Deja Vu: Baker sends Next-Gen Roadmap S.9 Back to Legislature

On Sunday, just one day before his deadline to sign or veto, Governor Baker sent back a letter of amendments to the Next Generation Roadmap (S.9) climate and environmental justice bill instead of signing the bill into law — ignoring calls from citizens across the state to sign the bill without weakening it. After vetoing the same bill earlier this month, Governor Baker’s continued refusal to listen to his constituents and sign this landmark bill into law is disappointing, but not surprising. 

Yet again, Governor Baker has sided with business interests instead of Massachusetts families and communities — who overwhelmingly support ambitious climate action — by proposing amendments that would dramatically weaken the bill. Gov. Baker has made three particularly perilous changes:

  1. First, Baker’s amendments weaken the emissions reduction targets laid out in the bill —  undermining Massachusetts’s ability to hit his administration’s own stated emissions goals. Baker lowered the emissions reduction target for 2040 and proposed a “compromise” target for 2030 —  changing the 2030 goal from 50% emissions reduction to 45-50% emissions reduction. By making our targets less ambitious in the short term, Baker is trying to pass the responsibility for implementing ambitious climate policy to future administrations. We can’t let this happen — the best available science about what we need to do to avert the worst impacts of the climate crisis, especially for Massachusetts’ most vulnerable populations, is clear that the bill’s original targets themselves don’t go far enough. Weakening targets that are already in existence in other countries is unconscionable. 
  2. Second, Baker’s changes weaken the bill’s net-zero stretch code, which would require that new buildings consume only as much energy as can be produced onsite through renewable resources, by taking "net-zero" out of the stretch code definition and removing the requirement that "net-zero” be defined at all.  He replaces it with vague language about "...a higher-performing municipal opt-in standard which is designed to achieve compliance with [the state’s GHG emissions goals]” which could mean anything, or (more likely) nothing.  
  3. Finally, one of the most essential sections of the bill sets ‘sublimits’ — targets for emissions reductions in six important subsectors, including transportation, electric power, and commercial and industrial heating and cooling. Because Governor Baker doesn’t want to be held accountable for putting pressure on these industries to lower their emissions, his amendments would make those sublimits “planning tools” instead of legally binding targets... meaning they would have no power or enforceability.  

Discussing the need to reject these amendments, Legislative Director Cabell Eames said: “This bill is the floor, not the ceiling, for the transformative policy we need —  any weakening is inexcusable.”

Nearly all of Governor Baker’s amendments are in favor of business interests at the expense of the communities he was elected to represent. However, in his desire to be perceived as a compromiser, Baker has also included a handful of amendments that would clarify and strengthen the bill. He proposed several clarifying technical amendments to help the administration implement the bill. He strengthened the environmental justice section by adding language that would bolster the environmental review process in environmental justice communities and expand the definition of environmental burdens to include climate change. To be clear, these changes are no great victory — but we’ll take what we can get when it comes to an administration that has repeatedly failed to treat climate change as a crisis. 

We call on the legislature to accept Baker’s environmental justice and technical amendments, override everything else and expediently vote this bill into law. Climate cannot wait!

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.

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