal weight to emissions reductions alongside the agency’s more traditional emphasis on reliability and prices.
  • Also by July 1, Baker will have three new vacancies to fill — green building experts, all — on a reconstituted Board of Building Regulation and Standards, a high-impact-low-profile entity with enormous sway over energy use in new construction.
  • By July 15, Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Theoharides must set a first-ever greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal for programs sponsored by MassSave, the popular home energy efficiency program.
  • By New Year’s Day, 2022, the DPU must have transferred $12 million in new funds to the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, for a workforce training program focused on clean energy.
  • By July 1, 2022, the EEA Secretary must have adopted emissions limits and sub-limits for the fast-approaching year 2025.
  • By Christmas, 2022, the Department of Energy Resources must have developed and promulgated a new “specialized stretch energy code” that will be effective for any given town or city only upon adoption by the municipality itself.

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It’s encouraging to see the town in which I live come together when members of our community are threatened. The incredible turnout at the Stop Asian Hate Vigil in Lexington communicates a message to all of us.
Looking out at the crowd reminded me that the United States of America is not a settled project. It’s a work in progress; it’s still being made. We take part in the making when we get together like this. We make America every time we vote. We do it every time we extend an act of kindness to a newer arrival. We do it by our presence at peaceful rallies. When I go back to my office in the State House, I’ll remember this event and the message you send by coming out on evenings like this, to state, loudly and clearly, that hatred directed against Asian-American threatens to undo the country we’re in the business of creating.

Senate passes climate change bill 39-1 CommonWealth Magazine

“This is a moment that does the Legislature – Senate and House – proud,” said Sen. Michael Barrett of Lexington, the Senate’s point person on climate change.

During debate on the bill, Barrett sought to demonstrate how Massachusetts faces unique challenges in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. He said agriculture and land use account for 24 percent of all emissions worldwide but only 0.3 percent in Massachusetts. He said industry accounts for 22 percent of emissions in the United States, but only 5 percent in Massachusetts.

Where Massachusetts is different, Barrett said, is on transportation and building energy use. In Massachusetts, transportation accounts for 42 percent of emissions, compared to 29 percent in the United States and building energy use accounts for 27 percent of emissions in Massachusetts but only 12 percent across the United States.

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The most recent numbers tell us Massachusetts is backsliding in terms of reducing emissions. This bill is our chance to get back on track and stay there. Tip of the hat to Senate President Senate President Karen E. Spilka and State Representative Ron Mariano for putting us back to work on climate immediately. Because of them, the legislation’s odds of ultimate success are excellent.

Massachusetts lawmakers send climate bill that would reduce state’s carbon footprint to Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk Mass Live

Emissions would have to fall to at least 50% of 1990 levels by 2030 and 75% of 1990 levels by 2040, but the bill also calls for interim goals every five years.

“An underlying idea driving the particulars of this bill is that the need to do something needs to be front and center, more than has been in the last 10 years,” Sen. Michael Barrett, a Lexington Democrat and key negotiator on the bill, said in a phone interview. “We tried to write a bill that would present people in Massachusetts with a need to change. I believe that a successful adjustment to climate change will involve transformations big and small.”

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Historic climate, renewable plan heads to Mass. governor Energywire

A slate of controversial clean energy policies is set to advance in Massachusetts this year after state lawmakers passed sweeping climate legislation last night and the governor’s office released new plans.

On Sunday evening, a bipartisan legislative committee announced a compromise on a long-debated climate package that would codify the state’s goal of zeroing out CO2 emissions by 2050, with new interim targets every five years. By 2030, emissions would have to fall by 50% over 1990 levels, followed by a 75% decrease by 2040. The legislation passed the Massachusetts Legislature last night by large margins in both chambers.

State Sen. Michael Barrett, a Democrat who co-chaired the bipartisan team of negotiators for the bill, said the cities of Boston and Cambridge had voiced interest in adopting codes that require net-zero emissions for new buildings.

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Massachusetts takes major steps in fight against climate change Boston Globe

In a statement, the bill’s chief negotiators, Representative Thomas Golden of Lowell and Senator Michael Barrett of Lexington, called the bill “the strongest effort of its kind in the country.”

“This is focused, serious, and specific,” Barrett said. “It won’t allow us to look away when we fall short. It keeps the work of reducing carbon emissions squarely in front of us. This is no-excuses law-making.”

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State lawmakers announce deal on climate change bill Boston Globe

The bill’s chief negotiators — Representative Thomas Golden of Lowell and Senator Michael Barrett of Lexington — called the proposal “the strongest effort of its kind in the country” and the first major update to the 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act.

“This bill is a climate toolkit, assembled over the course of months, to protect our residents, and the beautiful place we call home, from the worsening of an existential crisis,” they said. “Its particulars owe much to the advocacy of thousands of citizen activists in Massachusetts. To these activists, we say thank you. We heard you.”

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Massachusetts lawmakers pass net-zero energy roadmap bill S&P Global

Massachusetts lawmakers have sent to the governor’s desk a bill that aims to chart the state’s path to net-zero emissions by 2050.

“This bill is a climate toolkit, assembled over the course of months, to protect our residents, and the beautiful place we call home, from the worsening of an existential crisis,” the co-chairs of the Conference Committee on Climate of the Massachusetts General Court Sen. Mike Barrett and Rep. Thomas Golden said in a joint statement. The toolkit approach “focuses relentlessly on the work of reducing greenhouse gases, creating jobs, and protecting the vulnerable.”

Passed by the House with a vote of 145-9 on January 4, the bill (S.2995) would codify the state’s target of net-zero emissions by 2050 and set interim targets of cutting emissions 50% by 2030 and 75% by 2040 from 1990 levels.

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