By Bob Katzen
The House 144-14, Senate on a voice vote without a roll call, approved and sent to Gov. Charlie Baker a 57-page climate change bill. A key section makes the state’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal net zero by 2050.
The bill is sponsored by Sen. Mike Barrett (D-Cambridge) and Rep. Thomas Golden (D-Lowell) who led the successful charge for legislative approval of the legislation for several months in 2020. An identical measure had passed the House 145-9 and the Senate 38-2 in 2020—margins that were large enough for the Legislature to easily override any gubernatorial veto. But it was too late for that. The 2020 Legislature ended on January 5 and under legislative rules, any vetoes made, or amendments proposed, by the governor after that time could not go back to the Legislature for an override or consideration. So the bill died on the governor’s desk.
“While I support the bill’s goals and am largely in agreement with many of its proposals, 35 hours was not enough time to review and suggest amendments to such complex legislation,” said Baker in his message. “Had this bill been presented to me with more time while the Legislature was still in session, I would have returned it with amendments to address the concerns. Unfortunately, because the Legislature has adjourned, I do not have that option, and therefore, reluctantly, I cannot sign the legislation as currently written.”
“The Massachusetts economy is just beginning to recover from the pandemic downturn caused by the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19,” Baker continued. “As we are all learning what the future will hold, I have concerns about the impacts portions of this bill will have for large sectors of the economy.”
Other provisions in the measure codify environmental justice provisions into Massachusetts law by defining environmental justice populations and providing new tools and protections for affected neighborhoods; provide $12 million in annual funding for the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center to create a pathway to the clean energy industry for environmental justice populations and minority-owned and women-owned businesses; require an additional 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind and increase the state’s total authorization to 5,600 megawatts; set appliance energy efficiency standards for a variety of common appliances including plumbing, faucets, computers and commercial appliances and set benchmarks for the adoption of clean energy technologies including electric vehicles, charging stations, solar technology, energy storage and heat pumps
“If not for the initiative and resolve of Speaker Mariano and Senate President Spilka … the bill would not have been before the Legislature in the first month of the 2021-2022 session,” said Rep. Tom Golden (D-Lowell), House Chair of the Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy. “I am beyond proud to have once again voted with my colleagues on this path-breaking legislation and I look forward to continued collaboration to make it law and propel the commonwealth towards its clean energy future.”
“I believe it’s our collective responsibility to be good stewards of the environment and empower entrepreneurs to develop innovative solutions for cleaner energy production,” said Rep. Nicholas Boldyga (R-Southwick). “Unfortunately, this climate bill is another example of the political class implementing mandates that hurt the poor and middle class. A housing market that is already out of reach for many will become even more inaccessible. The cost of everyday goods will increase. Being good stewards of our environment does not need to come at such high cost, hurting the most vulnerable.”
“By sending last session’s climate bill back to Gov. Baker’s desk, the House and Senate have taken an important step forward, but further action is needed to ensure a safe, healthy future,” said Ben Hellerstein, State Director for Environment Massachusetts. “Let’s clear the decks of last session’s business by passing this bill into law, and then let’s turn our attention to the other important climate policies awaiting action. Here’s hoping 2021 is the year Massachusetts sets its sights on 100 percent renewable energy.”
“I am an advocate for protecting the environment, but we need a commonsense approach,” said newly-elected Rep. Kelly Pease (R-Westfield). “There needs to be a balance between becoming greener and protecting our businesses and economy. Reducing emissions by 40 percent instead of 50 percent by 2030 would have less of an impact on businesses and our economy and still allow us to reach our goals by 2050. There are a few issues with the current bill that need to be addressed so it will not be cost prohibitive for businesses and families while moving forward to a more environmentally friendly commonwealth.”
“Massachusetts Climate Action Network (MCAN) applauds the Legislature for taking leadership on quickly returning the … bill to the governor [who] now has the opportunity to pass the most progressive piece of climate legislation in Massachusetts in over a decade,” said Rebecca Winterich-Knox, The Better Buildings Campaign Director of MCAN. “We urge the governor to sign the … bill into law without amendment at once. We will not be able to address our climate, health and housing crises without it.”
“It’s a critical step in maintaining our position of national leadership and executing a green and equitable economic recovery,” said Environmental League of Massachusetts President Elizabeth Turnbull Henry. “We urge the administration and Legislature to quickly resolve differences and enact a law that reflects the scale and urgency of the climate crisis we face.”