Legislature passes landmark climate change bill

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The Massachusetts House of Representatives and Senate passed legislation that overhauls the state’s climate laws, drives down greenhouse gas emissions, creates clean energy jobs, and protects environmental justice communities.

The passage of An Act Creating a Next-Generation Roadmap for Massachusetts Climate Policy (S.9), comes after a joint commitment from Senate President Karen E. Spilka and House Speaker Ronald Mariano, as well as last session’s House and Senate Chairs of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy, Senator Michael Barrett and Representative Thomas Golden, to refile the legislation following a gubernatorial veto last session.

This legislation outlines a clear roadmap to address our immediate climate crisis,” stated Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “Time is of the essence and we could not let a delay hamper our efforts to protect future generations. The necessary tools included in this legislation will soon lead to lower emissions, a thriving green economy, and cleaner air and water for all. I want to thank my legislative partner, House Speaker Mariano for his collaboration, Senator Barrett and Representative Golden for their steadfast support, and the residents of Massachusetts for their support in this endeavor.”

I proudly cast my first vote in support of An Act Creating a Next Generation for Massachusetts Climate Policy. Massachusetts has been a leader on a number of fronts, and we have just taken another bold step for our planet. I am proud of the work of my colleagues and am thankful that Speaker Mariano made this legislation a priority. I am eager to head the Governor’s thoughts on this bill.” – Representative Adam Scanlon (D-North Attleboro)

The bill sets a 2050 net-zero greenhouse gas emissions limit, as well as statewide limits every five years; increases the requirements for offshore wind energy procurement bringing the statewide total authorization to 5,600 megawatts; requires emission reduction goals for MassSave, the state’s energy efficiency program; and, for the first time, establishes the criteria in statute that define environmental justice populations.

If not for the initiative and resolve of Speaker Mariano and Senate President Spilka, the Next-Generation Roadmap bill would not have been before the Legislature in the first month of the 2021 – 2022 session,” said Representative Thomas A. Golden, Jr. (D-Lowell), Chair of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy. “I am beyond proud to have once again voted with my colleagues on this path-breaking legislation and I look forward to continued collaboration to make it law and propel the Commonwealth towards its clean energy future.”

The legislation also increases support for clean energy workforce development programs, including those targeting low-income communities, and improves gas pipeline safety.

The legislation includes, among other items, the following provisions.

Sets a statewide net-zero limit on greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and mandates emissions limits every five years, as well as limits for specific sectors of the economy, including transportation and buildings.

Codifies environmental justice provisions into Massachusetts law, defining environmental justice populations and providing new tools and protections for affected neighborhoods.

Requires an additional 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind, building on previous legislation action and increases the total authorization to 5,600 megawatts in the Commonwealth.

Directs the Department of Public Utilities (DPU), regulator of the state’s electric and natural gas utilities, to balance priorities going forward: system safety, system security, reliability, affordability, equity, and, significantly, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Sets appliance energy efficiency standards for a variety of common appliances including plumbing, faucets, computers, and commercial appliances.

Adopts several measures aimed at improves gas pipeline safety, including increased fines for safety violations and regulations related to training and certifying utility contractors.

Increases the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) by 3 percent each year from 2025 – 2029, resulting in 40 percent renewable energy by 2030.

Establishes an opt-in municipal net-zero energy stretch code, including a definition of “net-zero building.”

Prioritizes equitable access to the state’s solar programs by low-income communities

Establishes $12 million in annual funding for the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center in order to create a pathway to the clean energy industry for environmental justice populations and minority-owned and women-owned businesses.

Provides solar incentives for businesses by exempting them from the net metering cap to allow them to install solar systems on their premises to help offset their electricity use and save money.

Requires utilities to include an explicit value for greenhouse gas reductions when they calculate the cost-effectiveness of an offering of MassSave.

Creates a first-time greenhouse gas emissions standard for municipal lighting plants that requires them to purchase 50 percent non-emitting electricity by 2030 and “net-zero” by 2050.

Sets benchmarks for the adoption of clean energy technologies including electric vehicles, charging stations, solar technology, energy storage, heat pumps and anaerobic digestors.

The bill is now with the governor.