8/11/22: Baker Signs Bill To Accelerate Clean Energy Push; Roy: "It's A Great Day For Massachusetts"
Colin A. Young, State House News, 8/11/22 2:47 PM
AUG. 11. 2022......[Coverage Developing] Gov. Charlie Baker has signed the compromise offshore wind and climate bill that lawmakers sent back to him July 31 after having addressed some of his initial concerns with it, the chief House sponsor of the bill said.
"The Governor has just signed H5060. It's a great day for Massachusetts," Rep. Jeff Roy tweeted around 2:20 p.m.
The new law seeks to reshape the way the state connects to offshore wind power, accelerate a transition to renewable energy sources and help Massachusetts achieve its target of net-zero emissions by 2050 -- all general goals that Baker and his administration have long supported, but the governor expressed concerns with the original bill the House and Senate sent him, and he returned it in late July with amendments, including a desire to put $750 million in American Rescue Plan Act dollars toward clean energy uses.
While the Legislature did not adopt all of Baker's suggestions when they reworked the bill in the final hours, lawmakers did go along with some of the governor's suggestions like the outright elimination of the offshore wind price cap.
7/31/22: Legislature redrafted clean energy bill incorporating some but not all of the amendments he suggested https://malegislature.gov/Bills/192/H5060 Governor has until 8/11/22 to act on this bill. The governor signs the vast majority of bills sent his way, but issues vetoes and amendments at times; they can be impactful.
7/29/22: Gov. Charlie Baker sent a sweeping clean energy and climate policy bill back to lawmakers Friday with amendments, putting major decisions on the legislative to-do list with only days remaining in the formal term. Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Beth Card said in an interview the Legislature's bill contains several provisions "we believe would be challenging to implement and not the most efficient way to help us achieve our emission reduction goals and targets to reach a net-zero 2050 future." Baker Climate Bill Amendment
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, JULY 29, 2022.....The legislative to-do list for the final days of formal sessions grew longer and wonkier Friday afternoon when Gov. Charlie Baker sent a wide-ranging clean energy and climate bill back to lawmakers with a string of proposed changes.
Baker and his deputies said they support goals in the bill (H 5060), which seeks to accelerate a transition to renewable energy sources and help Massachusetts achieve its target of net-zero emissions by 2050, but remain concerned about the feasibility of some sections and want to use one-time federal dollars to supercharge the effort.
In an interview outlining the amendment, Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Beth Card said the base bill lawmakers approved features several sections "we believe would be challenging to implement and not the most efficient way to help us achieve our emission-reduction goals."
Baker in his amendment letter made that point more firmly, saying some provisions would be "difficult or impossible to implement" while others "do not reflect the best policy choices for the Commonwealth as we strive to meet our shared, ambitious goals."
"I hope you can tell from what I'm describing there that the administration really does believe that this legislation has enormous potential to fund critical, urgent priorities in cities and towns throughout the commonwealth, and we look forward very much to working with the Legislature to craft a final piece of legislation that the governor will be pleased to sign," Card said.
Legislative negotiators spent two months crafting the bill, which ranges from overhauling the offshore wind procurement process to greening the transportation and building sectors, after the House and Senate initially approved divergent measures.
They sent Baker the final version last week with little time remaining for them to take follow-up action based on his feedback -- a challenge the governor noted in his message to lawmakers.
"Our administration originally filed clean energy legislation in October 2021 to advance these goals, and it is unfortunate that the legislature did not pass legislation on this topic until the final days of the formal legislative session, leaving a small window of time in which to reach a compromise with the administration," Baker wrote. "However, I am returning this bill in a timely manner in hopes of reaching a successful compromise with the legislature soon to produce a final piece of legislation that I will be able to sign."
Baker had until Sunday to act on the bill, but opted to return it late Friday, and his filing opens up an opportunity for legislative leaders and the governor to potentially strike a deal this weekend.
Baker's proposed changes stretch more than a dozen pages long, targeting sections of the bill dealing with how Massachusetts selects new projects for its nascent offshore wind sector, the transition to an all-electric vehicle transportation system, municipal limits on fossil fuel use in buildings, and energy efficiency programs.
At the top of the list is a significant change in the financial impact of a bill that largely focused on policy and not direct spending. Baker proposed packing the climate bill with $750 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to bolster investments in clean energy, including $300 million for the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center.
Card said the urgency behind a push to put ARPA dollars to work in the climate bill is twofold.
"One, we have climate challenges today, and we need to continue to make investments to continue to deal with climate change in a variety of ways, including looking at how we work toward decarbonization," she said. "The second is these ARPA dollars have a clock. We don't have an endless amount of time by which to spend them, and we've identified a key priority here. Spending them today is important -- otherwise, we stand the chance of losing them. We don't want to miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make those investments."
Lawmakers have about $2.3 billion in unspent ARPA funds, which must be obligated by the end of 2024, though an economic development bill that remains tied up in conference committee negotiations would use a large chunk.
Other sections of Baker's amendment would tweak some of the changes lawmakers sought to the offshore wind procurement process and, according to Card, eliminate the price cap that requires each new project to offer power at a lower cost than its predecessor.
The Legislature's bill would have allowed the price cap to come into play only if fewer than three bids come in for an offshore wind solicitation, and it would take inflation and other economic factors into account when applying the cap to solicitations that result in two or fewer bids.
"We think that could slow down the process at a time that we need to accelerate our procurements, and furthermore, it would be an ambiguous process for bidders," said Department of Energy Resources Commissioner Patrick Woodcock.
Baker also proposed changing the program lawmakers outlined that would allow 10 cities and towns to restrict or ban the use of fossil fuels in new construction or major building renovations. Lawmakers originally crafted that provision, opposed by home and commercial heating oil industry leaders, after the Baker administration's stretch energy code did not authorize municipal requirements for builders to use all-electric heating.
The amendment would allow that "demonstration program," as lawmakers dubbed it, to take effect only when the electrical grid reaches a certain clean energy capacity. Baker's proposal additionally calls for new regulations to ensure uniform implementation across participating cities and towns.
Card said the amendment would be "more consistent with our ability to implement some of our other key administration goals."
"We wanted to be sure that we don't do anything that is to the detriment of our housing goals," she said. "We have a real need for increased housing, so we included a carve-out for certain building types including multi-family housing."
Lawmakers have a lot of work ahead to process Baker's changes and decide how to respond, all while legislative leaders are trying to wrap up many other priorities they have left for another frantic end-of-July stretch.
Rep. Jeff Roy, the lead House negotiator on the clean energy bill, told the News Service shortly after Baker's amendment landed he "can sense it'll be a long night."
"We are taking a very close look at every page of the amendment," Roy said. "We remain confident that we will finalize the bill in this session."
His Senate counterpart, Sen. Mike Barrett, was a little less optimistic.
"This looks to be a major rewrite," Barrett texted a News Service reporter. "Hard to know what the two legislative branches will manage to agree on, in the time we have left."
"This has already been a tough negotiation," Barrett added.
Ben Hellerstein, state director for Environmental Massachusetts, called on lawmakers and Baker to make quick work of a compromise.
"Having just lived through record-breaking heat -- with another such heatwave projected for next week -- we can see the dangers that global warming poses to the people of Massachusetts, which will only get worse without our best efforts to slow it down," Hellerstein said in a statement. "All eyes are on Beacon Hill to get this done by the July 31 deadline. The governor and the Legislature should do whatever is necessary to pass a strong climate bill, so that all of us can look forward to a healthier, safer, and cooler future."
In the final days of the 2020-2021 lawmaking session, the Legislature sent Baker a major climate roadmap bill setting a net-zero emissions target for 2050. With no time left on the legislative calendar to negotiate over amendments, Baker vetoed the bill, prompting lawmakers to revive it at the start of the current two-year session.
That time around, the governor sent back changes, and the Legislature adopted enough to get both sides on board with a final measure he signed in March 2021.
It's not clear if Baker would take a similar approach on the clean energy bill, particularly as he prepares to leave office in January. Card said she had "no commentary on where we would and would not give," describing herself as hopeful for productive talks with lawmakers.
"We'd really like to get to a place of yes in this session, and we think that's very possible. That being said, we're obviously willing to engage with the Legislature in a way that gets the best law," Card said. "We'll see what happens over the next couple of days. We're optimistic that we can engage in a productive and meaningful way to get where we need to be and see where that leaves us at the end of the weekend."
House and Senate Work on Climate Bill
House Passes Clean Energy Bill on 7/21/22
7/21/22: Compromise Bill from Conference Committee Up for House, Senate Votes
The energy bill makes the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center the focal point for the state's offshore wind efforts, everything from boosting academic research efforts and innovation to supporting a strong supply chain and dealing with barriers in the way of offshore wind companies.
The conference committee also made adjustments to the offshore wind price cap, which currently requires each new project to offer power at a lower price than the one before it, but did not eliminate it entirely. Instead, it would come into play in specific situations that factor in the number of bids received and economic factors like inflation.
By Colin A. Young
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, JULY 20, 2022.....After two months of talks, House and Senate negotiators planned to file a compromise offshore wind and clean energy policy bill late Wednesday that they said represents "going all out" to connect to new sources of clean energy and then use it to power everyday life in Massachusetts.
Sen. Michael Barrett and Rep. Jeff Roy announced the climate accord a bit after 7 pm Wednesday, saying that the compromise legislation "preserves the central ideas of bills that each branch had passed separately."
No conference committee report outlining the substance of the agreement had been filed with the House clerk's office by the 8 p.m. deadline for the bill to be considered on Thursday, so the House and Senate would have to suspend their fair notice rules to take up the compromise then, as House Speaker Ron Mariano said is the plan.
"Tomorrow, we will act again on this issue by passing a bill that bolsters clean energy production, while creating thousands of jobs in the process," the Quincy Democrat tweeted Wednesday night.
"Massachusetts needs to open up huge new sources of green electric power if it's to stay on course for reducing emissions. Today's compromise aims to ramp up clean power, especially offshore wind but also solar, storage and networked geothermal, and run it through cars, trucks, buses, and buildings, the biggest sources of emissions in the state," Barrett and Roy said in a joint statement.
Massachusetts lawmakers, along with Gov. Charlie Baker, have committed the Bay State to reducing carbon emissions by at least 33 percent by 2025, at least 50 percent by 2030, at least 75 percent by 2040 and at least 85 percent by 2050, with tag-along policies required to get the state to net-zero emissions by the middle of the century. Getting electricity from renewable sources and switching things that run on fossil fuels to use that cleaner electricity is the state's primary strategy for meeting those requirements.
The House passed a bill in early March that was essentially a deep dive on offshore wind policy while the Senate adopted legislation in April that more broadly covered climate and energy policy touching upon offshore wind but also dealing with topics like climate resilience, solar policy and electric vehicles. The six-member conference committee had been ironing out the differences since its first meeting on May 20.
The House's bill would have changed how the state procures an increasingly important resource, created new tax credits and incentives for offshore wind companies, imposed new environmental and fishing industry-related requirements on offshore wind projects, encouraged the modernization of the electrical grid, and jumpstarted training programs for offshore wind jobs. The Senate bill would have pumped $250 million into clean energy expansion, electric vehicle incentives, and electric vehicle charging infrastructure, and would have overhauled the offshore wind procurement process, required greater scrutiny on the future of natural gas, and allowed some cities and towns to restrict the use of fossil fuels in new construction.
While their legislation differed in scope, both Roy and Barrett said at the time that the bills they were passing were meant as sequel's to the 2021 climate roadmap law that committed Massachusetts to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.
"Last year's climate bill was about laying out a plan for tackling this formidable challenge of climate change. This year, in this legislation, we propose to begin to execute on the plan. If you like metaphors, last year was about laying out a roadmap, today we start traveling down the road. That's why this is all about implementation," Barrett said at the time.
Roy told House colleagues that their bill was "the next step in this process" of putting Massachusetts in position to meet its emissions reduction requirements.
Clean energy and environmental advocates became increasingly vocal in recent weeks about the importance of the Legislature continuing its work on climate issues and the announcement of an agreement came hours after President Joe Biden made a stop in Somerset to tout the environmental and economic promise of offshore wind.
"We thank President Biden for issuing a call to action to the entire nation today," Roy and Barrett said. "Massachusetts legislators hear him, and we're going all out."
Massachusetts has two offshore wind projects totaling about 1,600 megawatts under development and two more projects with contracts under review. If all four become operational -- as is expected by the end of this decade -- offshore wind will generate roughly 25 percent of Massachusetts' current annual electricity demand, enough to power about 1.6 million homes, the Baker administration has said. Electricity demand is expect to rise sharply this decade as the state looks to move away from gas-powered vehicles and fossil fuel heating towards electric cars and electric heat.
If the House and Senate both approve the conference committee compromise Thursday, it would head to Gov. Charlie Baker's desk. The governor's 10 days of review would end on July 31, meaning that the Legislature could have only hours to review any gubernatorial vetoes or amendments and act on them before formal sessions are done.
While Baker has been a big supporter of the offshore wind industry, he vetoed a version of the last major climate package that the Legislature sent him. Last year, Baker filed his own bill to reshape how Massachusetts secures offshore wind and to invest $750 million from the American Rescue Plan Act to establish a clean energy investment fund that his office said would represent "the single largest investment in the clean energy economy in Massachusetts to date."
Background: Roy, Reps. Tackey Chan and Brad Jones, and Sens. Michael Barrett, Cindy Creem and Bruce Tarr were charged in May with reconciling the House's bill (H 4524), which is largely a deep dive on offshore wind policy, with the Senate's legislation (S 2842), which is a more broad climate and energy bill that touches upon offshore wind but also deals with climate resilience, solar policy and electric vehicles.
Conference Committee Appointed May 5 to work out differences:
Bills: H 4524 and S 2842
House vote: March 3, 144-12
Senate vote: April 14, 37-3
House conferees: Jeff Roy, Tackey Chan, Brad Jones
Senate conferees: Michael Barrett, Cynthia Creem, Bruce Tarr
Date sent to conference: May 5
First conference meeting: 5/20/22)
Would report to: House
H. 4524, An Act advancing offshore wind and clean energy passed to be engrossed by the House 3/3/22 https://malegislature.gov/Bills/192/H4524
Senate Plan Pours $250 Mil Into Decarbonization Movement
Bill Focuses On Transportation, Energy, Construction
Chris Lisinski, State House News Service 4/7/22 5:13 PM
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, APRIL 7, 2022.....Transportation, energy and the construction fields feature as primary focus areas in a bill Senate Democrats rolled out Thursday to accelerate decarbonization efforts amidst what lawmakers called a sluggish approach by state agencies.
The policy-heavy, $250 million bill set to hit the Senate floor next week (S 2819) would combine an overhaul of the offshore wind procurement process with new investments in electric vehicle infrastructure, incentives to encourage more drivers to go electric, greater scrutiny on the future of natural gas, and local options to restrict the use of fossil fuels in building projects.
Senators pitched the proposal as a needed follow-up to the law Gov. Charlie Baker signed last year, which committed Massachusetts to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, a target that will require major changes throughout the economy.
Where the 2021 law "was and is about laying benchmarks," the new bill "is about doing what needs to be done to hit those benchmarks," said Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee Co-chair Sen. Michael Barrett.
The bill would use $100 million to create a Clean Energy Investment Fund, allocate $100 million to incentivize adoption of electric vehicles, and deploy $50 million to build out electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair Michael Rodrigues said the legislation would use surplus state tax revenues to seed that spending, though he said lawmakers could opt to add to the trust funds in the future using federal aid or other sources.
"It's not one and done on these issues," he said.
The sectors targeted in the bill play major roles in existing carbon production. Transportation accounts for the largest share of the Bay State's greenhouse gas emissions, representing about 42 percent, while electricity consumption represents 19 percent and building consumption represents 32 percent, according to a December 2020 state report.
Senate President Karen Spilka said those three areas "really need significant attention if we are to meet our ambitious goals of having net-zero emissions by 2050."
"Let's face it: improvements we make in education or health care policy won't mean anything if our coastal cities and our cities are underwater," Spilka said while unveiling the bill, flanked by about a dozen other senators. "This is the most important issue of our time."
The Senate teed up the bill, its version of an offshore wind bill the House approved last month (H 4524), to be considered on Thursday, April 14. Amendments will be due by 4 p.m. on Monday.
On the transportation front, the Senate bill aims to accelerate a statewide embrace of electric vehicles. It would require rebates through the Massachusetts Offers Rebates for Electric Vehicles (MOR-EV) program to be offered at the point of sale, making the benefits available to motorists immediately, and increase the rebate amount in most cases by $1,000 to $3,500.
Motorists could receive an additional $1,000, representing a rebate of $4,500, if they trade in a combustion engine vehicle when purchasing an electric car or truck.
"We wanted to make sure in the bill that we are not stimulating the purchase of electric vehicles by single car owners at the expense of people who live in cities and who may not be able to afford a car or may rely primarily on mass transit," Barrett, a Lexington Democrat, said. "If you add what we do with what the feds are supposed to do, you could be bringing down the cost of a $40,000 EV to $27,500."
Starting in the year 2035, all new vehicles sold in Massachusetts would need to produce zero emissions, a change that Barrett said would align the Bay State with New York and California. The Baker administration has proposed a similar cutoff of the sale of fossil fuel vehicles, which would be codified into state law under the Senate bill, as part of its 2050 decarbonization plan.
All buses purchased and leased by the MBTA would need to be zero-emissions vehicles starting in 2028, and the entire fleet -- which today includes more than 1,000 buses -- would need to be zero-emission by 2040.
Utilities would need to offer reduced electricity rates for off-peak electric vehicle charging, and new developments would need to allocate 10 percent of their parking spaces to EV charging, proposals that feature alongside the bill's $50 million fund to expand charging infrastructure.
Taking aim at an industry that both Baker and the House have already targeted with legislation, the Senate's wide-reaching energy and emissions proposal would update the process for procuring new offshore wind developments to supplement the in-development Vineyard Wind and Mayflower Wind.
Senators proposed keeping a price cap in place for new bids, a contrast from Baker's proposal to eliminate the cap and the House-approved bill that would remove it in most situations, but would allow some economic development costs to be excluded from the calculation. The Senate legislation would require the total cost of a bid to be less than 10 percent higher than the most recent offshore wind procurement.
It would also instruct the state Department of Energy Resources to choose a winning bid in consultation with an independent evaluator, removing utilities from that part of the equation, and would reduce the remuneration for utilities to 1.25 percent. Senators said that piece would save ratepayers money.
Other clean energy sources feature in the Senate bill, too. The legislation would allow nuclear fusion, networked geothermal and other new technologies to be eligible for support from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center and would greenlight agricultural and horticultural land to be used as solar panel sites, so long as the panels do not impede existing uses.
With some lawmakers frustrated that the Baker administration's stretch code would not authorize cities and towns to mandate builders use all-electric heating, the Senate bill calls for launching a "demonstration project" in which 10 municipalities could limit the use of fossil fuels in new construction.
A key motivating factor, senators said, is the pace of work underway in executive offices and state agencies and lawmakers' desire to enshrine their recommended approach in law. Gov. Baker oversees the state's energy and environmental agencies and is scheduled to leave office early next year when his successor takes over.
Referencing the role of natural gas and the municipal stretch energy code as pressure points, Sen. Cynthia Creem said some "specific agencies are not really helping us achieve the emissions (reductions) we need."
"I don't think it's a 'this administration versus another' problem, but we're seeing that unless we move quickly, we're not going to meet the emissions (reductions) that were required and the agencies, we don't think, are taking the quick approach that they should be taking," Creem, a Newton Democrat, said.
After he and Creem earlier this week voiced concerns with the utility-driven Future of Gas report, Barrett said Thursday that natural gas on any given day accounts for roughly 65 percent of the state's electric power generation at once.
"The future of gas is the ballgame, in many respects, and it must not be a process that ends with a governor who's decided to leave," Barrett said. "What we're doing here is keeping the process open. We're giving this governor ample opportunity to have input, but we're keeping the process open for the next governor as well and making sure that things don't come to a premature conclusion."
The breadth of the Senate's proposal could put it at odds with the House, whose leaders have already secured passage of a narrower offshore wind procurement reform bill that did not feature major action aimed at transportation, solar energy, building or other components senators proposed.
Lawmakers had to approve their 2021 climate bill a second time to secure its signature into law after their slow pace of negotiation took the gubernatorial amendment process off the table and drew a veto of the first version.
And with each branch eyeing a different scope of energy industry action so far, finding consensus in the slightly less than four months remaining for formal lawmaking business could prove challenging.
Asked if she is concerned about reconciling the divergent House-Senate approaches, Spilka said she "tend(s) to be an optimistic type of person, glass half full."
"I believe that the House also recognizes that climate is an existential threat to our planet, and we need to take action," Spilka said. "The last bill we did, we both mentioned that this is not the last bill that we will be doing on climate. I believe that we'll, you know, work this through like we do with the other issues we have."
Baker's offshore wind bill also diverges from the Senate approach, calling for $750 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding to launch a clean energy investment fund.
Pete Wilson, a senior advisor to the advocacy group Transportation for Massachusetts, praised senators for focusing on emissions from the transportation sector while calling for more substantial action to decrease the state's reliance on motor vehicles.
"We appreciate the Senate's goal of decarbonizing our vehicle fleets and the investments included in the bill to get us there. But with the average age of cars currently on the road being more than 12 years, and electric vehicles remaining out of reach to low-income people even with increased incentives, we must seek more comprehensive transportation solutions," Wilson said in a statement. "We look forward to working with the Senate to include additional provisions that shift Massachusetts from our car-centric culture by promoting public transit, walking, and biking. Doing so will not only lower emissions from transportation, but improve public health, fight traffic, and benefit quality of life for all."
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