Mass. Legislature Passes Landmark Climate Change Bill

Special to the Journal

Rep. RoseLee Vincent and Senator Joseph Boncore joined with their colleagues in the Massachusetts Legislature this week in passing breakthrough climate legislation that overhauls the state’s climate laws, drives down greenhouse gas emissions, creates clean energy jobs, and protects environmental justice communities.

The bill, An Act Creating a Next-Generation Roadmap for Massachusetts Climate Policy (S.2995), 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 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. The legislation also increases support for clean energy workforce development programs including those targeting low-income communities and improves gas pipeline safety.

“This legislation takes a historic step in the fight against climate change, putting Massachusetts on the path to creating a cleaner, greener and healthier future for the next generation,” stated Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “I am thrilled to see this legislation codifies our shared goal of reducing harmful carbon emissions to zero by 2050, and creates new energy initiatives and standards to help us reach that target. I want to thank Senator Barrett, Representative Golden and their fellow conferees for their advocacy and hard work, as well as Speaker Mariano and former Speaker DeLeo for their partnership in seeing this bill through to fruition. I’d also like to note how much the Senate has been inspired to action by the energy and determination demonstrated by the young people of this Commonwealth. Your commitment to protecting our planet is inspiring and I welcome your continued collaboration as we move forward together in addressing our climate crisis.”

“This legislation represents a major piece of climate legislation that will set the course of the Commonwealth for the next three decades,” said House Speaker Ronald J. Mariano (D-Quincy).  “Today we send a message loud and clear that Massachusetts will empower our environmental justice communities, achieve net zero emissions by 2050, continue to lead on offshore wind, increase equitable access to our clean energy programs, and create pathways to clean energy jobs for underserved and low-income communities.”

“As the sun sets on my time in the House, I am particularly proud of the steps the Legislature took to codify the concept of ‘Environmental Justice’ into our general laws.  The Environmental Justice provision included in this final bill will provide stronger protections from pollution, and a greater public process for communities like Revere, Chelsea and Saugus that are overburdened by polluters.  The codification of EJ into our general laws will amplify the community’s voice, and give populations in EJ neighborhoods a bolder seat at the table.  Seeking Environmental Justice for my district has been something I have advocated for during my nearly seven years as a member of the House, and I could not be more thrilled that one of the final votes I took as a member of the Legislature will truly make a difference to the people of Revere, Chelsea and Saugus,” said Representative RoseLee Vincent (D-Revere).  “Overall, as the state representative of a district who has seen firsthand the effects of climate change during severe coastal storms through my tenure, I am glad that the Legislature is taking action on this front. Specifically, I want to express my appreciation to former Speaker DeLeo, Speaker Mariano and Chairman Golden for their work in getting this critical piece of legislation over the finish line.”

“By creating unique protections for Environmental Justice communities, we center our policy around those most impacted by climate change,” said Senator Joe Boncore (D-Winthrop). “Similarly, recognizing the impact of the transportation sector on climate change, this legislation takes key steps to limit greenhouse gas emissions and set benchmarks for the adoption of electric vehicles and vehicle charging stations.”

“Amid the unprecedented public health and economic challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m proud of the Legislature’s ongoing commitment to protecting our environment,” said former House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “The actions the House and Senate took today will keep Massachusetts on-track to lead the nation in clean energy and environmental policies. Thank you to Speaker Mariano, Chair Golden and my colleagues in the House for their commitment to legislation that will help to grow our clean energy economy, address environmental justice concerns, and bolster our efforts to address the effects of climate change.”

“This bill steps up the pace of our collective drive to contain climate change,” said Senator Mike Barrett (D-Lexington), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy.  “It’s the strongest effort of its kind in the country.  With the tools the Legislature assembles here, we’re constructing the response we need and providing a blueprint to other states.”

“It has been a pleasure to work with my House and Senate colleagues on the conference committee on this historic climate bill,” said Representative Thomas A. Golden, Jr. (D-Lowell), Chair of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy.  “I owe a special debt of gratitude to Speaker Mariano for his invaluable mentorship over my six years as House energy chair.  It is his long-standing recognition of Massachusetts’ opportunity to play a leadership role in offshore wind and his fearless commitment to push forward when others hang back that have led us to advance legislation as ambitious as the Next Generation Roadmap bill.”

“This bill continues our commitment to reducing harmful carbon emissions, and enacting policies of environmental equity. We have made sure to include enforceability and compliance rules, so we reach our net-zero goals,” said Senate Majority Leader Cindy Creem (D-Newton).  “I am so pleased that we also require public hearings on whether classifying biomass as renewable can actually be scientifically justified. And I am proud we will now regulate natural gas as the damaging fossil fuel that it is and strengthen policies to prevent gas leaks and encourage renewable geothermal alternatives.”

“As the birthplace of the offshore wind industry in the United States, Massachusetts sets an example to the nation for its leadership on climate policy and today’s action by the legislature further cements that legacy,” said Representative Patricia Haddad (D-Somerset). “The House, along with our colleagues in the Senate, took steps today to increase the use of renewable energy, cut greenhouse gasses and create clean energy jobs in Massachusetts. I thank Speaker Mariano, former Speaker DeLeo and Chair Golden for their leadership and work on these important issues.”

“This is an historic day for Massachusetts. We have long been one of the clean energy leaders in our country, but today, we’ve strengthened the foundation that we have built upon and chart a course that has been long discussed but never codified or fully implemented,” said Senator Patrick O’Connor (R-Weymouth). “Climate policy can’t wait – that’s why this bipartisan legislation sets aggressive and practical goals in the areas of emissions reduction, green energy, environmental justice, and grid modernization. I am proud to have served on this conference committee and thank my colleagues for their hard work and collaborative spirit in crafting this legislation.”

“The climate change bill takes a comprehensive approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, including recognizing how forests and other natural and working lands can be used to promote carbon sequestration and help Massachusetts reach its goal of net-zero emissions by 2050,” said House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading). “It also incorporates municipal lighting plants as partners in these efforts by setting greenhouse gas emissions standards and establishing an equal playing field for these facilities. I’m proud to have served on the conference committee that produced this historic bill which reaffirms Massachusetts’ role as a national leader on clean energy issues.”

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 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 appliance 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.

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