Compromise climate bill coming down to the wire

Measure would allow 10 communities to ban natural gas hookups

HOUSE SPEAKER Ron Mariano tweeted that the Legislature will vote on a compromise bill to combat climate change on Thursday, presumably by suspending rules designed to give lawmakers proper notice of a bill coming up for a vote.

Officials said House and Senate negotiators reached agreement on the bill Wednesday afternoon but technical drafting issues continued past 8 p.m., the deadline for giving proper notice.

The bill attempts to combine a House proposal heavily geared toward the development of offshore wind with a Senate proposal focused more on the adoption of electric vehicles, solar policy, and reducing the reliance on fossil fuels in construction.

House and Senate officials said they were pleased with the final bill, which they said combines the best of both their approaches. Their negotiations began on May 20.

Details on the compromise bill were not available Wednesday night, but officials said new surcharges on utility bills that had been proposed as a funding mechanism in the House legislation are not included in the final bill. The Senate proposal relied on state surplus funds and federal aid to capitalize trust funds.

The compromise legislation also allows 10 communities to bar natural gas hookups in new construction, but the prohibition comes with some caveats designed to address concerns raised by the Baker administration.

The legislation, for example, would not allow fossil fuel infrastructure to be banned in life science labs and bans would only be permitted in communities where 10 percent of the housing qualifies as affordable. Under that definition, Arlington, Newton, and West Tisbury would not qualify unless they increase their amount of affordable housing.

“Massachusetts needs to open up huge new sources of green electric power if it’s to stay on course for reducing emissions. Today’s compromise aims to ramp up clean power, especially offshore wind but also solar, storage, and networked geothermal, and run it through cars, trucks, buses, and buildings, the biggest sources of emissions in the state,” said Rep. Jeff Roy of Franklin and Sen. Michael Barrett of Lexington, in a statement.

“We thank President Biden for issuing a call to action to the entire country today,” the two lawmakers said. “Massachusetts legislators hear him, and we’re going all out.”