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Another Great Year for Climate Legislation in Massachusetts? Apparently. Let’s Hope.

Environmental Justice: Exploring the Intersection of Waste, Race, and  Health (Virtual) | Jewish Museum MilwaukeeIn 2021, Governor Baker signed comprehensive climate legislation called An Act Creating a Next Generation Roadmap for Massachusetts Climate Policy. That law set a more aggressive timeline for mandatory emissions reductions (50% by 2030, net-zero, and 85% by 2050), strengthened the definition of “environmental justice communities”, and will definitely impact the state. But while the ink is barely dry, it certainly appears that the House and Senate are moving towards yet another significant climate bill to send to the governor sometime in the next two to three months.

First up – the House:

Biden calls to double offshore wind by 2030; Vineyard Wind seeks permit  restart | National Fisherman

In early March, the House passed An Act Advancing Offshore Wind and Clean Energy.  That piece of legislation focused on offshore wind: updating the procurement process, creating new tax credits and incentives for the industry, expanding workforce development programs, modernizing the electric grid, and imposing environmental and fishing requirements. It was more about enhancing the benefits that would come from future offshore wind projects than adding to the currently approved limit of 5600 megawatts.   

The House bill also would create new funding for the Mass. Clean Energy Center to support offshore wind and other clean energy initiatives. 

Next Up – the Senate: 

Not to be outdone, a couple of weeks ago the Mass. State Senate passed its own climate bill, An Act Driving Climate Policy Forward.  The Senate bill touches on more than just offshore wind. It:

  • Enables the state to procure up to 10,000 megawatt-hours of offshore wind power, up from 5600 as noted above. 
  • Provides $100 million for electric vehicle (EV) purchase incentives and $50 million for EV charging stations. 
  • Allocates $50 million to the Clean Energy Center. 
  • Makes renewable energy generation from burning wood ineligible for the Renewable Energy Standard. 
  • Inside Clean Energy: As Efficiency Rises, Solar Power Needs Fewer Acres to  Pack the Same Punch - Inside Climate NewsEnds, by 2025, Mass Save incentives for replacing your old heating system with a new fossil-fuel-based system. 
  • Bans electricity suppliers from selling power to residents, other than through municipal aggregation 

For an in-depth discussion of the Senate bill’s provisions regarding clean transportation and EVs, please read Anna Vanderspek’s blog on that topic. 

The Best of Both Worlds: 

Green Energy Consumers has been actively engaged in the legislative process and will continue to be until the final bill has been signed by Governor Baker.  We are looking at the situation like this:   

  1. Both bills have a lot to offer.  If either branch of the legislature got its own way, excellent progress would be made towards the climate crisis.
  2. Neither branch will get its own way.  The next step is for them to jointly form a “conference committee” with representation from both the House and Senate. The conference committee will hash out differences and send a new bill back to legislators for final enactment.  This likely won’t start in earnest until the House and Senate have dealt with the state budget.
  3. There are some conflicts between the two sides, but we think those differences can be reconciled.
    1. They will argue about some aspects of how offshore wind should be procured. In March, the House voted to remove the existing requirement that each new offshore project offers a new project that would be priced lower than its predecessor. The Senate would keep the price cap in place while allowing economic development costs to be calculated separately.
    2. They will also negotiate on how to fund the Clean Energy Center. The Senate would use funds from the current state surplus.  The House would add a small charge onto natural gas). 
  4. Energy Efficiency Strategies and Upgrades | ACEEEThere’s a huge opportunity here for the two sides to combine their best ideas into one package that would help ensure that the Commonwealth achieves the main target of the 2021 Roadmap law – that is, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 50% by 2030.  At Green Energy Consumers, we’re not cheering for either side.  Our hope and expectation is that senators, representatives, and Governor Baker will collaborate to produce a great final product that touches on all the key sectors: transportation, buildings, and electricity.
  5. We’re going to keep working hard on this and will need your help. Watch this space for more information on what you can do over the next two to three months.