The Legislature on Jan. 4 passed and sent to the governor a multifaceted bill to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address climate change.

The compromise bill (S. 2995), released by a legislative conference committee on Jan. 3, would limit statewide greenhouse gas emissions to “net zero” by 2050 (with gross emissions at least 85% below 1990 levels), and would set emissions limits for 2030 at half or less of 1990 levels and for 2040 at no more than one-quarter of 1990 levels.

The bill would set statewide emissions limits at five-year intervals and require the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs to develop comprehensive and specific plans for reaching each goal. The bill would also require Energy and Environmental Affairs to produce regular reports on how the state is doing on emissions goals.

The bill focuses on emissions produced by six priority sectors of the economy and would mandate that emissions sublimits be established for these sectors, which are:
• Electric power
• Transportation
• Commercial and industrial heating and cooling
• Residential heating and cooling
• Industrial processes
• Natural gas distribution and service

Described by the committee as a climate toolkit, the bill includes a range of measures to help mitigate climate change, such as establishing a local-option net zero stretch energy code, enabling municipal buildings to host rooftop solar arrays, setting energy efficiency standards for appliances, and addressing natural gas safety.

The bill includes new language related to property tax exemptions for solar and wind power, expanding an existing exemption (clause 45 of section 5 of Chapter 59) to include larger solar energy systems (up to 25KW). The language also adds a new broad property tax exemption for fuel cell systems.

The bill includes elements from a series of Senate bills approved last January as well as a House bill approved last July. A detailed summary of the bill is available on the website of Sen. Michael Barrett, who co-chaired the conference committee with Rep. Thomas Golden Jr.

“Reducing emissions to net zero is the contribution Massachusetts must make to the nation’s, and the world’s, larger climate effort,” the conference committee stated in a press release. “No question, doing our part is a big lift. With the tools the Legislature brings together here, we can construct the response we need and provide a blueprint to other states.”

The MMA Policy Committee on Energy and the Environment will present a workshop at MMA Annual Meeting on Jan. 21 titled “Municipalities Lead the Way to Net Zero.” The panel discussion will explore ways that municipalities have and will continue to invest in greenhouse gas emissions reduction and clean energy alternatives.

Written by