ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE

By Bob Katzen

The Senate 11-28, rejected an amendment that would convene a Building Justice With Jobs Task Force to establish the Building Justice With Jobs Plan – a statewide strategy to retrofit and electrify 1 million residential homes over the next ten years and to implement a comprehensive strategy that extends targeted financial resources for homes located in environmental justice communities.

Another key provision transfers $1 billion in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) resources to the Mass Clean Energy Center, a state agency dedicated to increase and accelerate the growth of the state’s clean energy sector, create jobs, deliver statewide environmental benefits and secure long-term economic growth. Earmarked funds include including $350 million to carry out the Building Justice With Jobs Plan; $250 million to establish a clean energy investment institution or mechanism including a green bank; and $150 million for clean energy infrastructure.

“I am disappointed that our chamber passed up an incredible opportunity to invest in our collective future and our statewide economy,” said amendment sponsor Sen. Marc Pacheco (D-Taunton). “According to the 2050 Decarbonization Roadmap, we need to retrofit and electrify 1 million homes over the next decade to comply with our updated emission reduction laws. By deploying $1 billion of our one-time federal ARPA resources – which revert if unused – this powerful statewide plan would have helped ensure equity, create thousands of new clean energy jobs and ultimately achieve the progress we need to decarbonize our commonwealth. It is imperative that the Legislature invest these federal ARPA funds, which come at no cost to the state, otherwise, the cost of inaction will simply be unaffordable.”

Amendment opponents said the amendment results in the Legislature giving too much power and authority to an unelected task force in place of the Legislature. They noted the amendment sets a bad precedent and might even be unconstitutional.

Despite repeated requests from Beacon Hill Roll Call, several senators did not respond to a request to comment on why they voted against the amendment including two key players in the drafting of the bill: Sen. Mike Barrett (D-Lexington), Senate chair of the Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee and Sen. Mike Rodrigues (D-Westport), the chair of the Senate Way and Means Committee.

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