On July 31, the House passed a climate change mitigation bill that now needs to be reconciled with a version passed by the Senate in January.

The House bill (H. 4912), passed by a vote of 142-17, would direct the state to develop a roadmap for reducing greenhouse gas emissions throughout the Commonwealth by 2050, with specified interim reduction targets. The plan must include one or more technologically and economically feasible pathways to reducing emissions and incorporate all sources or categories of emissions sources.

The bill would also invest in workforce development for the clean energy and energy efficiency sectors; establish a commission to study and make recommendations regarding utility grid modernization; and update statutes on solar energy net metering.

The MMA submitted comment to House members in support of the bill, including an amendment to allow municipalities to continue taxing renewable energy property, an important revenue source for cities and towns, and an amendment that would protect solar projects with interconnection agreements executed before Jan. 1, 2021, including municipal projects, from being subject to higher utility cost rates.

The House passed these two amendments as well as an amendment known as the Environmental Justice Act, which would require environmental impact reports for any project that is likely to cause damage to the environment and is located within one mile of a defined environmental justice population (or within 5 miles if the impact is airborne).

The Senate’s climate package (S. 2500) would reduce carbon emissions across the Commonwealth to “net zero” by 2050, with specified interim targets. It would also authorize the state to establish a carbon pricing mechanism for the transportation sector and for commercial and residential buildings, with the details left up to the executive branch.

A transportation-focused companion bill would require the MBTA to purchase or lease only zero-emission vehicles by 2030 and operate a fully zero-emissions fleet by 2040. The Senate bill would not impose mandates on municipal fleets, but does direct the state to develop resources to help municipalities transition to cleaner vehicle technologies.

A third bill in the Senate package would update energy efficiency standards for a variety of household and commercial appliances and limit the sale of products that do not comply.

With the legislative session now extended through the end of the year, a conference committee was named on Aug. 6 to reconcile the House and Senate climate bills. The committee members are Sens. Michael Barrett, Cynthia Creem and Patrick O’Connor, and Reps. Thomas Golden, Patricia Haddad and Brad Jones.

Written by