BEACON HILL HAPPENINGS
– House advances climate bill, with debate & voting happening today: Adding to an already busy end of session calendar, House leadership released a much-anticipated climate change bill yesterday (7/29). Debate on the bill (H.4912), which gathered over 100 amendments from House members, began at 1:00 pm today (7/30). Based in large part on Rep. Meschino’s 2050 Roadmap Bill, which binds the state to a 2050 net-zero emissions target, the bill also includes changes to net metering, the SMART program, grid modernization, changes to how municipally-owned power grids operate, and the creation of a new MassCEC energy workforce equity task force, among other things. The House Energy Committee and its Chair, Rep. Golden, appears to have had extensive input in the final bill.
If passed, the bill will be sent to a conference committee between the House and Senate in order to come up with a final compromise bill to send to the Governor. The Senate is likely to try and push the House to adopt provisions of their Next Generation climate bill (S.2500), which passed in January 2020 and includes a net-zero requirement, the creation of an independent climate policy commission, and requirements to establish a state-wide carbon price. Members of this committee will be appointed after the House passes this H.4912.
Consideration and voting on the bill and its amendments began at 1:00 pm today (7/30). You can watch the live stream of debate here, or follow along with this updates tracker (courtesy of the Roundup).
– Amendments, amendments everywhere!: The newly released House climate bill is not without its critics. Many advocates point out that it has strayed far from where Massachusetts needs to be on climate and energy policy. The state-wide carbon pricing coalition put forward a series of amendments, with two core ones sponsored by Rep. Driscoll (#6) and Rep. Robinson (#56), that would add in elements of H.2810 (former Rep Benson’s carbon pricing bill). Similarly, Rep. Decker has proposed two amendments (#31 & #46) that include key provisions from her 100% Renewable energy bill. Both bills were popular this session among rank and file House members but were killed in committee.
A number of other prominent amendments include:
- #3 (Rep Cutler) which would add into the bill the so-called “Appliance Efficiency Bill” which passed the House last session (but was rejected by the Senate in 2018). A similar bill has passed the Senate this year though.
- #16 (Rep Haddad) Would remedy a section of the House climate bill that one advocate described as containing “a poison pill provision that would reduce the compensation for solar production for most of the existing solar capacity installed in Massachusetts.”
- #52 (Rep Madaro) would include a bill to support environmental justice communities that had received wide support in the House but was not included in H.4912.
- #70 (Rep Fernandes) which would add in the local option divestment bill, which allows county or municipal pension systems to choose to divest from fossil fuels.
[This is in no way an exhaustive list of major amendments, you can read them all here.]
Senator Barrett, the Senate Energy Committee Chair, also expressed opposition to parts of the House bill saying to SHNS that the House’s bill would make it nearly impossible to monitor the state’s progress towards those goals. In a statement to SHNS, Barrett said: “Here we have goals widely spaced apart with no accountability back to the public or the Legislature in the House bill” [read more here]. Ben Hellerstein, of Environment Massachusetts, also likened the bill to a “toy squirt gun” when “now’s the time to show up with a fire hose.”
Debate on amendments may lead to the final vote on the larger bill to be pushed back until late this evening, or even possibly tomorrow (7/31) morning.
– “House extends formal sessions past July 31” (Shira Schoenberg, Commonwealth Magazine): “The Massachusetts House on Wednesday voted to take the highly unusual step of extending formal sessions past July 31 to give lawmakers more time to complete their work in light of the coronavirus pandemic.” [read the article]
– ICYMI: Economic Development bill’s “Green Recovery” amendment hints at next session policy push: Earlier this week (7/27) the House considered a sweeping economic development bond bill (H.4879), that attracted some 499 amendments. Tucked into those amendments was one from Rep Driscoll (#163) that proposed the establishment of a new “Green Recovery Fund” and a workers ‘Just Transition’ fund that would be funded by a 5 cents carbon price that would have raised upwards of $900 million. The bill, similar to one proposed by now-former Rep Benson, also included rebates to low-income and working families, to offset any potential cost increases. Even though the amendment’s approach was relatively new, it gathered a surprising 60 cosponsors (the threshold for a successful vote is 81) despite having little time between when the amendment was filed and voting began.
The amendment was ultimately withdrawn, with Driscoll citing not enough time to get the votes, but it does point to the interest among members of funding a green recovery with a small carbon price and may form the basis for a similar bill next session.
ALL POLICY IS LOCAL
– “Mayors to state: Environmental justice can’t wait” (Colin Young, SHNS via Lowell Sun): [read the article]
– ‘If you think that the Columbia Gas Settlement is solely about the 2018 Merrimack Valley gas explosions, you’re mistaken’ by Joe LaRusso, via a great Twitter thread.
– “After The Pandemic, Mass. Can Build A Climate-Smart Recovery” by Mindy Lubber, via WBUR.
– “Our next plunge: Going big on wind” by Bob Durand, via Commonwealth Magazine.
– “The journey in the fight to end burning of fossil fuels in Massachusetts” by Marty Nathan, via MassLive.
– “Biden’s Clean Energy Plan proposes economic recovery through green investments” (Carlie Clarcq, Climate XChange): [read the article]
– “State lawmakers eye new office to look at wind impacts on fisheries” (Colin A. Young, SHNS via Gloucester Times): [read the article]
– “Q&A With Rishi Reddi, The State’s Top Environmental Justice Leader” (Miriam Wasser, WBUR’s Earthwhile): [read the article]
THE GREEN ECONOMY, STUPID
– DEEP DIVE: “Why Grid Modernization Promises a Stronger Electrical, Environmental and Economic Future” (Sud Mathur, Climate XChange): [read the full summary article]
Missed the last CXC Roundup? Here are the top three climate headlines from last week:
- Benson carbon pricing, 100% renewable energy, and pipeline safety bills die in committee
- “Groups Urge Legislature to Act on 2050 Emissions Target”
- “Healey reluctantly rejects Brookline [gas ban] bylaw”