Where we are now

Massachusetts has long positioned itself as a leader in the fight against climate change, with country-leading programs in energy efficiency and ambitious net-zero greenhouse gas reduction targets set in landmark legislation that passed in 2021. But with the climate crisis accelerating, Massachusetts can’t just rest on its laurels. The Massachusetts Senate and House of Representatives have each passed climate bills with differing proposals to tackle the crisis, ranging from large investments in offshore wind to enhanced rebates for electric vehicles. This blog will highlight what was in both packages and what steps need to happen before July 31st, the end of formal sessions for the legislature.

The House climate package largely focused broadly on offshore wind. The bill did not increase procurement authorization for the Commonwealth, instead aiming to develop the industry. This legislation:

  • Creates the Massachusetts Offshore Wind Industry Investment Trust Fund
  • Requires the development of a Grid Modernization Advisory Council and requires electric distribution companies to develop grid modernization plans and submit them to the council
  • Requires the Department of Energy Resources to solicit and procure proposals for offshore wind transmission and requires the state to collaborate regionally on those procurements

The House Committee proposal was strengthened through the amendment process, delivering better protections on environmental justice, a proposal on fishing mitigation, and an allowance for federal funding for transmission procurement.

The Senate proposal, passed a month later, was significantly broader than the House’s, focusing on the transportation and building sectors in addition to clean energy. The Senate legislation:

  • Transportation
    • Focuses on increasing EV adoption through increasing rebates, creating a stable trust fund, and investing in charging stations
    • Requires electrification of the MBTA bus fleet by 2040
  • Buildings
    • Limits the use of Mass Save funds for new fossil fuel equipment
    • Creates a 10-municiaplity demonstration project allowing all-electric building construction by local option
    • Requires a mandatory adjudicatory process in DPU docket 20-80 (the Future of Gas)
  • Clean power generation
    • Prevents biomass facilities from receiving state clean energy incentives
    • Creates a $100 million Clean Energy Investment Fund,
    • Updates the offshore wind procurement process,
    • Supports solar power

This legislation was also enhanced through the amendment process. Several of the most impactful amendments that were accepted were Acadia Center priorities. These amendments included policies to:

  • Set a floor of 10,000 megawatts of offshore wind by 2035
  • Require utilities to report the total amounts of natural gas and electricity used by each large building in the Commonwealth
  • Require the MBTA to develop short-term, mid-term, and long-term plans for the electrification of all commuter rail lines
  • Requires DEP to install air monitors in 8 pollution hotspots and to set baseline air quality standards in hotspots
  • Require utilities to submit proposals for rate credits or rebates for off-peak charging to supports EV

So what’s next?

Now that each house has passed a different bill, the next step will be the appointment of a Conference Committee. The goal of a Conference Committee is for the two legislative bodies to hash out their differences on policy and come to consensus on a single piece of legislation to send to the Governor to sign. Sometimes the Conference Committees essentially mash up the two disparate policies into one amalgam, resolving minor difference along the way. More often, however, the negotiators will play hardball, trading concession for concession and whittling down the original pieces of legislation. On Thursday, May 5th, the House named House TUE Chair Jeff Roy, along with Representative Tackey Chan and Minority Leader Brad Jones to the Conference Committee. The Senate followed suit quickly, appointing Senate TUE Chair Michael Barrett, along with Senator Cynthia Creem and Minority Leader Bruce Tarr.

Nothing precludes either branch from acting on additional legislation. However, given recent history, with the legislature opting for a single omnibus package over various disparate legislation, it is likely that the final climate package for the 2021-2022 legislative session will largely resemble some of the components of these bills. Therefore, Acadia Center asks that during these negotiations legislators should see these existing policies as top priorities:

  • Development of a Grid Modernization Advisory Council that would give stakeholders a say in the future of the grid
  • Procuring at least 10,000 megawatts of offshore wind by 2035
  • Enhanced Incentives for EVs and investment in charging stations
  • Investment in regional energy transmission procurement
  • Large building energy use reporting
  • Air monitoring and air quality standards

In addition to these policies that were in the original legislation, Acadia Center also believes that using ARPA funds to repair health and safety issues in buildings that stop efficiency and electrification and redirecting some EV funds towards transportation mode shifting are essential to meeting our Commonwealth’s ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets and doing our part to confront the climate crisis.

For more information:

Kyle Murray, Senior Policy Advocate-Massachusetts, kmurray@acadiacenter.org, 617-742-0054, ext. 106