Senate stands pat on climate change legislation

Bill rejects major amendments proposed by Baker

THE SENATE is preparing to pass new climate change legislation that accepts some minor technical changes proposed by Gov. Charlie Baker but rejects compromise language the governor proposed on several contentious issues.

The Senate bill stands firm in requiring a 50 percent reduction in emissions relative to 1990 levels by 2030, even though the governor had said the 50 percent target would end up costing Massachusetts residents an extra $6 billion. The governor had proposed a target range of 45 to 50 percent, with his administration having the flexibility to choose the end point.

The Senate bill also doesn’t budge on the need for legally binding emission goals for six industry subsectors, although officials said the bill will grant some limited leeway to the administration in a case where the state meets its overall emission target but misses the goal in one industry subsector.

The bill also rejects compromise language put forward by the administration on stretch energy codes used by municipalities to push through changes in construction approaches.

Sen. Michael Barrett of Lexington, the chamber’s point person on climate change, said it would make no sense to back down on the 50 percent emission reduction goal for 2030 given that the Biden administration is preparing to adopt roughly the same goal next month on Earth Day. Barrett said John Kerry, Biden’s climate czar, is expected to adopt the 50 percent target as a national goal by 2030. The national goal uses a different base year than Massachusetts, but Barrett said the outcomes are very similar.

Barrett said the Senate was going to vote on the new bill Thursday, but there was no subsequent announcement that that would be the case. It’s unclear whether some problem surfaced with the bill that could delay action on it.

Barrett said the legislation’s torturous path through Beacon Hill over the last 14 months sometimes feels like a chronic disease from which he is never going to recover.

The Senate passed its climate change bill in January 2020 and the House approved its own version in July. A compromise bill was approved by the Legislature on January 4 at the end of the legislative session. Baker vetoed the bill on January 14; he said he vetoed the measure reluctantly because at that time, after the end of the legislative session, his only options were to sign the bill into law or veto it.

The Legislature responded by passing the exact same bill again, and the governor in early February sent it back with a series of amendments. His tone in a message to the Legislature was very different from his earlier veto message. He accepted some of the proposals (on the need for more offshore wind procurements, for example) that he earlier objected to and offered compromise language on some of the others.

Barrett said over the last month that he listened to all stakeholders again on key issues, but in the end decided to stand pat. “We are saying no to all of the governor’s major amendments,” Barrett said.

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

If the bill passes the Senate, it then goes to the House and if changes are made there the two branches will have to resolve their differences. Barrett said he has discussed the legislation with members of the House and believes the two branches are generally on the same page. “We’re very close,” he said.

Both branches would need to pass the compromise bill and then it would t go back to the governor who can veto the bill or sign it into law. Barrett said the latter would be “the cure” for his chronic disease.