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: