Can the Legislature Deliver Another Climate Bill to Baker’s Desk in Time?

Written by Isabella Gambill, Senior Policy Advisor on Climate, Energy, & Resilience

At the state-level, the Commonwealth passed the bipartisan Act Creating A Next-Generation Roadmap For Massachusetts Climate Policy early on in the 2021-2022 legislative session. Many advocates are hoping that the legislature could deliver further climate and clean energy legislation before the end of legislative session on July 31st, 2022. Both branches have indicated interest in this as well as continued conversations to leverage federal funding for decarbonization and resilience initiatives in the Commonwealth.

In March 2022, the House Committee on Ways & Means passed H.4515 An Act Advancing Offshore Wind Energy, focused on offshore wind primarily, but with additional bill components that include a new Grid Modernization Council to promote transmission and energy storage, to proactively upgrade transmission and distribution infrastructure, and to consider grid upgrades that would improve reliability and resilience while also accommodating greater renewable energy grid capacity. H.4515 also includes considerations for equitable workforce development in the offshore wind industry, alongside significant investments in clean energy through the establishment of a new Offshore Wind Industry Investment Fund within the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC). While the House has indicated some interest in additional climate legislation that would look beyond the considerations of H.4515, House priorities remain largely focused on the expansion of and investment in the offshore wind industry.

In response to H.4515, the Senate Committee on Ways & Means passed S.2819 An Act Driving Climate Policy Forward in April 2022. S.2819 builds upon the House’s offshore wind bill and expands the Senate’s focus to include the electrification of the transportation and building sectors, and the incorporation of climate resilience alongside decarbonization. Of particular concern to A Better City, the Senate bill includes 10 “municipal demonstration projects” that would allow 10 municipalities to ban fossil fuels and mandate electrification by local approval. This bill provision would provide a legal pathway for the legislature to allow municipal electrification mandates, which have been blocked within DOER’s Straw Proposal and in attempts by municipalities, such as Brookline, for preempting building code. This will allow wealthier, more resourced towns like Lexington, Newton, and Concord to electrify first, leaving behind lower-income and environmental justice communities who will need to pay higher rates to support fossil fuel infrastructure, thereby exacerbating regional inequities. The Senate’s S.2819 also seeks to: incorporate EV-ready parking requirements into building code; define zero-emission passenger vehicles and bus fleets; amend and potentially eliminate certain MassSave expenditures; incorporate climate resilience alongside decarbonization; expand energy storage investments; establish a Clean Energy Investment Fund, Electric Vehicle Adoption Trust Fund, and a Charging Infrastructure Deployment Fund, and; create an Interagency Council for Electric Vehicle Deployment.

A Better City submitted extensive cross-unit comments on S.2819 and we will continue to engage with House and Senate leadership as the climate bill advances in coming weeks. The climate bill currently sits in conference committee, who must reconcile and negotiate the differences between the Senate and House bill versions and come to an agreed upon amended bill version to be sent to Governor Baker’s desk for signing. We anticipate this comprehensive climate bill will likely be negotiated through the final weeks of the legislative session.

For any questions or comments please contact Isabella Gambill

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