BOSTON – Eighteen months after Gov. Charlie Baker signed a major offshore wind and hydro power law, state senators are preparing to load up a greenhouse gas reduction bill with carbon pricing, renewable energy and climate change adaptation proposals, with plans to have an omnibus bill assembled by next week.
The strategy was described Monday by Senate President Pro Tempore Marc Pacheco, D-Taunton, who held a press conference to release the Senate Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change’s report, unanimously endorsed by its five Democrats and one Republican, summarizing feedback the panel received during 10 hearings held around Massachusetts between May and September.
The submitted testimony, tweets and emails indicated citizens want the state to move forward “much more aggressively” on clean energy, Pacheco said. “People don’t want us to increase fossil fuel infrastructure in the state anymore,” he said. “We hear this loud and clear.”
A bill endorsed by the Environment Committee imposing greenhouse gas emission reduction requirements for 2030 and 2040 will likely be amended by senators to include an array of clean energy policies, Pacheco said. The Global Warming Solutions Act, signed by former Gov. Deval Patrick, features emission reduction requirements for 2020 and 2050.
Areas of legislative focus include lifting the cap on solar energy that customers may sell back to the grid, requiring electricity suppliers to obtain more power from renewable sources, and expanding the steps that communities and the state are taking to adapt to climate change and rising sea levels.
Whether the Senate and House, which were often far apart on energy issues in 2015-16, can agree on an omnibus clean energy bill looms as a major question.
“We, the Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change, don’t want to wait any longer for pieces of legislation to maybe come over through the process,” said Pacheco, noting the approaching Feb. 7 deadline for joint committees to make recommendations on bills.
The report does not attach an estimate of consumer or taxpayer costs associated with the sweeping changes in policies. Asked about new costs, Pacheco, like others who favor clean energy investments, repeated the assertion that costs of inaction are higher than the costs associated with the report. The costs of the bill, he said, are “less expensive” than the status quo.
The report cites federal data indicating Massachusetts has warmed by more than 2 degrees in the last century.
“Throughout the northeast, spring is arriving earlier and bringing more precipitation, heavy rainstorms are more frequent and summers are hotter and drier,” the committee wrote in its report. “Sea level is rising and severe storms increasingly cause floods that damage property and infrastructure. In the coming decades, the changing climate is likely to increase flooding, harm ecosystems, disrupt fishing and farming, and increase some risks to human health.”
The report estimated that 85 percent of the state’s 6.7 million residents live within 50 miles of the coast.
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