The lawmakers named to hammer out a compromise climate policy bill for the House and Senate will likely have their hands full. Both chambers passed legislation to put Massachusetts on a path towards net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, but negotiators will have a wide array of other issues to reconcile as advocates and business groups lobby for their priorities.
The Senate overwhelmingly passed a package of climate bills in January that called for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, and set deadlines for the state to impose carbon-pricing mechanisms for transportation, commercial buildings and homes. The House, which had earlier passed a $1.3 billion climate adaptation bill, on Friday night passed its response to the main Senate proposal, addressing the 2050 emissions reduction roadmap, solar energy net metering, grid modernization, workforce development, energy efficiency, and municipal electric and light plant clean energy targets.
Now, it will be up to six lawmakers-to-be-named-later to work through the differences between the House and Senate bills and to come up with a compromise version that can pass both chambers. Meanwhile, a slew of environmental advocacy organizations, business groups and activists – many of whom put pressure on lawmakers to get climate policy bills done – have given some indication of what they like and don’t like about the House and Senate bills.
Once the House passed its bill on Friday night and it was clear the issue was headed for a conference committee, the most direct overture to the negotiators came from the Northeast Clean Energy Council (NECEC), which generally liked both the House and Senate bills.
”The House took a big step forward on climate policy today in passing this bill. Advancements in environmental justice, offshore wind and appliance standards are to be commended,” Jeremy McDiarmid, NECEC’s vice president for policy and government affairs, said. “There were some setbacks on solar tax policy that we expect the conference committee will resolve.”
The House and Senate are likely to name climate bill negotiators during sessions on Thursday. Rep. Tom Golden and Sen. Michael Barrett – co-chairs of the Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy – will probably be tapped to lead the conference committee talks for their chambers.
The Sierra Club applauded much of the House bill but said the legislation “fails to include a commitment to reach 100% renewable energy in a reasonable timeline,” citing a change related to the state’s renewable portfolio standard which the organization said will put 100 percent renewable power off until 2090.
”This bill is a small step in the right direction. We applaud House leadership for creating additional opportunities for low income residents to benefit from the renewable energy revolution and for providing long overdue protections for environmental justice communities. However, it is critical that the state takes immediate action to lower our emissions now,” Jacob Stern, Deputy Director of the Massachusetts chapter of the Sierra Club, said. “As a millennial, I find it unacceptable that Massachusetts will reach 100% renewable electricity the same year I turn 100 years old.”
The group was similarly disappointed after the Senate passed its climate bills in January.
Ceres, a national non-profit that works with investors and companies on sustainability efforts, said the House bill is an important step towards Massachusetts’ climate goals but echoed the sentiment that there is more to do still.”We hope it will spur the legislature to adopt more policies to decarbonize the transportation and building sectors, and further accelerate the transition to a carbon free electricity sector,” Alli Gold Roberts, director of state policy at Ceres, said.
Environment Massachusetts said the House legislation is “an ultimately flawed bill,” though the organization was pleased with provisions related to offshore wind power procurement, environmental justice, and more.
”While these are good steps, it’s important to be clear about what this bill does not do. It does not end the use of dirty, polluting oil and gas. Rather, it allows the burning of fossil fuels to continue for decades, and it postpones necessary action in favor of studies and ‘roadmaps,’” Ben Hellerstein, state director for Environment Massachusetts, said. “This ‘roadmap’ doesn’t take us where we need to go. It puts us on a road that still ends with the use of fossil fuels.”
When the Senate passed its climate bills in January, Environment Mass. issued a press release focused almost exclusively on a bill (S 2478) dealing with energy standards for appliances, which it said would “reduce Massachusetts’ annual carbon emissions by 271,000 metric tons by 2035, equivalent to taking 57,000 cars off the road, and cut water consumption by 9.8 billion gallons per year.”
Language very similar to that Senate bill was adopted into the House climate bill as an amendment offered by Duxbury Rep. Josh Cutler, who got a shout-out from Environment Mass. in its statement on the House bill late last week.
Though many of the climate advocacy groups that weighed in on the House and/or Senate bills said they wanted to see the Legislature go further and faster, the Environmental League of Massachusetts – at least in its statements – seemed content with both bills.
”This legislation positions the Commonwealth on a strategic and tactical path toward carbon neutrality by 2050. In order to meet our ambitious long-term goals, we need the interim targets, data-driven plan, and accountability mechanisms that this bill provides,” the group said in a statement after the House passed its climate bill Friday. The group said the amendments the House adopted made the bill better, “yielding a comprehensive environmental bill that will empower our communities, protect our natural resources, and promote renewable energy, including game-changing offshore wind power, for our Commonwealth.”
ELM was similarly pleased with the gist of the Senate’s emissions reduction bill when it was released in January.
”We thank the Senate for releasing an energy bill that sets us on a course to more boldly address climate change – the most critical issue of our time,” ELM President Elizabeth Henry said in a statement released by the Senate president’s office. “By setting interim GHG reduction targets and echoing the Governor’s call for net zero emissions by 2050, the Senate acknowledges how much work is left to do.”
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