The State Senate is taking on Climate change head-on with three new pieces of legislation. The bills look to reduce the state's greenhouse gas emissions over the next few decades. The bills that were approved Thursday would do several things...move cars, trucks and buses to carbon-free electric power, jump-start efforts to supply low-cost solar electricity to low-income communities, and require appliances meet energy efficiency standards and provide consumer incentives to buy zero-emission vehicles.

See the full press release from the Office of State Senator Adam Hinds below:

 

MASSACHUSETTS STATE SENATE APPROVES NEXT GENERATION CLIMATE POLICY

BOSTON – State Senator Adam G. Hinds (D- Pittsfield) announces that yesterday, the Massachusetts State Senate passed three bills that boldly tackle the contributing factors of climate change, chart one of the most aggressive courses of action against global warming in the country, and pave the way for a clean energy future for all of its residents.

The legislative package was comprised of three bills all of which passed overwhelmingly, with bipartisan support:

·         S.2476, An Act to accelerate the transition of cars, trucks and buses to carbon-free power;

·         S.2477, An Act setting next-generation climate policy; and

·         S.2478, An Act relative to Energy Savings Efficiency (Energy Save)

“The science has been clear for more than 30 years. We know we are dangerously close to setting off irreversible chain reactions in our climate that are beyond human control. That is why The Next Generation Climate Package is so critical,” said Senator Hinds.

Hinds had two amendments adopted to the Next Generation Climate package. The first will have a direct impact on small communities. It creates a new class of net metering for small arrays. This came about at the request of Windsor, but has since been supported by Dalton, Sandisfield, and other communities.

“Many towns in my district want to do their part in curbing climate change,” said Senator Hinds. “This will make these installments economically feasible for many towns in my district to generate renewable energy on town facilities.”

Hinds was also successful in having the final package include a requirement for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to install and maintain electric vehicle charging stations along the Mass Pike.

“The more we invest in electric vehicle infrastructure, the more people will participate in green transportation alternatives that will go far towards reducing our carbon emissions, and start to reduce our addiction to fossil fuel in our daily lives,”  said Hinds. “This is why I wanted to ensure that charging stations would be available at every service area along the Mass Pike, making trips from the Berkshires to Boston achievable in electric vehicles.”

Senator Hinds also worked to secure an amendment related to carbon sequestration in forests, which will require the state to measure the amount of carbon sequestered in our forests, and create goals to enhance sequestration.

“Reduction in fossil fuel consumption alone isn’t enough, we need to be actively removing carbon from the air as well, and nature is a tool we can use to repair our broken climate,” said Hinds. “At a moment when we need nature more than ever, we are destroying it. We are not conserving old growth forests that we have here in the Commonwealth the way we should. We could be more deliberate about reforestation, and need to be actively removing carbon from the air as well.”

Key provisions of the climate policy package include:

  • Setting a statewide greenhouse gas limit for the year 2050 of “net zero” emissions.  To achieve this, the legislation requires the state to hit near-term limits in 2025, 2030, and every five years thereafter; set sub-limits for transportation, buildings, solid waste, natural gas distribution, and other major sectors; and make implementation plans that are “clear, comprehensive, and specific.”
  • Establishing the Massachusetts Climate Policy Commission.  The commission would be a new, independent public watchdog to oversee government’s handling of the unfolding crisis of climate change.  Commissioners will be charged with offering a nonpartisan, science-based view of the problem as it plays out in Massachusetts with its attendant natural, economic, and demographic impacts and risks.
  • Reflecting the price of carbon.  Under the bill, the Administration would be free to choose among various market based forms of pricing carbon—including a revenue-neutral fee or a regional “cap and trade” system similar to the Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI)—but he or she would have to do so by Jan. 1, 2022, for transportation; Jan. 1, 2025, for commercial, industrial and institutional buildings; and Jan. 1, 2030, for residential buildings.  Any mechanism would be implemented so as to minimize the impact on low-income households, disadvantaged communities, and vulnerable manufacturing sectors.
  • Providing legislative direction to the Department of Public Utilities (DPU), the state’s primary energy oversight agency, for the first time.  Compensating for a decades-long omission, the bill assigns the DPU a mission statement.  It requires the agency to balance six priorities: reliability of supply, affordability, public safety, physical and cyber security, equity, and, significantly, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Jumpstarting efforts to supply low-cost solar electricity to low-income communities.  To reverse the failure of state programs to incentivize solar energy projects in low-income neighborhoods, as well as spur job creation, the bill requires the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) to set aside future solar allocations for such neighborhoods.
  • Letting cities and towns adopt a “net zero” stretch energy code.  The bill allows the state to support communities that choose on their own to move away from fossil fuels as the source of heating for new buildings.  The state’s contribution is to promulgate a “net zero” energy code, so that localities have the option available if they want to use it.  The bill shifts responsibility for the code’s development from the Board of Building Regulations and Standards to the DOER.
  • Nudging natural gas utilities to adapt.  The bill authorizes utilities to test technology and pipelines that generate and transport “renewable thermal energy,” an emissions-free way to heat buildings that draws on the relative warmth of temperatures below ground.
  • Strengthening executive branch oversight of MassSave.  The bill directs the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) to set emissions reduction goals, in advance, for each three-year plan the utilities formulate for MassSave.  It requires the DPU, at the conclusion of each three-year plan, to certify how much the plan actually contributed to meeting the Commonwealth’s greenhouse gas emission limits.
  • Tightening the alignment between MassSave and emissions limits.  The bill requires electric utilities to include an explicit value for emissions reductions whenever they calculate the cost-effectiveness of a MassSave offering.
  • Setting a deadline for converting MTBA buses to all-electric power.  The legislation directs the MBTA to limit bus purchases and leases to zero-emissions vehicles beginning in 2030, and to aim for an all-zero-emissions fleet by 2040, to reduce transportation-related emissions in city neighborhoods.
  • Offsetting the Trump Administration’s efforts to slow progress on efficient appliances.  The legislation updates Massachusetts appliance standards to improve energy and water efficiency standards for common household and commercial appliances, helping to conserve energy and save consumers and businesses money.

“We have to fight this battle on all fronts,” said Hinds. “By updating these standards we are able to decrease unneeded consumption, and promote products and innovation that increase efficiency, and are more environmentally friendly.”

Other provisions include:

  • Assembling the state’s first-ever database of energy use in large buildings.
  • Adding two building efficiency experts and an expert in advanced building technology to the membership of the Board of Building Regulations and Standards, which will retain responsibility for the base energy building code.
  • Authorizing the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) to fund energy innovation pilots, and to take actions addressing health effects associated with the distribution and consumption of fossil fuels such as natural gas.
  • Directing the DPU to consider the impact on emissions when it reviews electric and natural gas rates, prices, charges, and contracts.
  • Directing state government to limit purchases and leases of vehicles to zero emissions vehicles only, beginning in 2024, if affordable replacements are available.
  • Conducting a study of the opportunities to electrify vehicles owned or leased by municipalities, regional school districts, and regional transit authorities, taking into account costs and possible sources of financial help from state and federal government.
  • Providing permanent statutory authorization for the “MOR-EV” program, the Commonwealth’s system of financial incentives for purchasers of zero emission vehicles.

During debate on the Senate floor, other amendments were adopted that, among others, require regional equity in carbon pricing and ensure equity is a component of The Department of Public Utilities mission statement. 

The bills now go to the House of Representatives for consideration.