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Massachusetts Legislature Passes Landmark Climate Legislation


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State Rep. James Arciero announced recently that the Massachusetts House of Representatives and State Senate passed nation-leading climate legislation which reduces greenhouse gas emissions, overhauls the state’s climate laws, advances the clean energy industry and prioritizes environmental justice communities. The legislation, known as the Next Generation Climate Roadmap bill, will set Massachusetts on a path towards reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

“This historic legislation will address climate change directly in Massachusetts  and should serve as a model to other state’s moving forward. The bill prioritizes the use of clean renewable energy in order to have a healthy and sustainable environment for our children and future generations. The use of additional offshore wind power, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, increased solar energy for families, communities and business through equitable access are key elements that will lead to zero emissions within the next thirty years,” said Arciero.

The passage of the climate bill comes after a joint commitment from both House Speaker Ronald Mariano and Senate President Karen E. Spilka to quickly refile and address the legislation following a gubernatorial veto at the very end of the last year’s legislative session. Governor Charlie Baker had offered several amendments to the bill, which were considered by the Legislature. While rejected the Governor’s efforts to moderate the rate of progress toward the intended goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, the House and Senate accepting a number of the more technical amendments to improve the bill.

The final bill included the following provisions: 

·         Sets a statewide net-zero limit on greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and mandates emissions limits every five years, as well as sublimits for transportation, buildings, and other sectors of the economy.

·         Codifies environmental justice provisions into Massachusetts law, defining environmental justice populations and providing new tools and protections for affected neighborhoods.

·         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.

·         Sets appliance energy efficiency standards for a variety of common appliances including plumbing, faucets, computers, and commercial appliances.

·         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.

·         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 percent each year from 2025–2029, resulting in 40 per cent renewable energy by 2030.

·         A national first, this legislation factors the “carbon sequestration” capacity of Massachusetts’ natural and working lands directly into our emissions reduction plans.

·         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 digesters.

·         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.

“This bill is a comprehensive overhaul of our energy systems and a commitment to a cleaner, healthier future. I think it is ambitious, achieviable program and I want to thank my colleagues, State Representative Thomas A. Golden Jr. of Lowell and State Senator Michael Barret of Lexington, who served as chairs of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, for all their hard work and effort to bring this bill to fruition and final passage,” added Arciero.   

The legislation is now before Governor Baker again for his consideration and approval, whose administration has indicated he is amenable to the new language of the legislation. 

 “I may not agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” VOLTAIRE 

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