The Climate Bills That Weren’t [A Eulogy]

As tradition dictates, the Climate XChange editorial team has composed this eulogy to the late climate and clean energy bills of the Massachusetts’ 190th legislative session (born 2017—died 2018). So let us reflect upon the life and death of the policies that were, but no longer are, with us.

To our dearly departed…

Carbon Pricing, Oh How You Grew.

We mourn the passing of this session’s carbon pricing bills, and reflect on how much the policy grew since first introduced in 2015. You went from a handful of legislative co-sponsors to seventy-nine. Your simple, market-based mechanism convinced hundreds of business leaders to flock to your side. And numerous lobbying days were dedicated to educating lawmakers on your merits. Most notably, you made history by becoming the first carbon pricing bill ever to be passed in the Massachusetts legislature, with a unanimous vote in the Senate.

Reflecting on all your achievements we must also thank your legislative champions in the House and the Senate, as well as the diverse coalition of organizations which supported you every step of the way.

Alas! When your time of judgement in the House approached you were left on the chopping block by the masters of Beacon Hill. We look forward to celebrating your third coming, and promise to honor your memory with future carbon pricing success.

Here Lies Solar.

This past year solar faced so many uphill battles. From the ambivalence and confusion arising from the ‘SMART’ program, to the anger of our tariff-in-chief, to the numerous market forces which conspired against you. All this caused you to shed jobs, and expect a dark 2019.

As a Commonwealth, we could have helped by giving you the freedom to net meter as you wished, an antidote to your ills. But while your advocates did everything we could to treat you, your enemy’s aim was achieved through delay.

On July 31st when the clock struck midnight on Beacon Hill (1:12am in the real world) you succumbed to the fate of so many other bills. As was aptly said by the statehouse savant Ben Downing, neglecting bills to the last minute means “special interests defending the status quo have an outsized voice….They are able to kill [bills]… simply because the legislature waited till it was too late.”

Do not fret, friends of solar! The day will come when sunlight breaks the shadows and its rays spread across this Commonwealth, glowing bright with a clean energy future. Please continue fighting.

Appliance Efficiency, You Burned So Bright.

While your length and technical language made for a challenging read, your bill summary promised comprehensive additions to the Commonwealth’s energy and water efficiency efforts. After a long wait for your public hearing, few but your staunchest advocates believed you had what it took to be voted on this session.

However, in a great Beacon Hill underdog story, you not only favorably passed your first committee, but went on to receive unanimous favor in the House. While basking in the glory of an achievement few environmental bills accomplish, we all stood behind you, awaiting your inevitable date with the Governor. Alas! With the end in sight, you met your fate, left on the conference committee cutting room floor. While your goals might seem modest in comparison to others, we will not forget the massive gains you promised for electricity and water savings throughout the state.

We will think of you every time we turn on a light and flush a toilet.

Transportation Emissions, We Will Not Forget You.

We will not forget you, even if you were forgotten this session. There were many ways one could have addressed you, including incentivizing EVs, pricing your carbon, or promoting charging stations. But instead the masters of Beacon Hill decided to shirk their responsibility to you, endangering our goals.

Addressing you meant addressing our number one source of CO2e pollution. In passing, know that you are not out of mind, and that we intend to redouble our efforts and champion your name in the session to come.

Plastic Bag Ban, We Threw You Away.

You were a no-brainer, a low-hanging fruit for lawmakers, with 80 of our state’s cities and towns already regulating single use plastic bags. And yet you were removed from a the environmental bond bill to make room for pork. How will our newly funded open spaces look with plastic trash competing with grass to cover the ground?

Like the many plastic bags littering our forests, streets, and waterways, we expect future bans to soar in the legislature in years to come. Just as soon as the winds of change arrive.

And so we go forth…

Let us end with words of poet Mary Elizabeth Frye:

“Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glint on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you wake in the morning hush,
I am the swift, uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft starlight at night.

Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.”

Departed bills, thank you for being part of our lives these past two years. We will miss you, but look forward to being your champions when you are reincarnated in this coming session.

Until we meet again,

Climate XChange Editorial Team

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