State Climate Bills Move Forward

October 1, 2020

In July, just a few days before the legislative session was scheduled to end, the Massachusetts House passed its own climate bill, with proposed amendments to the Senate Next Generation Climate Policy. Since the legislative session was extended, both bills are now in conference committee to see what final law will emerge.

The house bill asks for:

  • A roadmap requiring policies that drive down carbon emissions 50% by 2030 from 1990 levels, 75% by 2040, and 100% by 2050. We must drive down emissions 50% over the next ten years to keep our planet from warming more than 3 F. 
  • Requires state leadership to adopt comprehensive carbon taxes via upstream cap-and-trade systems that build on the current Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. The Transportation Climate Initiative would be one of these systems; enactment of this program has been delayed due to COVID. 
  • A new Buildings Climate Initiative to begin the phase out of natural gas and heating oil by 2025 for commercial buildings and by 2030 for homes.
  • A strong Environmental Justice clause requires Environmental Impact Statements for any major construction project or policy to include a study of impact on low-income communities.

The Senate bill is more comprehensive and detailed. Some highlights include establishing an independent Climate Policy Commission with oversight on whether Massachusetts is funding programs that actually reduce emissions, a roadmap to 0% emissions by 2050, and exploring gas utilities use of utility-scale geothermal energy. The latter opens up a pathway for utilities to move beyond one-at-a-time pilots to moving forward with a thermal energy business model.

Conference committee members are Senators Michael Barrett, Cynthia Creem, Patrick O'Connor, and Representatives Thomas Golden, Patricia Haddad, and Brad Jones. If you’re interested in influencing legislative outcomes, it’s worth reaching out to your representatives, particularly if you live in one of the districts represented on the conference committee.