Real Estate Lobby Threatens Next-Gen Roadmap Refiling

The 2018 IPCC report changed everything. The stakes were higher, and with that energy, we were able to write the Next-Generation Roadmap bill, through the collaboration of representatives, climate experts, and various activist groups. And while the bill wasn’t perfect, it delivered the runway needed to get there, which is something we never had before. It was widely supported by citizens and representatives alike, so why did it fail to pass during the last session? A new study gives us some insight into the forces that have long fought popular climate legislation.

In 2019, I was honored to be sponsored by my State Senator and take the Citizens Legislative Seminar, a two-day seminar covering the ins and outs of the legislative process. It was in that seminar that the chatter emerged regarding the release of Brown University’s recent bombshell climate report. The report was confined to the back of my head until its release last week. Nevertheless, to see what I had suspected from my experience of sitting through countless testimonies on climate legislation, having it in print is incredibly sobering. 

Whether I am observing a local government hearing over what to do with a piece of land or sitting in a legislative hearing listening to testimony about laws that will tweak the way we do business, the same opponents can be found in both places. The surprising part, to me, was to learn how deeply the real estate industry has been lobbying against energy efficiency bills. 

Between 2013 and 2018, real estate groups lobbied on climate and clean energy legislation 114 times, primarily against efforts to regulate homes and construction energy efficiency. Their lobbying seems to have paid off. The report found that only 9 out of 245 climate bills filed between 2013 and 2018 were brought to a full vote, despite near-unanimous support.

This year, the Next-Gen Roadmap Bill passed 38-2 in the Senate and 138-9 in the House. Still, the governor’s veto stopped the bill’s passage, and even though it has been refiled with the promise of a vote from leadership, the Governor may, by way of his lobbyist allies, be able to water down the bill. The longer it takes, the more time the real estate and other climate-denying lobbies have to whittle down the bill’s supermajority support. This cannot happen.

Urge our legislators to pass the Next-Gen Roadmap bill by the end of January by signing this petition. It’s time for Baker and his cronies to stop suffocating progress in the name of profit.

350 Mass Statement on Gov Baker's Veto of the Next-Generation Roadmap Climate Bill

We are disappointed and angered to see Governor Baker pocket veto such an overwhelmingly popular climate bill. It is unconscionable that anyone in a leadership position would punt on climate mitigation policy in the face of record-smashing heat waves and droughts here in the Commonwealth, but we are not surprised. Baker has repeatedly demonstrated his disregard for environmental science and the reality of climate change. His administration had to be court-ordered to enforce the 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act’s goals. Baker pushed forward with the compressor station in Weymouth despite widespread condemnation by community residents, activists, and nearly every Massachusetts Federal representative. It is also widely known that Baker has personal assets invested in the fossil fuel industry. The climate-conscious community knows that Baker is no ally.

With this veto, Baker has proven that he is not a leader to anyone but wealthy special interest groups. Our future is in renewable energy and efficient construction and Massachusetts is falling behind. We are squandering our ability to be a leader in the new, sustainable economy. It is not overly cynical to wonder whether Baker’s personal investments and ties to the fossil fuel and real estate industries are influential in his decision to continue to make the wrong choices for Massachusetts. We have not come to expect much from a Governor who has repeatedly failed to condemn white supremacy and grossly mishandled the ongoing COVID crisis, but we hoped that Baker would not stand in the way of this package of climate solutions that help address his own stated climate goals. 

According to the multiple scientists and experts that produced the 2018 UN IPCC report, we are in the last decade where we still have the chance to avert a  major climate catastrophe. We need leaders who will listen to the urgency of science over the real estate lobbyists and special interest groups.

We are in complete agreement with Baker that Massachusetts needs more affordable housing. However, Baker’s parroting of the real estate special interests’ claims that the Next-Gen Climate bill would halt all construction in Massachusetts is outlandish and disingenuous. It is far more expensive to heat homes with oil than electric heat pumps. As we have seen with the Merrimack Valley Explosion, gas is not only dangerous to communities, it is a silent public health threat. Continuing to heat homes with prehistoric options is not only reckless, it completely ignores the health and cost benefits from renewable energy. These special interests do not represent the many building industry workers who would find their opportunities strengthened by a bill updating our building standards. 

We strongly agree with our Environmental Justice partners that the vetoing of this bill once again demonstrates a disregard for BIPOC, immigrant, and low-income communities. Climate change is already here, and it is drastically disproportionately affecting non-white and low-income communities.

The Massachusetts community is overwhelmingly in favor of taking bold climate action. This past election cycle, Massachusetts voted to send key sponsor of the Green New Deal Ed Markey back to the Senate, and in the 19 districts where the ballot question appeared, an average of 77% of residents supported committing Massachusetts to 100% renewable energy— a goal that stretches even further than the current bill. The Next-Gen Roadmap was passed by a vote of 145 to 9 in the House, and 38 to 2 in the Senate.

We applaud House Speaker Mariano and Senate President Spilka’s commitment to passing the Next-Generation Roadmap bill, and look forward to leadership utilizing their veto-proof majorities to ensure we do not surrender an inch to Baker’s backward complaints.

Next-Gen Roadmap bill reaches Baker's desk, potential pocket veto

After years of organizing and months in committee, the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy released An Act creating a next-generation roadmap for Massachusetts climate policy, which was promptly, overwhelmingly passed through the House and Senate. We were pleasantly surprised to see the bill, based on the House’s 2050 Roadmap Bill and Senate’s Next-Generation climate bill, contains nearly every provision and amendment we put forward in our August letter, in one form or another.

We are especially pleased to see that the Next-Generation Roadmap bill includes a strong commitment to environmental justice, an accelerated timeline, municipal flex times, increased emissions reduction requirements, and the authorization of 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind in addition to the 3,200 MW already authorized.

There are some significant shortcomings in the bill, such as the lack of carbon pricing, “net-zero” language, 2050 timeframe, language regarding biomass, and lack of commitment to 100% renewable energy (all detailed further below). Still, we believe that it is of the utmost importance for the climate movement, the Commonwealth, and the planet that this bill is signed into law at once. The Next-Gen Roadmap bill provides a solid toolkit for carbon reduction and a baseline for us to continue to agitate for even stronger climate legislation in 2021 and beyond.

The bill still has one last hurdle to clear before coming law— Charlie Baker must sign off on it. And since the legislature passed the bill so late, Gov. Baker has the power to pocket veto the entire bill. We must now shift our focus to Governor Charlie Baker to demand that he sign the bill into law. Baker has until the 14th to sign the bill, and if he fails to, the entire bill is scrapped and we are back at square one with nothing to show for it. Call his office today, call tomorrow, call him every spare minute you can until he signs the Next-Generation Roadmap bill into law!

Gov. Baker’s Office number is (617) 725-4005, and you can email him using this form.

If you are on Twitter, please tweet at Gov. Baker (@MassGovernor) and urge him to sign the bill into law unamended! Visit this document for a sample email, call script, and tweets.

In a joint statement from the climate committee, they highlighted the important influence of activist voices and advocacy in shaping this bill:

“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. Its particulars owe much to the advocacy of thousands of citizen activists in Massachusetts. To these activists, we say thank you. We heard you.”

We were effective at lobbying the legislature, but we cannot stop there. We must bring this legislation home by pushing Baker to support this overwhelmingly popular bill.

We are proud to have influenced this legislation and will continue to advocate for crucial climate legislative action not included in the bill, such as a commitment to 100% renewable energy, carbon pricing, banning new fossil fuel infrastructure— including biomass, and accelerating the zero-emissions timeframe. That being said, we are happy that this bill takes many of the best aspects of the precursor Senate and House bills and provides a toolkit to hit clearly defined climate goals.

As the climate committee said in their joint statement, “The toolkit approach is not a vision statement. It is not abstract or general. It is detailed. It is concerned with the practical. It focuses relentlessly on the work of reducing greenhouse gases, creating jobs, and protecting the vulnerable. It’s about the “how’” of it, as in “Here’s how we get this done, one step at a time, starting now.”

If you’re looking for a quick summary, here is a great WBUR article by Miriam Wasser.

Our key takeaways (we are continuing to update this as we further analyze the language, check back later for more):

  • Accelerates the emissions reduction timeline to a >50% reduction of 1990 levels by 2030, >75% reduction by 2040, establishes 5 year goals that require Massachusetts to adapt strategies to meet regular targets.
  • Codifies environmental justice, guarantees protections for impacted communities in the state, requires an environmental impact report for projects located near designated EJ communities, and requires more meaningful public involvement with decision making processes for projects.
  • Creates a first-time greenhouse gas emissions standard for municipal lighting plants and imposes a five-year moratorium on biomass with a two year study, delaying development, although it is uncertain if this will be the end of the saga with the fight against the biomass plant near Springfield— see this twitter thread for now, more analysis to come.
  • Requires detailed monitoring and reporting so we can assess we are on track to meet our goals and hit specific deadlines.
  • Increase offshore wind authorization, add 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind in addition to the 3,200 MW already authorized bringing us to 5,600MW.
  • Adds 4 energy efficiency seats to the Board of Building Regulations & Standards, term limits, public meeting notes, responsibility to take into account energy efficiency. This gives climate activists another regulatory body to lobby for local change and hold accountable.
  • Creates a local option / net-zero stretch code, which enables towns/cities to accelerate their timelines and set more ambitious goals
  • Updates the role of the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) to take emissions into account for their decision making and calculations of the social value of greenhouse gas emissions reductions. Establishes a public database of gas safety complaints
  • Establishes a solar energy grant program for nonprofits that address food insecurity and homelessness, increases EJ communities access to solar power by requiring the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) to prioritize low-income communities.
  • Increases energy efficiency standards to bring us in line with California standards taking effect next year. (2022)
  • Increases the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS), requires electric utility companies to purchase at least 40% of renewable energy by 2030, increases RPS by 1% each year thereafter. This is a good start, but we should aim to be ahead of other states like California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, and Vermont, which all have more ambitious goals.

    Check back later for more!

    Here are the complete voting roll calls for the Mass. House and Senate:

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