In the face of extreme heat, record-breaking wildfires, superstorms like Harvey, Irma, and Maria, and sea level rise that threatens to overwhelm our coastal communities, the Massachusetts legislature is responding not with a roar, but with a whimper.
The Senate deserves tremendous credit for passing a thoughtful, reasoned response that would have banned the public subsidizing of new gas pipelines, increased offshore wind, instituted a carbon pricing system, divested the pension fund from coal, given a needed boost to solar energy’s growth and equitable distribution, and tripled the rate of increase of renewable energy so that it would displace fossil fuels in our electricity sector by the late 2040s.
The House blew yet another opportunity to pass meaningful climate legislation, and clearly chose to align themselves with polluters and industry over people and planet by offering a smaller, temporary doubling of the state’s renewable energy growth that would see us phase out fossil fuels in our electricity sector by 2095 (the current law would do so by 2105) along with a handful of other smaller measures (including signalling but not commiting to additional offshore wind, more incentives for battery storage, and further addressing pipeline leaks). It also advances a clean peak standard which counts burning trash as a renewable energy source. (Not only does it encourage waste, but it produces horrible pollution for those who live near the facility.)
When faced with a stubborn House, the Senate’s leaders are wisely choosing to take the small step forward that they are able to--as in a crisis, every step counts--but we must be clear that we will no longer accept this status quo. We cannot continue to have a House of Representatives so taken over by fossil fuel and utility interests that they sit down when we need to be standing tall.
Many of us are rightfully pretty upset by this, and we’ll be in touch soon with constructive ways to channel our outrage.
Massachusetts missed a critical opportunity to show real leadership today, but let me be clear that the advances we did secure were due to the dedicated and persistent advocacy by this network and our allies. The House had no intention of taking action on energy legislation this year, and the fact that they did move the ball forward is a tribute to our efforts. Yet more is needed, and more will be demanded. Our planet, and people, deserve no less.
Craig Altemose for 350 Mass