71 Legislators Sign Onto Carbon Pricing Letter

Photo: Hsin Ju HSU

Boston, MA – 71 Senators and Representatives signed onto a letter urging the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy (TUE) to support carbon pricing legislation.

The pressure on TUE to report the legislation favorably comes as the Baker administration shifting its attention toward cutting transportation sector carbon emissions. The largest polluting sector of the Massachusetts economy, transportation is viewed by many as a high priority when it comes to emissions, and advocates are welcoming the administration’s new focus. Advocates of carbon pricing say that the legislation has the potential to cut emissions not only from the transportation sector, but across the entire economy.

Carbon pricing bills H.1726 by Rep. Benson and S.1821 by Senator Michael Barrett have gained support from both inside the State House and out, and collectively have 79 cosponsors – nearly 40 percent of the legislature. A broad-based coalition of environmental, business, faith, public health, and civic groups, called the Massachusetts Campaign for a Clean Energy Future, has organized support for the legislation across the state.

On June 20, the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy (TUE) held a hearing on the carbon pricing legislation. More than 500 supporters packed the room, and more than 40 people testified on behalf of the bills, including scientists, health experts, economists, business leaders, and more.

Cindy Luppi, Coordinator of the MA Campaign for a Clean Energy Future, explained, “One of the most powerful ways Massachusetts can demonstrate climate leadership, in the wake of President Trump’s rollbacks, is to be the state that passes carbon pricing policy. Support for the bills has increased dramatically this legislative session, and we are hopeful that our officials will seize this moment and take the next step forward.”

Under the legislation, a small fee would be placed on fossil fuels once they enter the state. In Barrett’s bill, 100% of the revenue generated would be rebated back to households and businesses. Benson’s bill calls for 80% of the money to be rebated, and 20% to be reinvested into a Green Infrastructure Fund.

“The idea is simple: by placing a fee on dirty energy to reflect the pollution and damage it does to our health, communities, and climate, we can incentivize a shift to a clean energy economy”, said Marc Breslow, Director of Research and Policy at Climate XChange. “The less dirty energy you use, the further you come out ahead with the built-in rebate system.” Several studies have been conducted on the legislation, including a study that Breslow co-authored, providing evidence for its efficacy in curbing greenhouse gas emissions, as well as its economic and public health benefits.

A recent study by the Harvard and Boston University schools of public health found that the carbon pricing legislation would would save hundreds of lives and nearly $3 billion between 2017 and 2040. “Climate policy is ultimately health policy,” co-author Jonathan Levy explained in his testimony to the TUE committee. “One of the most significant things about these health co-benefits is that they occur immediately and locally.”

Carbon pricing would also be beneficial for the Massachusetts economy. A study prepared for the Department of Energy Resources found that the policy would generate 12,000 jobs and increase Gross State Product by $600 million. Because Massachusetts imports all of its fossil fuels, transitioning to a renewable energy economy would keep approximately $20 billion in the state, benefitting local communities and businesses.

With the federal government unable to move forward on climate policy, supporters believe that carbon pricing is a climate solution that both parties can get behind, and  Massachusetts has the potential to lead the country.  As recent polling reports show that the public is on their side, it is now up to legislators to act.