On July 21st, the Massachusetts House and Senate announced they had reached an agreement on a compromise climate change bill, released that bill unanimously from the committee of conference, and passed it in both branches. The sprawling 96-page bill touched upon practically every sector, including transportation, energy, and buildings. Governor Baker then sent the bill back to legislature with amendments, most of which were rejected, before ultimately signing the bill today. So now we’re just left with the question: “Uh, what’s actually in it?”
Acadia Center Priorities
As to be expected, the conference committee bill is a compromise bill between the separate climate bills passed by the two branches and contains significant elements from each proposal. Significant portions of Acadia Center priorities, including some listed below, were included in this legislation as well. The bill limits Mass Save from incentivizing fossil fuel equipment starting in 2025, aiming instead to promote electrification. It also requires the creation of a stakeholder Grid Modernization Advisory Council and adds a requirement for utilities to submit grid modernization plans to that Council. This language was based upon legislation which Acadia Center drafted in 2018. The conference committee legislation also allows regional solicitation for long-term contracts for offshore wind and transmission and creates a Clean Energy Transmission Working Group to do a full analysis of the barriers to major transmission upgrades. Acadia Center is specifically named as a member of that working group. The legislation also removes biomass from the Renewable Portfolio Standard, a concept for which Acadia Center has long advocated.
The Senate Proposal
From the Senate side, the compromise legislation increases rebates for ZEVs, adds an additional incentive for low-income customers, and requires new MBTA bus purchases to be ZEVs by 2030. It also aims to boost energy storage, fix some issues hindering the solar industry, and allows ten cities and towns to require fossil-fuel free new construction.
The House Proposal
The House climate bill primarily centered around offshore wind, and this final version reflects major elements of that as well. It aims to develop the offshore wind industry through infrastructure, investment, and job training. These sections also have a strong focus on economic inclusion and labor protections and fix issues with the procurement process, such as the conflict of interest stemming from utilities selecting winning bids.
In sending the bill back to the legislature, Governor Baker offered several pages of amendments, including $750 million in ARPA spending on clean energy. However, most of these were rejected. The legislature did accept a few, including the elimination of a price cap provision on offshore wind, something for which the Governor has long advocated.
What Isn’t In the Bill?
Unfortunately, as with most compromises, the final bill does not contain all that we hoped it would. It excludes a top environmental justice priority, which would increase air quality monitoring and require the state to establish baseline air quality for air pollution hotspots. It also does not include language which would have set up a successor to the state’s solar program or a provision to set electrification targets for the commuter rail system. Disappointingly, the final proposal also excludes significant swaths of dedicated funding that were present in the original versions, including funding for EVs, charging infrastructure, and clean energy.
Still, wide ranging climate improvements in nearly every sector is worth celebrating. The Governor, the legislature, and environmental activists deserve credit for delivering a strong climate bill and should take a well-deserved rest. Now let’s recharge and gear up for the climate bill for next session.
For more information:
Senior Policy Advocate-Massachusetts
617-742-0054, ext. 106