Senate passes climate change bill 39-1
Cost barely registers during short debate
THE MASSACHUSETTS SENATE passed climate change legislation on Monday by an overwhelming vote of 39-1, signaling the Legislature is unwilling to go along with several amendments sought by Gov. Charlie Baker.
The bill approved by the Senate includes a number of tweaks sought by the governor, but on several key provisions – a 50 percent reduction in emissions by 2030 and mandatory interim goals for industry subsectors – the legislation did not budge. Baker has insisted the 50 percent target, as opposed to the 45 percent he favored, would end up costing Massachusetts residents $6 billion unnecessarily.
The measure passed with the support of two of the Senate’s three Republicans, including Sen. Bruce Tarr of Gloucester, who used a parliamentary maneuver last week to delay action on the bill to provide more time to scrutinize it. Only Sen. Ryan Fattman of Sutton voted no.
The bill now goes to the House, where it is expected to easily pass since leaders worked on the language of the bill with their Senate counterparts. Baker will then have to decide whether to veto the bill or sign it into law. The Senate margin of passage suggests a gubernatorial veto could easily be overridden.
During debate on the bill, Barrett sought to demonstrate how Massachusetts faces unique challenges in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. He said agriculture and land use account for 24 percent of all emissions worldwide but only 0.3 percent in Massachusetts. He said industry accounts for 22 percent of emissions in the United States, but only 5 percent in Massachusetts.
Where Massachusetts is different, Barrett said, is on transportation and building energy use. In Massachusetts, transportation accounts for 42 percent of emissions, compared to 29 percent in the United States and building energy use accounts for 27 percent of emissions in Massachusetts but only 12 percent across the United States.
As the state strives for net zero emissions by 2050, Barrett said the climate change bill begins to focus attention on the issue by setting ambitious interim targets for the state as a whole and for six industry subsectors. Baker had sought to lessen the target for the state as a whole and use the industry targets as planning tools, but both were rejected.
Barrett said the bill also requires key state agencies – the Department of Public Utilities, the Board of Building Regulations and Standards, and the Masssave program – to focus on reducing emissions as part of their daily work and authorizes the creation of voluntary net zero municipal building standards by the Department of Energy Resources.
The bill authorizes the procurement of an additional 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind, removes impediments to solar power development, and provides a tax credit for hydrogen fuel cells. The bill also establishes in law special considerations for so-called environmental justice communities.During a brief debate, Tarr asked how much the bill will cost homeowners. Barrett answered by downplaying the cost to individuals, saying the choices people will face about what kind of car to drive and what to heat their home with will be voluntary. He said the Masssave program will present options to homeowners, but deciding whether to follow those recommendations will be up to the individuals involved.
Masssave, which currently conducts energy audits for homeowners, is run by utilities, overseen by state government, and financed using an assessment on utility bills. In January 2019, state regulators approvedutility plans to spend nearly $2.8 billion of ratepayer money over the next three years in an attempt to generate energy savings of $8.5 billion. Under the climate change bill, the next three-year plan will likely also have emission reduction targets as well as energy savings targets.