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:

Sen. Pacheco Urges Climate Conference Committee to Pass Strongest Climate Legislation Possible

Founding Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Global Warming & Climate Change Marc R. Pacheco (D-Taunton) filed legislation Wednesday designed to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions by establishing ‘Net-Zero by 2050’ enforceable benchmark standards. An Act to prevent the worst effects of our climate emergency by providing policy pathways to achieve net-zero emissions is a comprehensive climate proposal that sets emission reduction requirements of Net Zero by 2050 with five-year interim limits, increases the Renewable Portfolio Standard to 3.5%, codifies environmental justice policy terms, procures at least 6000 MW of offshore wind energy by 2035, and establishes 100% renewable energy for electricity by 2035.

“The global climate crisis is an existential threat to our public health, our economic stability,
and our continued viability as a species here on earth. Our world is burning. Sea levels are
rising as tropical storms become more frequent and more powerful, putting coastal real estate
in the Commonwealth at risk for billions of dollars in damage and undermining property
values. As we continue to fill our atmosphere with greenhouse gases from fossil fuel
combustion, the worst effects of climate change are rapidly becoming more destructive and
more permanent,” said Senator Pacheco. “The good news is that we already have powerful
tools with the capacity to shield our planet from global climate catastrophe. The even better
news is that our path to a clean energy future also creates new jobs and protects our public
health. What we need is the political will to take urgent action and pass bold climate
legislation here in the Commonwealth.”

The state’s existing emissions reduction requirements of 25% below 1990 levels by 2020 and 80% below 1990 levels by 2050 were originally established by the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2008. Since that time, the United Nations International Panel On Climate Change (IPCC), the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGRCP), and the overwhelming majority of scientific experts have indicated climate change is occurring more rapidly than expected and its most extreme consequences are now significantly closer than previously anticipated.

“My hope is that this legislation will serve as a wake-up call to help ensure we are not losing sight of the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The iron-clad scientific consensus on this issue could not be clearer – the worst effects of climate change are approaching more rapidly than we anticipated back in 2008,” said Senator Pacheco, lead sponsor of the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2008. “Since the outbreak of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we have all regrettably witnessed the tragic consequences of our leaders’ failure to heed consensus recommendations from the scientific community. As lawmakers, we have an affirmative duty to the citizens we represent to identify these kinds of problems as soon as possible and develop evidence-based solutions that mitigate risks and prevent dire consequences. 12 years have gone by since we last addressed the Commonwealth’s required emissions reduction trajectory – quite frankly, we should have addressed this years ago.”

According to a recent report from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, early evidence already indicates that there is a significant link between poor air quality and COVID-19 morbidity. The nationwide study released over the summer found that COVID-19 patients living in regions with high levels of air pollution are more likely to die from the disease than people who live in less polluted areas. Air quality is a particularly severe problem in Massachusetts - the most recent “National Asthma Capitals Report” released by the Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) named Springfield, MA as the #1 worst place to live in the United States with Asthma. Boston was ranked #8.

“Greenhouse gases are causing widespread air pollution right here in the Commonwealth. Emissions undermine our public health by contributing to significant increases in respiratory disease, cardiovascular incidents, and a variety of other illnesses associated with poor chronic carbon emissions,” said Senator Pacheco. “This dynamic also has been shown to disproportionately affect economically disenfranchised neighborhoods and communities of color. By establishing clearly-defined ‘Environmental Justice’ terminology, this legislation would mark an important step in reestablishing equity for designated communities, especially in the context of climate change and public health.”

Climate legislation passed by the Senate in January and the House in July is still under
consideration before a six-member Conference Committee appointed on August 6th. The
emissions reduction legislation filed today with fewer than four weeks until the end of the current legislative session incorporates provisions from the Senate and the House and incorporates climate-related legislation that is not yet before the conference committee, but still available to Senate and House leadership if there was a willingness to incorporate it.

“The legislature appointed a conference committee in August to reconcile the differences
between climate bills passed by the Senate and House earlier this session, but 125 days later, we still have yet to see that report,” said Senator Pacheco. “Earlier this session, leaders in the Senate, House, and the Executive Branch collectively confirmed their support for updating our long-term emissions reduction requirement to Net Zero by 2050. I am proud to have sponsored the bill that served as the basis for the Senate’s net-zero climate legislation in tandem with my esteemed colleague State Representative Joan Meschino whose Net Zero ‘Roadmap’ bill served as the basis for the House’s climate bill. I have a great deal of respect for the negotiation process and the committee conferees. But the inconvenient truth is - even if the conferees were to release a report that combined the strongest provisions of both bills, that legislation still wouldn’t provide the tools and policy options needed to achieve net-zero emissions without utilizing policy options that are not before the conference committee.”

“Offshore wind expansion is a fundamental aspect of the Commonwealth’s clean energy
future and a virtual prerequisite to achieving net-zero emissions. However, the Senate’s
climate bill currently before the conference committee did not incorporate any language
authorizing additional offshore wind procurement and the House bill only included an
additional 400 MW. The Senate did, however, pass legislation requiring 6000 MW of
offshore wind by 2035 in its chamber’s version of the Economic Development bill. The
comprehensive emissions reduction legislation filed today includes that same ‘6000 MW
total offshore wind’ language. It is my hope that the Economic Development conference
committee will seize the opportunity to report out in-part the offshore wind language adopted in the Senate’s Economic Development bill so that it can be incorporated into the final climate bill conference committee report.

“Otherwise, the legislature would be effectively adopting the updated net-zero emissions
reduction requirement while failing to provide the administrative tools needed to meet that
new requirement. We would be making a tragic mistake not to seize the opportunity facing
us at this moment to regain our leadership in offshore wind implementation. Under
President-Elect Biden, we now have a federal administration that has pledged to rejoin the
Paris Accord upon taking office January 20th and has already begun to make climate a key
priority with several cabinet-level appointments, including our own former U.S. Senator and 68th Secretary of State John Kerry who will serve as the Special Presidential Envoy for
Climate. President-Elect Biden has openly acknowledged the grave consequences of climate inaction and understands the important role that renewable energy resources such as offshore wind will have to play in order to effectively transition into a clean energy future.”

Landslide wins on 350 Mass Supported Ballot Questions for 100% Renewable Energy and Committee Vote Transparency

Final results from non-binding public policy questions that were on the ballot in November reveal stunning landslides in favor of swift action on climate change and transparency reforms to the Massachusetts legislature.

The November election results for the state show 90% of voters supported making all votes in the state legislature’s committees publicly available on the State House website, and 80% supported swiftly moving Massachusetts to 100% renewable energy. The transparency question appeared on the ballot in 16 districts and the renewable energy question appeared in 19 districts. Both questions passed with supermajority support in every town.

350 Mass and Act On Mass organized the signature drive and promotion for these ballot questions. Both groups believe many important and popular policies, such as 100% renewable energy and the Safe Communities Act, are prevented from advancing because representatives hide behind the cover of secret committee votes in the legislature. The majority of states release these roll call votes publicly online. The 90% support for making committee votes public bodes well for a new campaign launched by Act on Mass to fight for more transparent legislative rules in January. The Transparency is Power campaign asks legislators to vote in favor of making legislative committee votes public, ensuring that legislation is public 72 hours before it’s voted on, and lowering the barrier for recording votes on the House floor. Justin Brown, a 350 Mass member and Brookline teacher said, “In talking with voters it was clear how much they cared about a clean future and more transparent government.  Additionally, most seemed stunned to learn that committee votes were not required to be public.” 

The renewable energy question proposes that the state legislature take immediate action for Massachusetts to achieve 100% renewable energy use within the next two decades. Stephen Malagodi, a Lowell resident who helped lead the renewable energy question campaign in his district, said that “We’ve been told over and over that ordinary people in Lowell don’t really care about combating climate change. Well, in the 16th Middlesex district 6,400 people, 71% of those who voted, said that they do care, and our elected representatives can’t tell us that anymore.” 

The current climate legislation remains stuck in a conference committee, and advocates say there isn’t enough being done. “Even if the best provisions in the House & Senate versions [of the current climate bill] are adopted, this bill will not get Massachusetts to 100% renewable energy in the timeframe that the science demands. It’s vital that we continue to push for the solutions that have yet to be invested in by Governor Baker despite their successes in other states,” said Cabell Eames, Legislative Manager for 350 Mass. “You can’t tell people that there is power in their vote and then disregard the core issues they vote for. Once public officials are elected, they should be held accountable to the public.” With the ballot questions, 350 Mass and Act On Mass have aimed to send a message to the MA State House that representatives should be held accountable to the needs and desires of the public. From the results, it is clear that constituents agree.

These ballot questions appeared in the following districts:

  • Dave Rogers (24th Middlesex) (Renewable Energy question only)    
  • Kenneth Gordon (21st Middlesex)
  • Nika Elugardo (15th Suffolk)  
  • Marjorie Decker (25th Middlesex) (Renewable Energy question only)  
  • Tom Golden (16th Middlesex) (Renewable Energy question only)  
  • Mike Moran (18th Suffolk)  
  • Kevin Honan (17th Suffolk)
  • Ruth Balser (12th Middlesex)
  • Kay Khan (11th Middlesex)  
  • Mindy Domb (3rd Hampshire)
  • Paul McMurtry (11th Norfolk)
  • Dan Carey (2nd Hampshire)
  • Robert Deleo (19th Suffolk)
  • Jonathan Hecht/Steve Owens (29th Middlesex)
  • Denise Provost/ Erika Uyterhoeven (27th Middlesex)
  • Tommy Vitolo (15th Norfolk)
  • Elizabeth Malia (11th Suffolk)
  • Ann Margaret Ferrante (5th Essex)
  • Natalie Blais (1st Franklin)

The full text of the 100% renewable energy question read:

Shall the representative for this district be instructed to vote in favor of legislation that would require Massachusetts to achieve 100% renewable energy use within the next two decades, starting immediately and making significant progress within the first five years while protecting impacted workers and businesses?

The full text of the transparency question read:  

Shall the representative for this district be instructed to vote in favor of changes to the Legislature's rules that would make the results of all votes in Legislative committees publicly available on the Legislature's website?

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