Governor Baker and many transportation advocates, including Acadia Center’s Jordan Stutt, went to Beacon Hill today to testify on the Governor’s proposed multi-year $18-billion transportation bond bill. The bill addresses a wide range of transportation funding needs—everything from financing for bridges to funds for bus shelters. One of the issues addressed by the bill is the Transportation & Climate Initiative (TCI), a cap-and-invest program under development that could generate hundreds of millions of dollars each year for clean transportation investment. Governor Baker’s bill would authorize up to 50% of TCI proceeds to support public transit. Acadia Center testified in support of TCI investment in public transit while identifying additional investments and guidelines that should be adopted from the TCI bill filed by Rep. Ehrlich and Senator Lesser.

In addition to TCI-funded investment in clean, equitable, modern transportation options, Acadia Center testified in support of Rep. Vitolo’s recently added amendment that would put the Commonwealth’s money where its mouth is and make new state buildings funded through the bond fossil-fuel free. Just today, Boston announced that Mayor Walsh intends to sign an executive order requiring that all new city-owned buildings will be carbon-neutral – a similar effort to cut carbon emissions in buildings and meet the emissions reductions targets the city and state have set for themselves.

Massachusetts has already committed to economy-wide reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by 80% from 1990 levels by 2050, and bills currently before the legislature[1] would push that to net-zero emissions by 2050, as recommended by the 2018 special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.[2] Either mandate means that, by 2050, all buildings in Massachusetts must run on clean electricity, with no on-site fossil fuel combustion.[3]

The proposed amendment would require the buildings funded by the Transportation Bond Bill to start achieving this standard, and eliminate on-site fossil fuel combustion, unless the change raises the costs significantly. The buildings constructed or renovated with funds authorized by the Transportation Bond Bill will be utilized for decades to come and will be part of the building stock in 2050 and beyond.[4]  That is why this amendment is so essential.  The Commonwealth must begin immediately to lead by example and use the least-cost technologies to reduce carbon emissions and make buildings safer – with no on-site fossil-fuel combustion.

This amendment will also help keep our money in the state, and create good, green jobs. Because the Northeast imports all its fossil fuels, the money used to heat our buildings flows out of local economies to other states and countries, and Massachusetts is beholden to price fluctuations out of its control.  Fossil fuel heating is also a leading contributor to climate change and poses health and safety dangers.[5] Using non-fossil fuel heating sources will reduce energy use, reduce energy costs, increase comfort, decrease health and safety risks, and, more importantly, foster long-term thinking, increase climate preparedness, and generate economic growth.

Author: Amy Boyd, Senior Attorney


[1] H.3983 (currently before House Ways and Means) and S.2005 (currently before Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy) would strengthen the required reductions further to at least net-zero by 2050.

[2] https://www.ipcc.ch/2018/10/08/summary-for-policymakers-of-ipcc-special-report-on-global-warming-of-1-5c-approved-by-governments/

[3] As the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs stated in the 2015 Clean Energy and Climate Plan, in the years between 2020 and 2050, “accelerated renewable thermal installations are required to electrify the buildings sector’s heating and cooling loads and utilize Massachusetts’ clean electric supply.” at 16.

[4] The US Department of Energy estimates the median lifetime of large commercial buildings is 65 years. See http://web.archive.org/web/20130218065932/ http:/buildingsdatabook.eren.doe.gov/TableView.aspx?table=3.2.7

[5] For instance, last September’s gas explosion in Greater Lawrence is estimated to have cost $1.4 billion in loss and additional expense. https://www.bizjournals.com/boston/news/2019/02/21/columbia-gas-parent-estimates-1-4b-in-costs.html Despite the substantial upgrades and safety equipment installed during those repairs, human error has led to two evacuations due to gas line safety issues in the last week alone. See, e.g., https://www.wcvb.com/article/major-gas-leak-prompts-evacuations-in-lawrence/29260322 (September 27); https://boston.cbslocal.com/2019/10/01/lawrence-gas-leak-high-street-columbia-gas-tuesday-evacuations/ (Oct 1)


  • Amy Boyd is Senior Attorney in Acadia Center’s Boston office. She works on energy efficiency, demand management, local energy resources, grid modernization, and climate change issues, with a particular focus on Massachusetts state policy.