This bill is designed to push Massachusetts toward net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, establish interim emissions goals, adopt appliance energy efficiency standards, and address needs in environmental justice communities.
3/25/21: Today, Gov. Charlie Baker that he plans to sign into law a sweeping climate policy bill the Legislature approved last week after vetoing an earlier version in January. The landmark proposal aims to craft a path toward achieving net-zero carbon emissions statewide by 2050 by setting interim targets for emissions reductions, establishing energy efficiency standards for appliances and addressing the needs of environmental justice communities. Baker vetoed the original version of the bill, approved at the end of the 2019-2020 lawmaking session, in January over concerns that it could limit housing production and did not do enough to help cities and towns adapt to the effects of climate change effects. Lawmakers passed the legislation a second time and then adopted many of Baker's sought changes, though they did not agree to some of his more substantial amendments, such as a lower emissions-reduction milestone for 2030. Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides signaled after the bill's passage that the administration was happy with the amendments. The Senate passed the bill on March 15. The House voted on this bill, currently S.30 on March 18 2021.
ACEC/MA and AIA Massachusetts have been working together on parts of the bills related to the energy code and the building code. SB30's language includes the net zero language we had been seeking. .
Excerpts from State House News Service about the bill:
Cost Concerns Echoing as Climate Bill Advances
House, Senate Could Return Bill to Baker on Thursday, Colin A. Young, 3/17/21, 3:45 PM
MARCH 17, 2021.....As major climate policy legislation wends its way through the Legislature and back to the governor's desk, budget-minded groups are raising questions about what the quest for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 could cost the state and its residents.
Cost has been part of the debate around the climate bill since Gov. Charlie Baker vetoed it in January and said the Legislature's 2030 emissions reduction target would cost $6 billion more than his preferred target and that the bill would make building new housing cost-prohibitive.
The House is expected to debate and pass the latest version of the bill Thursday.
The issue of cost did come up briefly during the debate, though it was discussed in a very broad sense and not in terms of dollars and cents.
"There is no mandate, anywhere in this bill, imposed on the individual homeowner," Sen. Michael Barrett, one of the chief climate bill sponsors and negotiators, said Monday after Minority Leader Bruce Tarr raised the issue of cost.
Part of the emissions reduction strategy envisioned in the bill and the Baker administration's climate policy is to wring efficiencies out of the building and transportation realms by making it more financially and technically possible for residents to switch to more efficient means of home heating, to buy an electric vehicle when their gas-powered models need to be replaced, and to make other changes that could have a meaningful impact at scale.
The utility-run MassSave energy efficiency program is one of the most visible and accessible ways for homeowners and businesses to tackle efficiency projects and could become an even more instrumental part of the state's efforts if the climate bill passes.
While climate concerns have grown in Massachusetts during recent years, Barrett said important entities like MassSave "somehow seemed somewhat unaware that they were potentially playing pivotal roles in offering a solution."
Rather than just detailing the ratepayer savings expected under each of its required three-year plans -- the plan approved in 2019 estimated it would provide about $8.5 billion in savings by using about $2.7 billion from ratepayers -- the bill would require the executive branch to set emissions reduction goals at the outset of each three-year plan and have the Department of Public Utilities assess whether those goals were met by the end of the three years.
"So the secretary sets an emissions reduction goal. That has to be reflected prominently in the three-year plan that's actually produced. At the end of the process, the DPU is going to come back and tell the public and the Legislature whether the secretary's three-year goal for MassSave was achieved or not," Barrett said. "The idea is to align all these efforts in a reasonably tight way to ensure that we get to where we know we need to go."
The senator also pointed out that the details of those three-year plans and exactly how they propose to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will be subject to public hearings and the influence of whoever is running the executive branch at the time, suggesting that costs could become clearer with each three-year plan. The plan for 2022, 2023 and 2024 is under development now and is expected to be filed with the DPU by Oct. 31.
"We're all going to be part of a much more focused conversation about how the heck we're going to get the job done," Barrett said.
Barrett also pointed out that participation in the MassSave program is entirely voluntary.
"There is no cost imposed on the public, and for that matter, there is no cost imposed on the building owner, the homeowner, unless he or she is interested in making an improvement in her home," he said.
In anticipation of Thursday's House debate, the New England Gas Workers Alliance said Wednesday that it is urging representatives to strip the climate bill of language "approved by the Senate that would cost jobs, push up the price of housing and potentially kill construction work in communities around the state," referring to the proposed creation of an opt-in municipal stretch energy code that cities and towns could choose to adopt to require new construction to be "net-zero."
"Our workers join with the real estate industry, utilities and other labor unions in strongly objecting to new regulations allowing cities and towns to stop all fossil fuel connections to new construction. Eight Massachusetts communities with some of the most expensive housing in the country have already said they will move forward with such bans if the Legislature passes the Senate version of the bill," the alliance of union gas workers said, adding that the bill also includes "good common sense steps" to address climate change. "This would not only drive up the cost of housing, it would put monthly utility bills out of the reach of many working families."
Before Baker vetoed the climate bill in January, he said he had "gotten a lot of incoming from a lot of folks who are in the building and home construction business who have said that certain pieces of this bill ... literally may just stop in its tracks any housing development in the commonwealth." Supporters of the stretch energy code say it would not impact projects already under development.
Baker highlighted that provision as an issue when he vetoed the bill and in February proposed amendments that his energy and environment chief said would provide some clarity around how the code would focus on things like having a tight building envelope "without necessarily doing some of the things folks were worried about with a net-zero code, which might include prescribing solar panels on all buildings or requiring buildings not be connected to gas."
The Senate rejected that amendment Monday and the latest version of the bill would direct the Department of Energy Resources to create a new specialized code that includes both net-zero building performance standards and the definition of a net-zero building.
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On March 15, 2021, the Massachusetts Senate voted overwhelmingly to pass SB30, legislation that would commit the state to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by the middle of the century.
Gov. Charlie Baker and legislative leaders separately announced their support for the net-zero goal in January 2020, but codifying that shared priority into law has proved to be more complicated and the climate policy bill has been ping-ponging between the Legislature and governor's office for more than two months.
The Senate voted 39-1 early Monday afternoon to adopt a majority of the amendments that Baker suggested when he returned the bill unsigned at the beginning of February. The Senate had attempted to advance the bill last week, but the Republican caucus delayed its consideration after being given less than a day to review the latest version.
Sen. Ryan Fattman, a Sutton Republican, cast the lone vote of dissent Monday. The House could pass the bill as soon as Thursday.
"Global warming is generating large-scale spectacles -- fire in California, floods in the Midwest, freezing infrastructure in Texas -- but this particular legislation is not about mega-events. It's about dealing with our business, our everyday climate business right here at home. If you compare Massachusetts and its emissions with emissions across the world or even across the United States, it's the differences that pop out at you," said Sen. Michael Barrett of Lexington, one of the chief climate bill negotiators.
He added, "Transportation [emissions] are 42% of the Massachusetts problem compared to 29% in the U.S. Buildings are 27% of our issue, compared to about 12 percent in the U.S. ... It's pretty clear why we put a special emphasis on lower emissions in this bill from transportation and buildings."
The bill is designed to push Massachusetts toward net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, establish interim emissions goals, adopt energy efficiency standards for appliances, and address needs in environmental justice communities. While Baker has said he supports those aims, his administration and key lawmakers have not seen eye-to-eye on many of the finer details of the legislation.
Despite the disagreements, the Senate voted Monday to incorporate most of Baker's amendments, many of them technical in nature.
"I also want to say thank you to the governor of the commonwealth because he, like many of us after the original version of this bill was passed, identified issues that we had heard from others about that needed to be addressed, and he sought to address those with several amendments that then became the subject of considerable discussion and, I would suggest, negotiation," Minority Leader Sen. Bruce Tarr said, adding that the Democratic Senate leadership had made "some significant changes" that were "reflective of the proposals of the governor."
Though they went along with most of his amendments, the Senate did not incorporate the governor's recommendations that would have had profound impacts on the underlying bill.
The Senate rejected Baker's request to change the Legislature's requirement that emissions in 2030 be at least 50% lower than 1990 levels to a target in the 45 percent to 50 percent range.
It also rebuffed Baker's amendment that would strip some language from a proposed new municipal building code that promotes "net-zero" construction, though senators agreed to some tweaks to that provision.
"Our mandate to the Department of Energy Resources with discretion left to the executive branch, as it must be, includes the creation of a new specialized code that includes both net-zero building performance standards and the definition of net-zero building," Barrett said. "Not a single community in Massachusetts is going to be compelled to move up to this progressive set of building guidelines."
Barrett said he and other lawmakers heard from communities like Concord, Lexington, Belmont and others where officials said "give us the option to move ahead because we're ready to regulate construction in our community in a way that will enable the building industry to thrive according to new green standards," Barrett said. He said about 120 communities use the state's base building code and did not adopt the original stretch energy code created under a 2008 law. They will not be required to adopt the new net-zero stretch energy code either, he said.
"Our idea here is to create a laddering system for communities. We know that over time because of grassroots interest in making buildings energy tight and enabling us to move the heating systems for those buildings off fossil fuels, that there's going to be lots of discussion in every city in town in Massachusetts. We don't feel the need to be coercive here," Barrett said. "We have a lot of confidence that these community-by-community discussions are going to bring us where we need to go. So we created all kinds of opportunities for vanguard communities, but we are not penalizing communities who hesitate."
Baker and the home construction industry had worried the climate bill would make building new housing -- a priority of the governor's -- cost-prohibitive. Baker recommended letting the Department of Energy Resources develop a new stretch energy code that included a municipal option for "high-performing, energy-efficient new construction" that would support the state's emission reduction efforts.
The Mass. Coalition for Sustainable Energy, a group of some of the most powerful business and trade groups in the state that has previously advocated for natural gas expansion and opposed the original Senate climate bill, said Monday that it was thankful for the work Baker and lawmakers put into making the climate bill more workable.
"Details of this transition are important, especially to the broad segment of the Commonwealth engaged in building affordable housing and economic development," the group, which includes Associated Industries of Massachusetts among others, said. "This bill allows for a more careful and thoughtful rulemaking process to set the course for a healthier, more sustainable future."
The Senate also preserved the legal standing of sector-specific emissions sublimits the original bill proposed for six sectors of the economy, though it agreed to adopt a change so that the executive branch would not be held legally liable if one sublimit is not met in a year in which the state's overall target was met.
"We have adopted language in ... that makes it clear that in looking back on a prior year, if the commonwealth has complied with the statewide greenhouse gas limit for that year, a sublimit shall not be found to have been binding for that given prior year," Barrett said. "We can appreciate that the idea isn't to come in exactly right on all six areas of the economy here. Of course they're going to be unexpected successes and, occasionally, unexpected setbacks. As long as the overall limit is met and as long as the sublimits have been set and have been striven for in good faith, the look backs are going to attend to ... the achievement of the overall limits."
Baker had told lawmakers his proposal was to have the sublimits "serve as planning tools rather than independent legal requirements, provided we achieve our overall statewide emissions reductions." But Barrett wanted to make clear Monday that the change the Senate adopted was not in any way bowing to the governor.
"None of this has to do with the governor's intention and I want to stress that again. The governor had somehow hoped that, in a forward-looking way, sublimits would operate as mere planning tools," he said. "We rejected that. Sublimits and limits have exactly the same legal standing with the exception of the limited point that I just made."
The bill would also require that the executive branch direct Massachusetts utilities to buy an additional 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind power once the 3,200 megawatts that the Legislature has already authorized is secured. The bill scored plaudits Monday from Vineyard Wind CEO Lars Pedersen, whose company is under contract for an 800-megawatt offshore wind farm and could bid on future contracts with Massachusetts utilities.
"The revised climate bill is just the latest example of Massachusetts continuing to be a true leader in the adoption of clean, renewable and affordable energy," Pedersen said. "I want to thank Speaker Mariano, Senate President Spilka as well as Telecommunications, Utility and Energy Committee Chairs Barrett and [Rep. Jeff] Roy for their leadership in taking the climate bill amendments up and moving the legislation quickly to the Governor's desk for his signature."
With the climate policy bill amended and passed by the Senate, it is now up to the House to give its sign-off to the changes before the bill can go back to Baker's desk. The governor would then have to decide whether to sign the bill or veto it. If he opts for a veto, both branches of the Legislature are expected to have the votes necessary to override it.
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