Jan. 23rd Roundup: Senator Barrett’s Thoughts on Senate Bills

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– ROUNDUP EXCLUSIVE: Senator Barrett discusses Senate Climate bill: In an exclusive interview with the Climate XChange Roundup, Senate Energy Chair and bill sponsor Michael Barrett discusses the Senate’s new ‘comprehensive climate package’ and what it means for the Commonwealth. Consisting of three bills, the package was released today (1/23). You can find a full summary of the bills just below this interview [the following is a transcript of our conversation, it has been edited for clarity & length].

Tim Cronin: “Why did the Senate move forward with these bills now?” 
Senator Michael Barrett: “There’s been a marked change in the last 12 months with respect to public attitudes toward climate change. I’m certainly sensing that in my district. I think we’re moving from awareness to alarm, and from alarm to anxiety. We are scarcely staying ahead of public opinion when we put this ambitious bill forward.”

Cronin: “The bill includes carbon pricing. How do you want carbon pricing revenue from these bills spent?” 
Barrett: “The revenue is going to be recurring, it will accrue year by year, so appropriations are the right way to go. In the end, I believe that carbon pricing generated revenue should be treated as any other major revenue program. As a matter of principle, the legislature should be free to spend the money on the most pressing human needs that exist.

Cronin: “Are you concerned that the implementation dates for carbon pricing in this bill push things a bit too far down the road?”
Barrett: “It’s a human consideration. You only have to look as far as the wild swing in public support for carbon pricing in Australia. Or for that matter, in France, to realize that we all are disciplined by an unpredictable electorate. That’s not the world that we’d like to have but that’s the world we all have to live in.” 

Cronin: “How do these bills protect low income and EJ communities?”
Barrett: “The protection of low-income people is a central theme of this bill. We’ve done a number of major innovations here to make sure that low-income people are protected.” [Senator Barrett then pointed to the mandate of the new climate commission to consider underserved communities, requiring a public hearing in low-income communities, and new low-income solar for the state.]

Cronin: “How do you imagine the House will react to this bill?”
Barrett: “Well, I’m cautiously optimistic. The House may feel uneasy accepting the Senate’s very specific formulation in regard to carbon pricing, but the House should feel relaxed about knowing that a Governor would have a choice and that the House in voting to give the Governor a choice wouldn’t be signifying its commitment to one form of carbon pricing over another. These are not ideas that the House has rejected in the past. This is fresh thinking, these are fresh approaches, and my hope is that the House feels very good about reaching them with an open mind.

– Mass. Senate’s Climate Bills: Overview, Summary, & Context (Tim Cronin, Climate XChange): Earlier in the week, in an unconventional “movie trailer” style video posted on social media Senate President Spilka and Senate Energy Committee Chair Michael Barrett announced that they would be releasing their ‘comprehensive Senate climate bill’ on Thursday (1/23). In the video, Spilka says, “The youth of the Commonwealth have urged us in no uncertain terms to take bold action to combat climate change right here in Massachusetts.”

Today (1/23) the package, which turned out to be three bills, was released just before noon. Climate XChange has published this bill summary and analysis. We’ll be adding a section by section breakdown into the article within the next 48 hours [read the full summary and analysis of the Senate Climate Package].

– In unexpected move, Governor Baker announces new net-zero emissions goal by 2050: At his annual State of the Commonwealth address on Tuesday (1/21), Governor Baker pledged Massachusetts to a new goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, making the Bay State the third in the country to make such a commitment, with the others being New York and California. Although details are in short supply, for the time being, the announcement does come as state lawmakers seriously consider multiple legislative approaches to address the climate crisis.

The Baker’s public support for a net-zero approach likely boosts existing efforts in the Senate and the House. After the Governor’s address, Senate President Spilka confirmed that the forthcoming bill was planning to include net-zero language. In the House, efforts to move the state to a net-zero target have been championed by Representative Meschino, who’s 2050 Roadmap bill (H.832) includes a net-zero target. Speaking to the press after the Governor’s address, House Speaker DeLeo also announced his support and the support of the full House for net-zero by 2050. [Read the full Climate XChange analysis article here].

– Not mentioned in the Governor’s Address… the Weymouth compressor station: Governor Baker was mum on a number of key climate and energy policy points during this State of the Commonwealth address, including those he’d previously supported like home energy scorecards. But activists from the Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station (FRRACS) and Extinction Rebellion (XR), protesting outside and inside the statehouse, made sure the Governor couldn’t ignore the Weymouth compressor. Complete with a faux governor and various noisemakers, protesters drew attention to the compressor, which the Baker administration approved permits for in late 2019.

– Speaker DeLeo still uncertain on TCI, Baker admin pushes back: In the past week, House Speaker DeLeo continued to cast fresh doubts about the likelihood of TCI moving forward. His central concerns stem from reports of lukewarm support from the Governors of other New England states for the regional carbon pricing program. Members of the Baker administration pushed back on this, with Baker’s Transportation Secretary comparing TCI to RGGI, a similar regional carbon price (except on electricity, not transportation) that is currently operating in 10 states. In a statement to the SHNS, Pollack said “Right before RGGI was put together, it looked like RGGI was going to fall apart. No states were going to sign on. It wasn’t going to happen…. We’ve heard it all before, worked through it, got to where we are 10 years later.”

– Governor’s 2021 Budget a “Disappointment” to Green Budget Coalition: On Wednesday (1/22) Governor Baker released his proposed budget for the fiscal year 2021. But the Green Budget Coalition, convened by ELM and made up of a number of groups, notes that line-items critical to environment and climate action are essentially kept at ‘level funding.’ In fiscal terms, this is considered a year-over-year decrease in funding. In a statement, ELM said, “Today we express disappointment in his FY 2021 budget… We continue to ask more of our environmental agencies without giving them the resources they need.  Our agencies are dealing with addressing climate change and planning for its impacts.” The budget is now before the legislature, which has the opportunity to amend it before a summer 2020 deadline. 

– “Lawmakers seek safeguards on nuclear plant decommissioning” (Chris Lisinski, SHNS via SouthCoast Today): [read the article]


“Recycling is becoming so expensive that some towns don’t know what to do” (David Abel, Boston Globe) [read the article] [$]


– “The price of carbon pollution” by Jack Clarke, via the Salem News.

– “Fighting the fight against climate change” by Thomas Farragher, via the Boston Globe. [$]

– “DeLeo overlooking clear signs of support for regional climate pact” by Elizabeth Henry, via the Boston Globe. [$]


– TCI opponents hold closed-door confab in Boston (Chris Lisinski, SHNS via Metrowest Daily News): “Representatives from right-leaning groups in all six New England states convened a press conference in Boston to renew their criticism of the Transportation and Climate Initiative… Members of environmental advocacy groups also said they were asked to leave after being told the event was private. One of those individuals, Environmental League of Massachusetts President Elizabeth Henry, told the News Service that she did not intend to ask any questions but hoped to hear a clear alternative for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from TCI opponents.”


– Meteorologist Eric Fisher on link between warmer winters, and more snow: Remember that weekend when it was 60 degrees out? Seems like forever ago, but while folks (myself included) were outside enjoying a beautiful day, WBZ-TV’s Chief Meteorologist Eric Fisher wanted to draw out attention to its relationship to climate change. In a tweet that stirred a fair bit of controversy (from climate deniers no less), Fisher shared a graph that clearly showed how average winter temperatures in Massachusetts were on the rise

I asked him what warming winters mean for Massachusetts and he said this: “I think one of the more fascinating things we’ve been tracking here in New England is that warming winters have not meant less snowfall. We’ve set a number of winter records for warmth in just the past few years, and yet the 2010s were the snowiest decade on record locally. It will be very interesting to see if this trend continues into the 2020s, or if we reach enough warming in the next decade or two to revert back to less snowfall.”


– “Don’t celebrate yet: Clean energy jobs have slipped in Mass.” (Jon Chesto, Boston Globe): The 1 percent increase in clean-energy workers last year represented the smallest rise since the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center first started tracking these numbers nine years ago. And in one section of the industry — renewable energy — the number of jobs actually fell by 4 percent in 2019. [$]


[Introducing a new section of the CXC Roundup focused on the intersection of climate change and local congressional & legislative races in Massachusetts. –Tim]

– “Coletta Calls for Carbon Pollution Pricing Bill” (Cape Cod Today): [read the article]

– Sunrise Movement endorses Markey’s re-election: The Sunrise Movement, the youth activist group pushing for a Green New Deal, has officially endorsed incumbent Senator Ed Markey over challenger Congressman Joe Kennedy. In a statement to the CXC Roundup, Sunrise Boston’s Electoral Lead Yanisa Techagumthorn said “Senator Markey, who co-introduced the Green New Deal resolution with AOC, represents the progressive voice we need in the Senate right now to push for real climate action that leaves no one behind. Join us as we fight to get our Green New Deal champion reelected!”


– “Rhode Island Governor Sets Ambitious Renewable Energy Targets” (Carlie Clarcq, Climate XChange): [read the article]

– [Maryland] “AG: Fossil Fuels Companies Can’t Pass Carbon Fees on to Consumers” (Josh Kurtz, Maryland Matters) [read the article]


Missed the last CXC Roundup? Here are the top three climate headlines from last week:

  1. Historic show of support for carbon pollution pricing at the MA State House
  2. “DeLeo doesn’t see ‘a whole lot of support’ for a regional climate pact”
  3. “Mayflower Wind, without contract, moving ahead”

Read the full Roundup here from January 17th, 2020 here.

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Special thanks to Climate XChange SCPN Assistant Carlie Clarcq for her help in preparing this week’s Roundup

Featured Image: Photo by Derek Foresman on Unsplash