The Next Generation Roadmap Bill Is An Important Next Step

Last night -- with barely any time left in the session -- the MA House and Senate released the conference committee report (i.e., consensus version) of the climate bills both chambers passed last year.

The bill (S.2995: An Act creating a next-generation roadmap for Massachusetts climate policy) was praised by environmental advocates as a significant step forward, although more work is still needed in accelerating the state's transition to 100% renewable energy and tackling the emissions from the transportation sector. (For one, recent cuts to the MBTA take us in the exact opposite direction we need to if we are going to decarbonize our transportation sector.)

This afternoon, the MA Senate voted 38 to 2 to pass the bill. The only NO votes were Ryan Fattman and Dean Tran.

 

 

And the House voted 145 to 9. One Democrat--Colleen Garry (Dracut) voted no, as did eight Republicans (Donnie Berthiaume, Nick Boldyga, Shawn Dooley, Peter Durant, Paul Frost, Marc Lombardo, Joseph McKenna, and Alyson Sullivan).

Here's an overview of some key parts of the bill.

Roadmap, Emissions Targets, & Net Zero

  • Codifies a 2050 roadmap plan with a net zero emissions limit as well as interim 5-year roadmap plans and emissions limits. Hawaii, Maine, New York, and Washington also have net-zero by 2050 goals, although California and Virginia go further with a goal of net zero by 2045. Note that "net zero" is not the same as "zero." Environmental justice advocates have often pointed out that communities of color bear the brunt of continued extraction and pollution. Fortunately, the bill does contain a requirement that each roadmap plan must improve or mitigate economic, environmental, and public health impacts on environmental justice populations and low- and moderate-income individuals.
  • Requires statewide emissions reductions of 50% from 1990 levels by 2030, 75% by 2040, and at least 85% by 2050. These are more ambitious than California's emissions targets (40% by 2030 -- which it is on track to miss -- and 80% by 2050) and New York's (40% by 2030, 85% by 2050), but not as ambitious as what the European Commission recently called for (55% by 2030). To keep track of progress, the Energy & Environmental Affairs (EEA) secretary will have to indicate within 18 months of each benchmark date whether or not the state is meeting its targets.
  • Requires the Department of Energy Resources to develop a municipal opt-in energy stretch code to define a "net zero" building, thus enabling cities and towns to set such requirements

Renewable Energy Standards & Procurement

  • Increases the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS), which requires electric utility companies to purchase renewable energy, to 40% by 2030, up from the 355 by 2030 target in the Legislature's 2018 bill. The RPS would increase 1% each year thereafter, reaching 60% in 2050 and only reaching 100% in 2090. New York was much more ambitious here, with a target of 70% by 2030; California's 2030 target is 60%. Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Vermont are all likewise more ambitious.
  • Increases the requirement for offshore wind procurement by 2,400 megawatts (MW)to 5,600 MW. This brings us closer to the 8,000 MW potential that the National Renewable Energy Laboratory identified on the Cape alone.
  • Allows the Department of Public Utilities to authorize one or more pilot projects to develop utility-scale renewable thermal energy

Environmental Justice

  • Codifies the definition of "environmental justice population" and establishes an Environmental Justice Council to oversee updates to the definition over time.
  • Requires an environmental impact report if a project is located within 1 mile of an EJ population, or within 5 miles if the project is likely to damage air quality.
  • Requires the EEA secretary to provide opportunities for meaningful public involvement and must consider EJ principles in decision-making.

Solar Equity

  • Codifies the requirement that the current SMART solar program authorized in 2016 provide equitable access and affordability to low-income households.
  • Removes barriers to participation in state solar programs by low-income individuals, e.g., by allowing low-income individuals to enroll without signing contracts.
  • Creates a trust fund to provide grants for solar technology for nonprofits that provide food security, homelessness, and emergency shelter.

Energy Efficiency

  • Updates state standards for common household and commercial appliances¬†to reduce energy and water consumption and to increase energy efficiency
  • Requires the Department of Public Utilities to include the social value of greenhouse gas emission reductions when determining the cost-effectiveness of energy efficiency plans and programs

Other provisions of the bill include a formal mission statement for the Department of Public Utilities, stronger gas safety protections, municipal light plant emissions standards, new programs in the Clean Energy Center to fund workforce development for targeted populations, and additional steps to promote solar energy deployment.

What's Next?

Unfortunately, it's unclear whether Governor Baker will sign it or not.

Since the Legislature waited so long, Baker can choose to "pocket veto" the bill: if he takes no action over the next ten days, the bill dies.

We need to make sure that doesn't happen.

Tell Baker to do the right thing.

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published this page in Issues 2021-01-05 07:48:30 -0500
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