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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!