Our House of Representatives is at it again, waiting until the last minute of the session to address climate legislation.  The Senate has come out with their climate omnibus bill, but the House still lacks one! Lately most climate bills will be wrapped into a single omnibus package, and just like opening your gifts on Christmas morning, there are things that will make you cheer, and others, like a pair of new socks, that will leave you sighing in disappointment.


Good News (limited list)

The Senate’s climate omnibus bill, #2829 (plus 122 amendments), includes:

  1. Gas companies are required to plan the orderly decommissioning of the existing gas pipeline system. They must plan in one year increments and there are heavy penalties if they do not meet their plan.
  2. Gas companies can sell and install geothermal energy
  3. The DPU may deny gas company plans for expansion to a new territory if such proposals: 1) don’t comply with state law on greenhouse gas emission reductions, 2) don’t protect ratepayers from the cost of stranded assets, and 3) if an alternative to gas service is available.
  4. The DPU may refuse a new customer request for gas services if there is an adequate substitute available or if such service interferes with meeting the Commonwealth's greenhouse gas emissions reduction mandates.
  5.  5. Redesigns and phases out over 5 years the Gas System       Enhancement Program (GSEP), the special financing arrangement that incentivizes gas companies to replace gas pipes at great cost to ratepayers ($34 billion between 2022-2039). Gas companies will now be allowed and required to choose the best and lowest cost option for addressing gas leaks (e.g., pipe repair or pipe retirement) before expensive pipe replacement.
  6. 6. The legislation will expedite siting and permitting processes for solar, wind, storage, and other clean energy infrastructure projects by setting 15-month permitting deadlines for larger projects, and 12-month deadlines for smaller projects. 
  7. 7. The Plastics Reduction Act will take significant steps to address single-use and bulk plastics.

In addition, predatory energy companies will no longer be allowed to hawk their wares in Massachusetts, electric school buses will be supported, and the electrification of two lines of the commuter will usher in a cleaner transportation system. It is finally understood that biomass is destructive and cannot be included in any clean energy portfolio. It bans the numerous loopholes that energy companies were using to maintain their present delivery systems. Finally, it creates a new office of Environmental Justice.


Bad News

We hope that the new office for EJ is profoundly active, since the omnibus bill has basically left them out! Supporting middle and low income folks to make the energy transition in their homes, bills that address both indoor and outdoor air quality, and a vigorous cumulative impacts assessment for any new energy project were all missing. Also, the parts of the bill that support labor in transitioning to good, union level, clean energy jobs is absolutely essential.  It is disheartening when labor sides with fossil fuel dinosaurs in the expectation that they will keep their jobs. Everyone needs honorable work. By not investing in labor’s transition to a clean energy economy, we are reinforcing labor's fear of job losses and losing an important ally.


It’s not over till the closing bell of the session.


What can we do in the weeks that remain? Camp out on your rep’s front porch and remind them that environmental justice, clean air, clean water, healthy soil, and a revised siting policy that includes a vigorous cumulative impacts assessment are all civil rights. Tell them to include bills that offer training for labor, so that they can be part of this great energy transition.

And of course, join the action THIS WEEKEND! 350 Mass members will be rallying at the Boston Common on Saturday July 13th at 1pm to drive the message home: Time's Up! Pass climate justice legislation NOW. RSVP here: bit.ly/climatebillsrally

We are all painfully aware of the House culture. If leadership does not want something, then it doesn’t happen. To counter this, remind your representative that their district is passionately in favor of these issues, and if the Speaker wants to keep his House Democratic, he needs to heed public opinion. It's time for action. Go get ‘em.

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Environmental storyteller