Feb 5th Roundup: Climate Bills to Watch on Beacon Hill This Session

Not a subscriber? Sign up here!

-What bills will drive the climate & energy debate for the next 2 years?: 
Last Friday marked the end of the two week period for lawmakers to cosponsor legislation. A host of bills addressing climate change and promoting clean energy received a lot of attention, with multiple lobby days and cosponsorship drives hosted by interest groups. With cosponsorship over, we can get a sense of which bills will receive a lot of attention in the session to come. Some of these include:

-Carbon pricing: A pair of bills (HD.2370/SD.1817) sponsored by Rep. Benson and Sen. Barrett have gained the most cosponsors of any climate change legislation filed this session. Combined the bills received 97 in House and 24 in the Senate. In the House, which did not support carbon pricing last session, 76% of House Democrats signed on to cosponsor carbon pricing this session.

Both bills seek to put a price on carbon pollution in Massachusetts, with a particular focus on the transportation and heating sectors. They also direct part of any revenue from a price to fund local clean transportation, climate resiliency, and renewable energy projects.

-Environmental Justice (EJ): A set of bills focusing on strengthening the role of environmental justice in clean energy and climate policy have also gained a large number of cosponsors. Bills filed by Rep. Madaro & Sen. DiDomenico (HD.3878/SD.1885), as well as ones filed by Rep. DuBois, Rep. Miranda, and Sen. Eldridge (HD.3523/SD.1824) have collectively gained 81 cosponsors in the House and 17 in the Senate.

Among other things, these bills (1) require the state to consider the impacts on EJ communities when siting energy projects, (2) mandate multi-lingual outreach and consultation for projects proposed in EJ communities, and (3) create new funding for environmentally beneficial projects in communities with EJ populations. Full factsheet here.

-Clean Energy Roadmap: An overhaul of the previously filed “Global Warming Solutions Implementation Act” filed by Rep. Meschino (HD.3577) gathered 55 cosponsors in the House and 4 in the Senate. Known as the “2050 Clean Energy Roadmap” the bill would establish a sustained, accountability-driven, and data-based framework for carbon reduction in Massachusetts. More information on the concept of a “2050 roadmap” can be found here.

-100% Renewable Energy: A set of renewable energy bills filed by Rep. Decker, Rep. Garballey, and Sen. Eldridge (HD.3092/SD.1625) gained 89 cosponsors in House and 24 in the Senate. The bills establish an ambitious goal to equitably reach 100% renewable electricity by 2035 and 100% renewable energy for heating and transportation by 2045. Read the factsheet here.

-Regional Transportation Initiative: A pair of bills to encourage a ‘RGGI for transportation’ were filed by Rep. Ehrlich and Sen. Lesser (HD.3009/SD.1541) and gathered 61 cosponsors in the House and 11 in the Senate. The bills seek to increase legislative input in Governor Baker’s current attempt to establish a regional cap-and-trade program for transportation. Announced in December, the program is currently in a year-long public comment phase.

-Appliance & Energy Efficiency: A broad coalition of consumer, utility and clean energy advocates are pushing for a pair of bills which update water and energy efficiency standards for a range of consumer and commercial appliances. Filed by Rep. Cutler and Sen. Lewis (HD.580/SD.767), the bills have gained 75 cosponsors in the House, and 10 in the Senate.

Of course, these bills are not the only ones we will be following. On Beacon Hill, high cosponsorship doesn’t necessarily translate into the passage of a bill, which still needs the blessing of leadership in each chamber to move forward. But a large number of cosponsors on these bills does offer insight into the policies activists and lawmakers are excited about as we head into bill hearings this summer.

-“Baker budget plan could help environmental agencies staff up”
 (Katie Lannan, SHNS via the Lowell Sun): “Gov. Charlie Baker’s fiscal 2020 budget includes funding that would allow state environmental agencies to restore some staff lost in previous years, according to advocacy groups that said Baker’s proposal makes progress in “reversing the trend of significant cuts.” The higher funding levels in the first budget of the Republican governor’s second term still fall well short of a commitment Baker made while running for office in 2014 to boost funding for the environment to 1 percent of overall state spending, according to Environmental League of Massachusetts figures. Baker’s $42.7 billion budget increases environmental spending by 6 percent over last year, according to ELM and the Massachusetts Rivers Alliance.”

-“Congressman Lynch: Weymouth compressor concerns demonstrated by Michigan fire”
(Jessica Trufant, The Patriot Ledger): “Congressman Stephen Lynch said a fire at a Michigan natural gas compressor station amid bitterly cold weather expresses the safety concerns raised about a proposed facility in North Weymouth… Lynch, a South Boston Democrat, on Thursday said his Washington office had reached out to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration requesting a full report on the incident when it is available. Lynch earlier in the week spoke to Howard “Skip” Elliott, administrator of the agency, who agreed to hold a listening session in Weymouth regarding a proposed 7,700-horsepower natural-gas compressor station that would sit on the banks of the Fore River.”

-“The Fight Against A Gas Line Project In Weymouth Is Fought Every Day In Charlie Baker’s Lobby” (Mike Deehan, WGBH): “There is a 47-year-old mother of two who spends her lunch breaks sitting in the elegant reception area outside the governor’s office, waiting. Waiting for Gov. Charlie Baker. “I’m waiting for him to follow the law. I’m waiting for him to do his sworn duty to protect the people of Massachusetts,” said Andrea Honore, a Weymouth resident dead set against the building of a gas compressor by the new Fore River Bridge… Nearly every weekday, Honore leaves her office in the Financial District and walks the half mile to the State House, sometimes grabbing a smoothie in place of lunch… Honore said the strong opposition to the project in Weymouth has kept the governor from visiting the city and lead him to ignore petitions, postcards, letters and rallies against the compressor.”

-“Can a Price on Carbon Fund Resiliency in MA?” (Kristin Kelleher, Climate XChange): Climate change is already causing massive financial losses across sectors of the economy. From insurance to infrastructure, housing, public health, and the electric grid, we will require funding and investment to secure our economy in the transition away from fossil fuels. Moreover, funding is necessary for resilience projects, remedying the current and projected impacts of climate change. Financing climate change is best addressed with large scale measures, one of which has been gaining traction as potentially having many co-benefits, is a policy that puts a price on carbon pollution.

-“Bill would reduce sewage in Merrimack River” (Dave Rogers, the Daily News): “State Rep. Jim Kelcourse and John Macone of the Merrimack River Watershed Council discussed what Beacon Hill is doing to tackle pollution in the Merrimack River from upstream sewage treatment plants on Local Pulse radio Saturday morning. Specifically, Kelcourse, an Amesbury Republican, discussed a bill he filed for the upcoming legislative session regarding combined sewer overflows. The issue of combined sewer overflows, or CSOs, has become a hot topic amid reports of discharges of millions of gallons of sewage and stormwater into the river from New Hampshire and Massachusetts sewage treatment plants during heavy rain and snowstorms.”

-“Ed Markey and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are planning to introduce a Green New Deal bill”
(Nik DeCosta-Klipa, Boston.com): “Sen. Ed Markey is working with New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on a Green New Deal bill, according to Giselle Barry, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts senator. The exact text and timing of the bill haven’t been finalized, Barry said Thursday morning. However, Axios reports that the two Democrats could introduce the legislation — aimed at addressing climate change by investing in clean-energy jobs and infrastructure — in their respective congressional chambers as soon as next Wednesday or Thursday.”

So what exactly does the leaked draft include? According to the one currently circulating around Capitol Hill the Green New Deal would specifically:

  • Commit the nation to receive 100% of electricity from renewables by 2030.
  • Establish a national “smart grid.”
  • Upgrades of new construction and existing buildings with “state-of-the-art energy efficiency” technology.
  • Invest in green technology development and research
  • Fund green job training for people to transition into the clean energy economy.

-New Legislative Session Brings Opportunity for Carbon Pricing in Massachusetts
(Hannah Parks, Climate XChange): The 2019-2020 legislative session kicked off in Massachusetts this month, bringing with it two new bills proposing a statewide fee on carbon emissions. After gaining a great deal of interest and support in the 2017-18 session in Massachusetts and nationwide, legislators in the state seized on this momentum to introduce two carbon pricing bills, one in the House and one in the Senate. With a more urgent need than ever to combat climate change, these bills represent the greatest opportunity the state has to meet our emissions reductions goals, and ensure a safe and healthy future for our communities.

-“What Democrat presidential hopefuls do (and don’t) say about the Green New Deal”
(Natalie Sauer, Climate Home News): “Declared candidates have flocked to back the concept. But what their version of the deal would look like is anyone’s guess. Environmentalists and progressives have begun to lose patience over woolly assurances. “Having presidential candidates say they are supportive of the concept of doing something like the Green New Deal is amazing, but it’s not sufficient,” Saikat Chakrabarti, head of staff to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, told the Washington Examiner. Climate Home News has compiled a list of statements on the Green New Deal and climate change per declared candidate. They range from the bold and radical to the vaguely-worded.”

-“Business leaders anxious for progress on
offshore wind” (Jennette Barnes, SouthCoast Today): “Vineyard Wind’s Erich Stephens faced pointed questions Friday at a lunch meeting of the SouthCoast Development Partnership. Local leaders in business and government wanted to know: What is the timeline for awarding contracts? How can schools and organizations get training money? And what happens to the economic model for offshore wind in Massachusetts once the federal investment tax credit sunsets at the end of this year? Vineyard Wind, which is building Massachusetts’ first large-scale offshore wind farm, awarded a contract for turbines late last year to Danish company MHI Vestas. The project will have 84 9.5-megawatt turbines and cost an estimated $2 billion.”

-What is the State of Solar in Massachusetts?
: The Climate Action Business Association is hosting its fourth annual Massachusetts State of Solar. The evening will feature a panel discussion on the political climate, accomplishments, and challenges for solar energy in Massachusetts. Panelists include State Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz (D-Boston), Chief Development Officer at Sunwealth Solar Jessica Brooks, Senior Policy Advocate & Massachusetts Director of the Acadia Center Deborah Donovan, and Senior Solar Analyst at Greentech Media Allison Mond. More information on attending and registering for the event here.

-New Governor Builds Momentum for Carbon Pricing in Maine 
(Noa Dalzell, Climate XChange): The state’s environmentalists can look to the future with hope. After eight destructive years, Lepage is out of office, and in his place now is Democratic Governor Janet Mills, who has signaled that climate action is a top priority for her administration… The change in rhetoric from the state’s executive branch has given lawmakers new opportunities to act on passing climate policy. Almost a decade after Lepage’s infamous remarks, a bill aiming to put a fee on carbon emissions has gained considerable support in the state legislature this year.

-“CMP sweetening pot to win over transmission line critics” (David Sharp, Associated Press via the Telegraph): “Seeking to appease critics, Central Maine Power is ready to sweeten the pot to build support for a proposed 145-mile transmission line across the wilderness of western Maine that would supply hydropower from Canada to electricity consumers in Massachusetts. The utility will meet Tuesday with affected parties to reopen negotiations on the $1 billion New England Clean Energy Connect. The closed-door settlement conference is expected to last several weeks.”

-“Betting $1 Million on Offshore New Jersey Wind Paid Off Big Time” (Chris Martin, Bloomberg): “Over the past year, U.S. Wind got calls “every day” to sell a lease the energy company bought for $1 million in 2015 in its push to build a wind farm off the New Jersey coast.  “Each time we’d say no,” said Salvo Vitale, the company’s chief counsel, but the offers kept rising. Finally, just before the year ended, they hit a level the company couldn’t resist after New Jersey’s new governor, Phil Murphy, helped push through a mandate that 50 percent of the Garden State’s power would come from renewable sources by 2030. The result: A $215 million sale of the lease to Electricite de France SA and Royal Dutch Shell PLC last month.”

-“Traditional and renewable energy ‘at odds’ in Connecticut” (Bill Cumming, CT Post): “Renewable energy producers say the state’s electricity is cleaner than ever, but the struggle with traditional power sources continues…. Connecticut recently issued a round of clean energy contracts, handing the lion’s share to the Millstone nuclear plant in Waterford and the Seabrook nuclear plant in New Hampshire….Environmentalists and the renewable energy industry complained that while Millstone produces clean electricity, the award did little to advance other forms of clean power.

-“New Massachusetts energy efficiency plan to push storage, heat pumps and ‘demand response’” 
(Mary C. Serreze, MassLive): “Massachusetts utilities have won approval for a “nation-leading” plan to cut electricity and natural gas sales over the next three years. The 2019-2021 energy efficiency plan, approved by the Department of Public Utilities on Jan. 29, would cut aggregate retail electricity sales by 2.7 percent and cut natural gas sales by 1.25 percent within the three-year period. The plan provides new tools for Mass Save, the energy efficiency program run by the state’s utilities. Homeowners will see incentives to switch from oil and propane furnaces to electric heat pumps. Commercial and industrial energy storage will be encouraged; “strategic electrification” will get a boost; and “demand response” — where customers save money by curtailing or shifting consumption during periods of heavy power demand — will gain greater footing.”

-“Offshore Wind Agreement Is Win-Win for Energy, Wildlife”
 by Collin O’Mara via RealClear Politics.

-“Deb Pasternak: A dirty bridge to nowhere” by Deb Pasternak via the Berkshire Eagle.

-“Opinion: Big money is undermining the fight against climate change” by Jeanette Robinson and Charlie Garlow via Delaware Online.

FOR MORE CONTENT from us subscribe to the Climate XChange Newsletter (Fridays, bi-weekly) or the Climate Action Business Association Newsletter (Fridays).