Baker in take-it-or-leave-it position on climate bill

Lawmakers accept his price cap amendment, reject most others

THE LEGISLATURE returned compromise climate legislation to Gov. Charlie Baker on Sunday and urged him to sign it into law even though he didn’t get all the changes he wanted.

Rep. Jeffrey Roy of Franklin, the House chair of the Legislature’s energy committee, gave a speech in which he appealed to Baker to follow his own advice on compromising and warned him of the consequences of not doing so.

Roy read a passage from Baker’s recent book that extolled compromise and suggested the governor should practice what he preaches. He also warned that a veto, which would kill the legislation, would hurt the state’s efforts to meet its climate goals and set the governor up as “the one who took the breeze out of offshore wind.”

Roy said he’s not thrilled with everything in the bill but is nevertheless supporting the compromise version. He said Baker should do the same. Sen. Cynthia Stone Creem of Newton offered a similar perspective. “The governor has now a chance to cement his legacy,” she said.

Not every senator was as enthusiastic. Sen. Marc Pacheco of Taunton urged Baker to sign the bill, but he said he thought the bill did not go far enough. “I hope with a new governor and a new Legislature in January we will go way beyond what we’re going to do today. We need to have bold action on climate,” he said. “What we’re doing today is nowhere near close to where we need to be.”

Baker sent the Legislature’s original climate change bill back on Friday with 19 pages of amendments, including a call for a $750 million appropriation of federal and state funds for clean energy development.

The governor’s amendment also neutered a proposal to allow 10 Massachusetts communities to ban fossil fuel infrastructure in most new construction, did away with a price cap on offshore wind procurements, and restored the way the Clean Energy Center board is selected.

The Legislature responded by amending the governor’s amendment, rejecting his proposed $750 million appropriation and his neutering of the 10-community proposal, while accepting his language eliminating the price cap and a change in the Clean Energy Center Board.

Sen. Michael Barrett of Lexington, his branch’s energy expert, was the lead champion of continuing the price cap, a provision that requires that each successive procurement come in at a lower price than the previous one.

Barrett had argued that a price cap was needed to protect utility customers, but on Sunday he accepted Baker’s proposal to do away with the cap entirely. “We’re willing to take the chance that even more jobs can come if we do away with price controls,” he said.

The Legislature’s rejection of the $750 million appropriation was tactical. The Legislature’s original climate change bill included no funding, leaving that task to other bills moving through the branches over the weekend. Roy said those bills, if approved, would provide $3.1 billion in funding, four times what Baker was proposing.

By keeping the funding out of the climate change bill, the Legislature prevented the measure from becoming a spending bill. On spending bills, the governor has the authority to veto individual items in the overall legislation.

As a result, the governor can now only sign the bill sent to him on Sunday by the Legislature, allow the bill to take effect without his signature, or veto the entire bill.

“He’s got to take it or leave it,” Roy said.