The Honorable Thomas A. Golden Jr.
The Honorable Patricia A. Haddad
The Honorable Brad H. Jones Jr.
The Honorable Michael J. Barrett
The Honorable Cynthia Stone Creem
The Honorable Patrick M. O’Connor

Re: H. 4933, An Act creating a roadmap to a clean and thriving Commonwealth
S. 2500, An Act setting next generation climate policy

Dear Chair Golden, Chair Barrett and Distinguished Members of the Conference Committee,

On behalf of the 351 cities and towns of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Municipal Association is pleased to support the conference committee’s efforts to reconcile two groundbreaking bills that seek to mitigate the impacts of the global climate crisis on the Commonwealth. H. 4933 and S. 2500 each contain bold commitments to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, promote energy efficiency, and invest in renewable energy alternatives. The MMA appreciates the opportunity to weigh in on key priorities related to the two bills as the conference committee moves to finalize climate change legislation before the end of the session.

The MMA applauds both branches of the Legislature for charting a path toward net zero emissions by 2050 across all sectors of the economy. If the Commonwealth is to stave off the worst effects of the climate crisis locally, it must launch a robust, coordinated and unprecedented project of emissions reduction. The cities and towns of Massachusetts stand ready to support the state in its efforts to set emissions targets, establish a carbon pricing mechanism for specific sectors, and implement other measures, such as energy efficiency and renewable energy development, to move the state toward this goal.

As such, the MMA supports the electrification of the Commonwealth’s transportation system, including a transition to zero-emissions vehicles for both public fleets and personal use and the proliferation of electric vehicle charging stations. The MMA appreciates that neither bill mandates municipalities to achieve a full transition to zero-emission vehicles, but rather provides for state-mediated technical assistance to municipalities as they voluntarily reduce their reliance on fossil fuel-dependent vehicles.

The MMA supported Amendment #11 to H. 4912, ultimately adopted by the House in H. 4933, which would clarify the rules related to the taxation of renewable energy property. This provision would ensure that cities and towns are able to continue to tax energy property or enter into a tax agreement as an alternative, and would address a growing tax assessment and revenue problem affecting communities across the state. (There is separate legislation on this issue in the Senate, S. 1763, which reflects compromises among various stakeholders.) The MMA respectfully urges you to address this matter in the final version of the climate bill, with language to protect cities, towns and local taxpayers, as the House amendment does.

The MMA opposes any provisions that would make it more difficult or less cost-effective for municipalities to invest in solar development. Solar is an essential renewable energy source, and municipalities are key partners in developing the solar projects that will be integral to achieving the emissions reductions targets set in the House and Senate climate bills. The MMA supported Amendment #16 to H. 4912, ultimately adopted by the House in H. 4933, which addressed concerns about changes to the solar net metering statute that would disincentivize many existing municipal solar projects. The MMA respectfully requests that the conference committee incorporate this provision in the final version of the climate bill.

The MMA supports language in S. 2500 that would direct the state to develop and adopt, as an appendix to the state building code, and in consultation with the Board of Building Regulations and Standards, a municipal opt-in specialized stretch energy code that includes, but is not limited to, a definition of net-zero building. Many of our member cities and towns are taking action locally to plan for and construct net-zero buildings, and incorporating an optional net-zero stretch energy code into the state building code would facilitate efforts already underway between municipalities and the construction industry to reduce emissions.

Finally, the MMA supports the provision in H. 4933 that would establish a land use commission to develop recommendations on land use restrictions within the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) Program, on which a designee of the MMA would serve. The MMA is eager to participate in this process, which would facilitate siting decisions for solar projects eligible for the state incentive program.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to have your office contact me, MMA Legislative Director John Robertson (jrobertson@mma.org), or MMA Legislative Analyst Ariela Lovett (alovett@mma.org) at any time if you have any questions. Thank you again for your strong partnership with the cities and towns of Massachusetts as you address the climate crisis through bold legislation.

Sincerely,

Geoffrey C. Beckwith
MMA Executive Director & CEO